by Eric Ginsburg

Sitting at the bar at the Porch Kitchen & Cantina yesterday, I thought, Damn, I really like this place.

It wasn’t because Mayor Allen Joines was standing near the register, or that the Porch is located inside a hip infill project, though neither of those factors hurt.

I’ve eaten at the Porch several times, and always really enjoyed the meal whether I was alone or with a friend. The Tostadas Teddy stand out in my memory, served with smoked chipotle chicken and crumbling cheese among other ingredients. Once I ordered a burger off the daily specials menu, and now I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong here.

I haven’t been for breakfast yet, though I’m eying the breakfast bowl with homemade grits and poached eggs, the Texas breakfast taco plate and a breakfast burrito with the option to add real or vegetarian sausage. There’s even a peanut butter, banana and chocolate chip sandwich.

But I wasn’t even eating yesterday. I was just hanging out really, sitting in the colorful Tex-Mex restaurant and swapping travel stories with a friend at the long counter. I realized the vibe — an appropriately laidback atmosphere for a West End restaurant channeling the American Southwest — is a huge part of the equation. It seems to emanate from owner Claire Calvin, reciprocated by the friendliness of her staff and returned by the patrons.

That combination of satisfying food, a cool environment and a welcoming attitude is really all you can ask for. The Porch, like the rest of West End Mill Works surrounding it, feels comforting and unpretentious despite being undeniably cool.

Find the Porch on Facebook or at 840 Manly St. in Winston-Salem.

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