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When an Old Favorite Loses its Soul


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You've dined there since the beginning, before the buzz, before the bustle, when the place was a lesser-known neighborhood gem. It gave you some of the best meals -- some of the best experiences -- of your life; whether celebrating with family and friends or on a special date with your significant other.

You got to know the owners and their hand-picked crew and appreciate that they remember you, even though you could never be as much of a regular customer as you'd like.

Over time, you see some staff move on, either to advance their careers or accommodate life's vicissitudes, while others flourish and grow in new roles. You talk with them about the food, the delicious, incredible food, about where it was sourced and how it was prepared and what inspired them to transform it. And you learn which wines complement the food and why.

Each season brings both new delights and familiar favorites. From time to time there's a misfire, a momentary departure from the high standard they've set, but the place is still your number one, a generally solid go-to.

And then it happens.

You can tell when the head chef isn't in the kitchen, just by what comes out on your plate and the tone and tempo of service. Without him the inspiration, the precision, isn't always there. The food can be great, but more and more often it's simply good. Dining at this long-time favorite becomes a roll of the dice.

It takes time to sink in. And then, you experience a profound sense of loss. What to do now?

You spend more time at other places. They're different, of course they're different, but they deliver consistently and well. You get to know them, and they get to know you. You follow them on Facebook, talk them up on Tom Sietsema's chat, and post about them on DonRockwell.com.

But still it haunts you.

That old place, the favorite place, the place for which you once would yearn. They're still filling seats. Business is good. Have things really changed? Or did you just grow apart?

You feel you should tell them. But what would you tell them? They're still filling seats. Business is good. And if you did tell them, would they even care?

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It's all about intention. What would be your intention in telling them? To have them take corrective action? Or to simply reminisce on fond recollections, and express gratitude for meaningful memories?

Feedback is a gift. It's always important to intention check on what exactly it is you are wrapping up; knowing your intended emotional or other impact is key.

(of course, good intentions)

(also pave roads)

(to tropical places)

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Sounds like a restaurant that use to be on Wilson Boulevard across the street from the Court House Metro called The Little Cafe. It started off as a cute little bakery in front/dining room in back Mediterranean/Greek restaurant. The kind of Mom & Pop spot where the daughters were waitressing the tables. You'd go in once a week because the food was solid, the prices were reasonable, and it was a 5 minute walk from your apartment. Weekends weren't complete without a stop in for some baked goods.

Then things started to change. You saw less of the family running the place. A new manager started. The menu changed. They stopped the bakery up front.

The food started to suck. Then they closed.

Now it's Gua-Rapo.

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Really nice post, Tripewriter. As for me, it mostly reminded me of just one place initially. A place right now somewhere between your "And then it happens." and "It takes time to sink in."

My hope is that not all the stories have similar endings. That some of these unique and much-loved places come across especially large bumps in the road but still have the fire, the passion and the talent to get back on track; that track up in the stratosphere where they belong. That can happen sometimes, right? I sure hope so.

Always optimistic...unless and until realism sets in.

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