Archives for posts with tag: Restaurants

burger fortune cookie
The Fortune Cookie
by Shelly Blankman

Caught in a storm as thick and dark
as the medical web that trapped me,
I took shelter at a Chinese buffet,

where no one could mistake my tears
for raindrops. I could sink my sorrow
in a nice, warm bowl of soup, and no one

would notice – except for Joy. Her elbow
bumped mine at the buffet bar. Oh, I’m sorry,
she said, startling me, flipping the mirror

I’d focused on myself. I hadn’t noticed her
until then. I hadn’t noticed anyone. That’s okay,
I mumbled. She was striking – a Black woman,

tall and lean, glittering in gold, from her giant
hoop earrings and jingling bangle bracelets to her
sleek ankle-length dress and stilettos. Her long,

gold fingernails pointed to her favorite dishes,
and as we filled our plates, she asked questions
about my life, as if trying to pry open a shell

I’d slammed shut a long time ago. As we parted
for our tables, she shook my hand. My name is Joy.
It was nice to meet you. She hugged me tightly,

whispered, It’s going to be okay, her faint fragrance
lingering as she disappeared into the crowd of diners
and I returned to my table – invisible once again.

Rain had begun to wane. Still imbued with the warmth
of Joy’s hug, I grabbed my coat. My fortune cookie,
safely wrapped in its tiny package, dropped to the floor.

I’d almost stepped on it, then almost tossed it. Instead
I opened it gingerly and in tiny print, the message read,
The hard times will begin to fade. Joy will take their place.

I scanned each room to find the woman in gold. Nothing.
Visited each table, asked servers carrying heavy trays,
approached hostesses and diners. No one had seen her.

I wonder even now if I had. I left that night feeling
defeated. Why hadn’t I told her how much it meant
to feel her hug, to see her smile, to feel her comfort?

Two years later, the fortune cookie message is still
displayed on my fridge. Dark times remain,
but Joy stays with me. I hope she knows that.

IMAGE: Fortune Cookies and Rice by Pamela Burger. Available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem practically wrote itself. My creative process was simply drawing on that one experience with Joy and to convey how it takes one act of love to break through despair.  How one stranger can affect another stranger’s life so profoundly without ever knowing it. How do you put such an intense experience in writing? The task was daunting. But the challenge was worth it.  Whether or not I was successful didn’t matter.  I just wanted somehow to pay tribute to Joy and to remember that on the darkest days, angels of light are present.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, where she and her husband have filled their empty nest with three rescue cats and a foster dog. Their sons, Richard and Joshua, live in New York and Texas respectively. Following careers in journalism, public relations, and copy editing, Shelly now spends time writing poetry, scrapbooking, and making cards. Her poetry has appeared in the Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Super Highway, and Halfway Down the Stairs, among other publications. Richard and Joshua surprised her by publishing her first book of poetry, Pumpkinhead.

cathay chinese 1982 copy
Chinese Restaurant (London 1988)
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

This is my favorite
Chinese restaurant in London,
my dad declares as we climb
a long dark flight of stairs
in a timeless building
where a hostess waits at the top.
I order cashew chicken—
the sauce is clear, fragrant
(there & yet not there).
The chicken is so white,
the cashews are fat & golden.
Rice awaits in a red bowl,
every grain tiny as a second.
As the lights go on
in Piccadilly Circus, my dad & I talk
in a circle of candlelight
by the window while the cashews
resemble crescent moons shining
on the china plate or little ears
listening avidly to our conversation
(which flows like warm tea)—
& the check doesn’t come
for hours & hours.

PHOTO: Cathay Chinese Restaurant, Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, England (1982).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My late dad inhabits many of my poems. This poem is about when I went to London on my own when I was in my early twenties. My father met me there; he was working in Germany at the time. We had a brief, splendid visit together. I wish I could remember the name of that Chinese restaurant; it was a mysterious oasis above Piccadilly Circus and had the best food ever (authentic, as they say). My dad and I talked of many things that night like we always did. He was endlessly fascinating with a gorgeous sense of humor. During our visit we also went to a Russian restaurant called Borscht N Tears, where we had caviar and encountered unruly Germans – but that is another good memory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: According to The Guardian, Britain’s first mainstream Chinese restaurant, Cathay, arrived in London’s Piccadilly Circus area during 1908, setting off the UK’s love of Chinese cuisine that has never waned.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Her poems have appeared in various diverse journals online and in print. She lives, writes, despairs, and tries to hope in America. A cedar Poetry Box called The Fox Poetry Box is mounted on a post in her front yard.

