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It’s Like John Waters Opened a Restaurant in Oakland

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John waters opens restaurant in Oakland !

Ha, gotcha! John Waters did not open a restaurant in Oakland. That is, unless he did and I never heard about it. (Note to self: Google “did John Waters open a restaurant in Oakland” before spending time in my sunny backyard.)

You’ll notice the preceding paragraph ended with the word backyard. I live in Oakland now, and I have a backyard. It contains grass. Also, I’m able to see the sun.

Alas, this isn’t about my dazzling new life ten miles west of the world’s most beloved flower-haired orgy obscured by literal and metaphorical fog, it’s about this restaurant called Grease Box. It looks pretty John Waters-y, hence the aforementioned references to John Waters. But the food though:

It’s a gluten-free funk shack with dream-like cuisine and surreal setting. Inside a former gas station or tire shop or some such. It’s on its own block, and the block is a little triangle nestled oddly in a neighborhood called Paradise Park, which is divided from adjacent Gaskill District by Stanford Avenue, clearly built in the 1950s: It’s very wide and outlined by homes with all the sex appeal of large cardboard boxes loosely packed with stale popcorn, grotesque visual abominations just a few doors down from the 1920s bungalows and Craftsman houses deeper in the ‘hoods.

Grease Box in all its campy glory.

Right: the food! They have bone broth on the menu. And grass-fed beef. And something called a Hangover Cure which may or may not contain fried chicken. I can’t remember, because I’m writing this story from afar. (The shores of Lake Merritt. It looks like a diamond.)

My friend corrects me: it’s not an actual block, it’s a traffic island. The unapologetically concrete visual feel of the Grease Box island is not only kitsch but also brightened by a few ramshackle planter boxes filled with colorful flora, striving for lush visual grandeur the way a fat circus woman with a peg leg might strive to perform the world’s sexist pole dance for the Mayor of Paris, France. All the furniture is junkyard sturdy and aging elegant.

Again the food, specifically the faux baked goods! It’s revelatory. Most gluten-free bread tastes like powdered cardboard that’s been whisked from a cotton candy machine and pressed into a mold by copies of The Encyclopedia Britannica, the D edition (Decay) and S edition (Shit). But not at the Grease Box. Their stuff is better than anything you can get at Boudin or La Boulangerie, even Whole Paycheck, what have you. Whomever serves it to you will undoubtedly have a mohawk and be cute as fuck.

Important note. The Grease Box has the greatest corn bread you will ever let engulf your tongue. It’s round, two inches thick, seared to crackling perfection, and not remotely reminiscent of concepts like tapas, izakaya, or anything else you’d pay $40 for on a slick city street. Slather it in butter. You can also ask for some honey and they’ll bring you a bunch. Layer that over the butter. Don’t worry, you can rock climb tomorrow and burn it off.

The one and only Divine

Imagine Divine sashaying down the street past a burning couch flanked by a towering bougainvillea. She’s with two of her friends, one a prostitute, the other an eccentric temperamental unemployed hairdresser, and in the grassy island between the two lanes of traffic there’s a swivel chair with a defunct toaster oven on it next to a single yellow sock. Walk into the Grease Box, sit at a picnic table, place your order and let your worries melt away. The sun is shining, cars humming by, with the distant howl of a lonely foghorn barely perceptible from maybe 17 miles away.

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Dan Nazarian - Uninformed Informant

Dan Nazarian - Uninformed Informant

Dan Nazarian is a Bay Area native whose life has been colored by extensive world travel, a brief white-faced obsession with the Cure, and periodic acid trips while skinny dipping. He is a massage therapist in the City.