In today’s world of franchises and cookie-cutter customer service, it’s easy to forget how refreshing it is to have a unique experience. Road trips are paused to stop at “a such-and-such place” not at “that cute little place with the funny waitress and great key lime squares.” It is a true shame.

I have to admit, I love local diners. There is something about a diner that forces characters through the door, whether to work or eat it doesn’t matter. The menus often haphazardly feature gyros, all-day breakfast and spaghetti with ketchup sauce (something for every color of person). I like to imagine it as the get together place for some group of pals. The sock-hopping days of the '50s seem to be only a nickel in the jukebox away. I love that the people know their regulars, and recognize the folks that come in even two days in a row. Maybe it’s a tad Route 66-esque, but it just feels like the good kind of America.

It’s easy, too easy, to forget what it’s like to walk into a new place with some character. Walk in to a chain anything, the layout is similar and the decorations are reminiscent of all the others. The feeling upon entrance is all too familiar. Contrast that with the joy of finding an unsung spot. Doing so carries all the wonderful side effects of a surprise, but this is a surprise from life, completely unrelated to birthdays. The entrance is subdued, easily unnoticed and tad out of the way. The food, music and atmosphere are all fantastic.

Yet, the furniture is a little shabby, not dirty, but not new either. Like all treasured local spots, it is perfectly flawed, the kind of place that casts its own brand sans commercial trends or advertising. It causes a sense of excitement at just having been there, creating a conflicting desire to introduce it to all and protect it from the trample of true popularity. It’s your hideaway, it’s own magnificent microcosm. Here is the next great writer on the verge of their breakout novel. Here is where eyes meet across the room that change life stories forever. Here is the thrill, the celebration of uniqueness.

Here is an ode of appreciation to the local spots, to the small business owners that bring them to life. Here’s to the hole-in-the-wall gems, to the characters they attract. Here’s to the people that quietly seek them out. By doing so, individuality is celebrated. Creativity is supported. Experiences are crafted. Thanks.