Edible Complex

From April 2003 to July 2006 I wrote a restaurant-review column for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. It was originally about takeout food, but that fell away pretty quickly. I don’t really know anything about food so I tried to compensate by spending more time thinking about it than most people would be able to tolerate.

All-time favorites

Mission Creek Café/The Last Supper Club

We all have a Great Lost Restaurant; dreaming about a long-dead loved one; culinary empathy.

Saul’s Deli and Restaurant

That gummy pot-roast texture that makes little clicking sounds in your molars.


The smiling façade that disguises a soulless agent of pandering and flattery; the gustatory lowest common denominator; something powerful and primitive.

Jade Café

A 1960s version of adult sophistication; the flavor of hoisin sauce in the negative; authenticity vs. pleasure.

The rest, in roughly chronological order

Burger Joint

Introduction: the food of realism.

Zante Pizza and Indian Cuisine

Bringing the benefits of sociability to the apartments of the naturally solitary.

Memphis Minnie’s

Here is what there is to say about the brisket: it’s fucking incredible.

Papalote Mexican Grill

San Francisco’s great contribution to lowbrow cuisine; people who for some reason have a negative response to the idea of lard.

Café Colucci

The rewards and costs of sophistication; the primitivistic idea of chicken as a mere vehicle for some unrelated flavor.


Ketchup’s dark twin – loved by some, reviled by others, setting brother against brother wherever it is spread.

In-N-Out Burger/Krispy Kreme

“Fast food has been lying to the public for 15 years”; a conversion narrative; endless reproduction, infinite replenishment.

Balboa Café

It turns out the tongue finds it easier than the heart to put prejudice aside.

Tartine Bakery

A game of chicken with our DNA; a hotheaded young pastry chef; but the coffee.

Giorgio’s Pizza

Half a decade in San Francisco will do terrible things to a person.

Carl’s Jr.

The fast-casual market; a professional advertising campaign directed at me alone; irony in fast-food sandwich naming.


I was totally sick of eating delicious food all the time.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill/World Sausage Grill

Carnal flavor burst; intrinsically take-out food; the careless entropy on which the universe runs; rich, mellow sweetness; childish things.

Welcome Home

A little window on those parts of America where balsamic vinegar is still viewed with suspicion.

Mel’s Drive-In/Taylor’s Automatic Refresher

Tearing down the genuine article and replacing it with the simulacrum.

Pork Store Café/Siam Lotus Thai

Perhaps the least interesting column so far.

Little Star

A sad lacuna in my development; questioning some of my most deeply-held beliefs; a sausage that can punch its weight.


An interlude.

El Cachanilla/Los Jarritos

A quintessential nugget of urban romance: the idea that tucked into nooks and crannies of the metropolitan experiment are minute outposts of sustenance and delight.

Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers

Something has got to be done about the service at Barney’s on College in Oakland!

Pizzeria Delfina

But the sauce – the sauce is complicated.

Dottie’s True Blue Café

Paying extra and overeating to substitute for human society.


Fucking bastards.

The Old Chelsea

It’s all downhill for the next millennium.


Real maturity, a vestige of an age with different ideas from our own, the greatest generation’s idea of luxury dining.

It’s-It and Mexican Coke

A valediction.