Sunday, 1 May 2011

joannie's lunch & breakfast: love at first munch

The concept of luxury has become somewhat distorted these days. Decades ago, it was about tangible objects; now, it has stretched itself to include time. Indeed, with only a forty minute lunch break, time is a luxury for people who consider idle rumination during eating a form of therapy. I happen to be one of those people, and, as a person confined to the somewhat upscale Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco, I have two options for lunch: prepare or purchase it. The former is virtually out of the question, since I am a sloth. Consequently, every day I have to venture out there to seek a convenient restaurant. And by convenient, I mean price, distance, cleanliness, and availability of vegetarian dishes. All other priorities such as atmosphere and the staff’s friendliness have been rescinded.

It took me four months to find a place like Joannie’s Lunch and Breakfast, which, surprisingly, is just around the corner. I did not have high expectations about this place. After all, it is an eatery that offers the standard breakfast and lunch of Americans: pancakes, waffles, burgers, and sandwiches.

I had my reservations about this place when I first entered it. I wouldn’t call it shabby, but I sure wouldn’t call it stylish either. It is a standard, family-oriented restaurant: no opulence, no pretense. And yet, my doubt was cast away when a delightful Chinese waiter promptly took me to the table that subsequently becomes my regular place, and gave me the menu. A quick menu scan revealed that the establishment, much to my joy, offered vegetarian options for burgers and sandwiches, using mushroom patties. I was smitten, but still unconvinced. I ordered a portion of Vegetarian Garden Burger with French Fries (I love carbs).

In spite of the restaurant’s crowdedness, my food came rather quickly. In fact, it was too quick: I did not even finish my ponderous thoughts of the meaning of life. All of my grandeur fantasies were reduced to an approving growl of my stomach when the waiter came to my table, serving a big plate of ye olde’ classic burger and fries, with a vegetarian twist. I am no hermit: I take pleasure in being a glutton, and the food presentation, though standard, was pleasing to the eye. The aroma was so delectable that I dug in without a moment of hesitation.

The restaurant had me at first bite. The burger was succulent yet crunchy at the same time. I have savored many a vegetarian burger, yet this one was by far, the best. The delicious mushroom patty was roasted to perfection. On top of it were fresh onions, lettuce, and tomato slices. These were placed firmly between two sweet sesame seed buns (again, I love carbs).

Even the French fries helping was generous. These weren’t the usual, fast-food type, stick thin fries dipped in residual fatty oil, nay. These fries were fat, fresh, yet crispy to the core. The only flavor enhancer I could detect was salt.

After devouring my meal, I dabbed my mouth and its sides with the napkin, smiling from ear to ear, satisfied like a kitten that had just lapped away a bowl of milk. Why did it take me so long to find this gem? I kept asking myself. Perhaps it is the location, and yet it is just around the corner. For an $8.00 quick lunch, the experience sure exceeded the expectations: a worthy vegetarian feast, not five minute away from EF, in a clean establishment, and yet, there’s more: WiFi connection is available and the friendly waiters, as Chinese as they are, speak in perfect English, much better than the employees of Bank of America. How can you not love a place like this?

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