I think I mentioned, in a previous blog, that our family took vacation the week before I left for Haiti this year (June 24-30). One of our wonderful supporters, Adelva Johnston, allowed us to stay in her condo at Palm Coast for the week and we had a blast. As you are probably well aware, vacations now, with 2 babies, are much different than they used to be. The truth is, as fun as they are, they are not overly relaxing but it is still important to get away. This blog is not actually about vacations, I was just setting the stage because of a commonly “googled” vacation phrase that I used quite often in Palm Coast…”Best Restaurants in _______” (obviously you fill in the blank with whatever city you are visiting). Part of the fun of vacation, at least for me, is trying to find a couple of really good restaurants that you would not normally visit. My 2 favorite from this past vacation was “Burrito Works Taco Shop” and “Dominic’s Deli.” Neither was high-end dining by any means, but they were both really good.
The reason that I bring this up is because restaurants have come to play a very important role in American culture. When we are traveling we want to find the “local gem” and when we are at home we have our go-to restaurants for different occasions. For instance, Jess and I have gone to the Melting Pot on our anniversary for the past 8 years, but we would never do take-out or a spur of the moment trip there. On the other hand, we love Zaxby’s and we eat that when we (and by “we” I mean Jess) do not want to cook that night or just to a have night in. There is this convenience in knowing that there are numerous restaurants close by, many of which are extremely affordable, and we can order take-out or go to a drive-through when we want someone else to do our work for us. On the other hand, there are just as many restaurants, very close by, that we can go to when we want to dress up and go on a date. We can drive to Maggiano’s, Outback, Moxie (one of our new favorites), or Barbara Jean’s and have a nice time sitting and talking together while Jessica’s parents watch the kids. This is equally convenient to the affordable restaurants because you can use the food and atmosphere provided by these establishments to get away and be together even for a short time and even at a short distance from home.
As you are reading this, there is a good chance that certain restaurants come to mind for you as well. There is a restaurant in LaGrange, Roger’s Barbecue, that I have not been to since my Grandmother passed away because the restaurant was special to us. The Melting Pot, like I mentioned earlier, is a special thing for Jess and I because it is where we go to celebrate big events and Barbara Jean’s will always be one of our date night regulars. The Taco Shop in St. Augustine that I mentioned earlier will always remind me of some of the wonderful vacations that Jess and I went to before having kids, and that we have revisited with Sophie and Elijah as well. I will always remember Golden Corral (before it was a buffet) and Ryan’s (it was always a buffet) as a place where we had many family dinners growing up and I remember just always having fun together there. That is not to say that we did not enjoy family meals together growing up because we did. And that is not to say that we eat out a lot now, because we eat home cooked meals at least 95% of the time if not more. There is just something about our American culture and the place that restaurants have come to take in our lives.
There is nothing like this in Gressier, Haiti, at least from our perspective. In general, the restaurant culture that you find in America does not seem to exist in Haiti, but I am only writing this from a personal perspective. There are a couple of restaurants close by, but none of them are conducive to taking children, and the food at these establishments (Maaco, Tachie, Bel Rouge, Eva’s) is edible but not great. I remember after going to Tachie for the first time with my friend Khan, we both left talking about how good the food was. Then I looked at him and asked him, if this restaurant was in America, would you ever go back, to which he replied with a resounding “no.” On top of that, for us to go to a restaurant in the evening means driving at night, taking our kids on the main road (which we do not do), and hoping that the restaurant we are visiting has half of the things listed on their menu (which they usually do not). The convenience of knowing that we can just run down to a restaurant is not really there at all, and the idea of going on a date in Haiti (including finding child care and finding something that we can do together) is almost equally nonexistent. As Americans, the convenience and ease of restaurants being close by is something that we have taken for granted and it is, surprisingly, one of the things that we miss.
Now, I want to close by saying that I am not complaining. In fact, after living in Haiti for a while, I would say that America could probably stand to have considerably fewer restaurants than they do. In general, they promote less healthy eating, they are more expensive, the food is lower quality, and they take away from a family bonding time that you can only find around your dinner table at home. I am just commenting on the differences in culture and on the fact that restaurants are nice to have, especially on vacation.