Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's to eat in JAMMI

Eli’s Mile High Club
Step into Eli’s on a sunny day and your eyes need a moment to adjust—the walls are painted matte black and the bar is dimly lit. On a Sunday afternoon, the place is deserted and it may take some doing to rouse a bartender. The bar seats ten on stools upholstered with a variety of red vinyl, none of it new. Small tables inside the club will seat perhaps two dozen; a similar number could find chairs in the backyard patio, half of which is covered. Photos and posters around the pool table recall perhaps grander days when the club was the “home of the West Coast blues,” as the tiled bar still proclaims. A proclamation the wall, from the administration of Mayor Elihu Harris, honors the late Troyce Key, who owned the club in its heyday. His legendary “orange booth” remains, but the orange vinyl is deeply torn.

The menu is limited to a “Tilamook cheddah burger” ($5), “battered fish and chips ($6), and a “bacon-wrapped hot dog” ($3), while a side order of fries is a buck. The bar offers a choice of 15 different beers, most imported, and well drinks, as well as Beck’s non-alcoholic beer ($4). During happy hour on Fri-Sun from noon to 5 pm, beer is $1 and well drinks $3. The place is open Mon-Thurs from 5 pm to 2 am, and Fri – Sun from noon to 2 am.

The Tilamook cheddah burger was not huge but was definitely tasty, and we would order it again. For an extra dollar, it came with a generous order of fries, which were freshly made and not greasy.

The battered fish and chips turned out to be three pieces of fish with fries. The fish was hot but a bit tough and chewy. The fries were great but not as ample as we got with the side order.

The jukebox offers an eclectic mix running from the Troggs to Sam Cooke to the Bleach Boys to Lowell Fulson. However, it was turned off; the sound system instead churned out some “alternative rock” at a volume that allowed conversation if one was determined to be heard.

In short, the place is a dive with a lot of atmosphere and history.

Eli’s Mile High Club is at 3629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in JAMMI. Ample parking is available under the nearby freeway or by the park across the street. The MacArthur BART station is within a five-minute walk.

Las Palmas
Las Palmas Super Burrito and Seafood is a take-out restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine. Generally, street parking is available in front of the door. A large glass-front window allows one to see who’s inside before you enter.

Upon entering, one orders at an ominously reinforced plexiglass window that probably wouldn’t stop a bullet, but serves as a barrier between the customer and the staff of four. Therefore, you may have to strain to be understood when placing your order. Corrugated aluminum wall decorations, partially covered with cement and accented with sporadic orange, diamond-shaped tiles, add to the edgy urban feel of the place, as do the exposed wiring and florescent lights. The paint job is purposely whimsical. A large brick-framed painting of Dr. Martin Luther King, wearing a gold watch, dominates one wall. A security camera is evident up near the ceiling, but the monitor is switched off.

Ten or twelve chairs at four small tables allow you some comfort while waiting for your order. In the corner, a small TV plays a Spanish-language station from atop the garbage bin.

Portions are huge enough to challenge even a ravenous teenager. Fortunately, the place also sells half-orders if asked. The menu is varied and prices generally fall under $10 per item, although large orders of fish run higher.

The burritos are a good bet, as the leftovers can be refrigerated for tomorrow’s lunch. The enchiladas were buried somewhere in a Styrofoam platter, under beans, rice, sour cream and the usual sauces. Having everything tossed in together kept one from enjoying the individual flavors. Somehow, the enchiladas weren’t as tasty as the burritos.

Las Palmas is at 3817 Market Street. For faster service, phone your order ahead at 547-1249. That may also free you from having to shoo away panhandlers who approach you while you wait or order. The restaurant is open from 11 to 9:30 Mon – Thu, and 11 to 10:30 on Fri – Sat.

Manzanita Restaurant
If you are in the mood for organic, vegan food, the Manzanita Restaurant is the place to go. Macrobiotic head chef and Kushi Institute graduate Julie Ong has created a unique and healthy dining experience.

While offering ample seating indoors, the restaurant also features an enclosed outdoor patio on quiet Linden Street, next to a wire mesh unicorn statue by Mardi Storm. I waited in a short line at the front counter to inform the maitre d’ I wanted lunch, expecting to be given a menu or a list of specials. Instead, his question was “large or moderate?” I chose moderate. He offered me some tea, which I gratefully accepted, and went to sit on the patio.

Soup was brought immediately. It was a satisfying lentil broth with a scattering of green onions and carrots. It was promptly followed by a five-course plate. A scoop of rice and bulgar wheat in the middle was circled by a salad of baby romaine with Tahini, summer vegetables with a turmeric sauce, black beans and a second leafy dish. Each was tasty and, combined, satisfied the appetite.

I later learned that the menu for each meal is posted daily on the manzanitarestaurant.com website. On a later visit, I ordered the full meal, which was identical to the moderate selection except, of course, larger portions. This particular day featured Red Lentil Carrot Celery Soup, followed by a wheel of Rice-Millet-Quinoa Balls w/ Cashew-Spinach Sauce, surrounded by the spokes of Black Eyed Peas w/ Onions, Saute' Daikon, Carrots & Red Beets, Steamed Kale Greens and a Mixed Green Salad w/ Tahini-Mustard Dressing for $12.75. For those on a budget, a “simple meal” is offered for $8.25.

On the corner of 40th Street and Linden, the place is open seven days, serving lunch from 11:30 to 2:30 and dinner from 5:30 to 9:00.

Café Dejena
Café Dejena offers breakfast and lunch. The lunch menu consists primarily of standard fare such as soups, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, salads, with a handful of Eritrean dishes, and fruit smoothies added for the mildly adventurous. The Caesar salad was ample but hardly remarkable, romaine lettuce with croutons and grated cheese. The menu said “served with bread” but I didn’t find any. The presentation helped--on a green plate with a scattering of bits of purple cabbage around the edge. The Black Beauty smoothie contained berries and yoghurt; the straw was too tiny to handle the blackberry seeds.

Breakfasts are also unassuming, omelets and pastries. The Eritrean fit-fit was an interesting departure if you want “something else.” The Café provides a spot to loiter over expresso and pastry and chat with friends, also offering free Wifi service, and a large-window view of the busy intersection. The simple wood-seated chairs do not themselves invite one to linger, but two padded armchairs in the back are available and service is not rushed.

Café Dejena is located at 3939 Martin Luther King on the corner of 40th Street, and is open 7 – 5 on weekdays and 9 – 5 on weekends.

1 comment:

Tomcat said...

if you venture another block, to Adeline St (technically emeryville), there is a new restaurant that opened in the place of Furenzu. Furenzu closed in july 2008- a takeover robbery and an out of the way location for their target clientele contributed to that closure. It retained the commercial kitchen to serve tapas, and they have a ton of belgian beers on tap.