No outrage -- and a satisfying french fries fix -- at Lawrence Bakery Cafe
CHEAP EATS Dear Earl Butter,
North Carolina was different. Since we would be there only one day, and that day was a Sunday, and all the barbecue places near my sister's house are closed on Sunday, she had the presence of mind on Saturday to pick us up a pile of barbecue.
Mind you, she's a vegetarian now, like the rest of my sisters and most of my brothers. But the more vegetarian the rest of my family becomes, the more meat I feel I have to eat. It's complicated math, or maybe simple math and complicated metaphysics, but I know that you, of all people, will understand. My sister does.
My brother-in-law picked us up at 4 a.m. at the train station in Greensboro, where they live now in a rented single-wide, out between the last street light and the dump. Their couch folded into a bed, and the bed was very comfortable, but I was too hungry to sleep, so I visited the fridge. And there it was, lit from within, two quarts of pulled pork and a pint of barbecue slaw. There would be donuts and bagels and coffee when we woke up, but another way of looking at it is that I had barbecue for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that day.
And Earl, what I'm driving at, or meandering toward, is that none of this so-called authentic North Carolina barbecue was even half as good as what you brought over to Deevee's house last time. Which is remarkable, considering that whoever made this must have lived here a lot longer than you did, I guess. And for sure more recently.
You lived here, what? A year? Twenty years ago? I guess you've just got a natural touch for North Carolina barbecue. Or another possibility is that sometimes you just flat-out outgrow a thing. Maybe I don't like North Carolina barbecue as much as I thought I did. It happens. Example: I used to think my own hometown in Ohio had the best barbecue ever, but the last time I ate some I burped plastic the whole next day.
And I should mention that I did eventually get me some Georgia barbecue last week too, in Marietta, and it was way better than what we had here, although Romea might disagree, which goes to show you. When I come back, let's go to Dibb's Barbecue on Fillmore Street. I missed it last time I was on that street, remember?
But first we've got one more week of planes, trains, and automobiles, only not in that order. Like, right now we are on a train. Romea's sleeping next to me, on my pillow, in my poncho. She's probably dreaming my dream, too which is (right now) of bacon fries. Did I tell you about bacon fries? Don't wait for me to come back for that one. If you've got $5, go get you some, and if not borrow $5 off my brother.
I heard he stole my car from you. Don't let him do that.
P.S. I love her.
That is great. I went to the Lawrence Bakery Café, and got what I have gotten there for the last four, five, or six years. Which is a cheeseburger and french fries. I would like to say that in all that time, their prices have never changed. But that is not true. At some point, a cheeseburger and fries went up from $3.75 to $4. Is that an outrage? No, it is not an outrage, it is perfectly fine. I love the Lawrence Bakery Café and several places around the Mission for the very same reason: they serve very good food at very good prices, giving a guy like me, well, a chance.
I can cook food. Most everybody knows it. But it was out of necessity that I learned to cook. Believe me, if I had the dough, I would be eating out every night, maybe at fancy-pants places, but also at great regular places, too.
My kitchen has been very good to me over the years. But I would leave it in a second and never speak to it again if I could. Please do not let my kitchen know that I wrote this.
LAWRENCE BAKERY CAFE
2290 Mission, SF
L.E. Leone's new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.