Tag Archives: reviews

Local Paragons XIII: West End Cafe

West End Café is a beautiful staple in the Winston Salem downtown community, located in the West End of downtown at 926 West 4th Street. The food is simply delightful—I personally recommend their salads. They have a wide variety. But, you really can’t go wrong with a sandwich ( a GREAT Rueben). It may be small, but I think that may be what is so great about it. There is nothing quite like a quiet meal with friends at West End—food, ambiance, and fun.

Food                                                   Local Color

<3  <3  <3  <3                                       <3  <3  <3  <3  <3

The sunshine reflected off the water in the koi pond in front of the West End Café. Light reflecting, dancing, almost in celebration—a well deserved celebration, Lucy thought as she stared at it thoughtfully. Her eyes shifted to her own reflection in the windows, just beneath the yellow bold faced lettering. There was sadness reflected there, but hope as well.

She knew she shouldn’t be sad.

Lucy reached up to touch the scarf that covered her head.

The surgery was successful. The tumor, benign.

And yet…

Which is why she was here, meeting Rebekah. She hadn’t seen the woman since that day at Krankies. Before her life had turned upside down—or rather inside out, as it now felt.

She reached up and touched the scarf again. Then sighed.

At least she was out of the hospital.

She turned to see Rebekah coming up the steps. Her floor length lacy white dress made her look almost bridal, though the sun hat added a distinctly southern touch. Lucy smiled, sadly.

She touched her scarf again.

“Lucy, you look darling,” Rebekah said, reaching down to pull her up by both her hands. “I can’t believe how well you’ve recovered. You’d never even guess!”

“Well, I think there are a few signs.”

“Oh tish-tosh,” Rebekah laughed. “I’m so glad you called. I have been praying for you, and now I know why you’ve been on my heart so much. I can’t even imagine going through all that—and yet here you are!” She pointed to Lucy with flourish, her hat now askew. Lucy colored, and looked away.

Rebekah smiled. “Come,” she said. “Let’s eat.”

Together they walked into the restaurant. The friendly staff seated them in the back where they, to Lucy’s relief, could eat and chat with some privacy.

Not that they needed privacy, but Lucy felt self-conscious in public. Always now.  Maybe forever.

And now she didn’t know what to say.

Not that she didn’t know what she wanted to say. She just didn’t know how to begin now that she had the opportunity.

They ordered their meal. Rebekah got the Veggie Burger Delight while Lucy stuck with the classic Shrimp Po-Boy, one of her favorites from the West End.

“You look great, but how are you, really?” Rebekah asked when the waiter had filled their waters and disappeared. “It can’t be easy, dealing with news—earth shatter good and bad all at once.”

“I don’t know,” Lucy sighed. “Everyone keeps asking me that and  I don’t know how I am. I’m happy I’m not dying,  I guess. Sad it happened at all, but most of all I think I’m angry.”

“Angry?” Rebekah lifted a brow. “Why?”

Lucy shrugged.

“May I?”

Lucy nodded. It was, after all, why she called this virtual stranger and not Katie or Susie.

“The whole human race has an anger problem and we all get angry for different reasons—but in your case I think you may be angry for one of two reasons: One, because your control was threatened or two because it happened to you and you don’t feel like you deserved it.”

Lucy visibly started. “Did I deserve it?”

“I didn’t say that.” Lucy opened her mouth, but Rebekah continued. “I said you were angry because you believe you didn’t deserve it. That’s a different statement altogether, but I think we’ve hit on why you’re angry. That seems to have hit a nerve.”

“Well, wouldn’t you be angry if someone just told you that—“

“Remember, I didn’t say you deserved it,” Rebekah smiled. “But we live in a broken world, and because of that brokenness, death and sickness is inevitable. It’s not that you deserve sickness, Lucy, exactly, but more like we all deserve death and ultimately destruction because of our separation from truth and life. It’s what happened to the world in the very beginning when we gave up ignorance and paradise for death and ‘the knowledge of good and evil’. We got knowledge, sure, but we also got evil. Death. Sickness. So, no it’s not that you deserve it, but the world does and we have to accept that we’re a part of that sickness—even the good people of the world.”

“That’s depressing,” Lucy picked at the napkin on her table. “And doesn’t help my anger issues.”

