Munch goes to Burgers and Rice Bowl
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If only other restaurants were as obvious in their nomenclature.
For example, on a recent trip to Salt, Munch noticed there were no salt shakers. And why doesn't Quaker Steak and Lube have car supplies? Does Legume only serve beans? Spice Island is on Atwood Street, which, the last time Munch checked, was completely landlocked. And is Seattle's Best really the best coffee Seattle has ever had? Like ever?
But no, Burgers and Rice Bowl serves just that: burgers and rice bowl(s). And like any joint that serves burgers and rice bowls, it also serves Cuban food. Because why not?
The tiny storefront is on Semple Street in that Twilight Zone of Oakland that's home to Mexican and Italian grocers, a pretty decent pizza joint, one of the city's only Korean restaurants, a new-ish Turkish restaurant and a windowless bar that even the intrepid Munch has yet to set foot in. And just because this pocket of Oakland is a tad more cosmopolitan than the rest of the student slum, that does not mean that it's any cleaner. In fact, Munch would advise anyone who's going to venture that far south of Forbes Avenue to make sure they're up on their tetanus shots.
If you're thinking, wait a second, wasn't there also a Cuban joint there? Well, yes, in fact there was. And the story goes something like this. The people now running the current iteration of the restaurant took over last month. They wanted to serve burgers and rice bowls. But, as the maxim of food service goes, and as Munch has learned from time spent working behind the apron, "The customer is always right. Even when the customer sends back the rice dish because they say the grains are misshapen."
So they kept serving Cuban food. And that's why their menu is more diverse than a Benetton ad: chicken empanadas ($2.25) appear next to gyoza (6 for $3.95) and you can order a rice plate with mojo pork ($5.95) or mandarin fried chicken ($5.50).
So, with thick-soled shoes, Munch dragged Wiz Khalifa Beat Writer Friend of Munch (who writes about Wiz Khalifa, not his actual beats), Curly-Haired Friend of Munch and Dimpled Friend of Munch, who may or may not have used those dimples to persuade Munch into buying him a free lunch, as well as talking himself out of speeding tickets and into concerts. Seriously, he should probably be employed by the CIA. ("Can you pretty please tell me where you hid the dirty bomb?")
Munch, who has a portion of brain dedicated to seeking out and consuming wings, ordered the Hong Kong Wings ($5.95) to share. Deep-fried and slathered with an Asian-tinged dry rub, they were a nice start to the meal. DFOM got the cheeseburger ($5), which he described as "decent" and the seven-flavor seasoned fries ($3.50), which were indeed seasoned nicely. He got a side of the "signature mayo sauce," which was a tad tangier than regular mayo.
CHFOM and WKBWFOM skewed more Asian with their choices. WKBWFOM got the Mandarin fried chicken ($5.50), which came with a side salad. She said it was delicious, especially considering the price, and the pieces of chicken were more substantial and more recognizably chicken than at other places of similar price. CHFOM got the teriyaki beef ($5.95), slices of beef topped with teriyaki sauce and served with a side of broccoli. Another steal, which she described as "pretty good." Both came with healthy servings of rice (unless you're on the Atkins) and were, somewhat disappointingly, served on plates. (So maybe the title isn't totally honest.)
Munch opted for the Mojo pork ($5.95), which is pronounced more like Soho but with an "m" and less like the Austin Powers variety. Munch chose "make it a dinner" for an extra $2.50, which meant Munch was privy to a couple of sides. Following along with this whole meal-as-Brangelina's-family theme, Munch got broccoli and gyoza (Japanese dumplings). The Mojo pork was fall-apart tender, seasoned with something slightly citrus-y and slightly garlic-y. They double-starched it with rice and bread. The gyoza, while a tiny bit burnt, also were tasty, stuffed with ground pork. Munch finished off the meal with sesame balls ($1.50 for three, although the nice man behind the counter threw them in for free), deep-fried balls of dough stuffed with red bean paste. Because who doesn't love fried dough?
It's also worth mentioning that the portions were enormous, enough for at least a meal and a half, or like a small mid-morning snack for Michael Phelps. Munch had more than enough leftovers for dinner, the smell of which drew co-workers into the break room after a spin in the microwave.
Burgers and Rice Bowl offers one of the best options South Oakland has to offer, especially for study-weary students whose living expenses are mostly covered by couch change and trips to the recycling center with bags of beer cans.
First Published February 24, 2011 12:00 am