Friday, September 4, 2015

Flashback Friday: Restaurants & Youth Ministry

Happy Flashback Friday! Over the years my youth groups visited many fine restaurants- and a whole bunch of not so fine ones as well! Each time you take a group of teenagers into a restaurant, you can see the fear on the faces of the employees and patrons. They expect mayhem, wildness and no tips. We always tried to surprise them and make our time there as much fun for them as it was for us. Today I take a look back at 12 places that were favorites of various groups for a variety of reasons. All of them share one thing in common; we were always invited back. I had the best students anyone could ever ask for! So here are 12 great memories:

12)  The Jade Dragon-  Located only a block from Union Church in Hinsdale, IL, this great little Chinese place was a regular stop for meetings, lunches with students and SHO-Time. We had a great meal there one night with the gang from Spooky Tuesday and had my farewell dinner there as well.

11)  Sonic Drive-In-  In both Tampa and Waycross we used a Sonic for a summer program called Happy Hour. I would go sit at the tables outside and spend several hours greeting students, playing cards and drinking Cherry Limeaids. It was always a great time of relationship building, and I miss those very hot summer days!

10)  Captain John's Seafood-  I picked this fine Calabash restaurant (a favorite since my own youth group days) to represent all of the seafood restaurants we visited in the Myrtle Beach area over the years, including the all-you-can-eat places (pictured) we favored in the later years. Special memories include Lisa Kraus destroying an entire army of crab legs and the night I discovered half of the Springfield group didn't like seafood.  Not included in this list is White's Point (inside joke for my oldest buddies!).

  9)  The Roadhouse Grill/Rio Bravo-  These two Kissimmee restaurants were favorite SHO-Time spots, and we ate at both on many occasions. We loved the queso at Rio and the bread and throwing peanut shells on the floor at Roadhouse, and both places knew us well. Later on a Roadhouse in Clearwater became a favorite of the Wesley Memorial group. None of those three restaurants are still in business. I blame myself...

  8)  Dick's Wings-  This wonderful wing house became the home of our 5th Quarter "after football" events in Waycross, which drew big crowds of students on Friday nights. You had to beware of Dick's Special Sauce- it was lethal!

  7)  The Beaches & Cream Soda Shoppe-  Located at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort, this place serves great hamburgers and hot dogs- but no one cares! They have some of the most amazing ice cream creations anywhere, and we visited often, as tourists from Springfield and as locals from Kissimmee and Tampa. This was the home of the Kitchen Sink, and the much-missed Disney Dash Ice Cream Bash event. 

  6)  The Fireworks Factory-  Another out-of-business restaurant and the second in a trilogy of Disney eateries, we only had two meals there with youth groups. The first already received its own post, and you can read it by clicking here. The second was the night Marilyn and I informed everyone on the Springfield Alumni Trip in December of 1994 that she was pregnant. A very special place.

  5)  The Cape May Cafe-  On long trips or just going over for the morning, there was no place quite like Cape May when it came to breakfast.  Both the Springfield and FUMC-K groups got to experience the wonder of this all-you-can-eat buffet that never ceases to amaze.  Plus you get to share the meal with Chip, Dale, Goofy and other Disney stars!  Located in Disney's Beach Club Resort, this one is still open for business!

  4)  Lee Gardens-  Located near Wesley Memorial in Tampa, this Chinese buffet was host to us on so many occasions, and they never failed to show us a great time. To this day when I walk in with just Marilyn they are stunned, and ask "Only 2?" Best egg drop soup ever!

3)  Carmine's-  This Manhattan establishment has the feel of something straight out of The Godfather. It is a great place under any circumstance; to go there with a large group simply defies description (especially when I got to order everything in advance!). The service, the sheer amount of food, and the desserts are all amazing. We didn't find this place until Jill Painter's Aunt Gerry took us there in the late '90's; we didn't ever miss a chance to go there after that!

2)  Kyotos-  Many of my former students will be stunned to see this come in at #2.  After all, no place spanned as many years of my ministry as did this Japanese steakhouse. While at Springfield, we discovered one in Greensboro, NC, and began to plan regular group events there. It became tradition for me to take youth there to celebrate their 16th birthdays. When we moved to Kissimmee, we discovered one in Longwood (just north of Orlando; see picture) and began regular pilgrimages, often with huge groups of teens. Later, we discovered one in Myrtle Beach and ate there with both the Wesley Memorial and FUMC-K groups. So many stories, so many memories and so much food! Also have to give a quick shout out to Kado Japanese in Tampa, which also hosted many a memorable meal!

  1)  Pizza Inn-  Although we ate at Kyotos many times over many years, for shear quantity nothing came close to Pizza Inn in High Point, NC. It has so much meaning to so many people who were a part of the Springfield Friends Meeting youth ministry (see The Ministry of Pizza Inn), partly because at least a portion of us ate there every week- at least once a week!  No other restaurant ever had as much impact on my ministry, and we had a pretty major impact on them as well. Congrats, Pizza Inn- you are still #1!!!

So there it is- I would love to hear your thoughts on oversights and omissions from this list. And thanks to so many of you for making theses memories so wonderful! 

Because of Jesus,

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