Calories are one of those non-negotiable requirements for sustaining human life. You gotta eat. But let me tell you, friend, there’s no news that mobilizes this community quite like restaurant news.
Like, dang. When we published a web story in late June about the closure of the Sagebrush Steakhouse it quickly became one of our most-read stories of calendar year 2019, and the accompanying Facebook post garnered hundreds of reactions, comments and shares. It was weird to see Sanford so galvanized by … the Sagebrush Steakhouse closing its doors.
Most of this activity (aside from a few people misreading our snide Facebook comment about Sanford losing a culinary giant, but that’s another story) focused on which particular chain steakhouse should inhabit the Sagebrush location going forward – it should be a Tex’s Steerhouse, people said, or an Alamo Roadshack, or the Great Lone Horn, or whatever else. I invented these names to avoid maligning anyone’s personal favorite or getting caught up in any business-crippling litigation.
Maybe the thirst for chains makes some sense. Sanford being a smaller city, it can seem a little lacking in the type of franchise eateries you’d find in Raleigh or Cary or any other larger community. But without knocking any particular chain – even Sagebrush! It had been a few years since I darkened that establishment’s doorstep, so I can’t really say much one way or the other about its level of quality – I just have to be a little baffled by their allure.
It’s not even that they’re bad or anything. A grilled chicken sandwich smothered with KC Masterpiece will get the job done in a pinch after all, but there’s a bigger pleasure for me in finding a hole in the wall that there’s only one of, or eating at a nice restaurant whose owners know your name and what new thing they have that you’ve gotta try right this minute.
I mean, have you had a burger at Jeff & Lisa’s Brickhouse Grill? Have you been to Cooper’s for dinner or brunch yet? Would you tell a friend visiting town to try a biscuit from Big T’s, or from McDonald’s? Better yet, if you found yourself living somewhere else, would you miss more – the chains or your local favorites?
I have a lot of hope in the other direction as well though. The reaction was nearly as big – a day after we broke the Sagebrush news – when we reported on the existence of Taste of India, what I can only assume is Sanford’s first Indian food restaurant. I had lunch there that day, it was absolutely awesome, and I felt like I got a chance to speak with virtually everyone working in the restaurant, including the owner. And in 2018, when we spent half the year publishing a series called The Rant for Lunch, people reading these pieces seemed genuinely proud to see all of the places that exist here – and only here – get recognition for all the great food they put out each day.
And look, when Cowboy’s Saloon (another invented name) or whatever opens its doors in the old Sagebrush location, I’m sure I’ll try it. More than once. But for the long term, give me something that’s not just in the town where I live, but also of it. That’s the really good stuff.
Gordon Anderson has eaten at restaurants in at least five states, including South Carolina. You did not see him in the Hardee’s drive-thru last week. Contact him at email@example.com.