When I moved into my first post-college apartment, my mother gave me the dining room furniture set we had used growing up so that I could furnish the space (and so she would have an excuse to buy a new set). The sideboard, china cabinet, dining room table and six chairs belonged originally to “Grandmother Mathis,” my grandfather’s mother.
No one knows for sure how old the set of slightly ornate walnut furniture is, but she was born in 1895, so it’s likely around 100 years old. My mother and I covered the seat cushions with a pretty yellow and white fabric, but the rest of it still retains its original character. It also shows its scars and stories. There are writings underneath the table that I can’t quite make out, and some sort of rod and crank that I assume are related to the optional leaves. There are a few scratches and water rings as time will give. Recently, when I moved into my new home and the china cabinet out of storage, my aunt and I tried to open the cabinet door only to find that it had to be unlocked with a key that eventually showed up somehow in my father’s desk drawer in Blue Ridge. Those furniture pieces played host to countless dinner parties, fancy place settings, restless children, bills being calculated and grand holiday feasts.
That table has also seen many more home-cooked meals than usual over the past three months, as I have been in quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak. And as much as I love the rickety chairs and the perfect puzzle table, I’ve missed going to restaurants. I’ve missed seeing familiar faces and trying new dishes and drinking a glass of wine with friends and relishing in my favorite dishes. Restaurants are much more than just dining establishments, as the founders of Unsukay restaurant group explain in their cover feature on page 26. They are the places where we celebrate, gather, fall in love, mourn and make memories.
Just like that old dining room set, our favorite restaurants have a few scars and rings from these past few months, and a few keys might be lost for good. But they will adapt, and change, and continue to serve us, as long as we continue to serve them.