4920 Voltaire Street, Ocean Beach
"I’m a vegan and I live on Bacon.”
“Ocean Beach is a sunny place for shady people.”
Kip Krueger’s signs are everywhere. He paints them on blocks of wood.
He has plenty more.
“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. — Thomas Jefferson.”
“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. — Aesop.”
“I love my sunflowers. So do the parrots.”
“If you’ve lost your way, don’t fret. OB is the way!”
They’re all laid out on folding tables here on Voltaire, near Cable. People buy them from Kip for $10. And while they’re here they often tell him their problems, under the Chinese flame tree, with its little orange lantern flowers.
He’s known around here as Kip of Voltaire.
He points to the top sign on this blue wall.
“That’s the one that started me off,” he says. “I paint more of that one than any.”
The sign says, “We must cultivate our garden. — Voltaire.”
Oh, yeah. This was Voltaire’s famous character Candide. The world kicked him in the teeth so much, he decided all he could do was retire from it, and just quietly do his thing.
After the mass shooting in Vegas, you can understand it.
Talking too long. Nearly 3 p.m. Gotta eat.
“Know of any places nearby?” I ask. “Cheap?”
“Well, there’s Hungry Lu’s. I know, because I did some of her signs.”
So, block and a half, and right next to Mozana Beads and Stones, I’m looking at another sign hanging in front of Hungry Lu’s.
“You’ll love us. You just don’t know it yet.”
It’s in Kip’s distinct hand-painted lettering. I head through the screen doors to this small space that’s all counter and kitchen. Displays are mostly cookies like biscotti, Italian wedding cookies, cannoli shells. Drinks cabinet includes Pellegrino and Mexican Coke in glass bottles.
They’re hot on personal pizzas here. And at $5.99, who’s complaining? “Traditional” is pepperoni, mozzarella, sauce. “Meat Lovers” looks like the best deal with pepperoni, sausage, and salami. The “OB Special” has ham, pineapple and sweet-and-spicy pepper relish, plus mozz and sauce. And you can get bargain salads. Not just lettuce leaves. They have artichoke salad, macaroni salad, tuna dill, pasta feta, Sicilian olive, and potato salads. Three bucks each.
But Kip had been talking to me about their subs. For instance, The Italian, which goes for $7.99. It has salami, capocollo, pepperoni, provolone, plus the usual tomato, onions, pepperoncini. Other subs include the usual choices: ham, turkey, beef. The “Tunisia,” is tuna, with capers, which sounds a good idea. Comes with red bell peppers and chives. Toasted roll. Hungry Lu’s Special has rosemary “porkchetta” (which I think is porchetta, the fatty, herby pork roast), sweet capocollo, plus mortadella sausage and havarti cheese. Hmm...
I notice special offers they’ve etched into the counter’s glass screen. A mortadella and salami torpedo goes for $6, a veggie sub for $7.49, and — hey hey! — a sub for $7.99 that includes “olive oil baked eggplant,” mozzarella cheese, bell peppers, onions, and marinara sauce. I order that ’cause, well, I love eggplant. Of course, then, when it’s too late, I see I could have had an eggplant one with a meatball, or sausage. These cost $8.49.
Sigh. Figure those meats could’ve added bite to the flavor. I get a bottle of Mexican Coke from the cooler; $2.99, but it’s half a liter. Whatever that is, it’s a lot. It goes on forever and has that original Coke taste. I take it outside in the sun, where everybody seems to be promenading with their mutts. Nobody doesn’t have a dog in O.B.!
The torpedo arrives in a bag, but yes, it’s toasted. And I suddenly realize, it’s all-vegetarian. Very O.B. Bun’s nice and crispy, peppers are fresh, and it’s good and mushy inside, not dry and too bready. And there’s plenty of eggplant. Which is good because, come to find out, eggplant’s quite good for you. Makes you smarter. True! Comes from India. Indians call it the “king of vegetables.” So, yeah, it’s good to be O.B.-pure, get all those brain-boosting antioxidants and have no meat, but man, still could’ve done with some nice, herby meatball or sausage to give it heft.
2201 Cable Street, Ocean Beach
Actually, it is very filling. I get through half, wrap the rest for a feast with Carla. So what a deal! Great. Means I can stop in at Tiki Port, coffee joint on the next corner, for some joe and maybe have one of their açaí bowls. Go whole-hog O.B. health nut. Mainly, though, wanna go because because Tiki Port just feels so danged appealing. You can’t miss the mobey Easter Island moai (statue) holding his coffee mug on the roof. Place is a lush collection of plants, tables, trellises, canopies, signposts, and tikis everywhere. Must be popular. For the morning commuter joe-jolt rush, they have three car lanes snaking through behind.
So when I get there, two gals, Julia and Ella, are fighting their way through bees — yeah, bees — to get to the order counter. “They know us. They don’t sting us,” says Julia. Uh, comforting. I get a coffee and order one of their zillion varieties of açaí bowls, the Rio Crunchy (“Sambazon açaí blend with apple juice, topped with organic hemp granola, banana slices, flax seeds, peanut butter crumbles, coconut flakes, drizzle of honey”). It costs $7.50. Coffee’s $2.50. So, ten bucks. My only bee problem: competing with them at the coffee-sweetener honey jar.
But then — peace. Chowing into the crunchy bananas and cold dark acai as the breeze sifts through this little garden gives me an idea. Why not go back to Kip and get him to paint me Voltaire’s famous quote. Gift for Carla. After all, she’s the only garden I really need to cultivate.
Hours: 11 a.m.–9 p.m., daily (till 7 p.m., Sunday)
Prices: Traditional personal pizza, with pepperoni, mozzarella, sauce, $5.99; Meat Lovers pizza (pepperoni, sausage, salami), $5.99; OB Special (ham, pineapple, pepper relish) , $5.99; artichoke salad, $3; tuna-dill salad, $3; Italian sub, (salami, capocolla, pepperoni, provolone), $7.99; “Tunisia” (tuna, capers, red bell pepper), $7.99; Hungry Lu’s special sub (“porkchetta,” sweet capocollo, mortadella, havarti), $7.99; eggplant sub, $7.99; mortadella and salami torpedo, $6; veggie sub, $7.49; eggplant and sausage, $8.49
Buses: 35, 923
Nearest Bus Stop: Cable Street and Voltaire Street