Good food, good times and good friends you didn’t know you knew.
I sat with my beloved at a raised bar done in corrugated metal and salvaged wood. We sat on tall, padded, metal bar stools and sipped Narragansett. It had been a while since we had partaken of the ambrosia of the gods… pulled pork BBQ, slaw and fried okra. We were sipping beer and watching the big screen as we waited. Narragansett is a Yankee beer. Despite its Northern birthplace, I like it as much as the beers from more Southern climes. I like good beer where ever it is brewed…I know, sometimes I wouldn’t know a good beer if it bit me on the ass, but “Gansett” goes well with the BBQ…and it’s cheap enough to have two…or three.
I’m reminded a bit of Cheers, “where everyone knows your name.” Well, here at Green River, they may have forgotten our names, but they do recognize us…and it’s been a while. Melanie and Tammie noticed us immediately and despite being covered up with other diners took time to check in and reconnect. There was a third little girl whose name I’ve forgotten. I feel terrible. That’s Cheers-like, isn’t it? She checked in too.
In addition to my love affair with great BBQ, I have had a love affair with hole-in-the-wall establishments dating to when I first ventured into a bar named The Cellar in the very late Sixties. Dim, smoky places…
” Meeting… in smoky places,
Hiding… in shadowy corners,
Dancing… where no one knows our faces,
sharing love stolen in the night,
in smoky places.”
Thank you, Corsairs, all though I’m not talking about THAT kind of smoky place. My first real date with the love of my life was in a dim, bluesy, smoke-filled, hole in the wall and no we weren’t hiding from anyone at The Casablanca. Just listening to the Blues sung by Ronnie Godfrey, a friend of my love who would eventually sing at our wedding. Later, at different times, we would celebrate a significant anniversary, a New Year’s celebration and Mardi Gras at the Cypress Cellar, a hole-in-the-wall that became less and less hole-in-the-wall like until it finally changed into a bright Mexican restaurant with a different name. I do miss the Cajun cuisine…and its “hole-in-the-wallness” although the Mexican restaurant is very good…just too bright to be a hole-in-the-wall.
We first wandered into Green River BBQ thirty years ago. It was an accident, like a lot of the good discoveries in our lives…one might say discovering each other was an accident that worked out well too. Late in the day on a cool and foggy, fall evening, it was our first trip to the small town of Saluda in North Carolina. Deciding we wanted to eat, there were three restaurants to choose from. We picked the correct one…for us. We watched a football game on a not so big screen TV and met Melanie, the owner, and her husband. The husband hasn’t been in the picture for a while and I admit that I really haven’t missed him. I doubt Melanie has either. We sat in the small, rustic dining area reading the quaint and rusting metal signs of pigs adorning walls finished from old salvaged boards. A screened in porch led us to the dining area and the sound of the slamming screen door reminded me a bit of home.
Waiters and waitresses have changed over the years as has Green River. Melanie has expanded the dining room, now done in corrugated metal along with the unfinished boards. True big screen TVs are available to watch sporting events if you so desire. Joining the rusting signs, garden rake heads are attached to the walls and utilized to hold wine glasses. Yep, a wine list has joined its beer list. The screened porch is now enclosed to increase year-round seating, but the screen door still has that pleasant bang and a bit of the parking lot has been confiscated for outdoor seating. Most importantly, while the people and objects have changed, the attitude hasn’t. It still feels like a welcoming hole-in-the-wall…and a bit like home.
This past Sunday, we met new friends. Steve from Wilmington, spending a few weeks helping a friend clean up his home’s lot and searching for information on how to get rid of groundhogs without shooting them. Deshi, from the small town of “Somewhere,” India, teaches at the local community college and is quite the football fan. We nodded at an old friend, John, the chubby, red-faced, dark headed guy that always comes in alone and sits quietly working the Sunday crossword. There were other regulars I recognized, they greeted us even if they didn’t know our names. My kind of place.
One might surmise food is not the primary reason I go to Green River. That would be untrue. I opened with good friends, good times and good food. My only complaint about the food is…I don’t have any complaints about their food. They have great entrees, some that don’t even involve BBQ, but I do remind you, you probably shouldn’t order fish in a restaurant advertising pulled pork, slow cooked ribs, and barbeque chicken. When asked to name your side dish, do try the fried okra with a little Ranch dressing on the side.
Yes, good friends, good times and good food. There are other restaurants in Saluda and they too are good, friendly and have their own “hole-in-the-wall” ambiance…they just don’t serve BBQ.
For more of Don Miller’s “a bubble off plumb” outlook on life please visit his author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501