by Patrick T. Reardon

The Mexican goddess enfleshed in
McDonald’s with a wide smile under
her wide mountain nose and her
children, all girls under eight, alert
to the kiosk choices, and her thin
husband, studying the receipt and,
for no reason, remembering when
he was thinner, younger, and stood
waiting for work through the sun arc
and got an hour’s worth at the end
and was paid a day’s worth and
never got a chance to go back, and
he shows his vaccination card on his
phone to the McDonald’s woman,
masked, who asks in Spanish, and so
does his oldest daughter on her own
phone, the other two too young to
need it, but the Buddha goddess
smiles, shy, and shakes her head no,
and the McDonald’s woman gives her
a pass, seeing that it’s nine degrees
outside and let’s hope no city
inspector is around, not that guy
there writing notes on his receipt
about the thick stone idol, his mother,
weighing more than all the planets,
yet only a much-notched shell around
a constant dread hurricane that
electricked through the soil and up,
like a dishonest bloom, into the
tendons of her many daughters and
sons, and the Quetzalcoatl goddess
heads outside to the car, holding,
with one hand, her coat half-closed
against the wind and, with the other,
her little daughter’s hand and winter
cap with a cartoon animal face, the
sum of all joys and sorrows, and the
guy making notes, for no reason,
remembers the sun’s morning shadows
across seminary fields when, younger,
thinner, he knew himself adrift on an
essential river moving away from
the interior and out to the mouth
of the boundless perplexing sea.

PAINTING: Delfina and Dimas by Diego Rivera (1935).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem about a moment of grace in a McDonald’s where I was having breakfast and saw this Mexican goddess and her family, and the sweet blind-eye the McDonald’s woman turned to the goddess’s lack of a vaccination card, and the mother the goddess seemed to be warm and nurturing, and the backstory I envisioned for the husband, and the how it dovetailed with my real story, and the recognition that we’re all — me, you, the goddess — “moving away from/ the interior and out to the mouth/ of the boundless perplexing sea.”

Patrick T. Reardon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, has authored 11 books, including the poetry collections Requiem for David (Silver Birch Press), Darkness on the Face of the Deep (Kelsay Books), and The Lost Tribes (Grey Book). Forthcoming is his memoir in prose poems Puddin’: The Autobiography of a Baby (Third World). His poetry has appeared in Rhino, Main Street Rag, America, Autumn Sky, Burningword Literary Journal, and many others. His poem “The archangel Michael” was a finalist for the 2022 Mary Blinn Poetry Prize. Visit him at

world plate 1
Not So Difficult Conversations
by Anne Namatsi Lutomia

Today we ate Indian food for dinner
At an Indian restaurant in an American midwestern town
Once food of the Indian gods and kings
Recipes passed on with secrets only known to the select few
Full grains of rice and cottage cheese and spinach
Now a meal for a customer who is king

Before we left the chef came to greet
At first hurriedly but not for long
He spoke of his times in Germany after the Berlin Wall came down
My friend spoke of growing up in Berlin when the Wall was up
They both agreed to return to Berlin someday
He spoke of the seven seasons found in winter
Of the high temperatures and rainy monsoons
We all were remembered the news about Dehli’s air quality improvement      during COVID-19 shutdown
Of how the skies of once polluted cities turned azure blue, and the air      fresh
He spoke of the high temperatures and increased rainfall in India
I spoke of the change in seasons and increased floods and drought in      Kenya
We all remarked on the tree-planting efforts by Wangari Maathai
My friend shared about the midwestern snowstorms and changing      winters
As Midwesterners we all agreed that the winters were not the same
And agreed that climate change is real and requires quick action

T’was time to say goodbye so we happily left
Promised ourselves to return to our new friend’s restaurant soon
In our stories we healed ourselves
In our action we must heal mother earth
The next generation must tell better stories than we do
Stories of a healed world

IMAGE: Porcelain Dinner Plate with Flower Petal World Map by Beisiss. Available on

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by the call for submissions and a conversation with an Indian restauranteur in a small midwestern town. I wanted to demonstrate how climate change conversations can be a basis for storytelling followed by action.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Namatsi Lutomia is a budding poet and a member of Champaign-Urbana poetry group. She enjoys reading and writing poems, and has published poems with Silver Birch Press, BUWA, and awaazmagazine. She also likes going for long walks and now lives in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.

We Are All Born Mad
by Attracta Fahy

I am waiting for the second coming,
it is promised.
I watch for signs, see one across the floor,
over the wine rack, in electric pink,
“We are all born mad”
I laugh.

