The country makes me nervous. There's ... You got crickets and it-it's quiet ... there's no place to walk after dinner." -- Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), Annie Hall
I've had several dinners out downtown in recent weeks, and now that the weather has finally turned cold (and by cold, for Charleston that means the mercury dipping down into the 30s), I'm finding I'm enjoying dinners out even more than I usually do. Having on-premise parking is usually seen as a big plus for a restaurant, but lately I've noticed how much I enjoy that element of dining that you only get in a downtown setting: the walk to and from dinner.
There's just something wonderful about walking a few blocks to a restaurant when it's just gotten dark, and it's chilly enough outside to bite at your ears and make your toes a little cold, and the streets are just starting to pick up with the nighttime traffic.
You pick up the pace as you get within a block or two of your destination, because the wind's picking up and sneaking inside your collar, and your cheeks are starting to tingle a little. You get to the restaurant, pull open the big glass door, and step inside to a transformed world. It's a warm, well-lit room busting with people. They're laughing and enjoying themselves, swapping stories and telling jokes. And, more than anything else, there's that all-encompassing, splendid aroma of good food: roasted meats and seared fish and fresh-baked bread. It's one of the best smells in the world.
And, after dinner, that bracing four block or five block walk back to the car is delightful, too. It helps take the edge off the meal you just ate and the wine you just drank. You wouldn't want to hike several miles in the frigid night, but four or five blocks is just right. It leaves you, at the end of the night, happy and satisfied, with that peaceful sense that, for this evening at least, all is right with thw world.