Ask little kids what they aspire to in adulthood, and most say they want to be rich and famous. Hardly any, though, dream of having a magical stomach, an enchanted organ that allows its owner to eat anything she wants without fear of a colitis meltdown or caloric overload. That was my dream as a child. Yes, it was an odd thing to wish for, but gluttony was always my favorite deadly sin.
If I could have just one day with this magic stomach, it would start in downtown Oakland at exactly 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday. The scene: The fuzz are making sure that nobody’s having too much fun and giving everyone the stink-eye, like don’t even think about it. Everyone from the regulars drinking Miller at Merchant’s to the Courvoisier-sippers at Mingles is making plans to be somewhere else. But first it’s time to eat:
2:05 a.m. — The downtown crowd is heading en masse to Nation’s over by Jack London Square (317 Broadway, 510-451-6350). They’ve got fat cheeseburgers that drip all over your hand, big ol’ shakes, and salty fries — heaven, basically, and everyone wants a little. The Atkins diet can wait till Monday.
2:35 a.m. — Heading home, I stop by a taco truck on International because the magic stomach demands a perfect carne asada torta — perfect carne, perfect roll, perfect amount of Mexican mayo. And that’s what they give me. Make sure you point to the little Baggie filled with carrots and radishes, the most important condiments of all. Most of the trucks stay open till 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, bless their hearts. Now we’re finally ready for bed.
11:15 a.m. — In real life, people have hangovers, but thanks to my magic stomach, I feel fantastic this morning. Upon waking, we (the stomach and I) discuss breakfast plans. It’s a toss-up between Tropix Caribbean Restaurant (3814 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-653-2444) and La Piñata (1440 Park St., Alameda, 510-769-9110).
Normally, there’s no way in hell I could devour a Jamaican omelet or a shrimp po’ boy chased with a pitcher of Bul (beer with sugar and lime) and then enjoy an all-you-can-eat Mexican breakfast — well, actually … but it would be tough. Now it’s no problem: I prepare a heaping plate of La Piñata’s chilaquiles, chorizo and eggs, French toast, and top it all off with slices of fresh papaya.
2:23 p.m. — As long as we’re here, we might as well visit the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire, which happens the first Sunday of every month at the old Navy base. Besides 1940s dresses and vintage Fiestaware, you get the dramatic juxtaposition of the Oakland and San Francisco skylines, big old scary Navy ships and, believe it or not, some good eatin’.
After paying the cover charge ($5.00 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), we feast on sausage, fried seafood, barbecued oysters, roasted turkey legs, and even bakery treats from assorted vendors — an almond torte dunked in coffee is sublime (especially whilst a hearty wind bloweth off the bay).
4 p.m. — Even after all the snacks and bric-a-brac, the Alameda salt air has worked up a ferocious appetite, so we ferry to Jack London Square for unagi sushi and spider rolls at Yoshi’s (510 Embarcadero West, 510-238-9200).
7:45 p.m. — Barbecue would hit the spot right about now, but my bossy insidekick demands El Farolito (13515 E. 14th St., San Leandro, 510-357-5424), home, my stomach tells me, to the best burritos by far in the East Bay. We flip a coin. (Ever see a stomach flip a coin? It ain’t pretty.) I win the battle, but the war about where to go for brisket, ribs, and links has just begun. The choice is between local great KC Barbecue (2613 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-1140) and new darling Bo’s (3422 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, 925-283-7133). We decide to move the debate to the Lanesplitter Pub (2033 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-1652) and discuss the merits of each over an Herbivore pizza (mushrooms, spinach, olives, and onion) and a cold beer.
10:20 p.m. — We decide to go to both. Each has velvety brisket and fiery links, and each makes very good ‘cue. The main difference is that Bo’s is a little swankier — what’d you expect, it’s in Lafayette. After the feast, my human companion can’t handle any more. I drop him at the Alta Bates emergency room, stopping briefly for a Snickers from the vending machine.
10:50 — Fenton’s Creamery (4226 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-658-7000) is still under construction following the fire, so instead, I drive over to 7-Eleven and settle for a cherry-and-Coke Slurpee, a cylinder thingy of Pringles, and a pint of Häagen-Dazs’ Dulce de Leche. It’s not the same as the Fenton’s toasted almond sundae, but hey, a girl can dream.