Driving along route 81, the change of seasons painted a vivid cornucopia of brown, orange and red hues glistening against the azure sky. The endless dotted line highway seemed to mock my weary body as the miles stretched before us. The much needed respite beckoned like an oasis in the desert as we veered right off of 81 North in search of food and fuel. The fuel stop was the easy part, but where oh where was the food we sorely craved.
As we exited route 81 we noticed two well know fast food franchises but the greasy draw of those establishments left much to be desired. We drove down the main drag for about ¾ of a mile without any success. As we did an abrupt U-turn I noticed an appetizing sign out of the corner of my eye. Now, being a foodie, I do have an eclectic palate but my taste buds are somewhat discriminating; In this case when hunger dictated it was worth a try.
We tried the first door and it was locked, not a good sign. We walked about 10 feet and realized the main door was about 4 more feet to the right. As we opened the door, to our surprise, it was if we entered a time machine catapulting us back to the 1950s.
At first glance, it was impossible to take in all of the amazing antiques and throwbacks to the 1950-1960 era. Amy Taylor, the proprietor of the cafe greeted us warmly. Her attention to detail and her love of antiques were evident. As my eyes rested on an overhang sign located right above the chalkboard menu, I smiled as I read “A Stranger When You Arrive , A Friend When You Leave” isn’t that what we all want in life, to make good friends along the way?
Experiencing Cup-A-Jo is like spending the afternoon in a museum, albeit on a much smaller scale. Many of the tables and chairs are reminiscent of the kitchen tables and chairs my friends and I had growing up in Brooklyn so many years ago. Backgammon and checker sets adorned the tables for all who might want to extend their lunch hour relaxing over a game. No rush.
A sign for 25 cent coffee hung prominently on the side wall, in steep contrast to today’s $5.00 cups of coffee many of us readily pay. A blue antique radio looked familiar. White enamel pots and wash basins were placed on red distressed shelves for all to see. Kerosene lamps, tea pots and coffee pots from days gone by rounded out the collection. A rotary beige telephone was a reminder that there was life before smart phones. A big black wood burning stove with cooking coils on top sat in the middle of the store begging to be used.
Reluctantly, our meandering around the shop was interrupted as we finally sat down to some good old fashioned lunch. Hearty vegetable soups and tuna melt sandwiches hit the spot for two of us. A grilled cheese sandwich, which is my favorite comfort food, was made to perfection.
As we resumed our journey north, we could not help but feel grateful for this unexpected detour back to a time and place of wonderful childhood memories and emotions. As we merged onto 81 North, we knew one thing for sure; we’d be back.