At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton.
And that you might like cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


A few years ago I realized that many of my activities made me an unsuitable person for your daughter to date, or your sister to hang around with. Not, as you will understand, because of any skeevy tendencies or cultic behaviour, but simply because they would be underwhelmed, and you would think me unsocial or peculiar. Which I'm not. But I am indeed quite unsuitable.

I don't go to clubs or expensive restaurants.
No opera, no symphony, no ballet.
Not a datable man.

Oh, and I am also middle-aged, creaky, and unexciting.
I smoke a pipe and mutter to myself.
Foot powder!

You're right; none of this helps.

With that in mind, let's look at my favourite places.....
A walking tour, so to speak.

First North-South street, a main drag

The place that used to have great pork siu mai:
Still very inexpensive, but the food is different now. Decent, unsurprising. Clean and brighter than it used to be, and the new owners are hard working. Nice for a quiet meal while listening in on Toishanese picking up some food for the family, or old folks coming in alone for a simple dinner.

The three dishes one soup lunch counter:
Friendly enough (meaning: reserved and not effusive), cheap, my kind of food. I particularly like the mui choi kau yiuk, and their congee and yautiu hit the spot. Good for people watching.

A bakery with geezers in the back:
Hot milk tea, stellar egg tarts and flaky charsiu turnovers, and it helps to speak Chinese. Tourists come in, are baffled by the selection, and don't realize that they have to compete for the attention of the people behind the counter. Hot food is also available, but the kitchen closes at around four.
The tables are frequently occupied by old folks speaking Toishanese, including one lively old lady whose granddaughter recently gave birth.

Vietnamese Chinese sandwich joint:
Good place to watch the busy street in front, while having curry noodle soup and iced coffee.
Or grilled pork and noodles.
A sammich.

Vietnamese restaurant that opened recently near Walgreens:
Heavens, that's some nice grilled pork!
Garlic noodles.

Second NS street, further up

Small family eatery:
Decent enough, plain, but the food is good. The grandmother doesn't speak English, and isn't fluent in Cantonese, but her Mandarin is probably quite passable because of the soap operas she watches on a small laptop device in the afternoon. Her little granddaughter prefers that I talk English; I don't speak Toishanese, she doesn't understand Cantonese too well.
There's crunchy wood ear in the fish flavour eggplant.
Bittermelon fish over rice, good.
Claypot rice.

The roast meats place:
Very popular for take out, because their roast meats are stellar. But you can also go in for lunch or early dinner, and their rice plates are darned fine. You will hear Toishanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin there, as well as white people asking for crap with tofu, sweet and sour pork, or vegetarian food.
Roast pork tzeet gwa over rice, roast duck rice, white cut chicken, charsiu, painted octopus, soy chicken, and other things.

Third NS street, middle of the neighborhood

Toishanese people running a chachanteng:
Their milk tea is very nice. The waitress brings me a cup automatically now, before I can even look at the menu. Middle aged ladies like to go there for a shared meal together, some students have their dinners there, and frequently parties of four or five people will come in for a family dinner, speaking various dialects. They'll wait till the everyone's there before ordering.
Tourists often have sweet and sour pork, kung pao substances, or any one of the recognizable Chinese restaurant standards.
Or, you know, vegetarian food.

First crosswise street

Family style Canto:
Counter seating and mirrors, gets busy right around dinner time, but they also do lunch. I hardly ever sit at a table, because there's just one of me. But the mirrors make observation easy. Cantonese people who go there know what they want, sometimes Northerners aren't complete idiots, and tourists order predictably. They can also feed vegetarians.

Second crosswise street

Milk tea. Baked Portuguese chicken rice. Chicken bits and salt fish fried rice. Congee (very nice pork meatball congee, also abalone and chicken congee, etcetera). Fried noodles. Hainanese chicken rice. Club sandwich.
Because the dining room is big, it's excellent for people watching, but not so good for listening in. When I go there I enjoy a nice quiet meal by myself in a bustling environment.
Or sometimes, when it's slow, the peacefulness.
They have Sriracha hot sauce.
Just ask.

Third crosswise street

Dimsum counter:
Good snackies, hits the spot. Pork siu mai, cheung fan, chive dumplings, sticky rice chicken, fried taro puffs, and so forth. Other than the boss-lady, English not their skillset is ..... Neighborhood people go there for nibbles, tourists come in to point and ask complicated existential questions. The last three times I sat upstairs, because Filipinos and Germans were at the three tables downstairs. Good for people watching if you like baffled tourists.

Another dimsum counter, smaller selection:
More home town people, far fewer tourists, scant seating.
But it's good. Quite good.

Chop house:
Cheap, bustling, slightly greasy-spoony, and probably too dubious for the suburban middle classes. The food is decent, and there are a fair number of regulars who like the place very much. It's been around for years.
Sort of American food, sort of Chinese.
Extremely unpretentious.

Fourth crosswise street

Two spots:
A bakery that also does hot food, two doors up from a Hong Kong style western food restaurant. Both places have great milk tea, and do lovely porkchops. Both are home town kind of places where the people watching is excellent. Most of the customers are Cantonese, of course.
Both places are sort of 'old school'.
It's a good vibe.

And there are other places. None of them qualify as somewhere you would take someone to impress them, or even very many white folks, but with the right company they'd be perfect. Cheap, decent food, and good for people watching.

Better in many regards than the library, museums, or movie theatres.
No need to dress up, just be comfortable.

Eat, observe, then smoke a pipe.
Perhaps have milk tea.

The other night I was thinking that the best person for a certain friend would be a quiet woman who would come over to read all his books while he was gallivanting about elsewhere. He'd come home, she'd be curled up asleep on the couch. He get a blanket and tuck her in, then go to his bedroom.
Perhaps after smoking a cigar on the patio.

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