Yelp suggested this restaurant and as you glance over the food mentioned, you think, this is what I want. Right now. As you walk in, you’re oblivious to the fact that a reservation is probably recommended. After all, there wasn’t anybody standing outside in line or a clipboard with hastily written names. The hostess smiles at you and says, “I’ll be right with you.”
In the pause, you and your companion glance around the space, taking in the rustic wood decor and the controlled chaos in the open kitchen. “A table is opening up soon, but if you would like a seat at the counter, it is available immediately,” she returns and says.
You and your companion exchange glances. You think that you see hesitation in the hostess’ eyes. And a momentary thought crosses your mind that she is stressed out right now and would appreciate people eating slower, people coming in slower. But that mind is dropped as you and your companion say, “The counter, please.”
You jump onto the stool and study the menu. French toast it is. Donuts. The highlight dish. You and your companion turn sideways so that you can peer into the open kitchen. You think that it’s funny that the counter faces the wall instead of the open kitchen. “This is a pop-up space!” you say to your companion. “They served ramen here awhile ago.”
And you think that the pop-up didn’t have a choice in how to design the space so you take advantage of it. “Can you tell that there are a lot of newbies in the kitchen?” your companion says. “The guy with the blue apron is fixing all the dishes as they go out and whispering aloud, ‘Table 1’ ‘Table 2 with the kale salad on the side'”
You think again the reasons you didn’t want to work in food. Or even running a business. But you’re hungry and you stare at the dishes as they rush by. The server comes by to pour water and the order is taken. Your companion helpfully orders everything. And you observe the kitchen again, watching the chef fix things, moving his spatula to adjust food. Sometimes he takes a spoon of sauce and spreads it with the back of the spoon in a fancy swirl. You breath in the potential food. The flavors that you love and hope that it’s the case.
The donuts arrive. The server says, “Here let me get you sharing plates.”
A fancy mixed soda arrives. Cream tops the soda. A slice of apple is dusted with cinnamon.
You each take your knife and slice the donuts in half and swish it around the sweet sauce as it melds with the sugar and cinnamon and then melting into the warm fried dough. After you finish, you want more, but the dishes are coming. The french toast arrives and you adjust your plates for the server. She is carrying a bottle and sprays coconut foam in a controlled manner onto the plate. The french toast is not too sweet, delicate, balanced with the crispy bacon. The savory dish arrives and you nearly faint at the delicious combination of meat, rice, and egg.
In moments, you’re satisfied and happy. You switch the plates with your companion so that he can have some of your french toast. Then the plates are cleaned. And you swing around sideways to glance at the kitchen, while sipping your mixed soda. A server comes up to you suddenly and asks, “Do you need anything else?”
“No, we’re done,” your companion says.
You wait patiently, because the place seems chaotic. Two young girls arrive and they are chatting up the chef. The chef asks what they like eating. Bacon? Rice? Eggs? Yes, maybe. Do you want to help, the chef asks. Yes! The girls chorus. He tells them that they should help eat the good food. The girls nod furiously. They can do that. The mother quiets the girls down. I hear whispers as the older girl stands back in awe of the chef and says, “When I grow up, I want to be a chef.”
My companion makes eye contact with the chef. “Oh! Need anything?” he says.
“The check?” my companion says.
It arrives, and we pay. As we get up to go, the chef calls out, “Please wait, we have a gift for you.”
I am excited. Maybe one of those little candies? But in moments, he walks over to this with a box. “The donuts,” he says. “We apologize for you waiting.”