I am waiting for the chef in Tartare to send my soup,
potato, leek, díllisk, the waitress to bring
my fried chicken sandwich, dressed with fennel,
slaw, and cheese. Today, a day for comfort,

waiting for news, it is imminent, wonder
what we will still know of this earth
after we die.

I am waiting for this pain in my back to inform me,
it’s so hard these days to stay up in the world.
I ask for an image, a dark wood, one strip of light,
my eyes fix on that sign again.

I am waiting to be in my car, alone, where I can be real,
no pressure to smile.
I am waiting for the swallows’ return
their home awaits in my eve shoots.

I am waiting for the strong to stop putting their boot
into the face of the weak, the weak to see their eyes
have a light of their own.

After all these years I am still waiting
to know my purpose, what if we have none
except to exist for the sake of it,
like bluebells spread their colour over the forest?

I am waiting for the promised prophet,
what if it’s a woman, or a child?
waiting at the top of the food chain.
We have gobbled everything,
What’s left but the earth to gobble us.

I am still waiting for a revolution, it is coming.

PUBLISHING NOTE: A variation of this poem was first published on Live Encounters ezine in June 2020.

PAINTING: Woman with a Newspaper by Richard Diebenkorn (1960).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was inspired to write this poem as I was having lunch in Tartare, my favorite café in my home city of Galway. It was one of those days when I felt very reflective and in need of a break from the collective tension being expressed worldwide. It felt apoplectic, as if the world had lost control, with a continuous stream of traumatic news on social media. Coffee shops are a wonderful escape from everything for a little while. There is a sign in Tartare that says, “We are all born mad,” and this resonated strongly with me that day. It was not one particular traumatic event; it was everything. So, focusing on surroundings while waiting for food grounded and allowed some comfort. The black humor somehow lifted the heaviness.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Attracta Fahy’s background is Nursing/Social Care. She lives in County Galway, Ireland, works as a Psychotherapist, and is mother to three children. She completed her MA in Writing NUIG ‘17. She was October winner in Irish Times, New Irish Writing 2019, and is a Pushcart and Best of Web nominee. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies, shortlisted for Over The Edge New Writer, and Allingham Poetry in 2019 and 2020. She has been published in Stinging Fly, Banshee, Silver Birch Press, Poetry Ireland Review, Honest Ulsterman, Poethead, Orbis, and several other journals. Fly on the Wall Poetry published her debut chapbook collection, Dinner in the Fields, in March 2020. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

merana cadorette
In Line at the Buffet Wynn, Las Vegas, August 2018
by Rick Lupert

I’m waiting in line at the Wynn Buffet.
Brunch is on the distant horizon and
line politics are on full display.

A woman the aisle over isn’t aware
how her backpack intrudes on the
airspace of this one.

A man in front of me is perusing
criminal mugshots on his phone.
Occasionally he’ll hold one up to

his friend and say “how about this one?”
His friend shakes his head and says “no.”
Every time. Even U.S. Marshalls need to

eat buffet from time to time. Eventually
someone in their party mutters something
about the VIP line and suddenly

they’re gone, presumably with champagne
in their hands and all the food we have
miles yet to eat in their mouths.

It’s okay. They weren’t particularly good at
filling in the space in front of them.
They should have special lines for

People who are focusing on their phones
instead of moving forward. “Take all the
time you want lines” they’ll call them

I think, as I finish writing these words
with awkward amount of space between
me and the people in front of me

and feel the hungry stares of the
brunch-starved ones behind me.
An omelet on every plate

is a phrase i just made up and
feel pretty good about. i am lucky
to be here. Some people wait for years

for the money they need to
stand in this line – A longing from my past
I am still waiting to forget.

PAINTING: What’s for Dinner? by Merana Cadorette. Prints available at


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We took our son to a Souplantation restaurant for the first time a few years back. He marveled at what seemed like an infinite amount of food to his young eyes. With no disrespect meant to the pre-pandemic salad bar restaurants of our past, we thought immediately about the truly impressive (and truly expensive) buffets in Las Vegas that are like planets of food. As soon as we could we took him to one. This poem was written in the line waiting for our turn to eat everything we ever wanted.

PHOTO: The Lupert family, The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, August 2018. Photo credit: Rick Lupert.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway  and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years. His first spoken word album Rick Lupert Live and Dead, featuring 25 studio and live tracks, was released in March 2016. He’s authored 25 collections of poetry, including The Toyko-Van Nuys Express (Ain’t Got No Press, August 2020), Hunka Hunka Howdy, Beautiful Mistakes, and God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild,  A Poet’s Siddur, A Poet’s Haggadah, and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana and writes the Jewish Poetry column “From the Lupertverse” for Jewish Journal. He is regularly featured at venues all over the world. Follow him on Facebook.

