Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Doing (Lunch) Time in Marion, NC

I’m not welcome in Marion, North Carolina.

All the more reason to go out of my way to have a bite there.

A few miles up the mountain from Marion, I saw a cafe’s sign for their daily special:

I had to consider that one for a minute. Lettuce? In soup? Fine. If that’s your thing. Go ahead and call it BLT soup. I’d call it WTF soup. But that’s just me.

As I rolled on toward Marion, I wasn’t getting hungry for BLT soup, but I was getting hungry for a BLT sandwich. Reaching Marion "I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a dreadful little town" North Carolina, I drove past the "Don’t Park on the Sidewalk" sign. I drove past the mental health billboard starring Abe Lincoln and Scarlett O’Hara. I drove past the scenic electrical substation. I drove past the charming cemetery.

I was SOOOO happy to be back in Marion.

And then I saw the Bantam Chef. I figured this was the place for the perfect BLT, and had been the place for the perfect BLT, ever since, say, 1971. I parked the Chevy, walked across the lot and opened the door, only to be greeted with blank stares from the unrelentingly sullen and remarkably homely faces of the lunch-time customers picking at their greasy entrees.

I was reminded of that wise old adage: "By the age of 40, you get the face you deserve." At least, I think that’s how it goes. If it is true, then you have to wonder about these Marionites assembled at the Bantam Chef. Why aren’t they serving life sentences at Central Prison for whatever heinous acts they committed to deserve faces like these? (Yeah, I know, I’m one to talk. I got the face I deserved long before the age of 40. Unfortunately.)

Once I overcame my initial shock, I settled into the Bantam Chef and decided it wasn’t so bad. For Marion. The tea was too sweet. And it wasn’t the perfect BLT. It might have been, if the toast had been toasted to a golden brown, if the bacon had been crispy instead of hard, if the tomato hadn’t been ice cold, if the lettuce hadn’t been chopped into minute slivers. Except for that, it was an OK BLT sandwich. Beat the heck out of BLT soup.

I enjoyed my Bantam Chef lunch. I enjoyed the company of the Marionites. As much as anyone could enjoy the company of Marionites. And I left town as quickly as I arrived, looking over my shoulder at those signs…the signs that "libbi greene" claims were installed to keep "little guys" like me with "small imaginations" from sullying up the streets and sidewalks of idyllic Marion, North Carolina. It began to dawn on me…a "BIG IMAGINATION" is a useful thing to have if you intend to spend any time in Marion. After all, it would require a big imagination to convince yourself that you’re in a nice place when you’re in Marion, North Carolina.

But out here in Jackson County we have a word for imagination of that magnitude.

To put if quite simply, the word is…



usidi said...

A second trip? Darn, now you know why we Cherokee stayed on this side of the Swannanoa Gap.
Wasn't much over there even before those European refugees
settled there and ruined the whole place.Just so you will know a little about me. My 6 times Great
Granddad was John Vann the Cherokee Nation's translator back in the 1780's and 90's. So we've had problems dealing with those people for several years.
You seen the big DOT plans for Hwy 19 from I26 to Burnsville.
Seems we are running out of gasoline but need more roads. Since we keep the ones we have up so well. A new amazing cut at the Yancy line deeper than the I26 cut
or the Beaucatcher cut in Asheville.
Let's keep swinging our screen buckets and maybe we can dip this pond dry someday.

GULAHIYI said...

Actually, I was on that stretch of Hwy 19 just a few weeks ago, and folks, let me tell you...

It had been several months since the previous time I'd been there, and I was alarmed to see all the houses and businesses that had been moved out to make room for the expanded Highway 19. It will be unrecognizable by the next time I drive through there.

I hadn't thought about the Yancey Cut, but I'll bet that will be a big scar. RE: "running out of gasoline AND needing more roads?"

We live in SUCH a logical country, don't we?

Chuck Connors said...

Now you've gone and done it! Those Marionites are going to be comin' for your cojones! If I were you I'd keep a sharp eye out for those Mt. Olivites too! Before it's all over you're gonna need a couple of us to be your body guards. Hmm, maybe President Bush could spare you a couple of his boys. Nah. There's too many of us folks that got a bone to pick with him don't ya think!

Rae said...

Maybe if you had a more positive attitude when coming to Marion you wouldn't have such a problem with it. How about next time you come by you eat at a place like Little Sienna restaurant or go to the Crooked Door Coffee House on Main Street or visit the Old Train Station where former President Clinton recently spoke in support of Hilary's campaign or go to Lake James State Park,The Carson House or Linville Caverns and Linville Falls.

Anonymous said...

Bantam Chef is one of the best places to eat in marion, you ignorant ass. You should really get to know a counties people and food before you decide your too good for it. My mother in law works there and we love to eat there. Maybe you should keep your happy ass in california or keep your rude comments to yourself.

Anonymous said...

HAHA, I'm a Marionite (transplanted) and yeah we tend to stare but don't let that fooled you- oops, too late. Being Asian, Marion beats all the places I've been to (N, S, Mid-west) and lived in (MI, GA). I'm still trying to figure out how in the heck a hick town like this can be so much more than first impression. Maybe it was those greasy gyros from the Bantam Chef, I never did much cared for BLT from any restaurant, anyhow. Yeah, the folks here is a bit backwoods nostalgia, but that is how I like it.

Anonymous said...

I live in Marion and for the most part, people will be friendly to your face but they dont accept any form of outsiders and they do all seem to have that same look about them. Like they hate life and can't understand why anyone ever smiles. Maybe its the inbreeding, not sure but its a dying town, that's for certain. Now that the liquior law finally got passed now though, hopefully some new blood and businesses can make a place here and give people a place to go, something to do and hopefully something to smile to about instead of the daily condemning people to hell if they are different. Not bitter, just tired. Been here a while, like the weather but most of the people I don't especially care for. I keep to myself, stay home and smile all day! :) dont go to that coffee shop, crooked sux, they have dogs running around up there that bite and get hair in the coffe and cheesecake. :P damn repubilcans.

Anonymous said...

Restaurant Reviews of Bantam Chef

The owner has a bad attitude! written by Technolust
Last visited this restaurant on March 17, 2008

This place looks nice on the outside, but I was eating there and the owner i think his name is tony... started screaming at a customer. come to find out that there was what looked like a pubic hair in someones mayonaise. He is a very rude man as he screamed at this little old lady. my sister worked there and he likes to have relations with the femal empoloyees. the bathrooms are not very clean and as he makes the sauces and stuff he tests them by licking his fingers then sticking them back in the food. that is a fact. this business should not be open and the man that owns it should have to go back to where he is from. the woman that he screamed at was just an old lady. someone should do something about that place. DO NOT EAT AT THIS MAKE SHIFT DINER.

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Anonymous said...

I am planning to move to Marion, NC in three weeks. Now I am not sure I want to! I had this image that the people were friendly, and it was a nice place to move...If anyone can tell me something positive please do!!

Bonnie said...

"I’m not welcome in Marion, North Carolina."

You ARE a little brighter than you seem at first glance, aren't you?

Since you realize the truth that you're not welcome maybe you will now be bright enough to stay the hell out!