where everybody knows your name: thoughts on small town dining

As I get ready to move to St. Louis, I’m inevitably getting nostalgic about my time in Columbia. Instead of making you read some maudlin tribute to my time here I’m going to talk instead about one of the best parts of living in a small town- being known by local waiters. I love routine and am a creature of habit, so it shouldn’t surprise you that my heart swells with joy whenever a server at a local establishment recognizes me. I think it’s important to be known for something and since I don’t yet have an incredible talent or marketable skill, I will settle for being “the girl who comes to this restaurant a lot.” Over the past five years, three servers stand out above the rest and will be greatly missed when I move to the big city.

Jessica at Addison’s: Oh gosh, what can I possibly say about this wonderful woman. My friends and I have frequented Addison’s weekly since my sophomore year in college to take advantage of their half price drinks and appetizers after 10. Addison’s nachos are a thing of wonder. Wonton chips, asiago cheese sauce, kalmata olives, black beans, and banana peppers form this delicious and whimsical take on traditional nacho fare. My friends and I have eaten a lot of these nachos over the years but we’ve also gained a less than stellar reputation at the place. We’re the party that comes in saying they have five and suddenly fifteen show up. Sometimes we’re too cheap to order drinks so we’ll split two plates of nachos for the whole table. Every waitress’s dream! We try to be polite and always tip well but the waitresses at Addison’s are downright rude sometimes- that is, until we met Jessica. Jessica is the anti-Addison’s waitress. Polite and perky, she always remembers your drink order and will throw in some life advice with your meal. Jessica is married with two small children (who I met when she inadvertently showed up at a garage sale I had!) and another on the way. She says she likes to waitress a few nights a week because it gets her out of the house, she says it’s been great for her marriage. I know this because one night she sat down at our table, gave us marriage advice, and then brought us free dessert. She has celebrated countless birthdays, bachelorette parties, and long overdue catch-ups between my group of friends, we’ve begun to consider her a friend as well.

Renzo at Taqueria: If you need a self-esteem boost, Taqueria is the place to go. Taqueria is one of those wonderful hole in the wall restaurants that is surely full of health violations but the food is so good you manage not to think about it. Renzo was the youngest waiter at Taqueria and clearly the most Americanized. Unlike Nicholas, Renzo made sure to let you know that he was well aware how often you came into Taqueria, teasing you over your tacos. Taqueria is notorious for getting your order wrong, even something as simple as “two chicken tacos on corn tortilla with salsa and cheese.” I mentioned this to him once and he looked shocked. “They mess up your order, you just tell me and I’ll take care of you.” Whatever you say, Renzo. Though he is no longer there, I’m comforted by the presence of another waiter, known to me as Amigos because he punctuates every sentence with the word. “Water, Amigos?…Ready to order, Amigos?…More chips, Amigos?” It’s no Renzo, but I still appreciate that, in an uncertain world, I can always count on Amigos.

Nicholas at Osaka: The first thing you should know about Nicholas is that he is a six and a half foot tall Russian man who works at a Japanese sushi restaurant. If this isn’t spectacular enough he is also unfailing kind and professional. I appreciate that although I come to Osaka a lot, and when I worked nearby I often ate there alone on my lunch break, he never makes me feel like “Oh, you again. It’s weird how often you come here, I think you are going to get mercury poisoning from eating so much raw fish. Also why don’t you have any friends?” Instead, he gives me a warm smile and we have the same conversation every time. (Imagine the following in a Russian accent) “Ah, hello! How are you today?….Are you ready to order? One Columbia roll and one dinner salad? Ah, okay!” Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name but will act like they don’t.

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Filed under emily, people we know and like

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