Friday, July 24, 2009

The world doesn't taste as good anymore

At the corner of Main and Exposition in Dallas sits a blue and white house.

For 40 years, it was Vern's. One of the greatest soul food kitchens in America.

Named for it's owner, maitre d', chef, and greeter. Suvern Simmons.

The first time I went with some friends, I had the normal first timer's reaction.

"This is a bad neighborhood. Why are we pulling up to this crack house?"

That's what it looked like. Huge potholes in the dirt and gravel yard where you parked next to a police car, a hoop-d, and maybe the mayor.

Inside the first time, your anxiety doesn't go away quickly. Small dining area, picnic tables, you just sit where you can find a spot. No reserved seating at Vern's. You feel all the eyes on you cause they can spot a first-timer, and you just don't know what to do.

You might be seated with a judge, a junkyard owner, or a pastor. And chances were good 90% of the patrons would be black.

And as a first-timer, I had the same normal reaction once I sat down and started to eat.

"Why didn't you bring me here earlier? How have I missed this place? Can we come back tomorrow? Oh, I don't care, I'm coming back anyway."

I became a Vern's regular. And almost always took a virgin with me. Co-workers, old friends, business associates from out of town, they all had the same first time experience. And all became regulars on their own.

It is amazing that in the stretch of a few minutes you could go from being scared to death to feeling the warmth that only Vern's peach cobbler could make you feel. And you would meet so many nice, new friends in the process.

A bad economy and a landlord that raised the rent put an end to Vern's.

Mrs. Simmons' message to her customers was, "Just tell them I loved them and I stayed as long as I could."

Mrs. Simmons, we loved you, too. And I just wished I had started earlier and stayed longer.

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