Salmon day

    There are two types of fish that you are guaranteed to find in American diners: catfish and salmon. Catfish is almost always filleted, battered and fried. Salmon is either grilled or smoked. Because the choices are so unlimited, I never order them. And this is the prime example of what you would miss out if you stick to your prejudice: had it not been because of Vân, I wouldn’t have had a tasty salmon burger and a tasty salmon-on-baguette today.

    Nation’s Giant Hamburger (NGH) is a small local chain spanning the Greater Bay Area, serving burgers, breakfast, hot dogs, and also pies. Of the 24 locations, Berkeley’s NGH on University is a little oasis of the ’80s rural: small dusty parking lot with old cars, highly-walled-up booths in dark colors, the smell of fries and oil and the grill twirled with the smell of old people and homeless people and unkempt teenage boys, the pies fluffed with whipped cream in glass cabinets, the chili, the wallpaper, the red and white theme. It doesn’t speak clean. It isn’t cheap either, a third-pounder costs anywhere between $3.70 to $5.70, depending on the type of meat and if you add cheese or bacon. When in mood for burgers, I would definitely choose Burger King over NGH. But King doesn’t have salmon, Giant does.

    I want my grilled wild Alaskan patty with 2 slices of American cheese (60 cents), mayo, no mustard, no onion, and no pickle. It comes out to $5.55 with a distinctive smell of the legless animal, dripping tomato juice, and big folds of iceberg lettuce. I don’t know if it is my little expectation for fish burger or the amazing talent of the chef, but the fish taste and texture couldn’t have been better enhanced.

    For dinner, the salmon again surprises me through the hand of Monsieur Alain at La Bedaine, North Berkeley. Layered between halves of a rough, concrete baguette, on top of thinly sliced red radish, cucumber, tomato, a few spinach leaves, and smeared with feta cheese, the smoked salmon shines like amber and tastes like silk. In terms of food, I always prefer legged animals to legless ones, but this salmon sandwich boasts mouthfuls of superiority over the boar terrine sandwich (ground boar meat and fat in sausage form, also on baguette).

    Boar terrine on baguette, from La Bedaine, Berkeley

    Thank you, Vân, for suggesting Salmon today. 🙂 Happy birthday! 🙂

    Nation’s Giant Hamburger
    1800 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703 – (510) 843-7326
    La Bedaine
    1585 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707 – (510) 559-8201

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