Last Call: What are your favorite restaurant memories?

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Earlier this week The New York Times ran a series of essays by a few well-known novelists, essayists, and food critics about their favorite restaurant memories. They ranged from waiting around the mall for three hours to get into The Cheesecake Factory to working the pre-theater shift in Times Square to childhood memories of eating Mongolian barbecue in Taiwan.

Now I’m trying to think about what I would write about if someone asked me. Maybe it’s my first trip to a restaurant without an adult, and how my friend Jenni and I only ordered Cokes, and how thrilling it was to get the check and be expected to pay it. Or maybe sitting in a sidewalk cafe during my first trip to Paris drinking chocolat chaud and writing in my notebook the way I had dreamed of for years and feeling very cosmopolitan. Or maybe it’s the teahouse there that smelled better than any place I’d ever been. Or maybe it’s working the late shift at Starbucks when almost everybody else had gone home, wiping down the counters and sanitizing every part of the espresso machine and counting the till. I never thought I would miss that, but it’s kind of magical when you’re all alone in a place that’s usually filled with people. Or maybe my last meal out, an uninspiring breakfast buffet at a La Quinta Inn in Duluth. Had I known it would be the end for a very long time, I might have made an effort to go someplace more inspiring.

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But I think Carmen Maria Machado said it best out of anybody: “In this pandemic era, I cannot help but think: What a miracle! To choose a restaurant and get there on your own steam and order a meal and pay for it with your money and then to eat every single bite.”

What’s your favorite restaurant memory?