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Ode to a Lunch Spot

I wrote this Wednesday, but embargoed it until today so that I wouldn’t break the news to anyone

Joseph is probably in his late sixties. He’s gruff, jewish, and has a trace of an eastern european accent. He’s bald, with a circle of hair that reminds one of bristles on a broom.

Until a few months ago, he owned and operated the 7-11 on the corner by our house. He knew me and I knew him and we chatted little small talk chats whenever I would pop on down for a soda run or to pick up a gallon of milk. Then one day he disappeared and two vaguely middle eastern guys in their early thirties took over. It was a little transition, but it made me sad. I miss Joseph.

Today I found out that Sandella’s– the restaurant by my office that I go to literally every day that I’m in the office– is closing effective Sunday. There’s just not enough traffic to keep them in the black, my nine visits in the last two weeks notwithstanding. For me, this is going to be a big transition, and it’s bummed me out ever since I found out around noon.

I walked into Sandella’s for the first time on July 6th, 2009 and I ordered their Chicken Delicato Panini with a side salad and a drink. It was delicious. Better yet, the whole meal was only 877 calories. I was less than one week into calorie counting with Lose It!, and finding a place close to work with good food that wasn’t bad for my caloric budget was a godsend.

I went back the next day. My first of many Brazilian Chicken Flatbreads, which quickly became my favorite. Two days later the Hummus Wrap. The next week Monday the Brazilian, Tuesday the Delicato, Thursday the Brazilian. Since that fateful day last July I’ve logged seventy six visits in Lose It.

But even though I love their food, what I will miss vastly more are the people. On about the third trip I was asking for the staff’s names, and I made a point of addressing people by name, and found that courtesy reciprocated. I’ll miss Carrie and Kim and Adam and Lindsey and Kate and Barbara and Marc… well, Barbara and Marc aren’t really staff: they’re the owners. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they’re my friends. They’ve met my wife, my daughter, my parents; we’ve talked about each others kids and weekends.

And as hard as my losing a lunch spot is for me, what’s bummed me out so much is the thought that my friends are going through so much more. I can’t begin to think how much they’ve poured into this place that I love, and how much more they love it and how much it has to hurt to say goodbye to it. After leaving today I was wracking my brain for ways to help: shuffling all my acquaintances there; getting them to cater whatever event I could dream up; robbing banks. But I’m just one guy, and an increase in my already copious business isn’t going to be enough to turn the tide.

So instead I just wanted to write this out and share with the world that until Sunday there’s a little place in Aliso Viejo that’s just perfect, and that it’s helped me lose fifty pounds in a year, and that I’ve passed many a lunch hour there enjoying their music and their willingness to let me sit and read, and that I’m going to miss is very, very much.