I was visiting a local haunt I haven't been to in a while ever since they got a lot of acclaim. When they first started, they catered mainly to a Mexican clientele. No English translations on the menu, no frill place, bare booths and tables, dinged up flatware and plates. Faded but clean walls. They specialized in seafood mainly shrimp, no quesdillas, burritos or bean and cheese sides with combo dishes. But the shrimp was absolutely wonderful, very fresh, cooked just right and a dozen different preparations that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere close. The shrimp came with their heads on and the whiskers all over the place. It was decadent to pluck the head off and suck all the juices out. They fried their chips fresh and it was served with this spicy homemade green salsa that was completely different from your more popular red salsa.
Service was very relaxed, they didn't rush you out, you could stay there for hours after your meal, sipping a beer and watching futbol on the big screen. But you'd also have to flag down someone if you wanted more beer or the fresh made chips because they sure as heck weren't watching you at all. Place was dark and unlit until later in the evening when some fluorescent overheads would come on casting weird shadows. They actually got complaints about the darkness and inattentive service. Me, I loved it, the people were always friendly, never hovered but would bring a fresh cold beer as soon as I caught their eye and waved my empty bottle at them. You walked in, were given a menu and that was it. Nothing else on the table except a napkin dispenser and 4 or 5 kinds of hot sauce.
This weekend I was amused to observe the following:
* a party asking for straws to go with the water glass that was just dropped off.
* someone wanting their shrimp dishes to be served with no tails and heads
* noses being turned up at the green salsa and asking if there was a regular red salsa that wasn't so spicy
* overhead lamps had been installed above each booth and it was brightly lit
* garishly brightly painted walls with caricatures of seafood
The food was still pretty good and I was happy they had more customers. But somehow I couldn't help feeling it just wasn't quite the same place for me to sit and hang out sipping my beer any more.
This isn't meant as a "hipper than thou" attitude and post, more of an observation as to how things get changed when a niche place gets more mainstream attention. Do they change? Do they stay the same and just ride out the wave of mainstream people? But will their old audience return if they don't change and the mainstream leave? If not they can't survive. Just thoughts running through my mind.
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