Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good Eats

Hubby didn't lose any weight this week despite an increase in his exercising. He didn't gain anything, but he didn't lose either. Probably because one of his favorite BBQ restaurants reopened after a two week hiatus, and he hit that place twice in three days. Funny how you don't crave something until you can't have it. This family owned restaurant is one of our local favorites. They shut down completely for two weeks in January and two weeks in August so they can clean everything from top to bottom and the owners can take some vacation time. It's a simple place that still uses the same practices they started with years ago. The walls are adorned with pictures of their kids, the carhops are at your window before you've shut off your car and they never, ever screw up your order. They're using the same booths they've had forever. The menu and prices are posted on the outside walls of the small building and they don't use any fancy phrases on their sign. During December their sign said "Be nice. It's Christmas". See what I mean? Simple. If you grew up in a small town or a tight knit neighborhood you probably have places like this that you hold close to your heart. Places that remind you of a time when nothing came in value meals and the people who ran the joint knew every customer's name.

In my little hometown we had very few restaurants when I was young. In fact, eating out was a treat. People ate at home mostly. We had a Dairy Queen which shut down for the winter. I remember driving by that place in December and thinking it would be forever before I'd get another Mr. Misty or a Dilly Bar. We had a locally owned drive-in that closed before I got my driver's license, but I remember getting a few hamburgers there when I was young. They were called Crown Burgers. I don't remember the burgers being anything special, but I loved pushing the button on the intercom. We had a diner or two, and we sometimes went to those places after church on Sundays. Not often, though. My favorite place was a BBQ joint near the edge of town. I loved going in there with dad. It was a tiny place that held maybe fifteen people. The pit and grill were behind the counter, and you could watch your food being prepared by the man who owned the place. As you walked into the door, you grabbed a bottled Pepsi out of the drink machine, popped the top with the bottle opener and plopped yourself on a spinning stool in the midst of the loud lunch crowd. The jokes and laughter of old men serenaded your ears while your eyes feasted on the Hostess fruit pies and cakes in the rack by the cash register. And the smells. Oh, the smells. Burning hickory, smoked pork and sizzling beef and onions on the grill. Mmmm. BBQ or hamburger? BBQ or hamburger? Hmm. Hamburger please with pickle and onion.

Another one of my favorite eating places wasn't a restaurant at all. Around here, general stores used to dot the countryside before Wal-Mart moved to town and super sized our lives. Farmers would gather at these places at lunchtime for a sandwich or for a game of cards on rainy days. Daddy and I would drive to one of these stores every now and then. He would shoot the bull and play cards while I watched and ate a fruit pie. (There are a lot of Hostess cherry pies in my youth.) It was the kind of place that sold ring bologna and crackers at the counter and kerosene out front. The kind of place where you pumped your own gas, regular or ethyl, and the kind of place where the men around the table swapped stories about the war and the big flood of '37. That store has been closed for a long time. I drove by there on my way to a cemetery a few months ago and longed to stop and sit on the porch for a while, just to reminisce.

I hate that there isn't a country store for Teen Angel to loiter in and to soak up the character of the community. A place to eat ring bologna and crackers for lunch while sitting on the porch next to some old dog. Those places are gone now, but some of the little hometown restaurants are still hanging in there, doing their best to keep the pace slow and easy and the service warm and friendly. I'm glad our local BBQ place reopened this week. I guess it's not just the BBQ we've been craving.


Cruise Mom said...

Now I'm craving Barbeque (or however you spell it.) And they just don't know how to make it in New England!

oreneta said...

I never had a local joint as a kid, but since then there have been places I have loved to go on a semi-regular basis....

I love to eat out.

Mama Mia said...

Not sure if its the same place but my brother drives 6 hours from Georgia with a cooler to pack it full of tasty bbq and sauce from this establishment...ahhh yummy!!