For This Special Occasion I Took My Daughter to Dinner at the White House
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After my kids dad died, one of the very best decisions I made was to institute “Date Nights.” Once a month each child scored one-on-one time with mom and we explored many low budget fun ways to enjoy each other’s company. Once in a while, usually upon reaching a milestone or having something special to celebrate, we would splurge and exceed our standard $10 budget.
It was June, one of my girls had completed a difficult school year successfully and I wanted to honor her hard work. I scraped together extra money and decided to take her to the restaurant that was a favorite of both myself and my husband. The last time I had been here was when we celebrated our anniversary the year before he passed away so the place held bittersweet memories.
I didn’t tell her where we were going, although it wouldn’t have mattered. She had never been there before, and as a Greek food enthusiast, I knew she would love it.
“White House Grill,” she read the sign as I parked. “Are we really going to the White House?” she laughed. “I’m going to tell the kids, we ate at the White House for my date!”
“Well, you wouldn’t be lying.” Getting out of the car, I sized up the line outside the door. “I hope we don’t have to wait too long.” Turning to my daughter, “Don’t worry. Even If we do, it is SO worth it. You’re going to love this place.”
The door swung open as we approached and a uniformed gentleman with a strong Mediterranean accent greeted us. “Welcome to the White House. We have about a 30 minute wait,” he glanced briefly at my daughter and then the bar before continuing, “may I have your name?” I gave my name and we stepped back outside to enjoy the mild spring weather.
“This is where daddy and I liked to come for our anniversary,” I smiled at her. “It was daddy’s very favorite restaurant.”
“Why have I never been here before then?”
“Well, it's a bit out of my budget. But, I wanted to really celebrate your accomplishments from this year, so I thought this would be special.”
“I can smell the garlic out here,” she commented. Inhaling deeply, I agreed and smiled, “It’s what they are known for. ALL the garlic!”
It seemed like no time before they called us. Entering the dim foyer, I paused momentarily, filling my senses and memory. The smell, the sounds, the ambiance. It was exactly as it had been that June several years prior. The hostess led us skillfully through the crowded rooms. As she approached the table where we had sat on our last visit, I felt both sad and relieved when she kept going. We followed her through several small areas filled with enthusiastic guests reveling in the rich fare and great company. Certain, I would never find the bathroom never mind my way back out of here, I was pleased with her choice of table for us. Nestled in a corner at a tiny elegantly adorned table, I sat with my back to the wall. Barely 2 feet from our table there was a larger party and we almost felt like we were part of their boisterous conversation. This was not a problem and I smiled and nodded a greeting as we seated ourselves. Closest to us was a very small child, likely less than 2 years old, and having left my own 2 year old home, it was pleasant to enjoy his antics without the responsibility of managing them.
We enjoyed ourselves, taking our time to order and eat. Though cognizant of funds, we each ordered the Shepherd Salad which is simple but they do it perfectly. I have since compiled this recipe many times at home but somehow theirs’ is just a wee bit better, maybe it is because I didn’t have to do all the chopping. Living high tonight we also both partook of Zuppa, or soup, I am always a sucker for French Onion Soup and it doesn’t get better than the White House’s delicious rendition. From their menu: “Oven-baked with our house made baguette, provolone and parmesan cheese.” It did not disappoint. I talked my daughter into a bowl as well.
Saving room for the main course, I settled for their amazing marinated Souvlaki, two lamb kabobs and a veggie skewer served over a bed of tasty rice. It also came with a side of garlic green beans and honestly, I would have been happy with only a heaping plate of these little delicacies.
Slightly cautious, my daughter chose a Gyro. It was messy and delicious at once and she took half of it home with her.
Enjoying a leisurely meal, we talked and laughed and cast many sidelong though humored glances at the little one next door. It seemed that one of the guests at that table was a priest probably of the young family’s parish, and their talk centered around a variety of church events and happenings. At one point the smallest guest grabbed his mother’s drink covering their table and the floor between us. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” the mother was flustered and embarrassed.
“It’s fine. No worries,” I assured her, scooting my feet closer to the wall just to be safe, “I have 5 kids.” I smiled at her. “It happens. Don’t worry.” She seemed relieved and the waitress deftly and pleasantly had it all cleaned up in no time. The overall mood of the room was jovial yet relaxed. This is the memory I have of every visit there. Many people crowded in fairly tightly, loudly enjoying great food, with equal amounts of garlic and camaraderie.
Did I mention the garlic?
We did finish the meal by sharing probably the only thing on the menu that did not contain garlic. Baklava. Though I have never met a baklava I didn’t love, this one is above them all. Each bite practically melted as it was consumed and I almost wished we had ordered one each. Pushing the last bite towards my daughter, I breathed deeply. Contented with the meal, the company and the memories.
The wait staff here are very attentive and it did catch me by surprise that they did not promptly bring us our bill. We were enjoying each other’s company, but I did have little ones at home and after polishing off two additional glasses of ice water, I finally flagged our waiter. “That was amazing. I think we are ready to head out, if you could please bring the check.” He hesitated. “Your bill was already paid for.” He must have read my surprise. Turning towards the neighboring table he gestured to the priest. “These guests wanted to cover your evening.”
“Oh my goodness. Thank you, so much.” I was flustered and a bit tongue tied. “You are very kind. And you don’t know what a blessing this is. Thank you.” My daughter also expressed her appreciation and the family all smiled and offered gracious pleasantries. “Have a wonderful evening.”
“Thank you again.”
Finding our way first to the restroom, and then our car, we were full.
Full of delicious food.
Full of the joy of spending time together.
Full of the affirmation of goodness in humanity.