I stared into my own eyes, exhaling as I took in my reflection.
“This is going pretty well,” I thought without breaking my gaze. “Now just don’t mess it up.”
I didn’t need to use the bathroom, but I’d needed a quick pep talk. I took another deep breath, checked my teeth though I hadn’t been eating, and reached for the door. I could see her in the corner booth across the room and tried to walk calmly, confidently around the L-shaped bar back to my seat by her side.
I’d been too intimidated to ask Kacie out on a “real” date. We hadn’t spent much time together, but I was already enamored. I knew from mutual friends that she was strong, independent, and didn’t suffer fools. A direct approach felt too risky. So when I asked her if she wanted to grab a drink, I did it in a roundabout, very twenty-something way, telling Kacie I thought she was “rad” and suggesting we become friends.
When she accepted, I needed somewhere that wouldn’t detract from the experience but that also wouldn’t seem like I was trying too hard to impress her. I quickly landed on Lindley Park Filling Station.
This being Lindley Park, the restaurant exudes a casualness that feels intentional. The owners, some of Greensboro’s most successful restaurateurs, knew what they were doing with the bar, patio, and everything between.
Kacie and I had showed up at 9 p.m., and by the time I gave myself a pep talk, we were a couple drinks in. We’d fallen into easy conversation, both having just watched the finale of the same TV show. I knew to ask about the ’90s one-hit wonder she’d seen dozens of times, and we laughed easily as we traded stories of teenaged rebellion. It seemed we possessed natural chemistry, and we unintentionally closed down the bar at midnight. We lingered outside in the parking lot as the staff locked up. I thought about kissing her, but didn’t. Not yet.
Months later, when Kacie decided she wanted me to meet her mom, we picked the Filling Station. Neither of us lived nearby, but it seemed like an ideal middle ground, a comforting-yet-unimposing backdrop with something for everyone.
The Filling Station is, in many respects, the perfect neighborhood restaurant. The quality is consistent, the beer selection is strong, and while the Madison Avenue sandwich with sweet potato chips has served as my go-to order for close to a decade, the whole menu delivers.
Kacie and I never ended up becoming regulars. We’d drop in for brunch on the patio, taking advantage of the drink specials and ordering the shrimp and grits. We’d swing by for a drink after eating pizza or a burger across the street. You could never count on finding us there, which was part of the reason we liked it. It offered familiar escape, like a timeshare.
Once, though, in that first year, we carried out a hushed but heated lunchtime argument at one of the window-side high tops. Our skilled servers maneuvered around us, never letting on that they could hear every word from behind the bar. We took a long walk around the neighborhood afterwards, and I thought that might be the end for us.
But it wasn’t. Almost five years later, Kacie and I live in Brooklyn. We’re getting married next summer. We come back to Greensboro regularly because it’s her home, and after a dozen years in the Gate City, it’s partially mine, too. Despite frequenting other restaurants more often while we lived here, the Filling Station is one of the very few spots we consistently visit when we return — partly because of nostalgia, but more importantly, because it became a sort of home, too.