1808_ChezGenese

Jambon Beurre at Chez Genèse restaurant in Greensboro.

I wanted to enjoy lunch at a joint I’d never visited before and catch up with John. We used to work together but have gone our separate ways, each dealing with life and the curveballs it throws. We thought Godmother of Soul would be a great place. It was closed. Not just for the day — “Indefinitely,” said the person who answered the phone when I dialed the number posted in the restaurant’s window.

We resolved to check out Chez Genèse on South Elm. John’s daughter had been there, but he and I had not. It was on.

These days, South Elm Street is amazing compared to the boarded-up strip of storefronts that dominated when I moved here in 2006. There are so many compelling businesses to attract the casual observer: a barcade, distillery, taproom, museum, boutiques and communal workspaces.

Chez Genèse reminds me more of New Orleans than any place I have visited outside of the Crescent City. I know that its inspiration is French, but that once-removed translation is also what New Orleans is — a local interpretation of the City of Light.

Our lunch consisted of Jambon Beurre (ham and butter on a petite baguette), a homestyle chicken soup (oh, so comforting), Mache Salad (I have never encountered mache outside of fine-dining joints, owing to the short shelf life and delicate nature of the salad green). The hospitality was comforting and the service was delightful.

I couldn’t get over their confidence in serving French food, with French words on the menu, and the lunch line out the door. I know that Printworks Bistro avoided French words early on because they were worried that the fine folks of Greensboro would be intimidated by its foreignness. It amazes me how far Greensboro has progressed in such a brief window of time, to accept and embrace this differentness, a Frenchy outpost in the Deep South.

Our lunch was great. My Jambon Beurre was ample enough for two meals (and delicious both times). The chicken soup needed a touch of salt, but I’m a trained professional and I’ve got the blood pressure medication to prove it.

John tells me he and his daughter are doing well; she’s in an MBA program at UNC, he’s consulting with a few local entrepreneurs to improve local food offerings and kicking life in the rear.

Ultimately, the outcome of our lunch date was not altered by our chosen vittles; we would have been just as happy catching up and reminiscing at corporate monolith TGI-McChang’s. But the delightful meal and service added a warm fuzzy layer to the memories and the meeting; true hospitality doesn’t impose itself, but heightens what is already extant. More than recommending any hot new lunch spot, I would love to know that people are slowing down enough to talk to their family and friends over a meal, and just catch up.

Chef Jay Pierce tried to exist outside of a kitchen once. He’s more happy when cooking food and stringing together sentences.

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