The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Come On Fry Young

Hipster Jackboots: Sam Herlihy On Restaurants And Gentrification
Sam Herlihy , February 27th, 2014 08:44

In his latest Come On Fry Young food column, Sam Herlihy ties himself in knots while battling the twin spectres of inner city gentrification and artisanal fusion cooking

Add your comment »

Image via Shutterstock

In San Francisco they are blocking the GoogleBuses. These unmarked chemist-white coaches, air-conned and wi-fi'ed up, that ferry GoogleDudes and GoogleGirls to get to their days of Googling, or creating the Googling, or the doing of the Google noun/verb/adjective whatever the hell it is that they do in their Google Playhouse/Campus/Sleepover/Teepee. They are blocking the buses and chucking bricks at the windows and bread-bowls full of shitty tourist-bait clam chowder at the windscreens as they go gliding up and down Paul Newman's hilly-as-all-hell streets from Google to Google. Google.

Rents in most places are rising like hyped-up viagra boners. The buses have become the focus of the GoogleRage. The only people who can afford to live in many parts of San Francisco now all work for Google or banks. The only people in the Mission district are GoogleFolk, financial sector automatons in sweet rides wearing natty threads, and junkies. Because San Francisco's insane rents don't pay to shift Dribbly Joe the smackheaded wino, hep-cee spitting crackheaded derelicts, or even the staggering mentally ill people who piss and vomit and scream at passing GoogleBuses like they just woke up from one nightmare of torn brain threads into another, this one, patrolled by pretty rich people, long white buses, and bread-bowl after bread-bowl of discarded tourist-half-gnawed clam chowder being picked over by gulls the size of kid-dream nightmares about pterodactyls.

Some quotes from a recent anti-gentrification protest in the Mission:

"Shoot the cops!"
"We know where you live and we will burn this place to the ground!"
"Shoot the cops and burn coffee shops!"

Some quotes from some pro-gentrification people at the protest:

"Yay gentrification!" "People hate who I am because I am supposedly this evil, rich guy who is ruining people's lives and evicting them. But I am just someone who planned and worked. I'm not like these people, who are all probably into drugs and alcohol."
"What did I do? I just moved here; I don't know what's going on!"

All people are idiots.

This is where people used to open restaurants.

My partner in culinary crime James and I cooked a sort of corporate/promoish thing for a booze company and a swish magazine a while ago. We turned up in a cab and unloaded the food, half prepped and dying under foil and clingfilm. We were to cook in a giant, specced-up kitchen, in a warehouse conversion, up a wrought iron spiral staircase. The rest of the warehouse conversion was made up of big-windowed offices for design firms, internet startups, font designers and super successful Etsy trinket peddlers. In every one, rows of Macs, some sort of big neon or graff-art bullshit on the walls. Is that a juice bar in there? Definitely a giant wheezing old-school Italian chrome coffee machine in that one. Help yourself! Get involved yeah? Lets just create here! Right by this sort of Banksy piece, no, Hirst? Hang on! That bird with the bed that stinks of urine and fag butts! Emin! Hey! You wanna Kale with me? Friendster! Craigslist! Geocities! Adidas Originals! Fischerspooner!

Yeah we sneer. But what at? I'd like to work there if I had to work in an office somewhere. Rather an office with a sweet coffee machine in it than in an NHS office undecorated since 1972. Cork board. Filing cabinets. Smell of coffee. Misfiring fluorescent tubes. Misfiring fluorescent tube covers to diffuse sickly glow, full of dead flies and expired moths. Mugs. Staples. A stationery cupboard - a real-life stationery cupboard in the year 2014. Misery. Paper. Paperclips. IBM. Grey and brown and misfiring fluorescence making everyone look like a character in one of those Russian books you haven't read but pretend like you know what happens in them. A fly, an office, a dead wife, or something. In Russia, mad depressing.

Also these loathed individuals are the ones with a little cash to spend, a need to show off, in restaurants and bars, their Japanese import denim and buffed brogue/boot/flipflop barefoot technology satchel shoes. And the girls in dude trousers and mussy hair and bored jobs and they'll eat a burger because girls can eat burgers now 'cos fuck Grazia and fuck not smoking and fuck England anyway I'm Berlin as fuck and I have literally spent all day listening to Fischerspooner and it def holds up.

So someone opens restaurants there.

Hold tight to that wave of self righteous: "What about the Chicken Cottage that's been there for ten years!" schtick you're about to spray down yr dial-up.

Fuck the 'Cottage.

