Out Takes Deli has been a favorite of mine for years. Unfortunately, about six months ago there was fire, and the owners had to close the doors for repairs. Recently, I found myself just driving by in hopes of seeing some indication that the establishment was serving tasty lunches once again. Then, today, there was the miracle; the sight of customers in the windows was all I needed to know that this phoenix had been raised from the ashes. The parking place might as well have had a fluorescent “reserved for Amy” sign floating in mid air. It was too perfect!
I bumped into an old friend exiting as I entered and took in the sight. The familiar film theme was improved with new pictures, posters, and frames. The ceiling brought lower by the new black paint and warmer tones throughout invited me in. With each step forward in line, my stomach growled in anticipation of that chicken melt that was only minutes away.
Then, my focus began to wane. A young woman ahead of me was holding a red card in her hand. I couldn’t make it out, but it seemed to be a gift certificate. “Lucky,” I thought. “Who couldn’t use a free lunch these days?” Then, there was no register. “Hmmm. “Maybe they have hidden it? or maybe there is some cool new technology that senses your check card and debits your account from out of your pocket or purse!?” Ridiculous I know, but being the introvert that I am, I didn’t ask any questions. I waited for them to be asked of me. I ordered, was told my options of what to do since the ice machine wasn’t working, and was sent on my merry way. No questions asked. No payment required.
Amused and grateful, I filled my cup with tea and sat to read and wait. And from my place at the table, I not only could see the bustling street outside, but the sign on the door – the answer to all of my questions. “Open today by invitation only. We will reopen for regular business April 29th.”
I had crashed the party. No wonder it seemed as friendly as a neighborhood cook out. These were not customers but friends of the owners and employees of nearby shops.
All the pieces, in one fail swoop, flew together. The red card was an invitation. The parking place was available because everyone had walked here. There was no register because they were NOT open. Naive though it may have been, I had taken someone else’s free lunch. And now what could I do?
Option 1: Eat quietly. Don’t make eye contact. And when I’m done, head straight for the door.
Option 2: Ask the staff member who would deliver my sandwich what I had missed, apologize profusely, and hope they didn’t kick me out.
Option 3: Explain my unfortunate assumption, and offer to wash dishes or run interference on this extremely busy day.
Option 4: Be uncharacteristically bold. Walk up to the owner, introduce myself as a “local blogger”, and explain that while I was so sorry that I missed the sign, I would repay them for the meal by recommending the restaurant to all my readers. Ha!
I was still deliberating when my food arrived accompanied by the sweetly delivered, “We are just about out of everything!” I wanted to scream “Ok, ok. I’m sorry. You can give it to someone else.” Instead, “Oh, we’re all just so glad you guys are open again!” came out.
All of this had completely distracted me from the main goal – lunch! If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes the sense of taste heighten. That chicken melt melted my guilt away.
Ten minutes later I came back to reality. I refilled my tea, put my plate in the bin, dropped a five dollar bill in the tip jar, and made the short walk back to my car. I was committed to two things: returning to Out Takes after it has officially reopened and recommending that you visit too.
So… eat at Out Takes starting Wednesday April 29th…and not just because I owe them.
(I don’t think the website is totally updated, but it will get you there!)