“Well, that’s just one part. The hope part comes with the healing or the medicine. What God did for us even though we screwed everything up, he made a way for us to be healed, to have life again. He sent Christ to us. He sent Jesus to die for us and take away the sickness and the death and the evil that overwhelmed the world. That’s not a healing we deserve, but it’s a healing we were granted. It’s a healing we’re offered—and it’s the only healing that’s permeant. These bodies that we’re in—they’re decaying. In one way or another they’re dying, but they’re not hopeless.”

“But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever get sick again.”

“No,” Rebekah shook her head sadly.

“Then what’s the point?” Lucy tossed the silverware she’d been fidgeting with on the table.

“Hope,” Rebekah reached over and covered Lucy’s hand with her own. Lucy felt tears prick at her eyes as the warmth transferred from one hand to another. “Do you mind if I pray for you?”

Lucy nodded her head; she didn’t trust her voice.

“Father, you know Lucy’s heart right now. You know how scared she is, and how brave she is. Please show her that she’s not alone. That You love her, that You are there for her and that no matter what happens in the future that You will always offer hope. Open her heart to You. Amen.”

“Thank you,” Lucy murmured. It was all she could manage through the muddle of her emotions. She didn’t know if she believed everything Rebekah told her—but she was willing to listen to more. She would even talk to Saul about it—and that was a step in the right direction.

And for now, that was enough. *

*This is where Lucy’s story ends, for now. If you have suggestions or comments about Lucy I’d love to hear them! Look for a new Installment of Local Paragons: Camden! Coming soon!

Ashley Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow a Christian Romance which can be purchased at www.secondwind.com or Amazon. Follow Ashley on twitter @amcarmichael13 and Facebook.

Local Paragons IX: Fourth Street Filling Station

Fourth Street Filling Station is quintessential Winston Salem. Whenever someone comes to visit me from out of town. This is the first place I want to take them to eat. It captures the essence of Old Winston and the beauty of modern Winston. The food is just, well, wonderful. If you have a chance to eat on the patio, take it—it’s the way to experience Winston on a deeper and authentic level to which few places can stake a claim. Most recently I had a wrap which I couldn’t eat enough of (rarely do I eat every last bite of something—not even a church mouse would get a morsel off this plate!). But I have never eaten a single dish I didn’t love.

Food: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3                                                      Local Color: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Lucy settled in at the table across from Saul. They hadn’t been out in over a week, and when he had suggested meeting at Fourth Street Filling Station, she’d hesitated. Not because of the food—she loved the food, but because of what happened. She hadn’t been back since that night, and as she sat across from Saul watching  stray blossom fall from the tree overhead and land on the table between them, she wondered if it was a good idea.

A smile settled on her tight lips for the first time; she tried to relax though she could still feel her pulse coursing through her bottom lip as she chewed on the inside of it.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Luce?” Saul asked for the second time now.

Lucy was not okay. Her mouth was dry. Her eye had started to twitch.

“I’m fine,” she pulled the water across the table; the scraping sound sounded loud. She took a sip, and looked around the patio. Nothing had changed. The same bricks, unevenly lay across the ground. The koi pond was still stocked with fish fattened by ill-disciplined younger patrons constantly throwing bits of bread into the water in between courses. The trees forming a canopy over the wrought iron trellis deadened the noise from the street so Lucy could vaguely hear the fish splashing. Still, the street noise duly loomed in the back of her skull—beating a rhythm of underlying assault.

“Something is on your mind,” Saul stated. He buttered a piece of bread and handed it to her. She took it, staring at, but not really seeing it. Picking up another piece, Saul buttered another piece for himself, and chewed as he silently studied her from across the table.

“I haven’t been here since it happened.” Lucy’s voice sounded far off. She didn’t even feel like it belonged to her as she spoke.

The screeching on the pavement—tires, rubber burning—it all sounded so loud in her head. Lucy was holding on to his waist—then she wasn’t. Above her was the night sky, blinking back at her. Something wet, sticky and thick rolled down her face. Blood.

People shouted.

Lucy sat up. Her head protested. So did her arm, twisted unnaturally beneath her, but she ignored it as she saw him. Crushed. Bent beneath the twisted metal of the bike. He was motionless. So much blood.

And then the screaming started. It hurt her ears. Who was screaming?

“Lucy!” Saul was trying to get her attention, but Lucy was still screaming—the restaurant was now all staring, silent.

In the next moment, Luzy’s eyes rolled to the top of her head and she would have fallen out of her seat if Saul hadn’t acted quickly. His own chair hit the pavement behind him as he lunged for Lucy, catching and easing her to the ground as she began.

