It’s not fancy.
Edgar’s Corner Café, in Goodwill’s Greensboro headquarters just a couple blocks away from the Triad City Beat offices on South Elm-Eugene Street, is now what it has always been: a cafeteria, with steam tables behind fogged glass, stainless-steel tray runners, an urn of sweet tea.
It’s been here since the building opened in 1993, on the north side opposite the thrift store and drop-off bay, begun as an amenity for employees and Goodwill’s service clients. And it looks like a time capsule from that era: almond and aqua with splashes of pale pink, institutional lighting, padded chairs of bent steel.
It is not now, nor has it ever been, a trendy spot, even for the staffers at Goodwill. But now the space is open to the public with a new name — the aforementioned Edgar’s, named for Edgar Helms, who founded Goodwill International in the 1890s — albeit a similar mission: to provide affordable food for whomever wants it.
Actually, says Goodwill staffer Sarah Lanse, it’s been open to the public for a couple years but it never seemed to catch on. She’s hoping a new marketing push, branding the spot as an “in-house bistro,” will help.
It makes a lot of sense — they have the space and the staff, and Goodwill’s entire business model is built on resourcefulness. Even the term “bistro” is not so far off, as a true bistro is a neighborhood restaurant that springs organically from the character of the area.
It’s weird, though.
This may be the only restaurant in town, besides the various country clubs, where one must sign in before entering. A smiling receptionist awaits through the doors of the main entrance, and can guide visitors through the touch-screen protocol, help them attach their laminated visitor badges and give directions down the hall and to the right where the doors to the cafeteria are located.[pullquote]Edgar’s Corner Café; 1235 S. Elm-Eugene St. GSO; [/pullquote]
Behind the glass at Edgar’s hot line rest fried fish filets, browned burger patties, vats of chili and hot dogs ready to go. There are fries, onion rings and hushpuppies, and if you don’t see what you want they’ll take a stab at making it for you.
A special order of grilled cheese on wheat with a burger patty slipped in between raises nary an eyebrow before setting into action an efficient — and cheerful! — series of motions that turned out the finished product in just a couple minutes. And they have every kind of drink you would ever want, as long as it’s sweet tea, lemonade or water.
Presentation at Edgar’s is informal; every order arrives in a Styrofoam clamshell; every drink relegated to a Styrofoam cup. Condiments come in packages. There are no garnishes.
It’s the sort of austere lunch that many workaday folks — journalists, certainly — find appealing in its simplicity and honesty.
They’re open weekdays, for breakfast and lunch — breakfast comes in two sittings, at 8 and 10 a.m., and the window for lunch is less than two hours. Check averages are about 5 bucks, and the turnaround times, crucial for the weekday lunch and breakfast crowds, run maybe 20 minutes. There is no mechanism to leave a tip, though the cashier will ask if you’d like to round up to help the mission of Goodwill, and you will say yes.
There will still be time left on your lunch hour to walk around to the other side of the building and poke through the stacks at the retail store, where the few dollars saved on lunch can go a pretty long way.