Balls to the 'Cottage, the Dixie Chicken, the Pizza 'N Wings To Go. Fuck all of them. As I seem to wail every time I wail here, no snob am I, but these jokers sling battery chicken bits to kids and drunks. Battery fowl is cruel and gross. Kids shouldn't be eating this trash walking to school, and drunk people in fried chicken shops are mad annoying, rude as all hell and should fuck off.

A chef named Christian Puglisi wanted to open a restaurant. Having no money, the only place he could afford was on one of Copenhagen's no-go streets*.

*I know. "Copenhagen's No-Go Streets" doesn't quite have the terror and creeping menace of "Detroit: Death City" or "Moss Side: Kill Or Be Killed".

"Copenhagen's No-Go Streets": A gentle look at some of the more 'rugged' and 'zesty' areas of Denmark's beloved capital city. See public urination! Mild right wing views espoused in marker pen! And a dealer of drugs enjoying a cup of fantastic fresh brewed artisan coffee while drumming up passing trade! Presented by Jonsi from Sigur Ros and Sir Ragglekins, his pet kitten.

Eventually he managed to convince the dealers to deal over the street, the vandals to tag the shutters and not the windows, and the drunk Danes pissing in the street to maybe aim for the bushes, not the front step on the restaurant.

A year later he opened a bar across the street. The dealers wandered off a little further down the street. Later this year, a bakery. Joining the coffee shops, art galleries, and probably an intimidating shop thats sells high-end imported denim to a soundtrack of Joy Division and Fischerspooner.

Gentrification in full Nordic-Magic flow. The young restaurant first, and then the rest followed.

For the sake of balance and even-keel reportage, perhaps we should consider the plight of these displaced drug dealers? They had a young startup business ticking along quite nicely until that meddling Christian Pugilisi, Jonsi from Sigur Ros and Sir Ragglekins showed up.

Goddamn gentrifying scum! Shifting the poor humble dealer, just providing a service, from his storefront. Where is he going to go now? Think about it. Think about all that sweet graffiti that won't be there now. No scrawled tag names, less urine... I miss things the way they used to be. The community has been torn asunder. The vitality of the street, vanquished. Junkies as refugees, shifted on by the jackboots (Got them in Berlin. Handmade in East Berlin, in an old armaments factory, made of leather from Crimean War saddles) of hipsters going for dinner.

I'm not quite dumb enough to suggest that anyone opening a restaurant is doing it for any reason other than to make some bank. All I'm suggesting is that, sometimes, the first people setting down new businesses in rundown areas... dilapidated streets... shitholes, are young people trying to start a restaurant. Sometimes they bring a bunch of new investment in the wake of their hipster clientele. Most are going to fail quicker than the second Hope Of The States album campaign. (Look it up, philistines.)

They fail because your burger 'concept' is crap. Your burger tastes like ass and gloves. No amount of old baseball memorabilia, bourbon cocktails and Tom Waits quotes on the menu will change that. Tom Waits thinks you are a prick.

Restaurants go under because while you can cook everything from the Ottolenghi cookbook passably well, ladies-who-lunch are not quite ready to pick their way around comatose drunkards and feral cats to eat your falafel with a delicate Berbere spiced yoghurt sauce on the edge of a sink estate in Merthyr Tydfil.

This is all you can afford, though. Think of yourself as a pioneer, not as a gullible, desperate fool chasing a dream. This old takeaway place, long shuttered, this spot - this is going to be the next hipster restaurant of the year. It's kinda Spanish tapas but with a real Asian spin on it. Fish sauce in the tortilla, yeah? Coriander on everything. Yo! You know what Sriracha is, don't you?! In Hull.

It's going to be just a classic NYC Italian red-sauce joint, yeah? Pasta and meatballs! Cannolli! Like in The Sopranos. But with heavy influence from Noma, foraging and shit, yeah? And we are going to blast vintage hip hop too! And make bourbon cocktails! And have a unisex bog! And call it a 'bog', 'cos that's mad funny. Yeah? In Homerton.

Good on them. Go forth and blow your inheritance money. Your rich mate's bonus from Goldman Sachs. That creepy record producer's 'nest egg'. A Premiership footballer's 'silent backing'. Go find a dump, and build the restaurant of your dreams. Get rid of the junkies, the trash, the hookers and the homeless. They are all gross and useless anyway. Take out the trash and then serve up your masterpieces. Your Persian Doughnut concept. Your steak and milkshake souk-style takeaway. Your super high-end thirty course tasting menu for three people only per night, consisting of foraged foods dredged from Regents Canal just down from the Shell Garage on the Hornsey Road. Your awesome burger 'joint'.

