More Café Med Tales

by Steed Dropout
June 27, 2012


Berkeley, CA

Berkeley’s Cafe Mediterraneum Medhead Meddlers Still Care Enough To Meddle in the Med’s future. (And Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers).

We first meddled when our coffee-house friend bought the famous Telegraph Avenue cafe four years ago. Back then, we were concerned over lighting, seating, food, the quality of the coffee, the restroom, and decorum.

Owner Craig Becker, 59, barely tolerated our interference, but let us vote on many aspects of his plans to save the Med. He called us, “the peanut gallery,” with avuncular aplomb.

Becker not only survived his rocky first years he, weathered a frivolous boycott over a spy-cam, loud piano, and alleged second-rate entertainment, which Medheads claimed was voice-overing its free speeches.

Craig Becker, 59, Med owner, before the fries-flap. But what kind of hound - beagle?

More than one Medhead delivered fuck the Med speeches from the “looney box,” a Pershing Square soap-box (doormat) as you enter the cafe. The Med’s recent forays into all-night hours (just testing) and the addition of beer and wine, threatened Medheads clinging to the past.

After a rowdy city council meeting last week in which Becker had advocated a crackdown on street kids who don’t “play by the rules,” someone adorned the med exterior with “BOYCOTT!”

Cleansed, the next day, the graffiti was yet another challenge the Med has barely survived. Michael Delacour, the voice of South-side radicals hesitated, at the door of the Med, last week. He was holding a folded dollar bill. “I can’t spend this here,” he said sheepishly. “I’m boycotting the Med”.

“Lots of luck,” I replied.

He then came in and spent the afternoon discussing Berkeley politics with Mark Schwartz, who is a mayoral candidate, sipping wine, and spending more than a dollar.

Surviving a Delacour boycott from the the heart [meaning in French of his name] is just one of a growing number of pimples the Med has sported.

Mike Delacour boyotting the Med at the Med. An oft-mayoral candidate himself, he is discussing city politics with Mark Schwartz, who recently announced. Buying a glass of wine at the Med is a novelty. When Delacour planned the People's Park land-grab scheme in 1969 at the Med, you had to smuggle in your own wine.

It barely survives near-riots over an mangled carrot juicer, which sounds like an airport hangar. A plan to kill-off the juicer with a half-nail hidden in a carrot was considered too dangerous to implement.

Becker claims the juicer is part of the entertainment. While he might have it repaired, he told us, he’d be losing the money from selling carrot juice while the machine is in for repairs.

In fact, a few (well, me) drowned-out-by-juicer Medheads take juicer interruptions as an opportunity to clear our pipes with high-decibel fuck youse. We’ve learned to stop worrying and love the bomb (juicer).

Who knew soggy home fries, would be the next issue? Only this time, Becker seems to be less avuncular than avenging, like someone mad as Hell, and not going to take it any more.

A recent posting at Berkeley Reporter, in which the fries were compared to a dirty dishwater rag, and he to a hound, seems to have set him of. Saying that he was unqualified to run a restaurant, made matters worse.

Whenever Becker and I talk now, we are both wary. He would like not to dwell on his painful memories of my pointing my finger within inches of a customer’s fries, and saying, within their hearing, “look at those mushy fries…they’re crap.”

Just when Becker seems to have recovered from his pique, his resentment erupts anew — usually at the sight of me. He retells how I pointed my finger at the customer’s crappy fries , as if it deeply pained him.

Several of the staff are not as friendly with me, and one of them walked away when I discussed the fries.


Most Med beefs [disputes] blow over, usually within days, but this one lingered, although not as long as the “cane up a blind man’s ass,” beef which is too complicated to sum up. Although the home fries beef hung on, like stale potatoes, it too did pass.

I knew there was a break, when Becker cheered up towards me, especially when he took me up on my request to put my own fries where my mouth is, that is move onto the Med grill with my own spuds.

He was all smiles last week when he passed around samples of an Agave Wine, he will be stocking. This is serious alcohol, 24%, and some Medheads fear the Med will become a fraternity beer-blast. Even the gloomy, have agreed to wait and see. Wait and see is a real break-through for Med Heads, who usual blow-off first and wait only to see whom they’ve pissed off.


I came close to misleading you, dear reader, by piling on a lot of research about the difference between a hash-brown, a cottage-fry, and a french fry, and the different potatoes used, different preps, and so on — to make out I was some kind of spud stud [my name is, after all, Steed].

Turns out the whole home-fries fascination comes from 1940’s Springfield Illinois, where I frequented the counter of a local diner with the unlikely name, the Georgian, that became a famous Springfield restaurant. I was always fascinated by the action at the grill, where Al, a sinewy man in his thirties kept the action taut.

There were no wasted movements, no nonsense, like tossing eggs or potatoes.

He would scoop up what appeared to be cubed potatoes from a gleaming aluminum bowl, drizzle some oil on the flat metal grill, then drop a cook’s press on the mound of potatoes . If you ordered the potatoes (they called them hash browns) with onions, they grilled raw onion with the potato and called it Lyonaise. It cooked up deliciously.

Can a great hash-brown, an able opponent of Med home fries, be this easy?

No, because I don’t know how they prepped the potatoes. I’m experimenting with that.

Defending the Med’s fries recently Becker said they are popular with customers, who appreciate that they have little oil.

Medhead of month candidate. Kitchen grill awaits Dropout's Great Potato Fry-Off.

Time will tell whether Steedfries makes the Med menu. Still, Medheads will meddle.

Ever thought you had food ideas for your favorite dive?

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