Archives for posts with tag: Restaurants

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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.  

waitress licensed lisa f young
The Waitress
by Barbara Eknoian

It’s 2 a.m. at The Star Diner.
The waitress pours coffee
for the cab driver
at the counter on his break.
She banters with her customers
about politics and local gossip.
She’s a new widow who never
had to work before,
with a few years left to retirement.
Her family has scattered:
A daughter moved across country,
her son joined the Merchant Marines.
The waitress raises a teenage son
alone and worries
that she’s lost control.
She used to shop at elegant stores;
now she hurries home to wash
her uniform for next night’s shift.
She used to buy filet mignon
from Sam the butcher;
now she serves franks and beans.
Customers have no idea
that their pleasant waitress,
who trades quips with them nightly,
is struggling to get by.
She is good at hiding her fear.
When she gets home,
she’ll sit in the recliner,
rest her legs, and count out
the sparse tips from her pockets.

PHOTO: “The Waitress” by Lisa F. Young, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My poem is about my mother, who had to work as a waitress just before retirement, when she became a widow. This fact makes me think about other waitresses that now have to be brave and work, regardless of the pandemic, because it is necessary to make a living.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Eknoian’s work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, Cadence Collective Anthology, Red Shift, and Silver Birch Press’s Silver, Green, Summer, and Self-Portrait anthologies. She has been twice-nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has attended Donna Hilbert’s poetry workshop for 30 years.  Her recent novel, Hearts on Bergenline Avenue, is available at Amazon. She lives in La Mirada, CA with her extended family, where there is always room at the inn.

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Ode to the Happy Chef Outside Omaha
by Joseph Johnston

The Continental Divide isn’t a ridge atop the Rocky Mountains. That’s Colorado propaganda. The actual Continental Divide is the Happy Chef restaurant on Interstate 80 outside Omaha, Nebraska. It cuts clean through the fiberglass colossus of the Happy Chef himself in the parking lot, right between his giant legs. Press the button at the base of his feet and a speaker hidden in his mammoth wooden spoon declares, “HELLO, PARDNER! COME ON IN AND JOIN THE CLEAN PLATE CLUB!” Take a look at the license plates and the bumper stickers and bear witness to the continent, divided. Out on Interstate 80 heading east are dreamers and kayaks. The only vegetarian offering on the Happy Chef menu is the deep-fried vegetable tray with two cups of dipping ranch. They order milkshakes and leave. The cars on Interstate 29 south are curious about the Clean Plate Club and pester the waitstaff with particulars surrounding the free Pudding Pop for finishing their cheeseburger. Northbound are cattle hustlers in the form of giant grasshoppers. They can go anywhere with those legs. Hard to explain their antennae at Thanksgiving but that only comes up once a year. West? On the Interstate? We screwed up the west. Manifest density, as seen on TV. All highway sojourners should retreat to the Happy Chef outside Omaha. Press the button at his feet. Eat a cheeseburger and join the Clean Plate Club. That free Pudding Pop is sweet relief in sweltering summer. At midnight, with the continent divided, the Happy Chef restaurant closes and the colossus puts down his fiberglass wooden spoon. With two lumbering steps he crosses the median toward the Best Western on the other side of I-80. He jumps in the pool. The American Elohim. No lifeguard on duty.

PHOTO: Postcard from Happy Chef, Greenwood, Nebraska — I-80 at Greenwood exit — featuring the world’s largest talking chef.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Happy Chef is a family restaurant founded in 1963 in Mankato, Minnesota by the Frederick Brothers, Sal, Bob, Bill and Tom. The location on US HWY 169 was the first and is the last Happy Chef. The restaurant serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner all day, every day. The iconic statue is still in front of the building and speaking again! At one time, the chain had 57 restaurants in the Midwest.

PHOTO: The original Happy Chef in Mankato, Minnesota. (Photo by Jona Thunder, used by permission.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Michigan is my home, but due to my Dad’s job we relocated to Colorado during some of my formative years — from 1st through 8th grade, coinciding with the Reagan administration and the peak/end of the Cold War. Just about every summer the whole family would pile into Dad’s Econoline and drive back home to visit our extended family. Halfway through the lengthy drive, we’d stay at the same motel cluster outside Omaha and eat at the Happy Chef restaurant. I can’t think of anything more Americana than the statue of the Happy Chef dancing a jig in the parking lot, and the speaker hidden in his wooden spoon. On those trips east and west through the plains and the heartland, I kept myself busy looking at the license plates and the billboards and the people in the cars going who knows where, left and right, up and down. It boggled my young mind how huge this country is, and how different its citizens must be. Twenty-four hours driving through the crossroads and I never once saw an Econoline similar to ours. Every little car, truck, RV, or camper was its own little microcosm of America, heading toward something or from something. I had a difficult time connecting what I was witnessing on these highways versus the Cold War propaganda I was reading in the Weekly Reader. As I think back on it, those long hours in the van were probably as close to mindful meditation as I’ve ever approached. This prose poem is an attempt at dealing with those disparate microcosms.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Atticus Review, Matador Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where he is working on a feature-length play about a dystopic suburban road rally.

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College Sophomore at Jack in the Box
by Tamara Madison

They start me at the drink station, lunch shift.
Orders flood the kitchen. Soon I am using both hands
to pop lids onto soda cups, unaware that there is
a right way to do it. Diet Coke pours all over me,
7-Up slurries the floor. It takes a few orders to figure out
how the shake machine works. At the end of the shift,
there is shake mix in my hair, soda and coffee
all over the floor. The manager asks to see me.

“Some people are cut out for this sort of work,
and some people aren’t,” he muses. “Are you telling me
not to come back tomorrow?” “Oh, no, no! Come back
of course!” And I do. By the start of the second shift,
I have learned how to spread my palm over the lid
as I pop it on the cup. I learn how to read
the order display. I discover that onion rings
are better than I thought, that shake mix
and coffee can brighten my day, and that hamburgers
even at Jack in the Box, are made from meat.

By the end of the week, the other employees
have shed their wariness and are almost friendly.
After work each day, I drive to Pacific Beach;
whether the afternoon is sunny or chilled with fog,
I bathe in the cool waves until all the grease
and the sticky soda fizz wash into the green Pacific.

PHOTO: The first Jack in the Box restaurant (San Diego, 1960s).  Established in 1951, the chain was the first to use an intercom system for drive through orders.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison grew up on a citrus farm in California’s Coachella Valley.  Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Pearl, Chiron Review, and The Writer’s Almanac. She is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers and two full-length poetry collection Wild Domestic  and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. She has just retired from 29 years of teaching English and French in Los Angeles and she is over-the-moon thrilled!