“She’s seizing,” he said, medical training overriding emotions. “Call 9-1-1.” He turned her slightly to the side, and supported her head. There was nothing else he could do.

“Should we do something to keep her from choking?” A waiter asked, squatting next to him, phone in hand.

“She’ll be fine. Just get her to Baptist,” Saul’s authoritative tone was all the man needed. He nodded, and dialed.

Saul looked down at Lucy, wondering what she’d seen in the moments before she’d had her seizure. Hallucinating? Maybe. Definitely not cognizant of her surroundings for three, maybe five minutes. He swallowed hard, looking down at his watch nervously, trying not to worry about the woman he was afraid he may be falling in love with.

Local Paragons VIII: Krankies Coffee

Krankies Coffee is located at 211 East Third Street in Downtown Winston Salem, North Carolina (though there is a secondary location on Reynolda Road). Stocking, selling and re-selling specialty, high quality coffees, Krankies keeps Winston Salem honest about local brews and “support[s] farmers that forgo industrial agricultural and processing practices for lower impact methods that support soil health.”

Local Color: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3                    Food/drink: <3 <3 <3

  The door was propped open, allowing the crisp spring air to accompany Lucy into the dark coffee house where she had decided to take her mid-morning planning session. It was further down Fourth Street than Camino, but she doubted that Saul would be at Krankies this time of day and what she wanted right now was to be alone.

“What can I get for you?” the slightly bohemian barista slunk behind the counter and looked at Lucy through half closed eyelids.

“Americano,” she said. Today she would keep it simple.

“Right on,” he said slurring the two syllables into one mumbled monosyllabic response. Lucy paid with a five, then stuffed her change in her pocket and headed toward the back. Though the coffeehouse had been under construction for months, the room was taking on a nice shape, and perfect for getting work done—which is what Lucy needed to do.

She had been working for over an hour when the woman approached her asking simply, “May I borrow this chair, sweetheart?”

Lucy looked around and noticed the room had filled, but the woman clearly just wanted a place to read. Lucy nodded, then went back to her work as the woman took a seat, her long, flowing skirt settling around her ankles as she settled in to read. Purple fabric stood out against the wooden chairs, the peacock feather motif made Lucy feel as though a dozen eyes were probing at her as she worked. She tried not to look at the striking woman, but her gaze kept wandering to the other end of the small table. Her wrists were covered in silver bangles, resting solidly against her soft, wrinkled skin. The peasant blouse she wore tied in the front, and flowed as easily as her skirt, but this was nothing compared to her hair. Not just grey, but a brilliant silver, it fell in a silky cascade from the top of her skull all the way down her back so that she was almost but not quite sitting on it.

“You look like you need to talk,” the woman’s voice interrupted Lucy’s thoughts again.

“I beg your pardon?” Lucy looked at her, blushing and hoping the other woman hadn’t noticed her staring.

“You’ve been looking at the same page in your notebook even before I sat down. Something else must be on your mind.” Her book was still open, but she studied Lucy with eyes that nearly took up her entire face.

“I suppose,” Lucy began, thinking as she spoke. “I suppose I do have a lot on my mind, but I’m not really sure I’m ready to talk about it. Honestly, I came here so I wouldn’t have to talk about it.” She’d been avoiding Chris, and though she’d gone out with Saul once this week she was exhausted.

“Fair enough,” the woman nodded as she spoke. “But the offer is open if you change your mind.” And she went back to her book.

Lucy tried to concentrate on her own work.

“You know the last time I traveled overseas I took this same book with me. Didn’t get very far that time either.” The woman shut the book firmly. “I’m Rebekah.”

“Lucy,” she turned in her chair, resigning herself to the conversation and almost relieved. “Did you say you were traveling overseas?”

“Yes,” Rebekah nodded, the long slivery earrings jangling as she nodded her head. “I just got back from my last pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

“Jerusalem?” Lucy’s brow lifted, impressed. “That sounds pretty much amazing.”

“Have you been?”

“To Jerusalem?” Lucy asked. Rebekah nodded, and Lucy shook her head. “Not me. I’ve never been anywhere.”

“You’re young,” Rebekah said, patting her hand. “You have plenty of time to see things like the Western Wall where my people gather each day to pray, swarming together as if of one mind, asking Yahweh to heal our troubled world.”

