Pull into SOMA’s Garaje

A six dollar meal at Garaje  during happy hour: canned Hamm's and skirt steak tacos

A six dollar meal at Garaje during happy hour: canned Hamm’s and skirt steak tacos

With nearly a dozen craft beers on tap, house made sangria and pop-up Mexican-American food like two for $5 tacos and a $6 burger that’ll fill for days, open-less-than-a-month San Francisco restaurant Garaje (that’s garage in Spanish!), will become a staple in your SOMA diet in no time (Not to be confused with a staple in your stomach).

It’s got everything a little Spanish (or Jewish, in my case!) boy could want: it’s cheap, quick, fresh, delicious and hits the spot.

The space has been converted into a great new hangout and the food is actually, shockingly, affordable — we’re talking one dollar sign on Yelp.

Make the 10-15 minute walk from the ballpark and you’ll find yourself in an industrial lounge meets mom and pop taco shop with a dash of sports bar and classic car aesthetics. Think: a few flat screens (nothing too invasive), Edison filaments hanging from the ceiling and a couple marquees as menus. The rustic light fixtures are easy to miss, but the ruby red Corvette-looking thing in the back is not. It’s Garaje’s custom tap system, which, made out of an old Coldpspot fridge, got its custom paint job in an actual body shop. There are neon bar signs, but not your typical Budweiser anywhere in sight: instead you’ll see paraphernalia like the giant, backlit Ducati sign the owners convinced a broke college kid to sell to them for $200.

The tacos could’ve used a little more salsa, but were otherwise satisfying with well-marinated steak strips hanging out inside a corn taco shell that tastes nothing like those crappy store-bought ones mom used to heat up in the oven on taco night.

The burger was large and took charge — the combination of two good-sized tender, juicy patties and classic cheddar gives the ole Double Double a run for its money.

Co-owner Arturo Aguilar

Co-owner Alfredo Arturo Aguilar (he just goes by Arturo, obvi) forged the menu at Garaje from only the finest and freshest, locally-sourced ingredients — like Acme buns and La Palma tortillas (for the tortillas, he had to talk to a tío, who, along with most of the family-run business, doesn’t use email). Aguilar is so serious about fresh that he would rather disappoint for being out of an item than serve anything sub-par.

If you haven’t figured it out already, Garaje is themed like an old service garage. When Aguilar and his business partner took over the space in October last year, it was well beyond pick-me-up status. Think giant bags of MSG upstairs, a stray cat, and whatever was left of a fish tank and some crappy wooden ceiling fans — basically your run of the mill out-of-service neighborhood Chinese restaurant. They thought the place looked like an old service garage, so they went with it.

The space has been converted into a great new hangout and the food is actually, shockingly, affordable — we’re talking one dollar sign on Yelp. Come for happy hour and you can snag $2 tacos and a $2 can of Hamm’s beer (the stuff “born in sky blue waters” for those keeping track). A craft beer like a Green Flash IPA or the generously proportioned fish tacos will require a few more dollar bills (this place is cash only!), but it will be worth it. And make sure you ask about the Crazy Dave special. You’ll definitely want to mess with that.

Unlike your mechanic’s garage, with those rundown couch cushions, stale coffee, and cockroaches; this place will more than comfortably accommodate small to large parties and there’s an upstairs lounge-to-be awaiting some finishing touches. And if you’re low on juice, the tables along the west wall have iPhone 5 charging cables — which couldn’t have come in more handy when I waltzed in last week with a measly nine percent battery life.

Oh, and that house-made sangria? I’m calling it Arturo’s 90-Day Sangria. And while I won’t give away what took him three months to perfect, I will say it involves the following flavors concocted into a sorbet of sorts, which gets blended into a Spanish table wine on tap: hibiscus, cranberry, lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. ‘Nuff said.

LAX to JFK: The luxury of flying (economy) in 2010

Okay, so it’s still 2009. But close enough.

Rooftop of LAX entrance

Now first thing’s first: I’m not what you would call a frequent flyer. My freshman year of college, I flew home a few times a year, traveling regularly from ONT to OAK (I can only speak in airport speak, sorry).

But since I began dedicating my life to the man, it has not been easy to get away.

I got about 10 days after I graduated, right before I took on an internship and soon after a part-time job.

