Two visiting Chinese students in a Chicago airport were pointing at a Starbucks as one of them exclaimed “Look! Just like at home!” I smiled. Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks would be pleased. Part of his business philosophy when he bought Starbucks was to create Starbucks coffee cafes as community gathering spaces where people felt at home.

Apparently, he succeeded.

I can honestly say I have never looked at a Starbucks and thought of home. However, as a community gathering place to grab some food and coffee and meet up for business or pleasure, I can relate to the feeling the students expressed.

Recently, while on vacation in Charlotte, NC, we ate at a restaurant called “New South Kitchen”  We selected it because I was looking for a place that offered food that supported local farms and specifically “grass-fed” beef.

We hit pay dirt with a menu that offered so many tempting options it was nearly impossible to choose!

We began with deviled eggs as an appetizer. They were delicately displayed and gave us each one of the three different toppings – bacon, chopped pickles, or scallions. One bite of these creamy, delicately, tasty eggs had us “oohing” and “ahhing”!

I will deny having said this, but these deviled eggs were as good as the ones I make. 

Some of us ordered succulent hamburgers and fries. They were definitely not ordinary hamburgers.

A hamburger with a fried egg as one of the many layers is definitely an indulgence.

Yep. Tender, flaky biscuits were the order of the day. 

I ordered the pot roast made from locally raised grass-fed beef. It was so delicious, that had my mother not taught me that lapping my plate in public is bad manners, I would have been sorely tempted to lap up every tasty morsel! Just look at that tantalizing gravy. It had the perfect balance of sweet and savory. And who can get enough of those delicate strands of shaved, fried onion? Not me!

But what was really special was this particular dish of pot roast reminded me of all of the pot roasts my mother, aunt, and grandmother made. Theirr pot roast was always tender and flavorful with just the right thickness of gravy. It was the ultimate comfort food. As hard as I have tried, I have never been able to match the perfection of their pot roasts.

What else reminded me of home?

As we ate we talked and laughed. I stole glances around the dining area as we awaited our food. Other families and friends were gathered to enjoy food and conversation, too. The perfect lighting was warm and just cozy enough that you felt welcome, but not so much you felt suffocated. Just the right atmosphere for just the right kind of food fun when you’re eating away from home.

This occasion in North Carolina managed to bring back all of the right memories. For a couple of hours with family and friends, I felt protected and loved just as I did when I was little sitting before a dish of my mom’s lovingly made pot roast.