During my last day of spring break, I went on a little expedition over
the hills to Berkeley. I like to do that every so often, just to see
what's going on there.
I found Berkeley still being Berkeley, with a few small changes: The
Mediterranean Café' on Telegraph Avenue, where I had breakfast, was all
but deserted (I remember it as always bustling), and Shambhala Books,
had closed their store across the street after 35 years. (They continue on as
a publisher.) No one has yet rented the former UC Repertory movie house
on University, which went out of business a couple years ago.
I had a pleasant walk through town, including passing the residence on
Channing Way whose basement once housed Meherstan, the first (I think)
Baba Center in the area.
Well, I finally got in my car to drive home, but decided to go "the back
way", taking not the freeway but seeking out a picturesque route I dimly
remember from years ago. To do this I headed north on San Pablo, through
Albany toward El Cerrito (where the Northern California Baba group has
its current storefront center) and Richmond.
On the way, I started getting a little hungry. I'd had a cup of chai and
some naan (bread) from an Indian restaurant on Shattuck Boulevard that
was playing such loud heavy metal music that I hadn't wanted to avail
myself of their buffet, even though it was sumptuous looking and only
But we'd eaten at an Indian buffet the day before, and I really couldn't
justify stopping at a restaurant. Besides, I'd passed "little India" in
Berkeley, near San Pablo and University, and the pickings were fairly
slim for Indian buffets north of there.
I thought to Baba, "I don't really have the time to stop,either, unless
I pass...hmmm..." a picture was forming in my head... " a fast food
Indian restaurant! Then and only then, will I stop, Baba."
I had these thoughts as I turned onto San Pablo Dam Road in El Sobrante,
an out-of-the-way, "Main Street America" little suburb if there ever was
one. There IS a beautiful, gold-domed Hindu, or perhaps Sikh, temple in
that area that you can see coming south on Highway 80. It seemed
impossible, though, as I drove through the little central business
district full of atavistic shops and seemingly nothing more cosmopolitan
than a couple Mexican restaurants, that the fanciful condition I'd given
for stopping would be fulfilled.
And then I came upon it...a huge neon, sign stretched the length of a
parking lot on the right side of the road, all in red, white, and blue
letters: TANDOORI CHICKEN USA!! The sign straddled a small,
'50-ish fast food shack.
Well, I'd put myself out there, and now I had to stop! I read the menu
while waiting in a small line to order. Now I remembered--the proprietor
of a little place in our area had mentioned once that they had another
store in El Sobrante. He hadn't said, though, that it was a re-fashioned
'50s fast food joint!
I left with a little box lunch consisting of a tandoori thigh and a
drumstick that turned out to be a little under-sized, and some more naan
and chai. I ate while driving and searching for the spectacularly scenic
back road I remembered.* The food wasn't so great, but the
reverberations of my chuckles kept me on a wave of amusement all the way
*It's called Wildcat Canyon Road. Back on our side of the hills I
finally passed where it intersects San Pablo Dam Road. I'll know for