Food often tastes better when you're drunk.
So, one night long ago, around 3 in the morning, drunk and walking back home, I happened to pass AllStars Donuts at 5th and Harrison, a 24 hours donuts and more shop. Although I had known AllStars as a place to get a coffee and sugar fix when getting off work at 4 in the morning from a crappy job I had over 12 years ago, I never bothered to consider eating there. I mean, during those days, all I was concerned about was walking up to Market and BARTing back to Oakland, where I then had approximately 5 hours of sleep before I had to wake up again and start my other job.
Skip ahead 6 years later and I'm living South of Market and working in a Castro district bookstore with local luminaries and scenesters. At the time, there was a club on Sunday night called Sixxteen that, for a little while, was the hottest club I knew of in the city. Picture goths, punks, rockabillys, glam kids, Valencia Street baby dykes, and trannies dressed to the nines, all getting down to live music followed by excess dancing to classic Misfits, T-Rex, Ziggy Stardust, Bauhaus, and 80s hair bands.
If you were there, you may have remembered me as the one who was swinging that girl around by her wrist and ankle in the flying airplane game (don't worry, she was a friend). Or perhaps you remember me and Bambi Lake engaged in a flashing contest with each other across the room. It was the flashing thing that finally got me booted from the club, although at that point I began to realize Sixxteen had been infiltrated with a very uncool element. That was made clear to me, when dancing with Bambi, some "well-meaning", lame-ass, guy had to just let me know that "dude, you know that's a man, right?" The club had become too full of itself, as evidenced by the bitch coat-check girl, and known just enough to attract the slumming crowd.
It was walking home from Sixxteen one night that I happened to get the drunken munchies. Since it was the one sure place I knew of that would be open, I stopped by AllStars. The crowd consisted of your typical bunch of night owls: cops taking a break or just getting on their shift, the occasional prostitute from the no-tell hotel of ill repute across the street, people leaving clubs, cabbies and Super Shuttle drivers working the night shift, and homeless guys trying to warm up before they go back to hitting the bottle.
I stood at the counter what then seemed like forever, and probably was if I could fully remember, trying to decide between the teriyaki, the standard diner food, or maybe just a donut.
I held my nose and jumped in feet first ordering a $4.50 cheeseburger with fries. When it finally came, I didn't even wait around to see what it looked like and started out the door for home. Trying to stumble your way home while eating a cheeseburger is quite difficult, especially as you're trying to watch the sidewalk and what your putting in your mouth, but as I did so, I kept thinking "damn, I'm either super drunk or this cheeseburger is fucking awesome!"
Little did I know, it was both.
The next day, all I could think about was the cheeseburger. What got me was that I really didn't know if it was good or not, since all of the ahem, ahem, you know, stuff. I told Bruce about it and begged him to go with me and check it out since it was all I could think about. I don’t remember if it was the next day or next week, but on our way back from Daly City, we decided to stop by.
To make a long story short, the cheeseburgers were everything I had hoped for. Hot, juicy, cheesy, and with everything you need – a sesame seed bun, onions, pickles, a slice of tomato, and just a little mayo to bring up those calories to the This Is Damn Good mark. Oh, and the fries? Nothing special, but they were hot, fat, and (usually) crispy – full of potato goodness.
For the next several weeks, we made a point to grab a cheeseburger whenever we could at AllStars. It was also then that I discovered everything good about their cheeseburgers was equally good with their patty melts.
You know, as bizarre as it is, I had never even heard of a patty melt until I came to California. It wasn't until several years ago that I had my first one – in the visiting room of the Central California Women's Facility – Chowchilla (talk about the ultimate dive).
I was there with a volunteer group interviewing incarcerated women about medical conditions, when during a break, the outside food vendor/contractor showed up with hot sandwiches. We had bought some for the women we were interviewing when there happened to be one sandwich left over.
It was a patty melt.
All of a sudden, I forgot where I was and why I was there and just kind of sat there in disbelief and amazement that, of all of the years I've been alive, why it was that I never had this sandwich before.
Well, that was it for me. From then on, patty melts were on my top sandwich list, right beside reubens, monte cristos, and club sandwiches.
Recently I went back to AllStars to see if anything has changed. I was there around 10:30 on a weekend night. As usual, you had the mix of club goers fueling up before the night begins or asking to use the restroom. You had random street guys coming in to get their usual teriyaki bowl (this must be AllStars other little gem).
Needless to say, everything pretty much is as it was way back when. Both the cheeseburger and patty melt were delicious, although the price has rise from $4.50 to $5.25 (cheeseburger) and $5.50 (patty melt), but then that generally reflects the rising cost of living in the city.
After years of eating nothing but burgers at AllStars, I think I'm ready to move on to their other selections. Next I'll be trying the teriyaki bowls (grilled chicken, beef, and "shrimps"), the $6.50 fish and chips, roasted turkey sandwich, or perhaps their Philly Cheesesteak. You know…they're also open for breakfast (of course), serving pancakes and all sorts of omelettes, including a chicken steak omelette.
In fact, you could eat forever at AllStars Donuts and never even touch a donut!