Monday, December 20, 2010

Hidden gems

We headed back from my sister's house yesterday morning after a leisurely wake up routine.  The get up and hang out morning routine is a sure sign that we are hitting a vacation period.  Although we have a snow make-up day today, it sure doesn't feel like we should be doing anything but starting our Christmas break.

Driving back from Sanford is no easy task.  The road is long, the landscape is dull and the radio station selection is bleak.  We rolled in to Asheboro and decided to look for some lunch.  Prominently located at the top of the highway exit was a sign pointing us to downtown.  We followed the directions and came into downtown Asheboro and were greeted by a tremendous collection of restaurants, art galleries and shops.  Being Sunday in the South, I was dubious about any of the local businesses being open, but there were several restaurants open and bustling.  We gravitated toward The Flying Pig, a nice little sports bar/bistro combination that serves great pizza and sandwiches.  I ordered a Buffalo Chicken sandwich with their handmade chips.  A heaping mound of chips with a tremendous sandwich the size of my face was brought to the table in short order.  Owen dug in to a grilled cheese with fries (mainly he dug into the fries), while Golden had a salad.

For Owen and I, the noble potato ( or pomme de terre) signifies the true mark of the chef's abilities in the kitchen.  While his gustatory passion lies with the fry, my heart yearns for the perfect handmade chip.  The true bistro chip is a tricky thing.  Too thick and it doesn't cook right and is essentially a french fry gone wrong.  Too thin and it cooks too quickly becoming a dark brown, fryolator flavored drink coaster.  But the chips at the Flying Pig were at the very apex of the fried potato arts.  They occupy the rare air that is the zenith of the handmade chip universe, right up there with the previously unequaled Sledgehammer Charlie's.

To a greater extent though, our sojourn into downtown Asheboro was a glimpse at what a downtown should be.  A thriving, bustling ecosystem of locally owned businesses, each imbuing the town with a dash of character that makes it unique and different.  A place where the locals can go and see each other by happenstance and where visitors can feel that they have "discovered" a unique place to visit.  More and more I hear people from Lenoir saying that they haven't been downtown in years.  If you haven't been downtown, then our town is nothing more than a generic collection of fast food restaurants, chain stores (especially dollar stores) and a sprinkling of locally-owned businesses that survive amidst the generic bustle.  When I visit these little thriving downtowns in other places, I see what Lenoir could be, what I and many like me want it to be, but we must make the conscious effort to support and grow the fragile downtown area.  Our locally-owned businesses, especially the new and risky ones, are fragile and need support to make it through these dark economic times.

Wherever you may happen to live, make the conscious effort to support your local businesses and especially your downtown.  The hearts of our cities and towns are what make us unique and makes our homes much more liveable.  Vote with your dollars to support your local economy!
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