Inspired by artist and frequent patron, Jesse Balmer (who orginated the “Howard’s Facts” series; click here and here to see what I mean), I’ve come up with my very own “Howard’s Factoids”. But if you haven’t yet read my original Howard’s Cafe piece, by all means do so now then return here, to continue. Otherwise, you’ll lack a sense of context about these factoids, and your enjoyment will be less than half what it should be.
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #1:
Did you know that Howard’s makes this rib-stickingly delicious oatmeal garnished with raisins, milk and brown sugar? But as the old saying goes: “The early bird catches the worm”.
‘Cause you need to get there before 10am to enjoy this hearty breakfast treat. Their menu actually declares: “Hot Oatmeal…Monday-Friday until 10am (except holidays).”
Now, who on earth enjoys eating oatmeal all day long on a holiday. The Scots? Yet one more Howard’s Mystery!
“Howard’s oatmeal sticks to my ribs like the extraterrestrial alien baby embedded deep in my chest.” – Jehovah’s Queer Witness
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #2:
There is a horseshoe counter in the central part of this eatery, right beside the kitchen, and seperated by a wall. The midsection of this wall is open, with a clear view to the kitchen, where you see the cooks busy at the sizzling, smoking grill.
This counter invites neighborly conversation to anyone beside you, or two or more chairs away, and even across the waitron runway to the opposite side. But it is the swivel seats provided, that in their snug proximity to each other, add that special physical contact to whatever patron is seated right beside the chair you select.
The seats are so tight, it is literally impossible for even a skinny person to avoid rubbing one’s knee, thigh or butt against your neighbor’s own same portions. So you hear a lot of excuse-me’s, pardons, oops and sorries coming from that area of the cafe.
Of course, as a randy old homo, I most appreciate this setup whenever I find a gorgeous dude seated beside one of these empty (and seemingly innocent) stools.
Copping a hearty bump-up then, is part of the eccentricity and fun of dining at Howard’s Cafe. Especially in a non-gay college-area neighborhood filled with handsome studs that may or may not have a hard-on for other dudes. Particularly sweet for elderly queers like myself who are (if I may brag a little) very well preserved.
So thank you, Howard, for this homey touch of subtle eroticism that adds spice to every cute dish at your sterling eatery!
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #3:
The restroom at Howard’s Cafe is always immaculately clean, brightened up by a potted plant, and lightwell window beside the sink. But the hand towels are not located within the water closet proper; they are stored in a dispenser nailed to the wall on the hallway side of the door!
So once you’ve washed your hands (thoroughly, I hope), you need to grab the latch with dripping wet fingers to undo it, then the doorknob with those same watery paws in order to open the door and dry off with a paper towel or two. The solution for me, of course, is to grab two towels before entering. Unless I forget, which is more often than not.
Ah, the eccentric mysteries of Howard’s Cafe are myriad and confounding…though in their own beautiful way: joyful. For in not changing a thing about this restaurant since Howard’s passing, his memory lives on that more brightly!
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #4:
Notice one of my earlier photos showing Howard’s Cafe’s picture window from the outside. It says “Happy Easter”. That has since been replaced by another phrase, which I presume is the usual one displayed between holidays and special events. I have yet to discern its true meaning: “Go Glants“.
Just what is a glant (or are glants), you may well ask (as I often do)? Giant land ant species? An acronym like “give love and not terror, sweetheart”? Slang for “glance at your Aunt Selma”?
Perhaps it’s a misspell: they meant “glands” instead of “glants”. FYI Beloved Reader, the polite word for edible glands is “sweetbread”. Imagine that! A purely vegan term to describe a hunk of dripping, sticky carcass gland…sometimes a brain no less. Baa-aa-aa-aah! Mad cow disease never had it so good. Then again, there’s the term “sweetmeat”: a purely carnivorous title for a totally vegan treat. So I guess the score is even, then. Go figure.
Ah, the mysterious eccentricities of Howard’s Cafe pile up!
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #5:
Notice the photo below. It is a mini-mezzanine right above the picture window and doorway. Who goes up there? Anyone? And if so, how long since the last time? What’s concealed there? Howard’s life journal? Maybe even his cremains? A crystal skull? A chest of gold doubloons from a pirate shipwreck off the Farallon Islands?
Dessicated body parts of former customers discovered dining elsewhere?
*shiver* I never dine anywhere else, Kind Reader, since I’ve become enamored of this great eatery. Perhaps Howard is a centuries-old vampire that has me mesmerized by his unusually delicious ice water. (What do they put in their H2O that tastes so good? Howard?) Perhaps the employees are chained to the walls all night long, in a dank cellar just below. (A bond of perpetual loyalty, with a sinister undercurrent. How Dragonly Divine!)
