I love traveling. One of the things I enjoy about traveling, besides finding new places to walk, is finding new places to dine. One has to eat anyway, might as well make it interesting.
I've always joked that my favorite souvenirs are carried on my hips. I don't enjoy shopping very much, so all the cute gift shops in the touristy locations are kind of lost on me. I went in one last summer with a friend, just to keep her company, it was boring. What I can't resist, though, is a sidewalk table with a white linen napkin or an outdoor bar.
We don't own real estate anywhere, so we don't pay property taxes directly. Dining out at a restaurant is our way of contributing to the towns and cities we visit. We are doing our part to keep the sidewalk economy vibrant. Most of the money spent in restaurants stays local. We are directly paying salaries for cooks and servers. We like to eat in locally-owned, non-chain places that often source their food as locally as they can. I love to see the list of farmers and brewers represented on the menu. It's also about getting to know the people who work at or own the restaurant. In our favorite sushi place in Schenectady, the owner would always come out and greet us. We see this in many locally-owned places. Owners and staff seem more engaged in the life of their restaurant. They aren't just slinging the hash shown on the laminated menu with the pictures of the fried mystery meat. They are nourishing us and we are nourishing them. Food is love.
Dining out gives a visitor the chance to sample the local specialities. When we were in the Bahamas last year, we enjoyed the cracked conch with the lime chili sauce. I love looking for new foods to try. Who knew plantains were so delicious? In Charleston, I can't leave without a plate of shrimp and grits. Don't get me started on the local brews. I collect beer.
Community is another big reason to venture out. I love places with long tables or bars that encourage folks to chat with other patrons. One night we got to discuss the best local thrifts shops with a dapper couple who had strutted out in their finest Miami fashions, all costing less than $10. When we lived in Norfolk, we had a group of regulars that tried to eat out together once a week, following the happy hour and dinner specials from place to place.
We recently got to experience a pop-up, Waffletina, in Norfolk. They barely advertised and took over a local restaurant that isn't normally open on Sunday mornings. The line to get in was down the sidewalk when we got there, 10 minutes after the slated opening. How cool is that? Oh, and the waffles were heavenly! I got mine topped with whipped goat cheese, sliced peaches and honey.
Ok, ok, I know I'm just trying to rationalize my excesses, but cheers to supping on the sidewalk, watching the world walk by.