Around 21 years ago, I was stationed with the Navy in Jacksonville, N.C. For a few months of my tour I worked at the medical clinic at Camp Geiger. One of my favorite parts of working in that clinic was Friday lunches. Every Friday we would go to this itty-bitty little hole in the wall restaurant. To tell the truth I’m not even sure it had a name, at least I never knew what it was. Anyway, this little gem offered lunch for $5. For that you got a main dish, two side items, a bread and a drink. You ordered off of a chalk board that hung on a wall, no menus. Each day they offered 3 or 4 main dishes and 10-12 sides. It was all “home” cooked, not frozen, not canned just delicious and all for just the $5. Well, that was more than alright for real food!
So today I was running errands and was passing another hole in the wall restaurant, O’Henry BBQ, here’s a map. I hadn’t eaten my lunch and it was past 2 so I pulled in. My mind was on finding some good N.C. BBQ until I walked in the door. At that moment I traveled back in time, or at least I was hoping I had. The “wood-paneled walls, the chalkboard replaced by a white board. Oh but it felt the same. The same combo idea, choose your meat, choose you veggies, have a drink and your bread, $7.25. You heard that right, $7.25! And good. I had country fried steak with the best gravy. Fried okra that tasted like my grandmothers. Though they tell me (even showed me) it is frozen I have a hard time swallowing it. Though no problem swallowing the okra! The roll was soft and tasty and the sweet tea was sweet southern. Now I have to be honest I wasn’t crazy about the corn. It’s canned and I can taste that in corn. But there were so many other options that I can’t wait to try: green beans (with requisite bacon grease), stewed apples with cinnamon and butter, mashed “taters”, squash, slaw, pintos, black-eyed peas. And some things I’m not all that into, but others might like: Apple sauce, beets, peaches, potato salad, cottage cheese, mixed fruits.
As I originally wrote this, pen on napkin , still sipping my sweet southern iced tea, I could remember those lunches all those years ago. It’s a good memory of good food and good co-workers, happy taste buds, happy stomach, smiles and laughter. I’m glad now I can make new memories in the same vein in a restaurant that is different and yet the same. And since I have managed (unintentionally) to use this sentence in every post, I won’t slack off now. Here’s what I think. It is a wonderful thing to have good memories of the past, and the opportunity to savor them in the present, so as to have even more good memories in the future!
And as a final note, if anyone remembers that nameless restaurant, it was out Hwy. 17 towards Wilmington in Jacksonville, N.C. I’d love to hear your remembrances Or maybe it still stands and serves good “home” cooked meals for a really good price. I would love to know that too.