Author Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Miller’s Pub
by Jennifer Finstrom

“From one monotonous day, another day
follows, identically monotonous.”
–“Monotony,” C. P. Cavafy, translated by Aliki Barnstone

The first time you go downtown to
the Loop for brunch, you meet at
Miller’s Pub, close to your job on
campus and close to the Art Institute,
places you haven’t been for months,
and not so very long ago, sitting so
close to the street would have seemed
uncomfortable, not picturesque, but
now you watch cars and bicyclists
with attention, let the vibration and
rattle of the Brown Line above Wabash
bear you away from your own food,
your own cocktails, your own four walls.
You waited tables for twenty-five years
starting in 1989, and the man you’re with
asks how you would feel about working
in a restaurant now, and you really don’t
know. You have your first Negroni
in six months followed quickly by
your second, and the server seems so
happy for you you’re sure it’s genuine

PHOTO: Miller’s Pub, 134 S. Wabash, Chicago, Illinois—a downtown institution since 1935. Photo by Brandon Klein, used by permission. 


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I feel a real connection to food service workers after spending so many years in the industry. All of my outdoor dining experiences this summer have been so positive, but this one at Miller’s Pub really stood out to me. 

PHOTO: The authors’s first (or second) Negroni in six months, enjoyed in outdoor seating at Miller’s Pub, downtown Chicago. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jen Finstrom is both part-time faculty and staff at DePaul University. She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for 13 years, and recent publications include Dime Show Review, Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, Rust + Moth, Stirring, and Thimble Literary Magazine. Her work also appears in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and several other Silver Birch Press anthologies. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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Wrapped in Warmth and Kindness
by Marianne Peel
            Dedicated to Kendra

She didn’t just recommend entrees –
she brought them to our table,
waved the pan-fried grouper under our noses:
olfactory delight smothered in spring asparagus
     from the ditch garden out back
slathered with Hollandaise sauce.
Greek lemon potatoes on the side,
     Chef Dimitri’s specialty.

You’ll never be sorry ordering this dish, she tells us.

And the coffee kept coming,
     fair trade from Kenya.
A wicker basket of Greek bread
      with pats of real butter.
Fig jam in ramekins.

And for dessert, plate after plate floating by
     for our sweet-tooth inspection
     as she delivered to other tables.
We cannot decide between the baklava
     and the key lime pie.
So she brings both.
By the time the check arrives,
our fingers are dripping with honey,
our lips lined with graham cracker crumbs.

And when the pandemic shutdown begins,
the whole town transforms into carry out only.
Masked Chef Dimitri concocts familiar favorites,
satiating the demand for comfort food for thirty years.
Kendra, our waitress, delivers dinners through lowered car windows.
She is now a car hop without benefit of roller skates.
She includes extra packs of oyster crackers
     for the lemon rice chicken soup de jour.
Always an extra serving of Greek dressing.
Always a peppermint for an after-dinner palate cleanse.

In our Covid quarantine, I take up the crochet hook
     and the ancient art of making afghans.
Muscle memory in my fingers, from when my Nana
taught me single and double crochet stitches
while she and I watched Jeopardy together in that coal-mining town.

Kendra once told me she hankered for midnight blue,
     a color that offered her soul-deep peace.
After a twelve- hour shift, serving customers
     with suggestions and smiles
     and trying to keep coffee mugs brimful for the whole meal,
she needed that midnight blue to sink into once home.

And so I pass this safe space crocheted blanket
from my hands to hers.
No one has ever done anything like this for me.
So special. So personal, she tells me.

I wrap the blanket around her shoulders,
secure her in this sanctuary of yarn,
this midnight blue blanket,
enfolding her in my gratitude.

PHOTO: The author (right) and Kendra, who is draped in the midnight blue afghan the author crocheted for her. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw the call for PRIME MOVERS submissions, I was immediately compelled to write about Kendra — a member of the waitstaff at a small, family-owned restaurant in Florida.  Kendra was always very personable, and she truly wanted every customer to leave feeling completely satisfied, cared for, and even loved. When the pandemic hit, the restaurant tried to survive via carry-out service, but they ended up closing until the pandemic is over. I wanted to let Kendra how much I appreciated all her hard work, her dedication to the happiness of her customers, and her willingness to really get to know her clientele. So, I crocheted an afghan for her, wanting her to be wrapped in the same warmth and kindness she shows customers every day.  This is my gift of gratitude.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit. She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009), and participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016).  Here poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, and Jelly Bucket Journal, among others.  She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2020 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.

