Tuesday, March 29, 2011

IEM Session #16.2

Inhuman Eating Machine official rules and guidelines

(continued from 16.1)

Eating Day: Again, March 19, 2011

ACTUAL CAFE- 6334 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland- 10:40am- Real Big Salad- $7.00

Photo by Tigerlily

Like Tomate, this place had a similar rustic, bohemian bent, except it was appropriately more North Oakland than Berkeley. The clientele was younger than at Tomate. There was a framed t-shirt on the wall reading, "Oakland, CA- Dyke City." The counter lady who took my order had a thicker beard than I have. There was a bike rack (bicycle docking station) on the wall inside the restaurant. As usual, there were lots of sad-looking women who seemed far too mature to have borne the toddlers on their knees. The seating is long, communal, Oliver Twist-style wooden tables and benches. Best of all, there was a sign near the cash register proclaiming weekends as "laptop free." As far as I am concerned, the only thing worse than people loitering at cafes on their laptops is a cafe that tries to appear high and mighty by banning said devices two days a week. In general, Actual Cafe is not the type of place I would normally spend an entire meal on my own volition, but the $7 pricetag for the "Real Big Salad" was a welcome sight. Sadly, I was unable to repudiate this establishment out of hand.

True to its name, this salad was almost twice the size as the Tomate salas. It was built on a bed of mixed greens, with nary a leaf of romaine in sight. The greens were topped with a goodly amount of pickled vegetables (I detected cauliflowers and zucchini), currants, avocado, and toasted almonds, plus some shaved parmesan. Actual offered a choice of three different fruit add-ins: pears, apples, or strawberries. I figured that the berries were the best of these three choices, as they are a relatively "high-percentage fruit," with close to 70% of strawberry specimens being of good to excellent quality. Conversely, pears and apples hover around 50% or lower, depending on variety. The mustard vinaigrette was wonderfully zesty and added some bite to the salad. Even though I really enjoyed the dressing, I was glad Actual did not ladle it on with a heavy hand, as I had forgotten to specify to the bearded lady that I wanted my dressing on the side. It was as if they had read my mind and had administered the correct amount of vinaigrette for my taste.

Under normal conditions, my distaste for the atmosphere and clientele of Actual Cafe would deter me from spending measurable amounts of time on its premises. Food notwithstanding, I would rather sit unnoticed in a filthy noodle outlet in the Eastlake district while the staff and customers look at me suspiciously for daring to cross their threshold. I am not yet sure whether I love Actual's salad more than I hate their conspicuously "progressive" ambiance. If I am ever able to visit on a day when laptops are permitted, however, perhaps I can enjoy their delicious bargain salad immersed in wi-fi pornography or an episode of Murder, She Wrote, unencumbered by the trappings of North Oakland artisanal chumpitude.

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