This story is old, but it fits into this conversation. We decided to drive to the Grand Canyon (from central Texas) for a nontraditional Thanksgiving vacation in 2003, camping out along the way in state and national parks (awesome trip, by the way). We packed all the (free) guidebooks we could find because we were determined to read about every small town we flew by on the interstate, and we committed to eating at only local restaurants. We had a broad definition of “local”–basically, non-chain. One of the places we discovered was Red’s.
The truth is, I don’t remember what we ordered or much about the place in general. But this is what I do remember: from the moment we walked in the door, we were identified as outsiders, and yet welcomed anyway. As the waitress approached the table, her first words were “Where ya’ll from?” (a dead giveaway that we stood out like sore thumbs). There was a little old man eating by himself across the restaurant, and two large policemen came in while we were there, too. I felt like I had just walked onto a movie set. But it gets better.
After the old white-haired man had left (without saying anything to us, mind you), the waitress came over to us and explained that the man is known by everyone in town as “PaPa,” and that he had insisted on paying for our meal on his way out, and that he wanted her to tell us “Safe travels and God bless you.”
Wow, right? You can start revising your definitions of “community” now.
PS By the way, I was recently able to locate the restaurant through Google maps! Check it out. There’s even a good review about their burgers.