Neva Austin
Soul Sustenance at Aggie Mae’s
by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske

At 4:00 a.m. every morning, the lights come on at Aggie Mae’s bakery in Grand Ledge, Michigan, which is home to the 300-million-year old sedimentary rock ledges for which our town is well-known. At Aggie Mae’s, everything is made from scratch and from locally sourced ingredients: soups, sandwiches, bakery items, and a variety of tasty homemade breads, such as oatmeal, sourdough, risen cornbread, classic rye, French country, and many more. During the Covid-19 pandemic, baker and owner Neva Austin continued to open her store and serve the public through carry-out, online orders, and curb-side pick-up.

Before life as I knew it changed, and I was forced into isolation alienated from my friends and family, including my daughter, a third-year law student, I used to stop on the way home from the college where I teach to sit at one of the tables, sip a café latte, and enjoy a respite from grading papers; perhaps, just to read a book for pleasure. The ability to feed and nurture my soul became rare. Once, I learned that my favorite store was still open, I called in to order a Hungry, Hungry Hannah sandwich, Chicken Pot Pie soup, and a Death by Chocolate cupcake, a death I would much prefer than from the coronavirus, if that is what I had to face.

While other front-line workers helped to keep us all safe, doctors, nurses, police men and women, and over-the-road truck drivers who worked 24/7 to stock the grocery store shelves, Neva Austin gave me and other community members a different perspective. As I enjoyed a warm, slathered-with-butter slice of seeded sourdough bread, I was returned to a semblance of normal, my soul once again nourished and comforted.

PHOTO: Neva Austin, owner of Aggie Mae’s in Grand Ledge, Michigan.

Photos of Aggie Mae's

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  Neva Austin has been baking from the time she was a little girl learning next to her mother in the kitchen of the family’s Eaton Rapids farmhouse.  She started selling her homemade breads and pastries at local Farmer’s Markets and opened her Grand Ledge store six years ago.  Aggie Mae’s is named after her mother.  When my quiet house or working at home becomes overwhelming, I call in an order and drive over to Aggie’s for a few minutes of conversation (masked, of course) and to partake of homemade soup and a slice of her delicious bread. With the warmer weather, I braved sitting outside at one of the sidewalk tables to enjoy a bit of sunshine with my lunch.

PHOTO: Aggie Mae’s, Grand Ledge, Michigan.


Rosalie Sanara Petrouske is a poet, writer, and photographer, who has two chapbooks of poetry with Finishing Line Press, and has been published in numerous small journals and anthologies.  Her most recent publication was with Silver Birch Press’s LANDMARK series.  She is a professor of writing at Lansing Community College, and lives in Grand Ledge, Michigan, where she can frequently be found walking the ledges or along the Grand River, when she’s not enjoying a treat at Aggie Mae’s.   Find her on Facebook and find her books at Finishing Line Press.

Author photo by Eric Palmer

chef abdul 2
Food as Flowers (The Small Restaurant)
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

Tebsi  Kubba Kushari
Tabbouleh Schwarma —
names of food
like exotic flowers
from another place
at Chef Abdul, a small
family restaurant
where everyone
is One.
During Covid-19
they give away
kids meals, apples,
fresh bread —
food offered
like temple flowers
we receive
in cupped hands.

Previously appeared on the St. Charles Arts Council website (Illinois) in a slightly different version (May 2020).

PHOTO: Chef Abdul, Chef Abdul Mediterranean restaurant (St. Charles, Illinois). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Chef Abdul and his family at Chef Abdul Mediterranean restaurant in St. Charles, Illinois, cook wonderful food that is Iraqi and Egyptian in origin. When they first opened, they gave away full meals to introduce their cuisine to the community. From the beginning of COVID-19, this small restaurant has gifted food to all.  They are hardworking immigrants, always smiling when people come in.  THIS IS WHAT AMERICA IS ABOUT, WHAT IT IS BUILT ON.  I’m the daughter of a Czech immigrant.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Published works have appeared in places ranging from the Buddhist Poetry Review to The Ekphrastic Review.  Her micro-chapbook called GO SLOW, LEONARD COHEN was released through the Origami Poems Project.  One of her poems was pleased to receive a recent Pushcart Prize and another was awarded a Best of the Net nomination.  She lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois, in a town called St. Charles, by a river named Fox, with a Poetry Box (also named Fox) in her front yard.