Zachary’s

On Solano, a block or so west of the Alameda Way (MLK). This is the only place I know of in the Bay Area which serves Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Thank god it exists, and Uno’s be dammed. Zachary’s is tasty, perhaps not as cheesy as you might want it, but a welcome change from brick-oven and New York style pizza. A large pie (8 big pieces) will run you around $18-25, depending on how many toppings you want. There are usually three specials a day, all of which are pretty good. There’s generally a line for tables, and the pizza takes 35 minutes to cook, so don’t go here if you are really hungry or need to eat in a timely fashion. If you can take the time, however, it’s well worth the wait.

Oriental Express

Shattuck between Delaware and Francisco. This is a hole-in-the-wall place that serves all kinds of Asian food. It’s pretty fast and cheap, but the staff is really friendly. They’re actually Vietnamese, so I would recommend getting the Vietnamese dishes (conveniently pictures on the wall). Dave got the pho, which he said was pretty good, especially compared to Pho House. I got the banh xeo, which is an eggy crepe filled with mushrooms, chicken, shrip, and bean sprouts. You’re supposed to pour fish sauce over it and then chow down. It was tasty, if a bit greasy. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to go here, but if you’re right there, it’s worth a visit.

The Man Who Deciphered Linear B

by Andrew Robinson. This slim volume is a biography of one of the stranger linguists of the 20th century, Michael Ventris. An architecht by training, he was obsessed for most of his life by the problem of deciphering Linear B, a script used in ancient Crete (and, as it turns out, elsewhere in the Aegean). This book is simultaneously a biography and description of how Ventris came upon his astonishing discovery — namely, that Linear B was used to write an archaic form of Greek (now known as Mycenean Greek). It’s written for a general audience, although some familiarity with how languages work (declension and conjugation) helps. All in all, a fascinating little book, one of the most interesting biographies I’ve read.

The Spirit of Man

By Peter Barnes. This is actually three related one-acts: and Handmaiden of the Second Kind, From Sleep And Shadow, and The Night of Sinchat Torah. All of these plays deal with the issue of faith and religion being put to the test, and how people react under these circumstances. In the first, a woman being tried by the French Inquisition in the 1400s pleads guilty to witchcraft and terrorizes her oppressors. At the end she confesses to God (and the audience) that it was all sleight of hand and trickery, because she did not want to be tortured or die. The second takes place after the English Revolution. A man whose wife is dying enlists the aid of a Ranter with peculiar beliefs. The latter (played by Alan Rickman) summons the spirit of the former’s first wife (Sarah), who is keeping the spirit of the second (Abigale) from returning to her body. In the third, three Jews in 1800s Poland cast out God for abandoning their people.

These are three interesting scenes all of which gnaw on a similar bone — this isn’t a form I had thought to use, but seems ideal for a piece that comes out of an ideological need, or perhaps any well-formulated idea or need.

Platanos

18th and Guerrero. This is one of those Nuevo Latino places, a kind of hodgepodge of Central American foods that to the uninitiated (me) all seem, well, tasty. And tasty it was. We started out with the tostadas, some fried plantain discs with two kinds of salsa, one green, and one red. I found the red one a little overbearing and the green one a little weak, but I could alternate between them, which worked wonderfully. For the main course I chose a Guatemalan tamale, with some tender juicy chicken and onions, a grilled corn salad that was light and refreshing, and black beans with rice that was surprisingly sweet. It was a hearty portion, but I wanted more, so I got the custard with fresh raspberries, which was a perfect light way to end the meal.

The decor is very… orange. And the service is pretty good. It gets kind of noisy once the main dinner rush kicks in, and the high ceilings only make it worse. Expect to pay more if you get the dessert, like I did, or a beverage.

All in all, I would recommend Platanos, and it is a welcome addition to my list of Good Places To Eat In The Mission. But there are so many good places, and it didn’t have any one thing that stood out in my mind. But maybe next time I’ll try something else on the menu and have my socks knocked off.

Feel cultured

I was looking for my old favorite short animation, Strindberg and Helium, when I came across the 2003 Sundance Online Film Festival. It’s awesome! And the short films are a perfect 5 minute brain break. Maybe the Internet isn’t the bane on my productivity that I thought it was.

In other news, I saw the SF Mime Troupe show, Veronique of the Mountains. It was funny, but not as good as Mr. Smith Goes to Obskuristan, which was last year’s show. But theater in the park is always a fun summer activity, as long as you have plenty of water.

I’m reading White Teeth now, and learned from it what one of those mysterious curse words my father used to utter when he was in a bad mood actually means. Because, y’know, it was usually not a good time to ask for the etymology when I heard it.

Pho Hoa Lao II

333 10th Street, between Webster and Harrison. This is a pretty crowded pho place in Oakland’s Chinatown. I had the pho tai bo vien (flank steak and beef balls), which was about the best pho I’ve ever had in a restaurant. The broth was flavorful but not too heavy, the portions of meat were generous, and the noodles cooked just right. The menu is a little sparse as Vietnamese restaurants go, with none of the bun (vermicelli) dishes that you see at a lot of places. But they serve up a mean bowl of pho, and one that I’m willing to make the trip into Oakland for, given the sparse pickings in Berkeley.

The wait staff is friendly and not pushy, even though we spent 20 minutes after finishing just yakking away. They even taught Dave how to ask for his pho without cilantro.