Now I’ve got another internship and the same part-time job, working seven days a week. And that part-time job happens to be with retail sales at the Apple Store, so time off between October and January is pretty challenging.

Now, since the recessions kicked in, it’s been great to take advantage of cheap flight deals and exploit these merciless companies for all they’ve got. You can get on a plane to Vegas for 20 bucks and vacation destinations are advertised as a couple hundred for a week’s stay. Not too shabby.

But this trip was nothing unusually affordable. $350 or so roundtrip from LA to New York. It’s Thanksgiving week, so I guess I’ll take it, but shoot – I booked the flight nearly three months in advance! (Shoulda planned a year ahead, damn)

But here I am, typing away on my Macbook in a cramped little aisle seat (praise the aisle!).

Now we all know flying has been a headache since 9/11 and I guess that’s OK if it means higher security when threat level hits the color orange. But flying out of Ontario and Oakland is a breeze in comparison to LAX. Normally it takes just a few minutes to get your boarding pass checked, and the security line is what you have to account extra time for.

But at the Delta terminal around 10 a.m. on Friday, it took me close to a half hour just to get my boarding pass stamped. Then, they made us wait 5-10 minutes because the security line up the stairs was full. Then, we got to get into the security line, file around the lineholders like we’re at the DMV, and finally make our way. But hey, at least the TSA people seem pretty chill.

The best part has yet to come. I know that’s all par for the course when it comes to flying these days – I ditched my toiletries at home because I forgot to buy travel sizes: couldn’t even take my deodorant (6 oz.) and barely snuck by with my hand sanitizer (2 oz.). This of course because I chose to carry on all my baggage instead of paying $15 (!) to check a bag, just to wait longer and possibly have it lost (seen it happen).

Now luckily the Delta flight attendants are incredibly courteous and well groomed, but I couldn’t help groaning midway through my free (!) viewing of “Away We Go.” I had already given “Dexter” and “Land Of the Lost” a shot, but one was moving too slow and the other was way too…stupid (sorry Will).

The fact that there are little TVs on the back of every chair is great. It took Jet Blue to realize that the majority of people on a plane despise the in-flight movie and that maybe they’d like to have their own personal selection.

But when the lady over the speakers told us she was rebooting the system, it was pretty, well, silly. Apparently the plane had lost some satellite coverage in the clouds and some schmucks in business (first) class weren’t getting service. But a 13-minute system reboot?! Wow. That’s a litte sad. We can touch our screens, but it takes us twice the time of a coffee break (with no coffee here) to get them up and running again.

Another nuisance is of course the lack of space. I didn’t get a prime choice in seating, and I’ll take an aisle over a middle seat any day. But I can’t fit my 13-inch laptop on the dropdown tray and still be able to see it. It’s more spacious to rest the computer on my lap. Thanks, tray table.

Last but not least is the food. I didn’t have time to grab anything at the terminal, and I of course couldn’t bring anything from home without being stopped and accused of terrorism – or smuggling dope.

So to hear they would be offering a free snack and beverage and offering us a meal to pay for, I was pleased. The prices were relative, the food looked decent; I’ll take it.

But when you’re sitting at the back of the plane, apparently that means all the food is gone before they get to you. Really?? You’re going to hand me a menu, tell me I can order a chicken sandwich, and then tell me you’re out of all meals when you get to my seat?! What kind of crap is that?!

There are two real food choices on the ever so stunning “EATS” Delta flight menu featuring hand-picked Todd English (TE) dishes. WTF? Who the fuck is Todd English? And do you really expect me to believe airplane food on an economy flight is going to be hand-anything? Other than handed to me, that is…

So I got stuck with the fruit and cheese platter — $6 for five grapes, two walnuts, four dry crackers and three chunks of cheese. So generous, Delta! You shouldn’t have. Now I’m cheap and I’m quite carefree, so it does take something for me to be bothered. Like unintelligent design: a tray that won’t fit the standard small-size laptop computer. The trash lady who makes one run in her fresh, new eco-recyclable garbage tote and then disappears for good five minutes after serving, er, selling, us.

But most of all, I was just upset I couldn’t actually get some real food on the goddamn plane. I’ll settle for a half-assed $8 chicken sandwich, at least it’ll fill me till we get there. But to be out of the only two main courses you offer? (The other was a Asian shrimp salad….not sure what was Asian about it though) That’s just rude to your fliers. I can hear it now:

Fly Delta, we’ll be out of food by the time we get to your seat!

