Eatin’ Out in the ‘Hood

New Year’s Eve is not only a celebration of a new year for me. Well, really, the last time I got excited about a new year I was 13. I think after that I was too jaded to care.  So, it’s a good thing my wedding anniversary is on New Year’s Eve. This way, jaded ol’ me has something to celebrate. This is the 33rd, in case you are wondering.

So, what to do on the 33rd anniversary? It’s been a busy week and economically my choices lately are limited, so we went with a sort of different kind of eating out. We live in what I call the exciting part of town and I don’t like to be out too late on a – uh, drinking holiday – so we went to a seafood place about a mile from home.

I have to say I love this place. Not because it’s the best seafood around, although it’s not bad. It just has the coolest – in a different sort of way – atmosphere. Kinda’ gives me the feeling I’ve left the country without having to mess with airport security.

A lot of people came here from Vietnam after the War. This is a shrimping area and a lot of them went into the business. Then these little fast food seafood restaurants sprang up. This particular one is owned by a man who grew up here in this town. His family had a convenience store in this end of town when he was growing up, so he learned about running a business that way. His mom loved this country, and she wanted to open a shopping center with a washateria, and she wanted it in this neighborhood. To expand her business was her way of showing her appreciation for America. And for this end of town, which she said had been good to her and her family. Unfortunately, she became ill and died before she could follow through on her dream, so her son picked up the dream, and he has done it. He built a shopping center full of businesses, including a washateria. Some of the businesses are run by his family. The front of the shopping center is yellow with the names of the businesses in red. The owner is a Buddhist, and in the middle of the parking lot, he has a statue of Buddha, along with an American flag, a flag that was made for the shopping center, and the flag of South Vietnam. Oh, and flowers, too. Each year at Christmas, there are inflatable snowmen, and an inflatable Santa and his sleigh on the roof, along with other Christmas lights and decorations. The decorations are still up and it’s quite a sight at night with the spot lights on the flags and the Buddha.

So, this is where we got shrimp, oysters, fish, french fries, salad, a little white roll (these places always serve a little white roll that I think they all must buy from the same place), and two drinks for less than $25. Along with that we had ketchup, tartar sauce and Asian hot sauce. REALLY hot. All this was served in styrofoam boxes with compartments and plastic forks. I noticed they had new folks in the kitchen this time. And in this Asian-owned business, in a predominantly black neighborhood, there were Hispanic folks speaking Spanish in the kitchen. Oh, and we’re white. In the corner there’s a TV, and we got to listen to Sponge Bob Square Pants while we ate. Not that I’ve ever seen the show; it was just part of the whole experience.

When we walked in and ordered our food, our plan was to take it home and eat. But it wasn’t dark yet (that makes a difference around here) and I was just sort of overcome by soaking up the unusual cultural flavor of this place, so we stayed. My New Year’s/Anniversary celebration meal wasn’t exactly at the most upscale place, but I hardly think it could have been more interesting.

Note: The flag of South Vietnam was flown until April 30, 1975, when the country fell to the communists. Vietnamese immigrants still fly it. Wikipedia has a very interesting article on this at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_South_Vietnam

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