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Monday, May 16, 2005

Bizarro World

Is it OK to write a food blog entry about food that really wasn’t any good?

Is it wrong to spend what precious time we have, not to mention the risk of tendonitis, banging away at the keyboard about mediocre, if not bad, food?

Well, be damned as I may, I'm going to tell you about a new (to me) and (yes it was) interesting place Bruce, Bill, and I went to breakfast last Saturday. It's this place called Hogan's Cafe, and unless you are a truck driver or produce worker, you probably don't know about it. It's in the Golden Gate Produce Terminal, sandwiched in between dozens of produce importers/exporters.

We had heard about it from our friend Laura, who lives and works in Burlingame. She found out about it from a friend who heard about it from a friend, etc., etc. Apparently, it's really jumping on the weekdays, but at 12 noon on a Saturday morning it was pretty dead. That's too bad, because 12 PM to 2 PM is happy hour at Hogan's, with free hors d'ouevres and all, and who the heck still does that?

Getting to Hogan's was half the fun. First of all, after finding the entrance, you have to drive into the terminal off of Produce Avenue (cute) and drive past a guard station or what Laura calls the "troll-in-the-box". Then after dodging forklifts and trucks, you drive past dozens of wholesalers, some of who still had huge bags of onions and crates of watermelons waiting to be loaded. However, I think we had "missed the truck" so to speak, since it was pretty dead, being Saturday almost-afternoon. Too bad. I bet this place is amazing to watch when it's at it's peak operating hours. Same goes for Hogans.

We almost didn't find Hogan's, since we easily drove past it the first time. When we first thought we had found it, it was actually the back of the building, plus a really, really large sign. After a brief conversation of "is this it? Is it? It doesn't look like it. Is this the entrance?" we finally figured out that we had passed it the first time through.

After we drove back to the other side of the building we spotted the unassuming entrance. Once inside, it felt like being in Tommy's Joynt or any old working stiff hofbrau. To my surprise, it was also much larger than it looked from the outside. To the left was a long, wooden bar staffed by an elderly woman who was talking to a couple of regulars sitting on stools.

Besides them were two old, but still burly, truckers (one of whom made a derogatory comment about "hippies"; how quaint!), and that was it! To the right of that were tables and chairs lined up against a partition that separates the bar from the restaurant, as well as tables lined up against the wall. Both the wall and the partitions, and for the most part the whole restaurant, was covered with framed photographs of famous local (and not so local) sports legends.

The sports legends at our table were Joe DiMaggio, Eddie DeBartolo (weird, I know), Muhammed Ali, and some jockey that looked like Prince Charles. Above the bar was some type of mounted animal scalp, with horns, and with a Santa Claus hat slouching off to the side of it. Now that says class! In the back was an open kitchen, which did touch a nostalgic nerve with me, seeing as I worked for a short while as a short-order cook in a low-rent place such as this.

Once seated, we noticed our table had a little table card that promised far more than it actually delivered. We were promised Saturday Madness, and apparently it lead us to believe that this was an ongoing, out of control, carnage of Little Smokies, Gin and Tonics, and sports on the TV. Instead of Saturday Madness, instead of free hors d'ouevres and $2.00 Bloody Mary's, we got no hors d'ouevres, one overweight trucker with a tight-fitting "Support Our Troops" t-shirt, and a virtual ghost town.

Not long after we sat down, we were given menus by the nice, but seasoned, waitress. She had the laid back, almost maternal, attitude that one would expect from a joint like this.

She probably knows fifteen guys named Bud.

This down-to-earth demeanor didn't betray the fact that she doesn't take any crap, as I witnessed when she flashed me a dirty look when I was bitching about being in London and trying to eat next to a table of chain smokers. Whoa! You should've seen the look I got as soon as a negative word about smokers slid out the side of my mouth. Why, you might as well spit on the Flag if you are going to disrespect the almighty cigarette with this crowd.

Guns, God, and Cigarettes most likely built Hogan's Café, or at least kept it alive, and no doubt Hogan's probably prides itself by being the last restaurant in Northern California dragged kicking and screaming into going smoke-free (I don't know this for sure).

Oh yeah, I know that look. I call it the "did you just say something un-American?" look. With my Mom, it usually was the "did you just say something un-Christian?" look, but now that she's heard me rant and rave and blaspheme time and time again, it's a rare, but good, day that I can push her to shoot me that classic look.

Oh, how I try.

Anyway, so perusing the menu. Well, on paper, everything looks good. Just ask any former dot com employee, from say 1995 – 2000. The menu opened up to the standard hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, entrees, soup and salad, sides, and on the back was the breakfast items. Just for the heck of it, I asked the waitress if there were any specials or specific items that tend to be popular.

