Cheap Eats

Fish in a time-fold

by Dan Leone

Article reprinted from a May '95 issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian with the permission of neither the publication nor the author.

  • One good way to move things along when you have to write bunches of these in a short amount of time, budding young journalists, is to clump them together for the sake of momentum. Because, as any good science-fictionalist will tell you, The shortest distance between two points is not a straight line but a folded line. See why?

  • Well, look at a map. Any map. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that this particular map measures five inches from San Francisco to Los Angeles as the crow flies. Now- fuck crows- just pick up the damn map and fold it at San Luis Obispo, so that S.F. and L.A. kiss each other on the lips.

  • See what I am saying? Time travel. Outer space. Star Trek shit. You know, breaking the speed of light? Only by actually bending time and/or space can we ever hope to bridge the unbridgeable gap between the present and the future, between Earth and the rest of the universe, or- for our purposes- between having to write seven reviews in four days and having written seven reviews in four days.

  • To accomplish such a time-and-space-folding feat within the journalistic realm, there is no better tool at your disposal than the almighty three-part series.

  • Let's see. I've already done My Dinners with Famous People (a one-part three-part series, since Madden never came through) and My Dinners with Complete Strangers (a five-part three-part series, to make up for the one-part one). So what else is there?

  • I know. How about My Dinners with Andre. Ha ha. OK. Here goes. My Dinners with Andre. Part one:
  • Today I ate lunch at Vin's Kitchen with Andre, Andre, Andre, and Andre (who showed up late). These Andres- and several others, on occasion- make a regular "thing" out of meeting there for lunch on Wednesdays. Since it's a very small restaurant, and seating could conceivably be a problem, they asked me to tell you that Vin's kitchen is closed between one and two on Wednesdays, which obviously isn't true, but I don't mind teliing you it anyway; it's never bothered me to mix fact with fiction.
  • In fact, several weeks ago I said that Lois the Pie Queen is closed on Mondays, which apparently isn't true, because they called and complained about it. Sorry, Lois. However, I was there on a Monday and it was definitely closed. Ergo: either I am a fiction writer, or I am a fictional character.
  • So anyway, Vin's Kitchen is closed on Wednesdays between one and two, and it's also closed on Fridays (for real). But I suggest you get your butt down there any other time of the week as soon as possible to check it out.

  • Vin's is a divine dive on Powell and Francisco at the very edge of touristy yuckiness. The deal is "seafood of all kinds," as the sign outside the place boasts. And it's true. They also serve breakfast and a million other things, but the main attraction is fish.

  • For only $3.93 you get your favorite sea critter over either rice or chow mein. I had salmon over chow mein. Not that I had a choice in the matter. As I was second in lateness only to Andre- Andre, Andre, and Andre were already eating when I arrived, and had already ordered an extra plate of salmon over chow mein, since, as Andre put it, "one isn't enough."

  • So I sat down, took off my coat, and- Wham-o!- there was a plate of food in front of me. Gotta like that.
  • And I did. I did like it. There was plenty of tender and tasty fish with a nice salty, smoky sauce and a few crisp snow peas, carrots, and things like that over a fine bed of chow mein. Excellent food, although I have to agree with Andre: "One isn't enough." So? Get two. Get pork chops ($4), like the latest-arriving Andre got. (They're huge and they come with rice and something else, but I forget what.)

  • Some of the other nonsalmon choices I managed to remember off the wall: sturgeon, shark, abalone, monkfish, swordfish, sea bass, guppy, Goldy, Moby, scuba diver...
  • Great, great place. No lie. Totally real. Just two or three tables and a counter, so don't everyone jump at once- and don't jump on Wednesday. But jump.

    Vin's Kitchen. 2201 Powell, S.F. (415) 391-6142. Takeout available. Mon.-Tues., 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Credit cards not accepted. Reservations not accepted. No smoking. Wheelchair accessible.