Delta: don’t get a seat in back! You’ll not only be served last, but you’ll also have NO selection of food. All this for the same price as the first third of the economy cabin.

Damn you people. Now to get back to my 7-inch movie screening with fuzzy audio coming through pristine headphones.

Oh, and the Lamar Burton lookalike/potential real guy from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek sitting up in business class.

In the end, I still made it! Times Square and Rockefeller Center after family brunch on DAY 1:

Hard to be healthy – the bad, bad food saga

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It’s hard to be healthy.

To me, healthy is in comparison to what I was my senior year of college: extraordinarily bus, underslept, and ferociously hungry.

I had little no time to make my own food. I barely grocery shopped (except for beer) and got by on Panda Express and Subway, with occasional sushi, In-N-Out, and Cantina Express.

None of it is healthy. Maybe a few healthy ingredients……like the lettuce on my burgers or the raw fish in my sushi.

But that of course was combined with all sorts of not so good stuff or decent stuff, but too much of it. [See: carborice, carbobread, fattyfriedorangechicken, fattavacado, etc.)

However, since summer struck and my former schedule (consisting of graduating, editor-in-chief duties at The Poly Post, 16 units, hint of a social life, a weekly column, a local beat and more) has turned into an internship at KPCC 89.3 three days a week. That means a LOT more free time.

SO I’ve been cooking, or at least making: lots of salads and smoothies and almost no fast food. Not to mention, regular exercise 2-4 days a week, compared to ZERO days a week during the busy school year.

But I’ve learned quickly that it’s not easy to eat right. It’s not hard if you eat every meal at home, or maybe live in San Francisco where the food is organic and excellent. But round these parts in Pomona, we’ve got fast food, fast food, fast food, and a couple liquor stores. Sure, there’s plenty of Mexican restaurants, but I can only eat tacos so much. [Sorry SoCalians]

I’m looking for more options. Maybe we should have some food parties. I just got some good recipes from my Jewish mother. Chicken burgers, chicken chili, ricotta pancakes, and a blender cookbook full of new ideas.

But what about when I’m interning at Current TV in Hollywood [6860 Lexington Ave]?

What about Pomona/Claremont area? I know plenty of spots I hit up in both towns. But most are either grossly unhealthy or more expensive than I want when I’m looking for a bite. Dante’s Deli and Boulevard Bagels on Diamond Bar, Cantina Express and Buen Taco for Mexican, Back Abbey, The Press, sushi and whatevers in downtown Claremont….

But I’m pretty sure a giant Chipotle burrito ain’t exactly what the doctor ordered either. But I have a big appetite, so salads don’t tend to fill me up unless there’s a lot of meat in them.

Everywhere I look, I see chains. That’s LA for you, right? Fuck that! Gimme something good to eat!

Fresh&Easy isn’t bad, but I’m not big on prepared meals. I tend to be disappointed. Prefer something actually fresh. Give em a sandwich bar! And Trader Joe’s in San Dimas is legit, especially for good sausage and beer and pirate’s booty. But after seeing SuperSize Me, reading all this crap about healthcare (I’m uninsured!), and diabetes and obesity, and waiting to see Food, Inc…..it’s bad out there.

Just as always, the corporate monsters survive. And they blame Americans for being fat. Consumers are only half to blame in my opinion. Now I’m not suing McDonald’s if I gain a couple pounds, but even its healthiest options (like the McSalad Shaker, ooohhh how clever) become just as fatty once you dress it. And who wants dry leaves? Not I!

I haven’t found my health groove yet…but going on a run today, so that’ll take the guilt off all the Starbucks I’ve been devouring (yuck!). Luckily and unluckily, my girlfriend works there and happens to love the place…and circumstances are, they’re fucking everywhere we are. Now I love me some iced coffee, but the cream and sugar make it probably close to the caloricness of a carmel macchiato (maybe?). Speaking of, *Bux has taken all the transfats out of their fresh frozen pastries. And yes, at least the licensed store on Cal Poly’s campus, they’re delivered the day or days ahead of time, and put in the pastry case frozen the night before, to be perfectly cool and moist upon your 7 a.m. nasty blueberry scone purchase.

Death to us all via mass consumerism, monopolization, and bad, bad food.