I wrote this piece a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic but am publishing it now. Now more than ever we are being reminded how important our favorite places and food service providers are to us. Support your favorite businesses and workers during and after this pandemic in any way you can.
Oftentimes as a foodie, I feel the pressure to constantly try new foods, new places, new cuisines. I live between two small cities with some great restaurants, and I am embarrassed to admit we hardly ever venture out to either of them. (The New York Times even did a feature on the Lancaster food scene last year.)
The pressure to try new places even infiltrated my New Year resolutions: we have committed to trying at least six new restaurants in our area this year.
Yet every special occasion, or every time we want to take friends out for a great meal, hubs and I always have the same conversation: Should we try someplace new, or just go up the hill?
You probably have an “up the hill,” too. Or an “around the corner,” or a “down the street.” For us, it’s BG, or Black Gryphon Dining and Spirits, and it’s the place that makes us wonder why we ever go anywhere else. It’s also the place that makes our friends ask “why don’t you ever go anywhere else?” or “Are you guys stuck in a rut?”
Trying new things is great, but here’s why it’s ok to have your usual spot, too.
Our spot is quite literally “up the hill” from our house. No traffic, and no long drive there or back, which means more post-date night couch snuggling. It’s the first available spot when we are starving after an hour of debating what we want for dinner. It’s also walkable, which we have done on nights when we have had too many cocktails. (Ok, that may have been more stumbling and rolling than walking.)
I always have some trepidation about trying a new place. What if it’s terrible? Dirty? Boring? Crowded?
But you know you will not have a bad meal at your favorite restaurant. It’s going to be delicious, and there will be something you like. You trust the chefs, the specials will be fabulous, and you probably have several favorites to choose from on the menu.
I don’t just have the menu memorized at BG, chances are I am craving something on it (usually chocolate hot wings.) And luckily, they change the menu frequently, so I can still try something new and know it will be great.
It’s Something and Someone You Want to Support
When you go to your usual place, you aren’t just dining out, but investing money in a business that you love and want to see thrive in your town or neighborhood. You’re also putting money into pockets of people who may have become your friends. You’re helping someone you know and love build and grow their dream.
At BG, specifically, I also know I am getting locally grown and harvested meat, produce, and products, so I am also supporting local farmers, butchers, brewers, and other food purveyors, not to mention rotating local artists who use the restaurant as a gallery. BG also participates in numerous fundraisers for other local organizations.
In short, when you support the establishments you know well, you are putting your consumer dollars back into your communities and the things you care about.
I grew up with a big family, and big family dinners, and moving just three hours away from them was a hard adjustment. But finding a second home at our usual place has made it a little easier. I know when I walk in, at least a few staff and patrons will be happy to see me. Along with a great meal, I’ll get at least one hug before I head out for the night.
And the love is reciprocal. When the restaurant had a fire a couple years ago, we helped with a fundraiser to keep some money in the employees’ pockets while they rebuilt. I don’t doubt for a second they would do the same for us.
Having certain meals at your favorite place becomes tradition. New Year’s Eve would just be wrong if I didn’t hear the owner’s dad sing Auld Lang Syne, have the veal pot roast special, and close down the bar with the kitchen staff.
I hope everyone is lucky enough to have a usual spot that’s as great as ours. But even if your spot hasn’t become a replacement for family dinners, there is no shame in being a regular at your favorite restaurant where you know the food and service will be great and you won’t be sorry you came.