Off Script: Where it feels like home

A portion of Main Street in downtown Winters is currently blocked off to serve as an outside eating area. Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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One thing that seems to bring people together is good food. And despite the changes in downtown Winters, the downtown business scene has always been a hub where friends, family, neighbors and community can gather together to enjoy good times over a meal with a drink in hand.

Food, memories and moments in time are not only nostalgic but also can bring great comfort to us.

There are a few things that I don’t remember the details of from high school due to fading memory and about 20 years of padding in between. However, my favorite things to order at Dean’s Frosty is so crisp I could probably order it in my sleep.

A mocha shake and a large order of French fries if anyone is curious.

The food probably wasn’t considered Michelin-starred quality, but I bet most anyone who frequented there could rattle off their top order, and possibly even recite the daily special of the day.

They can probably even close their eyes and recollect the smell of the burgers on the grill and the salt of the French fries.

I recently was sitting outside of Kountry Kitchen, waiting for a hefty order of burritos to bring home to my husband and sons. I wasn’t really paying much attention to other patrons going in and out of the building until I heard my name.

It turned out to be Victor Sanchez, a fellow Winters High School classmate who now lives out of town. We ended up waiting outside together, chatting and catching up since the last time I saw him about four years ago.

He had his son with him, and he said something that really made me think about why Winters is so special.

“It just feels like home,” Victor said.

It started a whole half-hour-long conversation about our favorite places to eat in Winters from high school, and to which places we’d go for what meal of the day.

Breakfast burritos as Kountry Kitchen, sandwiches at Lester Farms Bakery or Cody’s Deli, lunch specials at Pizza Factory, and more.

We talked about wanting to bring our kids to the places that we were able to, even if some aren’t quite the same as they had been.

It wasn’t a deep, enlightening conversation, but it sure felt good to reminisce.

Now as an adult, there are a lot of newer restaurants and places to sit down and enjoy a drink.

I’ve made new memories around tables with new friends and old friends and found new favorite meals and drinks to enjoy.

It also made me think about how special our community is when it comes to supporting our businesses.

Over the years a lot of places have closed down. Some changed owners or executive chefs.

We’ve even recently seen some of our favorite places, like the Scoop, close their doors under the stress the coronavirus is putting on our economy.

Yet our community is still going out full force to support who they can, when they can.

My guess is that this is because even the newest of restaurants and tasting rooms have made their mark in the heart of the community.

These business owners aren’t just there to sell us something. They have all immersed themselves in the community in one way or another.

Some volunteer, while others donate to schools and nonprofits. Some are owned by longtime Winters families, while others are newcomers who fell in love with Winters’ small-town charm. And some business owners and employees just make you feel at home when you walk in through their door.

In that same instant that I was visiting with Victor, I also saw Kevin Pisani bringing lunch back to the station across the street for everyone.

I also was stopped by a gentleman who was trying to figure out who I was and how he knew me. We decided it was from my few years of serving at Tomat’s.

I have lived in quite a few different places before moving back here. None of those places ever made me feel quite at home like I do here.

Maybe it’s because I did grow up here and I know a few people still. Or because I’m active in the community and have been known to have a meeting over a glass of wine.

I believe it’s this community though, and the environment it gives to businesses to really get a chance to know who their customers are.

We’ve been talked about as a destination for foodie and wine enthusiasts. And perhaps tourists do flock here on the weekends because of all the articles and press our town and businesses have been getting.

However, at the end of the day (or during the week), it’s our locals who are here supporting our downtown businesses.

And I’m willing to bet they’re not just there because they feel they have no other choice.

It’s because they like the food, they want to support the business owners, and it’s because they’re feeling at home and find some comfort in enjoying a good meal.

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