My mom always told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. So, in the interest of following her advice, I am going to keep this first story short and sweet.
I headed downtown to head to a cafe that I’ve passed many times, but never gone in. I had never really heard much about it, but I was still curious. I entered, had some coffee, some other things transpired, and it did not turn out so great. So, I left. I was quite bummed, because my plan basically fell apart. Disappointed, dejected, and uninspired, I wondered… what would I do now?
Suddenly, something popped into my head. I would take a little drive to a place I’d heard about from my brother – not exactly a fika place, but more like a diner. Still, they served coffee, which is a staple in diners, so I figured I could make a trip and have a little fika/lunch there to lift my spirits. So, I got in my car, drove south and found a parking spot at The Local Joint, a simple (so I thought) diner which was one of those attached to a gas station and convenience store. You know, a little greasy, local joint. Hehe. Hence, the name – minus the greasy part).
I immediately noticed that it looked a little different on the outside. There were tables for eating outside. It was decorated nicely & somewhat landscaped. And, get this, there was a list of the beers that they had on tap. For real? First of all, diners don’t serve beer. Much less have beers on tap! Boy was I confused and strangely excited…
Inside it looked like a cross between a regular, ole, American diner and a cool, funky, downtown cafe. It had the counter and bar stools and booths and all that stuff that roadside diners have. But, it also had funky decorations, chalkboards with specials, beer taps (it was true!), plants, and wine bottles in crates. This was crazy. Crazy cool.
Now, understand this: The Local Joint is located south of Asheville in a, let’s just say, more rural area called Fairview. I used to teach at AC Reynolds Middle School just down the road from the joint, and I know that it is filled with students from rural, farming, country-living families. So, this funky vibe kinda place was a little (a lot) unexpected. But, I was so very pleasantly surprised. So. Very.
The fry cooks were not fry cooks. Well, they were, but they were so much more. One look at the menu and that was obvious. With things like seared salmon benedict with spinach and goat cheese on the menu, I knew that these were not just fry cooks. They were chefs. I perused the menu for a while, and went with an grilled avocado tempeh sandwich. Sounds delish, huh? Well, it was. Totally delish.
And not only was it gourmet food cooked and served in a diner, it was local, organic food as well. What a concept this was! And if I had wanted to, I could have ordered a bloody mary or a mimosa as well. And I so wanted to, but I held back. It was the middle of the day during the week, ya know.
The servers were so very sweet, calling me honey and sweetie. they were so friendly, chatting with everyone who came through the door. I think two of them checked on me constantly throughout my meal, but not in an annoying way, in a very caring, fun way. Hard to explain. Just take my word on it. It was not overbearing, but just the right amount of caring.
So, lesson learned? Do not, at all costs, judge a book or a person or a place or anything by its appearance. Just don’t do it. Here I was visiting a nice, professional-looking cafe in the middle of touristy downtown Asheville and it did not go well at all. Not what I expected. And then, I drove into the countryside and stopped at a gas station to eat at a local diner, only to find out that they served smiles, fun, and amazing food. Not at all what I expected.
I ordered a coffee to go (my fika had turned into a fabulous lunch and I had places to go) and it was served in a recycled, earth-friendly cup, of course. I paid, said my goodbyes, and promised to return.
Oh, yeah, and the coffee tasted perfect.