I don’t even wanna know. I’ll just stay loyal and never look at another restaurant again with desirous eyes. Gastronomic adultery! Goddess forgive me.
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #6:
What do you think of those two ceramic chef figures below? Is it sort of racist, like those colored lawn boy statuettes of yon? Maybe I’m a bit too politically correct here. But I wish Howard’s employees would toss ’em out, as surely no one’s actually used them since, oh…the signing of the Magna Carta.
They stare at me. My favorite seat in the joint (with back against a large wall mirror, as I am unnerved by highly reflective surfaces; being part vampire that I am…vegan vampire I might add)…is also the best angle from which those faux-chefs can glare at me with utter impunity and dumbkoff grins. They are blank slates.
They are brandishing blank slates. Egads! What does that mean? I wonder in trepidation. That I have no future? That the food has no nutritional value? That I shouldn’t think when I dine here, so it would be wise to just leave my journal at home? That there is no hope for all ye who enter Howard’s Cafe?
I confess, Gentle Reader: these porcelain glazed homunculi unnerve me. Disguised as chefs, they have nonetheless never set foot near a grill, let alone flipped a pancake, hashed any browns, or even boiled a simple hen’s egg. They don’t fool me one bit. Not for a moment.
They are Howard’s spies. For what nefarious purpose I can only conjecture. But I don’t wanna go there. Eat your grilled cheese tuna with French fries, drink your coffee (and don’t forget all the ice water in your glass)…and shut up! a shrill voice declares inside my head. Is that you, Howard?
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #7
Is your dad a flesh-peddler? One would hope not. However, the painting now featured on Howard’s plate glass suggests that someone’s sure is! One would also wonder if pimping out Father’s Day is a help or a hindrance towards attracting new patrons into their superb dining establishment.
Do prostitutes frequent Howard’s? Not to my knowledge, but then again my knowledge about Howard’s doesn’t mount to a hill of pickle chips. Now I know this cafe is brimming over with character and myriad eccentricities (of which I’m apparently the latest), but isn’t this dubious celebration of paternal adulation carrying things a tad too far?
I would think such tacky storefront displays more appropriate for Tenderloin or Polk Street venues (or perhaps the Castro…I’ve lived there since ’83, I should know). But the heart of the Inner Sunset? Egads! Methinks Howard’s Cafe could learn a thing or two from those fine, upstanding merchants of Noe Valley. A neighborhood I haven’t visited BTW in more than eight years; they’re so vanilla-WASP.
Perhaps Howard’s is attempting to lure in new clientele, such as COYOTE, or the North Beach strip club crowd. It is always good to expand one’s customer base, but is this really the right approach for a family-friendly/starving-artist/wanderlust-gay-who-doesn’t-know-his-place eatery?
Be that as it may, I now find myself asking these days (upon seating myself at Howard’s horseshoe counter):
instead of “Who’s your waitron?”, this most jejune and sitcomical of all queries:
“Who’s your daddy?”
Tip o’the pimp hat to waitress Bobbie for this factoid’s inspiration!
Howard’s Cafe Factoid #8
See those two nun-like ladies below, seated at the counter? They are Annie and Bobbie, the Friday through Sunday waitresses at Howard’s Cafe. It is these two fairy spirits that make Howard’s such a delight to visit. Always gracing their patron-charges with a kind word, a joke, or a smile and loving ministrations, they make this eatery a most special place among all cafes and restaurants, here in the City of Saint Francis.
If they are nuns, then Howard is Mother Superior. No wonder regular customers show up religiously, and partake their meals with almost fanatic fervor. Let us hope this is due to the wonderful employees, and not any sort of “secret sauce” added to the plates. Just this morning, while dining on Howard’s impeccable French toast, I learned that Annie and Bobbie are about to embark on a road trip. No doubt to spread the Good News about Howard’s Cafe up and down the west coast, from San Francisco to Vancouver and back again.
FYI: Howard’s French toast is laid out in six diagonal slices, arranged vertically with three on each side, each staggered one upon another. According to Bobbie, it is best consumed in zigzag fashion, rather than in a west-east (or east-west) or south-north manner. (North-south is also an option, though not without some inconvenience, as the slices overlap each other, with the nethermost wedge on top.)
Word of advice: don’t pour the syrup from its individual-serving cuplet; it will get quite messy and spread across the enormous oval platter like an oil slick. (Guess you could call it a “maple slick”, though whether or not the syrup is genuine or imitation, remains beyond the ken of this Howard’s tenderfoot.) So be ye not the uncouth hetero brute. Rather, dip each fork-piece in the small plastic cup of viscous delight, as you would your fingers in a Catholic church’s bowl of holy water. Bon apetit, mes chers lecteurs!
Are you a devoted patron of Howard’s Cafe, or employee? If so, I welcome you to add your own factoid in the comments section below.