Good on the idiots opening these places. Good on the people going and eating this stuff. Once in a while, one of these places is going to be lush. Some talented cook is going to open a great place and people will want to eat there. What starts up in the middle of a knife gang-patrolled, scary-after-dark horrorshow, will eventually find itself marooned between Starbucks, Lush Cosmetics and Pizza Express. The bored dereliction and the casual seething violence moved along elsewhere. The sneered-at hipsters long gone, onwards to the next place. Pushed out by familiarity and rent increases. The people who used to live here are long gone too. I don't know what to call that. Were they evicted? Abandoned? Just what happens these days?

The biggest cliche of modern city living in full effect. First the people who've always been there. Then the artists, students, the goddamn hipsters. Then the money, then the displacement. Then the bunch of people wondering on it, commenting on it. Trying to make judgements based on Google vs poverty, or heroin vs artisanal fusion kimchee cafes. Who in hell knows anything?

Gentrification is a super complex and multi-faceted issue, dude. I however, am not. I am an idiot. Whilst Come On Fry Young (thanks for the column name John Doran) is, without question, a forum for a deep and fascinating culinary mind to espouse all manner of wonder and wit upon you, it is not a place for considered thought, complex issues, macroeconomic ponderings, questions of race, the Marxist angle, intelligence.

I'm all about snidey burger talk.

I imagine some hardcore Oneohtrix Point Never fan spitting bile into his wanking sock in the depths of his parents' basement will come at me with all manner of outrage upon the comments section.

Calm thyself young man. I have no answers, I just come up with this shit.


Feb 27, 2014 2:32pm

Did you really write 'make some bank'?

Reply to this Admin


Feb 27, 2014 3:00pm

"Motherfuckin' Christopher Columbus Syndrome": http://jezebel.com/fuck-gentrification-says-spike-lee-in-epic-rant-1531465842

Reply to this Admin

ROTE
Feb 27, 2014 3:49pm

Ha!

Reply to this Admin


Feb 27, 2014 4:21pm

In reply to :

He's 'channeling' Ben Affleck in 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' you plum

Reply to this Admin

Taun Aengus
Feb 27, 2014 5:58pm

FUCK'EM. You hit the nail on the head. Great article, I laughed out loud several times. The ladies at the table next to me in this god forsaken Starbucks were looking at me. I'm just using the Wi-Fi, not drinking the over-priced coffee. Gentrification has been happening in just about every city for hundreds of years. Deal with it. LA-T-fuckin'-DA.
By the way---I love: http://jezebel.com/fuck-gentrification-says-spike-lee-in-epic-rant-1531465842

Reply to this Admin


Feb 27, 2014 6:23pm

the absurdity is appreciated.
i just can't roll with the 'we were here first' argument. and i don't wanna bring Spike's rant over here, but uh, who was living in the Bronx 300 years ago? in the Mission?

Reply to this Admin

Andy Parsons
Feb 27, 2014 7:11pm

"Fuck the 'Cottage" - straight out of Four Lions...

I think there's some interesting topics for debate here and this article highlights the benefits and disadvantages of gentrification (something that's much debated here in Bristol), but I'm about to put some OPN back on and fish out a new pair of socks instead...

Reply to this Admin

Apop
Feb 27, 2014 8:35pm

Being from Portland this article quite entertainingly hits every nail on the head. Well done.

Reply to this Admin


Feb 28, 2014 9:27am

In reply to :

Must've missed the reference 'bro'

Reply to this Admin

Dr Up
Feb 28, 2014 9:35am

I like Fischerspooner.

Reply to this Admin

Dan John
Feb 28, 2014 10:37am

what?

Reply to this Admin

Kit
Feb 28, 2014 11:39am

This is one of the funniest articles on the Quietus. Laughed out loud enough times to merit a break and a glass of water

Reply to this Admin

Dov
Feb 28, 2014 1:06pm

Gentrification in a big nutshell. With scrambled nuts inside. Not lucid, but very funny and I hope all the fucktards who whinge about hipsters read it. A hipster is defined as someone wearing clothes you never would and is having a better time than you. Get over it. Buy some slacks.

Reply to this Admin

Oneohtrix point never fan
Feb 28, 2014 1:07pm

Fuck you Sam. Fuck you all over.

Reply to this Admin


Feb 28, 2014 3:37pm

A hipster is someone who knows the intrinsic cultural price of everything and the emotional value of nothing

Reply to this Admin

Spacious
Feb 28, 2014 5:26pm

For real and for true. Over the last 20 years, there have been only two reasons to visit or live in San Francisco: The food and the public parks. Gentrification seems to improve both.

