Beef. It's what's for dinner.
Also shrimp,
an unidentified meat,
breaded chicken,
sauteed fruit,
and lots of fried rice.

Thursday and Friday at work, Kathy got talky toward the end of the day, and we all stayed 10-12 minutes extra to hear her stories of working in Displatch. The stories were amusing and we were paid to listen, so I ain't complaining, but the bus to my house runs only twice an hour. Both days, I missed my bus.

By my rules, any time I miss the twice-hourly bus home, I'm entitled to buy a cheap dinner. 

Thursday it was Jack-In-the-Box, because I know where it is and it's on the way, and when I was a kid, Jack-In-the-Box was OK. Now it's mediocre, with small portions for high prices. I got two tiny, basic hamburgers with a side of onion rings, nothing else, and the price was almost $15.

The burgers were edible, once I''d removed the wet-wipe-textured lettuce. The onion rings were OK, but it wasn't enough to fill me. I resented what I'd spent, and told myself I'd never return to Jack's dump. I've told myself that before, though.

On Friday after work, a wait-a-minute moment struck me, with the realization that my job is in the International District — Seattle's Chinatown.

Just walking a few blocks to and from work, I pass half a dozen mom & pop restaurants, so I picked one that looked cheap and tawdry like Princess Diana, walked in and waited.

There were no other customers, and only one employee visible. He was chopping chicken legs with an enormous knife at the cash register, but he looked at me and said something, It was English I think, but not a syllable of it made sense to me, and when I said nothing he chopped some more.

When he looked at me a second time, he raised an eyebrow, so I ordered a Vietnamese sandwich, because there'd been a picture in the window that was labelled 'Vietnamese sandwich'. All the other pictures had no English translation.

The guy stopped chopping, wiped but didn't wash his hands, and shook his head no. He said something else I couldn't understand, but I understood that a Vietnamese sandwich wasn't happening.

He pointed at fried rice under a heat lamp, and said something long that ended with "fried rice," so I shrugged and said, "Sure."

I didn't know what I'd ordered, didn't know what it might cost. On the wall behind him, the menu board was entirely in Chinese, with prices from $9 to $29. I was hoping for $9ish, not $29ish.

The guy opened a to-go clam-shell and ladled in plenty of fried rice, then topped it with ample helpings of beef, ginormous-jumbo shrimp, an unidentified meat (still unidentified even after eating it), several very large pieces of breaded chicken, and a spread of vegetables (which I later decided were sauteed fruit slices, but what fruit I don't know).

Then he added another layer of all the meats and fruits, until the dinner-sized clam-shell could barely latch closed. He wrapped a rubber band around the package to keep food from popping out, then bagged it, and charged me $14 and change.

That's less than my Jack-In-the-Box disappointment the day before, for ten times the food with no exaggeration, and it smelled good on the bus.

When I reached my recliner at home and ate it, everything was too spicy for me. There were random chunks of bone in the rice, more bone in the breaded chicken, and the shrimp was horrid — shell-on, and spiced in a way I've had before but can't stand.

Putting the shrimp and bones aside, though, everything else was good, the spiciness subsided soon after I'd finished, and I felt stuffed and satisfied with dinner.

I won't go back to that place, but the lesson learned is, screw Jack-In-the-Box. Lots more and better food for a lower price is available, and I'll wager the worker at Lady Di's Too-Spicy Chinese was better paid, or maybe he owns the place.

I'm in Chinatown five days a week, where there must be a hundred cheap places with good carry-out, not even counting the more expensive sit-down options. Walk another block, find someplace terrific. Even the worst of them will be better than corporate fast-food. 



  1. I know you don't believe or celebrate, but I like saying nice things to people I like, and I wish you the best season's greetings. I love your page here, and love you. Merry Christmas whether you want it or not.

    1. Thanks, no joke. Merry Christmas to you too.

    2. Hey, nice to see you're out on the town again, workin' 'n workin' it, and on and on...Eel

    3. It wouldn't be my choice, if UBI or decent homes for the homeless were available, but here I am, getting dressed and bussing to the office.

  2. Can't wait to see which scrappy little dive you'll discover that suits your palate to a T! Sacramento is lucky to have you...oops, I mean Seattle.

    - Zeke Krahlin

    1. I am also seeing cheapo-looking ancient apartments, and if this job works out I'd certainly be willing to live there.


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