Street /Clayton St., SF
hearing at Persian Aub Zam Zam
As a rule, I'd rather have my shins scraped than hang out on Haight Street,
or Animosity Avenue, as Blag Dahlia used to call it. Call me old, but
I feel I've done my time there. However, the Haight does have a plethora
of dining spots and other cultural attractions. And the people! Why, they're
so friendly that many of them were offering to give me "spare change,"
provide me with "doses" (of love?), and one young fellow offered
to be my good friend, or "kind bud," as he put it. Ah, love
on a street called Haight, indeed.
It wasn't love, peace,
or visions of multi-colored, time-expanding iguana bats that brought us
to Haight Street, though. It was hunger. And as Judge Vardigan now lives
nearby, we dove into the swirling, throbbing (and slightly smelly) throng
of humanity to dig out some grub. But first, we wet our whistles at Persian
Aub Zam Zam. This bar is really a gem, and anyone who has ever been kicked
out of it for not ordering a martini knows this. But those days are over,
you can now order whatever you want with nary a chance of being rudely
dismissed. I think the old guy died. But, the bartender was rude enough
to just keep her tips for herself without bothering to lay them on the
bar. Now THAT was a trip!
We came down in the
Asqew Grill. This place reminds me of World Wraps that used to be around,
combining quasi-gourmet ingredients with street food, but in this case
it's flame-grilled skewers instead of burritos. I wouldn't be surprised
if it's the same owners*. Anyway,
they've got a nice variety of grilled "sticks," as they call
them, and anyone should be able to find something. I chose two East/West
BBQ Pork sticks for $8.50. You could get one for $5.25, if you're not
real hungry. I think I was blinded by the word PORK, because when I ordered
I didn't even notice that there would be apples and pears on my stick.
I tend to avoid meat and fruit combos, but this one worked out okay. There
were three good-sized chunks of pork on each stick, as well as apples,
pears, and red onions. All slathered with an acceptable sweet BBQ sauce.
The meat was well-cooked, browned up nicely outside, and still tender
inside. The onions and even fruit actually made a nice addition.
But wait, there's
more! With your stick(s) you also get a starch or salad. I went for starch,
naturally. After all, there was non-meat stuff on the stick. It had to
be the roasted garlic mashed potatoes, which they threw down with quite
generously. You could get rice, couscous, orzo or polenta if you so chose.
Or any of six different exotic-sounding salads. Did I mention they also
have a wide variety of seafood and vegetarian sticks? Plus multiple other
sides, soups, and desserts. Something for every love child.
And so, we three judges
filled our bellies with pretty good food for not too much money. And that's
my idea of peace, love, and understanding.
Editors note: Asqew
Grill is owned by the people who brought you Civic Center's Indigo and
the annoying bar Hobson's Choice, located just a few storefronts down
from Asqew. You can order skewers there and the Grill kids will bring
Grill is, by my count, three-way word play. They serve skewers,
which are barbequed (if you want to spell it with a "q"),
and the decor is slightly askew. The clock on the wall, for example,
has its numbers ascending counter-clockwise! If that's not askew then,
well, I guess it's backwards. And Backwards Grill is not so catchy.
The employees also
wear dark blue, unadorned lug suits. This part I was not able to unpack.
Kebobs and mechanics? Is there some obscure connection I'm missing? I
don't know. I've been out of college a long time. But putting my analytical
failings aside, let me praise the skewers, or "sticks." $8.50
got me two balsamic beef skewers featuring generous chunks of beef alternating
with mushrooms, zucchini, and red onions. This comes with your choice
of "starches" on the side, such as cilantro rice or citrus cous
cous. I chose garlic mashed potatoes, of course, and the lug suiters really
heap them on. Everything on the stick was tasty, the beef tender and zealously
seasoned. Also, I think one skewer and a side ($5.25) could fill you up
reasonably well. That's a pretty good deal.
An amusing side note:
An Asqew employee asked Judge McClure if we were government spies when
he saw him scrawling on a torn paper bag. (Hey, it's Haight Street --
they're everywhere, man!) Judge McC just gave him an askew look. "Not
quite," the look said. But we are judges. And we are to be feared.
I love just about
anything served up on a stick: ice cream, pizza, hot dog, all good. Asqew
serves you a meal on a stick and if they could only get the mashed potatoes
to hang on, it would be complete. They have a nice variety of items to
grill up: chicken, meats (beef, sausage, pork), seafood (salmon, prawns,
scallops, ahi, mahi mahi) and veggie stuff (tofu, portobello mushroom,
assorted other seasonal vegetables). With your stick you get a "starch":
roasted garlic mashers, cilantro jasmine rice, citrus cous cous, orzo
pasta, or mascarpone polenta. Or a salad.
I chose the Texas
BBQ chicken sticks ($7.95, one stick for $5.25) loaded with chicken, red
onions, and corn on the cob. The chicken was grilled up nicely, a little
dry on some bites but nothing a little sauce can't correct. The onions
were flavorful. The corn was a treat, juicy and tender on the stick --
but not as warm as I would have liked. I had the garlic roasted mashers
as my side and although it is possible to ruin a potato the AG did not
and the portion was large.
We shared zucchini
sticks ($2.25, with dippin' sauce) that were very good, fresh, grilled,
and good for you.
We didn't try any
of the desserts but they look mighty tempting, how 'bout the Asqew Grilled
Banana split($4.50)? Grilled bananas with house-made caramel and hot fudge
with caramelized almonds.
The atmosphere at
the Grill is informal and friendly enough. Order at the counter but the
food is brought to your table.
If you're in the neighborhood,
pop on in and grab yourself a stick.