If you read this blog and think I do nothing but cruise around the State looking for local places to eat, you'd be partially right, only I have lived here so long that I know where many of them are already. Passing through Winston-Salem today on my way back from Asheville, I couldn't resist stopping at an old haunt of mine: George's Grecian Corner Restaurant, a place I have eaten at for 25 years.
In the early years I would see George himself in the kitchen giving orders to others of Greek descent (his sons?), but lately I have not seen him, and the folks in the kitchen don't appear to be Greek but of some more recent immigrant wave. Yet the food has remained the same --- tasty souvlaki, gyros, and chopped salads with excellent blue cheese dressing. There's more, but that's what I always eat.
George's is a small place. Today when I visited I had to wait for a table, but it was worth it. While waiting I perused the framed memorabilia on the wall (which I have seen many times) of the restaurant when it served as a set for scenes in the 1990 movie "Mr. Destiny," which starred James Belushi, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Caine. In a story somewhat reminiscent of "It's a Wonderful Life," Belushi, who is convinced that his life would be much different (and better) had he not missed a hit in a high school baseball game, meets a stranger who offers to let him live that life. Only he discovers that it's not what he idealized. When I first saw the movie, I didn't know George's had been used as a set, but I recognized it immediately, even shorn of its sign and decorated differently.
As I ate my lunch today, I remembered another storied restaurant in Winston-Salem that used to be just blocks away from George's, the Rose and Thistle. It was a very laid back, bohemian sort of pizza parlor, with plenty of old magazines to read and plenty of interesting people to watch, and it was a date place in the early years of my relationship with my wife.
Another thing I like about George's (beyond the food) is the clientele. These are not the noveau rich or the college crowd, but they are blue-collar and middle class and old upper class Winston-Salem folks that need not act like they are rich but will eat good food wherever they find it. I'm eating alone, but I don't feel alone. These are my people. These are like my parents' friends. They are the people I grew up with.
George's is not a pretty place, as you can see. The odd, octagonal building sits practically under the freeway. I used to worry that a truck would lose control and come careening through the roof, wrecking my meal. Yet it hasn't happened yet. If you need a restroom, you have to go outside and enter the single, unisex restroom from the exterior. I suspect this lack of indoor facilities is grandfathered under the health codes. But pretty doesn't matter much. Like people, it's what's inside that counts, and the soul of George's is welcoming and good.
I didn't have to stop at George's. It's not the fastest way through Winston-Salem any longer. (It's on I-40 Business at the Cloverdale Rd. exit, in the shadow of Baptist Hospital.) But places that remind you of home, that have history, that have people who you like hearing talk because they sound like home --- those places are worth a detour. Remembering them, I guess, is my destiny.