Archives for posts with tag: Restaurants

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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. 

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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. 

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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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

HappyChef

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.

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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.

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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!

doggie-diner
Doggie Diner, Geary and Arguello, 1969
by Vince Gotera

Out of San Francisco night, the cool fog’s
gray fingers caressing hills and houses,
in chef’s hat and bowtie, the smiling Dog,
ten-foot-tall dachshund’s head in fiberglass.

Tina, my first real high school girlfriend,
and I entered through the shiny glass doors,
holding hands, both in hippie leathers, suede
vests and floppy hats, bellbottom cords.

It smelled like hog heaven, grease-laden air,
scents of amber-gold fries and sizzling thick
burgers, the sharp tang of cole slaw vinegar.
We ordered dogs slathered in chili with pickles

and mustard. The world was copacetic. Above
the diner, the Dog slowly turned, glowing like love.

PHOTO: Doggie Diner, San Francisco (1960s).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Doggie Diner is the iconic San Francisco restaurant chain, open from 1948 to 1986. Since it’s now gone, the Doggie Diner is a pleasant, nostalgic memory for anyone who grew up in The City during those years. Each diner had a sign rotating above the building, a huge grinning dog’s head in a bow tie and chef’s hat. In the documentary Doggie Diner History, someone who lived near a Doggie Diner as a child recalls how the dog head “helped me navigate my way home, like a big doggie-shaped lighthouse.” A 1985 photo by Roy Kaltschmidt titled “Doggie Diner — San Francisco Zoo,” captures this warm sentiment.¶ In the poem, I try to convey this sunny aura along with the optimistic tenor of the ’60s, the feeling among the young that everything and anything was possible. Remember that San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district was the epicenter of the Hippie movement. Although that positive ambience pervades the poem, I allude to the Vietnam war, even though it’s not really present to the teenaged couple: I use the phrase “the world,” which was what American soldiers in Vietnam called America. There was “the ’Nam” and there was “the world,” a romanticized paradise. So, although the speaker and his girlfriend feel all is “copacetic,” it’s really not, and they will soon, very soon, grow up into a world of harsh realities. But for now, in the “now” of the poem, life is wonderful. Happiness is a spicy chili dog, and the Doggie Diner is a kind of heaven.

AUTHOR PHOTO CAPTION: My senior photo in the high school yearbook.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera is Editor Emeritus at the North American Review and professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. His poetry collections include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, Fighting Kite, and the forthcoming Pacific Crossing. Recent poems appear in The American Journal of Poetry, Eunoia Review, Star*Line, Altered Reality Magazine, Spirit’s Tincture, Crow Hollow 19, and the anthologies A Prince Tribute, Delirious: A Poetic Celebration of Prince, and Lupine Lunes, as well as the textbook Composing Poetry. Vince blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

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GREEN CORN TAMALES
by Gerald Locklin

First in Tucson,
Now at El Cholo in L.A.
On western just south of Olympic,
My wife and I make a point
Of enjoying them once a summer.
 
Some tamales are not hot.
These are sweet with the syrup
Of young corn, steamed within
The husks.  Even the thin strand
Of a green pepper seems sweet.
Even the morsel of tender chicken
Seems sweet.
 
Sweet as sweethearts
On the evening promenade
Above the beach at Mazatlan.
Sweet as summer evenings.
Sweet as the respite, the
Renewal, at the end of day.
 
Think sweetly of green corn tamales,
Remembering that the water of the desert,
Hoarded by the thirsty cactus,
Is the sweetest water.

Reprinted by permission of the author from The Life Force Poems, © Gerald Locklin, 2002, Water Row Press, Sudbury, Massachusetts.

“Green Corn Tamales” by Gerald Locklin appears in the  Silver Birch Press Green Anthology: An Eclectic Collection of Poetry & Prose. The anthology includes poetry, short stories, essays, novel excerpts, and stage play scenes that touch on “green” in one way or another. The Silver Birch Press Green Anthology is available at Amazon.com (free Kindle version until 12/21/13).

Photo: El Cholo, Los Angeles. Visit the restaurant online at elcholo.com.

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“…our restaurants, motels, and watering places represent a kind of charged field where ordinary events — ordering a meal, spilling a little wine, remembering a certain bird — take on a significance that can only be called mythical, and that our writers, when they enter that field, know, instinctively know, that they are in such a significant place.”  From Gerald Stern‘s preface to Night Out: Poems About Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, and Bars, Edited by Kurt Brown and Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Night Out: Poems About Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, and Bars — published by Milkweed Press in Minneapolis — features the work of 125 poets, including Billy Collins and Charles Simic. Originally released in 1997, Amazon is currently selling copies of this 362-page book for 19 cents plus $3.99 shipping. Find it here.