Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Off the beaten path...

Recently, I found myself with my favorite companion (my husband) on an adventure we couldn't quite plan.  We had an appointment schedule in a town we only occasionally visit about an hour from home, and 6 hours in between visits... what does one do in a small town in the north in March when you have time to waste use in a meaningful way between appointments?  You visit the stores and other public buildings.  You drive around, trying to familiarize yourself with the architecture and the layout.  You check out the local restaurants to see what kind of fare you might have to choose from should you need a bite to eat.  You take note of business hours, because in small towns, there is not always a standard.  The library didn't open until noon that day, so that option was out for the morning.  You take note of where all the traffic in town seems to go.

Among the treasures?  A grocery store, a neat little library, several different restaurants, and a variety of big and little shops.  The biggest treasure of all?  The people. Everywhere we went, the customer service was amazing!  People treated us as wanted guests.  Offered suggestions and hints, knew their product lines well, knew their services well, and worked with us. 

The shareable treasure of the day was a neat little restaurant/cafe.  It was tucked in behind the gas station, and next to the pharmacy.  It had a worn spot near the door handle, which indicated a large volume of traffic in its lifetime, but not much else to stand out.  The place looked tiny and non-descript from the outside, blending in to the other facades.  We walked in, were greeted warmly and offered the specials, along with water and our choice of beverage.  Now, I have to tell you, we travel a lot for business and medical, so something as simple as that glass of water gets noticed.  It is amazing how few places even offer anymore.  Of the choices in town, this one was the hardest to find.  There were 3 different chain restaurants, and 2 delis attached to businesses, but we wanted something different.  We wanted sincere, honest to goodness food.  Not pre-packaged, reheated, processed stuff, but the good stuff.  We found it.  We found in that small town a treasure where the cooks still make everything, and I mean *EVERYTHING* from scratch.  Including the buns, dinner rolls and soups.  Not something you find every day, and not something you find a full meal for the comparable prices to most fast food meals these days.  We both ate full, stick to you bones meals for under $20.  Sure the ambiance was lacking.  It was rustic cafe, with worn carpets that have seen years of service.  It was still decorated with paneling.  But the service and the smiles?  Beat those details to the back door. 

Next time you are out and about, skip the chains and find that little hole in the wall place and see what treasures you might find.  Support a local business and see what response you get.  Sure the folks at the chains can be amazing, but sometimes, it is nice to know that your dollars are helping someone put braces on their child's teeth or paying the electric bill...those were two of the discussions among the waitresses at the counter that day.  It made me feel good knowing we helped them with those needs, not just handing money to a corporation that just added our dollars to the rest of the pile.  I wish I had taken my camera with me that day, but again, I am a total rookie photographer.  If you ever find yourself in Fosston, Minnesota, go ahead and look for this little treasure.  I had the liver and onions.  Not something that everyone appreciates, but if you are a liver lover like I am, you will be assured that they know how to cook it right.  Not dry and overdone, not burnt, not tough, but just right.  Served with plenty of onions and a strip of bacon for added yum factor! 


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