We have been going to this tiny hole in the wall restaurant for many years. It has become a tradition that we go for lunch when I am on vacation from school, and that we get take out on our birthdays. They make hands down the best spring rolls on the planet. While Morgan always gets the Shrimp with Lemon Grass, I like just about everything on the menu and today I got a big bowl of Noodle Soup with Shrimp. I stopped to pick up a birthday cake for Morgan at Biscotti’s Cafe first, home of the best cannoli I have ever eaten, though I can no longer indulge with my dairy allergy. It was a carrot cake minus the walnuts since she has developed an allergy to them, and pecans in the last couple of years. When I walked in the the owner whom we call Mr. Mai Lan came out and greeted me and told me to have a seat. Then Mrs. Mai Lan came out and as always she asked how I am and how is my daughter. I told her it was her 20th birthday today and she told me to tell her Happy Birthday. Then she said something to her husband in Vietnamese and quickly went back into the kitchen. After a minute she popped her head out and said I am giving you something for her birthday. I didn’t wait long after I paid, she brought out a steaming container of sweet and savory rice cakes that smelled absolutely heavenly. She told me that this was something special that she made for her family and wrote a message of Happy Birthday to my daughter. When ever I go in alone as I sometimes do to enjoy a quiet meal by myself, she asks about my daughter and always tells me she is very beautiful. She is so kind and so compassionate and such a warm and friendly woman, her smile always brings me joy. Today was no exception, all I could think as I was leaving, grinning from ear to ear (a way to a man’s heart may be through his belly but to this woman’s heart it is through the child) that if anyone saw my face they would just go into the restaurant to see why such a place made a person so happy. It may not have TVs at all visual points, and they may not have a standard fair that can be eaten anywhere else in the country, but the welcoming smile and warm friendliness of the people that own it makes it the best place to eat in town. And frankly hang the damn television and prepackaged garbage food. This place is why we always celebrate our dates of birth there, because you feel like you are not just a customer but that you are a welcome member of the community.
Thank you Mrs. Mai Lan, you made our day, as you always do. You are wonderful.