Her response, "well, I'm a bad person to ask because I think it's all good. We have good sandwiches and burgers." Apparently, (as I later learn) she has no taste buds left from smoking cartons of Benson Hedges or she actually dines at the Bizarro World version of Hogan's Cafe; Bizarro World being the polar opposite world depicted in Superman comics in which the world was square and everything was the opposite of our world, which if you think about it wouldn't be such a bad place to live since everyone would be waging peace all of the time.

Excuse me, but the "I'm a bad person to ask, I think it's all good" response usually translates to either "psst, I'm not suppose to say this, but I've been kidnapped and in the back storeroom someone is holding a gun to my mother's head and if I slip up just a tiny bit, it's all over."

Or "if I could get paid for watching Nanny 911, I would, but I'm stuck here and you better just deal with it. And stop asking stupid questions, hippy."

Right then, I knew I was in trouble. Oh well. The tough part was trying to figure out which item I was willing to take a hit in the pocket for. For being a hole in the wall, it wasn't cheap. Each of us left $12 poorer. I went with the Hogan's burger. Now, I figure if they're willing to enshrine forever their name on it, it must be the house favorite, right? If you were a business owner, and you had the best damn burger or the best damn car or the best damn fiddlywidget and you were like GOD! This is the fruit of my labor, this is my life, my pride, my love, my progeny all wrapped up into this one remarkable thing and dammit, I am going to beget it to humanity so that they can benefit and what's more, it will bear my name so that when future generations ask who was the man who invented this marvelous thingy, they will know. I shall call it: The Hogan's Burger.

So how was it? Well, it's not often that one can say the best part of their burger was the bread. My burger, if that's what that dry, black, wafer was that came on a large sourdough baguette. Drapped over the burger was 2 pathetic looking strips of bacon and something resembling cheese that seemed to glue it all together. That's it. Oh, there were the lettuce, onion, tomato sides, and straight from the generic freezer bag French fries, that oddly weren't even greasy and heck if you were going to fault French fries, it normally wouldn't be for being too greasy. At least I wouldn't. OK, ideally they should be hot and crispy with a little bit of fried greasy taste. There.

Venturing across the laminated tablescape sat a big plate of breakfast Bill had ordered. Our friend Bill just received his citizenship (Yay!) not that long ago, but I still was slightly embarrassed for our country when his plate arrived. On that plate was America's dirty laundry, just exposed for any newcomer to see. Fried, was a long piece of "linguica" that was chewy (improper frying technique!), bland, and resembled bad Italian sausage. Also on the plate were fried eggs that didn't look so bad and hash browns that were closer to hash yellows.

I thought that was it, until the waitress brought Bill his "biscuits and gravy". What? Was this a slap in my Southern face for that smoking comment?! Oh, someone in that kitchen must really want to brawl. Normally, I love biscuits and gravy and frankly I love the generic kind. You know, the Jimmy Dean Sausage kind with packaged mix gravy? This wasn't biscuits and gravy. This was stolen from the Museum of Modern Art where it had been on display beside a grenade and entitled "Kosovo War Crimes". Bill didn't even touch them, and I don't blame him. Welcome to our country; I'm sorry.

Bruce had an Avocado BLT and as hard as it is to screw that up, nevertheless, he wasn't impressed. So, if the food at Hogans (at least what we tried) has less flavor than a truck driver's sweaty undershirt why do I write a review? Well, I don't know. I guess I'm a sucker for unpretentious dives, even if the food isn't good. I probably wouldn't go out of my way for a pit stop at Hogan's.

I think it would be fascinating to be there at 4 in the morning. I know that little hole in the wall gets jumping and for the people watching and for the booze at a godless hour in the morning, it might even be fun! And that's why I write this. The potential for fun, and maybe something not quite so bad foodwise, lies in Hogan's. And to be honest, in this neck of the woods, there aren't too many places left like Hogans (ok, ok, I can hear the sarcastic remarks), but it's true and I'm willing to consider it again, unlike a heck of a lot of other places I've been lately.

In other news:

The Morning Doves (some call them Mourning Doves) are back and having more babies.

Anyway, it seems like every year now, we have a pair of morning doves who take one of our plant pots over, turns it into a nursery for a few weeks, have the babies and fly off, only to return a week later and have more babies in the same exact spot. Every year they choose a different spot and I'm considering placing bets.

Guess what?

I'm growing shrooms! No, not those kind. Shitake mushrooms, from a kit.

See the pics? Yum! Mushroom block. I'll keep you posted.



Blogger drbiggles said...

Hey, it's always worth a post. I love dives like that, even if they suck. It's fun. Sounds like yers cost too much though. If nothing else you can play with your food and make designs & buildings.


9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey. Where have you gone? No posts in soooo long. I need my bacon fix and I need it now, damit!

2:18 PM  

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