Plenty of people go out to eat during the middle of the week in suburbs all over the country. Strip mall restaurants and traditional mall restaurants are full of those of us who simply can’t bear to cook that night. Is it any different downtown? Yes: It’s easier. A short walk from any point downtown and you pass by or are in front of a dozen or more restaurants all wanting your business. No need to dress up. No need to crank the car. That’s the good news and the bad news. It’s good because, well, you’re hungry. It’s not so good for the budget. Still, in my experience, that may not be the biggest difference. The biggest difference for me is best shown by a description of a recent Wednesday night outing. Recently I read that Tomato Head began by serving only lunch and the hours were gradually expanding to weekend evenings and then very gradually into the week. The reason was a lack of clientele downtown. Such is no longer the case.
I walked in the direction of food that night and landed eventually at Oodles. My plan was to get something delicious and not break the bank. I was successful at the first part. I got two crab cakes and a salad and every bit of it was delicious. Of course, they routinely win the “Best Wine Selection” in Metropulse’s best of competition. A soft rain began to fall while I ate (outside, of course) and I developed a new appreciation for their magnificent umbrellas. I never got wet and the rain cooled the air to just a perfect temperature.
Then came the biggest difference: Everything in every direction is interesting. On one end of the square a troupe practiced songs for the up-coming Shakespeare on the Square production.
A glance in the opposite direction revealed amateur hula-hoopers practicing the lessons being offered for free among the trees. Across the square I could make out the image of Elder Beat Master hip hopping all over the screens at Knoxivi.
Directly adjacent to my spot on the patio I watched a young busker trying to play and sing under a tree while the rain got harder, eventually forcing him to give it up.
Most fun of all was watching a couple consider then decide to have fun in the fountain.
So yes, the food was excellent, but it’s the ambiance that makes all the difference. And it’s priceless.