“That’s lovely,” Lucy said. “And haunting. It makes my life seem so insignificant—petty even.”

“No one’s life is petty, Lucy, but how you live it. Now that’s where you start feeling alive. And faith, real faith, has a lot to do with that.” Rebekah smiled, taking a sip of her coffee, then looking down into it she pursed her lips. “It’s kind of like this coffee. Everyone thinks Starbucks is the real deal when it comes to coffee, but it’s really too commercialized to be authentic anymore. It holds a shadow of what it once was. Don’t get me wrong, Lucy. Starbucks still tastes good, but it is too sugary and marked up to be real. Faith, true faith, is like coffee from a local place—authentic and earthy; you order a shot of espresso here and you feel something. It’s pressed straight and not watered down or sugared up. That’s what real faith is like. An authentic espresso is so strong it keeps you awake at night, makes your heart palpitate, and widens your eyes. Faith should do the same.”Lucy looked down at her espresso; the foam was circling the top of the cup.

“I can’t have that kind of faith,” Lucy said quietly. “My—friend—Saul, you know, we’ve had similar conversations. But I just, well I just can’t.”

Rebekah pushed up the sleeves of her peasant blouse and crossed her arms over her chest. She rested her hands on the table to study Lucy.

“God doesn’t, well, he doesn’t care about us—well at least not about me.”

“Where did you get a notion like that from, darlin’?” Rebekah looked genuinely concerned. Lucy swirled the espresso in her drink.

Lucy thought it was strange that Rebekah didn’t ask about Saul. She didn’t really want Rebekah to ask about Saul. She didn’t really want to talk at all.

“That’s alright,” Rebekah said. “You don’t have to say anything. But I want you to know how wrong you are—people don’t want to hear that, but God does love you, honey. Just remember that whatever happened to make you think otherwise is, well, is just a lie.”

Blinking, Lucy opened and closed her mouth, unable to respond.

“There I go again, my bluntness can be somewhat—“

“No, no,” Lucy shook her head. “I’m not of-offended. I just, I don’t really know what to say, Rebekah. I don’t, well you see, I don’t even know you.”

“Understandable,” she looked at her watch. Lucy noticed it was vintage Betty Boop. “How about we meet again? Let’s say—West End Café? In a week? Here’s my card.” She slid it across the table.

Lucy picked it up, studied it and then looked at Rebekah again. Nothing but sincerity shone back from her beautifully aged eyes.

“Okay,” she said, nodding her head. “Does 11:30 work for you?”


Do you leave reviews?

Some people are fastidious about leaving reviews for people and products while others brush it off as a superfluous social construct and “I just don’t have time for that.”

We’re all busy, but think about the reviews you’ve read on a product or book. Did it help you in making a decision? Chances are, at least once, you’ve allowed a review to influence your decision making process. On the whole, reviews have become necessary in a world built on competition.

So, how do you give a review without allowing it to take up too much of your time?

Personally, I prefer reviews that are to the point anyway. Too much detail and I either stop reading the review or become uninterested in the product. Not ideal. Here are the steps I use:

  • Rate the product honestly

I know this sounds “duh”, but often reviews are not honest to one extreme or another. I find that I’m much more interested in products and books that have a variety of ratings. Straight 5 star ratings are just as suspicious to me as a one or two star rated product. Why? Because nothing is perfect. So unless you really think it’s worth five, be honest.

  • Don’t spend a lot of time summarizing

You’re not writing a book report, so keep the summarizing to a minimum. Summaries take the mystery out of the story for the readers and for products, there are already descriptions with each product! Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you must summarize, keep it short and sweet—a couple of sentences should be sufficient.

  • Identify your purpose—are you writing the review to rave? To point out a flaw? To offer criticism?

Once you know why you are writing your review, jump right in. People appreciate it when you get to the point quickly in a review.

  • Unless you actually are trying to point out that it’s the “best” or the “worst” ever. Avoid extremes in your language

Explain why you liked (or hated) the book or product, but also give examples and reasoning. I suggest trying to avoid spoilers, but using evidence proves that you weren’t just a friend or someone hired to write a review. In this way, the review takes on more meaning for the audience.

  • Avoid criticizing the author/creator. Stick to reviewing the product.

No need to mud-sling. People do have feelings. Reviewing the product is important and valuable, but stick to the product or book.

What process do you use to review? Do you have other suggestions?