While traveling this indescribably diverse and exuberant country, it always feels like a good idea to check out the home town restaurants instead of the big chains. Yes, it’s possible to get a good meal at Applebee’s or Denny’s or any of the others. But if you truly want to get a good feel for the life within the town that you are visiting, it’s a good idea to find one of the small, locally-owned eateries.

That was our recent experience in a town in New Mexico that I will leave unnamed. While I don’t expect that my remarks will be misconstrued, I would never want to offend those who visit the restaurant to which I refer. The entire experience was memorable and I would like it to be more a mystery than a review.

This was a restaurant that was full at lunchtime, approximately 12:45 pm. There was no official greeter but one of the servers indicated that she would have a table ready for us in a few minutes. That few minutes required the exit of one of the couples who had been eating but the entire wait occupied no more than five or ten minutes.

What followed was a memorable journey into cowboy America. Most of the men who entered did so with large cowboy hats; none of them removed the hats to eat. It appeared that excluding us, everyone in the diner knew everyone else. I heard the two servers greet everyone by name. When they left, many were told, “See you tomorrow.”

Leaving the restaurant, it occurred to me that food was merely the excuse for many of these folks to be in the restaurant. I didn’t notice too many other restaurants in the immediate vicinity but that fact was probably irrelevant. The food was tasty and was served hot, something that I value after a number of recent meals that were barely lukewarm.

More importantly, I rush to assure you that the world of small town dining is totally worth continued exploration. These are treasure chests of “How y’all?” and “I was wonderin’ when you were going to git here.” Time, politics, pandemics, and economics don’t change these places one bit – a fact for which I am completely grateful. Shalom.

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