It's ridiculous - every day at around 11.30, like clockwork, I get hungry. I've mastered the craving tho and discovered that if I wait an hour or so, the hunger subsides. But before I wised up, I'd get out of the office building feeling like I was wielding a spear, ready to hurl it at anything that seemed remotely edible. And that's how I discovered some of these places:
Around the workplace are 6 fast food joints. There are maybe 50 different businesses within a half-mile radius and as you might imagine, these fast food joints make a killing. There are 2 American-style delis, a genuine American BBQ restaurant, a genuine Korean food restaurant, a Chinese food place and a pizza place.
With the exception of the BBQ place, all the other spots are far from ordinary. The BBQ place is unmistakably all-American. Flapping right alongside the building is Old Glory. Proudly emblazoned outdoors and indoors are splashes of red, white and blue paintwork. A picture of George W. Bush [still] hangs on the wall. I guess they didn't get the memo that Obama is now president. But their food is always, unfailingly, great.
On to the genuine Korean restaurant. Seeing how I'm in constant need of stimulation, oral or otherwise, I couldn't help but venture therein foraging for Korean fodder. I walked in there, swung the door open, stepped in and stopped dead in my tracks. It was all dark in there and I had to let my eyes get accustomed to the gloom, but it didn't take long to realize that every eye in there was turned toward me. Idle conversations in Korean paused in mid-sentence while I stood there squinting, as the double doors swung behind me on rusty hinges. Reminding myself that I owned a pair, I [mentally] grabbed them and walked up toward the apron-ed lady and ordered some noodles, all the while reminding myself not to be back there anytime soon.
The two American-style delis are owned by Koreans, go figure. You'd think they were under the same management coz not only are they right next to each other and serve the exact same stuff, but their food tastes vastly different. They're also perpetually in jealous competition and hate each other.
In one deli I step in through the door and you'd think Diddy just showed up. They yell out my name, [and everyone else's, for that matter] remember my 'specials' and work hard at small talk, as hopeless as their English is. The other deli, in contrast, is coldly efficient. They do say hi & bye and all that good stuff, but every time I order something from there it reminds me of getting something from a vending machine - that impersonal. Cooking is a chore for them unlike the other place, and you can taste it. Once, I kid you not, I went there and was indecisive on what to eat, to which the one lady waiting on me was like: "Order quickly!"
It's true what they say - you can tell apart food that's cooked with love; you can taste it.
The Chinese place is where it's at, the soap opera spot. The owners are, as far as I can tell, from Hong Kong... and Britain. Weird, I know. But this is how it is according to the word on the street: the British guy went to Hong Kong - no surprise there - and met a local. She turned him out, and he wifed her. By some twist of fate they moved to the U.S., but not without the girl's parents. True to their entrepreneurial heritage, the girl's parents started a Chinese restaurant, and the rest is history. Which means that on any given day when I crave Chinese, I find there either the Brit, his wife, the wife's parents, or any of their numerous employees that can't speak a work of Engrish.
The last spot is a pizza place. This one is owned by - hold your breath - Middle-Easterns, but damned if they can't throw down. I haven't yet had anything from there that's terrible. As far as I can tell, the joint is owned by a young-ish Syrian [so I suspect] couple. The wife's brother works there too and is a spitting image of his sister, less the bui-bui, of course. The couple has a kid who's there from time to time and is always watching dramatic-looking movies with Arabic subtitles on a PC by the far wall. But I like them there, they're cool.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I've been living off for years. I'm a little sick of it all though, coz Lord knows I've probably sampled everything in all 6 menus, but I'll tell you this much:
- No one makes a burger like an American. No one.
- Food from American delis under Korean management can [sometimes] taste good.
- The Brits can actually help make good Chinese food.
- Next to Italians, Middle-Easterns are the pizza gods.
Hip-Hop verse of the day:
"Put me in the mood with my woman
Got me in her ear saying sweet nothings
Make love come out the mouth, no frontin'
Like, all of a sudden..."
Eric Sermon in Just Like Music