Thinking about The Back Porch today—the one place I would say was my favorite restaurant until they closed it down. I still miss it and although I like a lot of different restaurants I’m not sure any of them is my favorite like that one was. There were two locations and we went to the second one more often. It was decorated with fake vines and flowers “growing” on lattices around the restaurant; the walls, or some of them, were painted with a mural of blue skies, rainbows, and flowers growing behind painted picket fences. The room where they served ice cream had those metal tables and chairs that you’d normally find on—you guessed it—a porch.
You walked up to the food serving area and helped yourself to the salad bar if you wanted salad. I always wanted one. Even as a kid I liked a good salad. The salad bar items were always fresh—no brown edges on the lettuce or mushy cantaloupe--and the glass plates were chilled. The cashier weighed your salad and if your guess was close enough, you won a free scoop of ice cream. I won a couple of times. (More about the ice cream later.)
The other food was excellent, too. My brother usually got the tortilla soup, with thin crispy strips of fried tortilla on top and lots of melted Jack cheese inside. Mom and I often chose the vegetable soup with the fresh-baked Zuni bread, which I can’t even describe properly except to say that it had cornmeal in it. I don’t bake bread, but I’d make an exception for that bread. They had pizza with great crust, too--I could go on but I'd make myself too hungry.
We didn’t get ice cream every time we went, but when we did, it was an Event. The ice cream was made on site, with the freshest ingredients. My mom’s favorite was the peaches and cream they had in the summer (why can’t I remember any of my dad’s favorites?) and my favorite was the Hershey chocolate. It was mild, not rich—so cool and creamy as it slid down my throat. I think that was the first place I ever had a (freshly made, of course) waffle cone. Heaven.
I went to college down the street from my favorite eating place. When I worked evenings in the library, I’d head to the Back Porch until I had to be back to campus, enjoying a quiet spot to read and a nice meal which was “not too expensive” (said in a Monty Python voice).
Almost a year after my college boyfriend broke up with me, he wanted to meet me for lunch. I don’t remember which one of us suggested The Back Porch, where we had gone many times together, but that’s where we ended up. I knew what was coming and what my answer would be. I refused to let him buy any food for me, claiming not to be hungry—as far as I know, the first time I’d ever sat in that restaurant without eating something. I stared into my soda and listened as he asked me to take him back, and then I told him no. “I’ve moved on,” I said. “I’m over you.” It was true. I was glad I hadn’t let him buy food for me. This way the place was still mine, and I could take it with me when we parted.
Stupidly, I didn’t go to The Back Porch very much after I graduated a couple of months later. I didn’t realize it wouldn’t always be there. I married, moved away, and the restaurant closed. I still miss it.