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Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now acce...

Ambassador Magma, Sulu, and a Damn Good Bowl of Ramen

Figurines from various Japanese Tokusatsu serials, as displayed at
the San Francisco International Airport in December, 2014
Like many who qualify for the description, "Asian-American" has always been a little been problematic for me. Firstly and mainly, Asia is a huge and diverse continent, covering 48 countries and 17+ million square miles. And in the larger and/or more geographically spread out countries (for example, China and India for the former, the Philippines and Indonesia the latter), the cultural differences can be quite distinct.  However, this categorization, whether wanted or not, led me to dive into other Asian cultures, especially when my family moved to San Francisco.

Our time in this city brought us two initial "Asian-American" centers of activity - one was Daly City, which still may be the most Filipino-centric city in the Bay Area, and San Francisco's Chinatown, which was frequently visited whenever my grandparents would take us into the city. Although I knew of San Francisco's Japantown, I never ventured there until well after my college years.

My experience with things Japanese in life came throughout life in bits and morsels of food, pop-culture and sports. Early examples include the 1976 Summer Olympics, where I marveled that Shun Fujimoto finished two routines with a broken knee (including the rings) to clinch the gold medal for the Japanese Men's Gymnastics Team.

One of my favorite diversions lay in Tokusatsu TV serial productions like Godzilla, Ultraman, and Ambassador Magma (released in the states as Space Giants), and later anime series like Star Blazers and Battle of The Planets. The original Star Trek, with Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu played by Japanese-American George Takei. Also, the Yellow Magic Orchestra's debut album, whose "Computer Games/Firecracker" was played heavily on the local R&B/Soul station and earned them an appearance on Don Cornelius' "Soul Train"(!) TV Show.

Seekh The Unique: Everest Cuisine (Worthington, OH)

Lithopolis, Ohio and its roughly 1,600 people have a pretty nice
Mexican restaurant within city limits in El Pedregal
Almost every small town seems to have at least one.

One what, you ask? In this case, I refer to the random international restaurant or two that provides a prospective diner a break from the plethora of fast food, diners, and pizza joints that tend to dominate the landscape. The food, when judged by other similar eateries in bigger cities and towns, may not match up. But as a resident of that town, you take a bit a pride in knowing that something is your hometown Chinese, your local Mexican, or even something even a bit more uncommon.

The Nostalgia Bin: Columbus and Beyond

As this The Book Loft shelf shows, plenty of travel guides exist to places people
wish to go, such as Paris and the country of France in this case
Walking around a place like German Village's Book Loft, I almost always am drawn to their Travel section. But as much as I am drawn to far off places my spouse and I would love to travel, I have never seriously thought about buying one of those books. Perhaps more than many reference books, travel guides have a built-in depreciation factor: attractions, lodging, and eating establishment invariably change or even close outright over time.

However, an older such guide can act as a bit of a snapshot in time. Couple that with a city like Columbus that isn't really a focus of the travel guide producers (I checked Amazon.com - that's a negative, ghost rider) and you have an interesting find from one our recent estate sale excursions: "Columbus and Beyond: Travel Tips and Topics," a 1986 book authored by Fred and Anne Zimmer.

The Beans Are Not Always Greener...

The Carquinez Bridge, gateway to Vallejo and Benicia in San Francisco's east bay
It may be less evident to more and more people as time inexorably marches forward, but there was a time where Starbucks Coffee shops didn't occupy every town, or at least seem that they did.

I can remember a time when the chain was conspicuous by its absence. Vallejo and Benicia are neighboring cities along the Bay Area's Carquinez Strait along Interstate 780, but I can remember when the more highly populated (but less economically well off) city of Vallejo was mermaid-less, but the much lesser populated (but more well-heeled) town of Benicia sported a branch.

With all Starbucks being mostly corporate-owned (save for locations inside airports, supermarkets, etc.), I myself wondered at the time what Starbucks didn't see in Vallejo, or perhaps, did see. Vallejo has one of the more diversely populated cities in the Bay Area (since 1980, the percentages among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian populations have steadily equalized) and I pondered if corporate minds thought that wasn't a money-making formula.

Eventually, Vallejo's residents did get their Starbucks and proved that they as much as anyone can boatloads of Frappuccinos and Unicorn Lattes. Nowadays, the Seattle-based chain is more of a constant (with close to 30,000 branches worldwide, with half of them in the United States) versus a buzzy novelty for which many would clamor. Interestingly enough, while Vallejo currently hosts more locations than Benicia, the higher per capita still resides with the latter (roughly one for every 7,000 residents for Benicia vs. 1 for every 20,000 residents in Vallejo.)

Hitting the Grounds on Indianola: Yeah, Me Too

Baba's, where coffee is brewed with Thunderkiss Coffee beans and pairs
up well with their excellent breakfast sandwiches
For all the traffic that travels the Indianola Avenue/Summit Street corridor to and from the Downtown Columbus core, places to grab a cup of coffee are somewhat scarce.  Yeah, a couple of United Dairy Farmers (I personally have not had their coffee) and other random convenience stores lie along the route to do a quick grab-and-go, if you're so inclined.

A number of food establishments, from the diner level (Wildflower and George's Beechwold Cafe) to more formal dine-in type places (Baba's, with their coffee brewed with the excellent Thunderkiss Roasters, and The Crest Gastropub, although there coffee isn't highlighted much) also exist. However, for the person simply traveling through, merely grabbing a cup of coffee at these places isn't really an option.

That leaves some interesting three-pack of contenders for that potential cup of joe. Number one is pretty straightforward: Portia's, one of the first area restaurants to concentrate exclusively on Vegan dishes, now offers up a breakfast option with their Next Door Cafe, opened up, well, next door to their original restaurant on Indianola. Here, one can grab a cup of coffee brewed with Crimson Cup beans and, if one chooses, a bevy of breakfast food items.

Number two is might actually be the most interesting of the three, but really isn't a practical option unless cats are forefront on your mind. The main draw for Eat Purr Love Cat Cafe is not the java but the felines themselves: appointment fees to visit the store's cats and cafe sales go toward the nonprofit Columbus Humane, a nonprofit geared toward aiding animals in need.