Lao New Year, UN Plaza, San Francisco
Brief report on the festival today in SF - stopped by around 1 pm:
Overall, I was a little disappointed at this year's festival compared to the one in 2010 (I missed it last year). There were only about 4 food vendors and among those only one or two was from a restaurant that was from somewhere truly out of the way that I'd never ordinarily visit (I was hoping for some of the places in Stockton to show up, but I think the only one from outside the bay was based in Modesto). Additionally the Beerlao people were only serving regular lager at the time I showed up - the dark version had not yet been chilled, so we passed on beer.
We ended up getting the combo plates from Johnny's Cafe, which appears to be a mild-mannered donut and sandwich joint on Shattuck in Oakland by day. Not even sure they ordinarily serve Lao/Thai food from the cafe. They ran out of sticky rice so we settled for steamed.
-Papaya salad: nice and spicy, crisp papaya, a good lime sourness, very small amount of dried shrimp for funkiness, typical weak winter tomato slice plus some iceberg lettuce. An above average version; I would have liked more funk and complexity, but definitely worth getting.
-Cambodian sausage links: these were very different from the huge, lemongrassy Lao sausages I tried at the festival in 2010, but good in their own way. Nice and garlicky, with a tang that I think must have come from a bit of fermenting. These reminded me of the sour grilled pork I had in Luang Prabang a few years back, which was one of my favorite meat dishes ever.
-Egg rolls: didn't have high hopes for these, but enjoyed them quite a bit. Crispy, not too greasy, and a good balance of flavor with plenty of pork inside.
Would be interested in hearing whether Johnny's has SE Asian dishes available regularly or if this is a one-shot deal.
I drive past Johnny's often. It is a totally non-descript place where a bus driver or someone waiting for the bus sometimes goes in to get a donut.
I suspect they don't serve Lao dishes at the store. But I wonder if enough of us stop by and put in a request, maybe they would heed the call...
drop by johnny's today. it's basically a burger, donut, sammie, and chinese food joint.
no lao dishes regulary. johnny will make some lao dishes next week for the lao community.
monday, may 7th, he will have a chicken and beef dish available at his donut shop.
(just relaying what i heard, no warranties).
dropped by and picked up a glazed donut @,75. fluffy, as good as the 1.25 ones!
beef on rice (8) was available. so i ordered it. the order included 4 beef skewers, short grain rice, and a vinegary tomato/lettuce salad. the beef wasn't on the counter. had to ask for it. it's in the kitchen.
everything tasted wonderful. beef not the flank steak kind but a fattier cut. lots of spices and marination. can taste ginger, sweet, and tart notes.-great stuff. different from thai version.
turns out johnny recognized me when i patronized his restaruants in the 80's (siam cafe on san pablo ave & on telegraph ave). in the berkeley area.
noticed a flyer on his window about a festival around the 21th. probably he will have some lao dishes at this shop also.
Stopped by around 4:30 just as they were closing, but when I asked about beef skewers a woman inside said she would make some for me. They were curious how I knew about these, so I told them about chowhound. I agree the skewers were great. Came with a salad w/ lettuce, tomato, and orange segments, rice, and 2 eggrolls. She said they were doing another festival in SF at the end of the month. I told her I lived nearby and would be back.
I know they have sandwiches, cheesesteaks & Chinese in addition to the donuts.
Sandwiches are cheap (<$5) and decent (basic deli fare). Haven't tried the Chinese.
I'll have to pay more attention if they have other SE Asian, if I go back.
5501 Shattuck Ave, Oakland, CA
johnny's cafe isn't too far from brick's pig house & dorsey's locker. drove by johnny's many times. looks like a donut place, sign says they sell chinese food. closes pretty early. never been in there.
it's a few blocks from the arco station that's next to the .55th? st. offramp.