The folks who stop the Google buses have an important point, however: The last tech boom hoisted SF over a railing, spent itself and dropped a used condom on the floor as it left.

Two problems in the outcome: The new rush of techies are so green that they don't even remember 1999 and they don't believe that tech workers took the brunt of the collapse last time. They can't imagine why the locals are hesitant to throw up skyscrapers to accommodate folks who may be bankrupt in six months. They see the escalating rents as a supply and demand problem. I've seen SF rents escalate when there is literally no demand whatsoever.

The more easily angered locals, finding San Jose corporate headquarters to be as impregnable as, um, corporate headquarters are reduced to publicly protesting what appears to be public transportation. Working people protesting against slightly wealthier working people is the end result.

SF has one thing in greater number than drug addicts, derelicts and trustafarians: Snobs. The snobs will never be gentrified out of this town. Pity.

Reply to this Admin

Wa
Mar 1, 2014 3:04am

In reply to Spacious:

Like.

Reply to this Admin

Robin
Mar 1, 2014 9:04am

Brilliant. One of the other commentors hit the nail on the head when mentioning hipsters and envy. The belief, usually mistaken, that they are having a better time than you. Which is why students, hipsters, google employees recieve the public's ire. Meanwhile the real reasons for poor qulaity of life continue uninterrupted.

Is it because without a great leap of the imagination we can imagine ourselves in their shoes? The jet setters, executives and bankers on 7 digit saleries are beyond our comprehension. The "creative" who lives next door, with the modernist furniture and espresso machine? We fucking hate them. They make us feel like shabby underachievers.

Reply to this Admin

aaron.
Mar 2, 2014 3:54pm

Excruciatingly written.

Reply to this Admin


Mar 2, 2014 10:05pm

In reply to aaron.:

How so?

Reply to this Admin

aaron.
Mar 2, 2014 11:46pm

In reply to :

"Because San Francisco's insane rents don't pay to shift Dribbly Joe the smackheaded wino, hep-cee spitting crackheaded derelicts, or even the staggering mentally ill people who piss and vomit and scream at passing GoogleBuses like they just woke up from one nightmare of torn brain threads into another, this one, patrolled by pretty rich people, long white buses, and bread-bowl after bread-bowl of discarded tourist-half-gnawed clam chowder being picked over by gulls the size of kid-dream nightmares about pterodactyls." <-->

Reply to this Admin


Mar 3, 2014 10:24am

In reply to aaron.:

Aw! Not enough punctuation for you? Not enough full-stops? I see you've placed one after your own name. Powerful.

Reply to this Admin

aaron.
Mar 3, 2014 5:38pm

In reply to :

Let's not try and be condescending over the matter of tolerating bad grammar. If a reader comes away from a piece irritated by its glaring solecisms, that doesn't imply a deficiency in the reader or his comprehension. It means the writer needs editing. This is a fine site for essays and thinkpieces, but this one in particular came across with all the wheezing force of a Livejournal entry. Using 10 hyphens in a sentence isn't clever; it means you should probably reformulate what you are trying to say, to be concise and to be clear. That is why I called this article 'excruciating' to read: because it was. The message and argument is lost beneath an adolescent bluster. And again, let's not go down the route of imprecating the reader's ability. This ain't fucking Proust.

Reply to this Admin


Mar 5, 2014 12:00am

In reply to aaron.:

No, I spose not. Still a great piece though. They use or overuse of hyphens is utterly irrelevant however. If pacing, tone, etc is considered then it works. Not all writing must consist of neatness, edits, economy. If that's the only writing one enjoys, one is missing something somewhere. Each to own, many idiots in a barrel etc etc.

Reply to this Admin

/SUN.:“Ω
Mar 19, 2014 10:59pm

In reply to Dov:

"A hipster is defined as someone wearing clothes you never would and is having a better time than you."

Hipsters still exist ? I thought it was a fashion fad that died out atleast 3 years ago

Reply to this Admin

white migrant black heritage
Mar 20, 2014 10:10am

In reply to Robin:

"The "creative" who lives next door, with the modernist furniture and espresso machine? We fucking hate them. They make us feel like shabby underachievers."

No, not at all. More like how awkward it is that people not particularly creative are called "creatives", I don't want modernist furniture and an expresso machine, could you be anymore stereotypical ?

Reply to this Admin

earthkeptwarm
Apr 1, 2014 4:22pm

This article reads worse than a Tao Lin novel!

Rebecca Solnit gave a quite interesting account of the displacement issues in the Bay Area in the LRB - http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n04/rebecca-solnit/diary.

Reply to this Admin