I am often asked what my favorite restaurant in town is. It’s an impossible question to answer. There are too many excellent places to eat here and what I think is wonderful in a restaurant might be a total turnoff to someone else. I have a penchant for dives, messy food, sketchy neighborhoods, unpronounceable names, and I don’t care a bit about décor if the food makes me drool. For me, it’s all about the food and the love I feel from the people who make it. If the love’s not there, the food’s not good.
I do, however, have one restaurant that I love above all others, The Old Mill Tasty Shop. When I walk in I am treated like family. This is not a cliché. Mary Wright, the owner, gave me my first job when I arrived here twenty-some years ago. She referred me to Larkspur where I worked as chef. She sheltered and fed me and introduced me and in general has been like another mother to me and my family. My sister had her wedding at the Old Mill. Mary and her family have been my ballast for my entire career. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the Wrights.
Most people have been to the Old Mill Tasty Shop at least once if they live in the area. It’s a real old-fashioned soda fountain, complete with working antique fixtures. They serve lunch-counter sandwiches that are simple and classic. The chicken salad is a creamy, mayonnaise-laden delight that can send you back in time. They also serve blue-plate specials like spicy enchiladas or chicken-fried chicken that are rich and comforting. The ice-cream drinks are just as they should be, mixed to order and served with long spoons in heavy glasses. I order the banana split with extra hot fudge.
True hospitality is something that comes from generosity, love, and genuine good will. It can’t be faked. That’s what makes a great restaurant in my book, and the Old Mill Tasty Shop is the real deal.