At the end, remembering what came before

0
709
xia-thai-noodles-winston-salem

There’s a list in my phone with maybe two-dozen story ideas that I’ll never write.

Some are new additions — recently opened restaurants, or names of people doing interesting things in the local food scene — but most of them have been there for a year or more.

These old ideas that could run any time — “evergreens,” in industry parlance — are part of what separates a seasoned writer from the raw, undercooked talent of a beginner.

Since we launched Triad City Beat almost four years ago, I’ve written more than 150 food stories, and around 125 Barstool columns, according to my rough estimate. From go, I quickly set out to dispel the myth that there’s no good international food in Winston-Salem, but it wasn’t until recently that I found my favorite tacos in the Camel City (at La Perlita).

tacos-at-la-perlita-in-winston-salem
La Perlita’s tacos

I injected plenty of myself, maybe too much on occasion, regularly writing in first person. I tried to provide a mix of news, profiles, deeper analysis of this food system and light-hearted restaurant reviews. But there are things I’d do differently in retrospect, especially after looking at the work of superior writers and food editors.

I would’ve injected more voices and perspectives into this space instead of relying as heavily on my own. I would’ve taken you into the kitchen more. I would’ve spent less time on new restaurant openings and more on all the people and things that make our food system run. Maybe I’d cook more often, too.

Lest I be too hard on myself, I should mention that I did all of it on my own dime — a startup this small, especially one that’s primarily owned by its editors, can’t afford reimbursements for expenses. There were some stories that I didn’t pursue due to cost, and that’s probably for the best. I always wanted this space to feel inclusive.

In the words of our captain, Brian Clarey, I did what I could in the time that I had. I’d written about food before, but never on a weekly basis, and a weekly newspaper is a beast that constantly needs feeding. That’s where the list of evergreens came in, as I routinely found a restaurant closed unexpectedly on a Tuesday, had an interview canceled at the last minute, or needed to pivot when news broke.

The food and drink section never became my primary focus. Covering Greensboro news, editing copy, driving a delivery route and doing the hundreds of other things that go with launching a business ate up most of my time. During the last year, as a part-timer, being the managing editor needed to be my top priority.

I would’ve loved for TCB to have a full food section with more elements. I know Brian feels the same. Maybe it’ll get there one day, and maybe I’ll write an occasional freelance piece for it, too.

But for now, it’s curtains for me. I lasted longer as Triad City Beat’s food writer than most restaurants stay open. It’s time for me to challenge myself, and try something new. And while I’m not out of ideas, it’s hard not to feel like my time here has run its natural course, and that we need new blood. New eyes. Someone with different taste buds, different questions, different experiences.

Whoever takes my seat at the table is welcome to my list of evergreens — I already sent them to my editors — but I hope instead that they’ll catch their own lunch, and make this space theirs.

I was only half joking when Villa del Mar closed and I said this marked my time to depart, too. The former Mexican restaurant on Greensboro’s rather imaginary “International Restaurant Row” had been my favorite for the better part of a decade, well before this paper existed. It’s closure and subsequent reopening as a different concept signaled to me that while I may not have tried everything there is to eat in the Triad, I’m quickly becoming one of those people that talks about what was rather than what could be or is when it comes to our coverage area.

That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of things in the Triad food scene that excite me. There’s a Sudanese restaurant coming in Greensboro, a first for the area. I’m eager to stop by Bar Piña for the Christmas iteration of the downtown Winston-Salem bar’s menu. I have a High Point fish house on my to-do list that I still hope to hit even if I don’t write about it.

I’ve witnessed countless new places open, and tried many more for the first time. I won’t deign to rank them, but it’s worth mentioning several by name.

The team at the now defunct El Nuevo

In Greensboro: Taaza Indian Bistro, Mi Casita, ZC Hawaiian BBQ, Captain Chen’s Gourmet China, Freeman’s Grub & Pub, Nazareth Bread Co.

In Winston-Salem: Bahtmobile food truck, Quanto Basta, Slappy’s Chicken, the Katharine, May Way Dumplings, Uncle Desi’s Jamaican.

In High Point: Tasty Halal food truck, 98 Asian Bistro.

And then, of course, there’s booze. During my tenure writing about food and drink at TCB, the local beer scene erupted with the force of a volcano, and the lava is still flowing. Back in 2014, we didn’t brag a single local distillery.

I chronicled the arrival of Neapolitan pizza, raw cookie dough, an Instagram-ready shake shack and smoothie bowls. I advocated for ramen and a Jewish deli. And more than anything else I’ve written, Brian loves to reference my Barstool column about the only four liquids Malcolm Gladwell drinks.

But these days, I’m mostly thinking about what came before. I want the Thai peanut noodles at the now-defunct Xia (above), and I really want a night out at the Honey Pot (both in Winston-Salem). I miss Empanadas Borinquen food truck near my office, and second only to Villa del Mar, I mourn the loss of the Korean-Mexican fusion at El Nuevo (all in Greensboro).

Remember Josephine’s? Or Pane e Vino?

Some restaurants were open so briefly, I only managed to try their food once, including Café Mirchi’s Pakistani and Indian cuisine, the vegan Jamaican creations at Jaribu or most of the menu at Harlem Express. I long for the previous, smaller iteration of LaRue, and I’m nervous about finding a cocktail as good as Mark Weddle’s now that Traveled Farmer is closing (somebody throw some money at him, please).

That’s why, if you like my food writing, you should be glad that I’m moving on. I’m jaded. I need to shake things up. Otherwise this space will go stale, and you’ll start to regard me like the rotting greens stinking up the bottom drawer of your fridge.

uncle-desi-jamaican-food-winston-salem
Uncle Desi’s

Comments

comments