Photo by Lydia Chávez

We can blame Chad Robertson for this. He’s set the gold standard by consistently turning out perfectly chewy/crusty/memorable loaves at Tartine Bakery. When foodies make such a monumental deal about food, why shouldn’t we expect  perfection in every bite?  So, while others give you reviews, Perfect (or Not), launched on May 12, 2014, and running every Friday,  seeks perfection one dish or drink at a time. 

It’s 6:15 p.m., time for a drink. Dinner will be eaten, but only after a drink and some good conversation.

Three of us meet at Chino, the new Asian fusion restaurant with lots of buzz from the Tacolicious crew, on the corner of Guerrero and 16th streets.  Two of us order margaritas.  They could easily be perfect. A good margarita is not that difficult to make and hey, these guys run Tacolicious.

We don’t want the slushy kind, we tell the waitress.  No problem, she says, but then she returns.  They’re out of non-slushy margaritas.

I order a gin and tonic – tonic on the side. The other maragaritaless diner orders a Ha So Strawberry with anchor hop vodka, strawberry, lemon and zirbenz stone pine. I Google the last ingredient, and learn it’s a liqueur from a red fruit that grows in the Austrian Alps.

The G&T comes in three vessels.  One short glass has gin on ice, a tall glass has ice, and the third is the bottle of tonic. I’m confused by all the glassware, and the waiter evidently is, too. He starts to pour the tonic into the tall glass. Will he then add the iced gin to the iced tonic water?  I take command of the situation, handing him back the tall glass and pouring a bit of tonic into the gin. A slice of lime would have been nice.  But he’s left and when he returns, it’s about the Ha So.

The color is wrong, he says, more amber than red. Perhaps an Alp too far?  He exchanges it for a florid Ha So. We won’t be charged.

Suddenly, there’s food in front of us, but we haven’t even sipped our complicated drinks, let alone had a chance to talk about something other than cocktails.

Is this what the Mission has come to? Restaurants dishing up great food – the chicken salad was good and the pork noodles even better – but also struggling to make the rent. They need to turn over our table. They’re so eager to clear us out that they toss us two – not three – fortune cookies.  One of us has no future.

The others are told: Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. And,  Giraffe – Will You Marry Me? Mmmmm….Maybe having no future is better.

Not perfect, Chino. Not even close.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

I provide editing support for Mission Local from New York, about 2500 miles away from SFO. (I just looked it up.) This allows me to retain my journalistic objectivity and fussy adherence to East Coast standards of punctuation. I got involved with Mission Local a few years ago through Lydia, whom I met in the early 1980s at The New York Times, where I was a business reporter. Since then I've been in and out of journalism and nonprofits, and have also tried my hand at fiction. A couple of years ago I contributed Mission Local's first fiction series, a comic novel called Love in the Middle Ages.

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1 Comment

  1. I’d agree with the turn-over rate. One of my pet peeves is being sat at a table too small, and being served a ton of dishware. After trying the place out, I’m amazed at how packed the place is – I attribute it to being the latest hot thing. It’ll pass in a month.

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