My bar neighbor leaned over real close, his head almost on my shoulder, and said, “I lived in the city for twenty years and just moved out last year. Too expensive, it’s ridiculous. But I’ll commute two hours to eat at this joint every day of my life.” He went on to tell me that the only reason he doesn’t eat at Yamo, a Burmese spot in the Mission, everyday is because his construction job gets in the way. “Get this, this one right here,” he said pointing aggressively at the black bean tofu, leaving a greasy fingerprint on my menu. How could we ignore that passion? This guy seemed trustworthy so we ordered the black bean tofu, some curry noodles, and a tea leaf salad.
The restaurant, no bigger than a wide hallway, was lit with hanging bulbs that aren’t the hip, industrial ones you will find in all of the trendy restaurants just around the corner. These are simply hanging light bulbs that constantly sway back and forth. Some might find that slightly disheartening but it makes me feel like we are on a cozy, hall-shaped ship.
I glanced down the bar, that night we scored a colorful collection of people. A young mom and her messy-haired toddler were propped up on the other side of us. The girl grabbed wads of slippery noodles in her tiny hands, sharing half with the floor and wiggling happily. Next to them sat a few teenagers, one sported a blueish mohawk and talked to the owner about his report card and his mother.
Three ladies run the show at Yamo. Prepping, cooking, and cashiering, they are a tiny machine that can crank out plates of curry noodles and other Burmese classics. Cameras are not allowed and you will get a stern “talking to” if you even think about snapping a picture. The food is not fancy but that’s what keeps the people coming back. Yamo’s ticket to success; cheap and cheerful. I did my own happy wiggle when I looked down at the bill: $20 for all the food we had just inhaled. On our way out, I patted my neighbor on the back and told him that I hoped we’d see him tomorrow.