I remember the first day I shlepped my computer to Milton’s Restaurant. Like many of the Java Dive regulars — each table there was/is another office for local writers, artists, professors, ne’er-do-wells and others who live by the motto “have-office-will-travel-to-coffeeshops” — I was devoted to continuing on at Java Dive. But Java Dive was owned by the same people who started Milton’s — Dave, Jean and Sula — and they wisely closed Java Dive for some renovations and just maybe to get us regulars to budge toward the new place.
We loved Milton’s at first bite — the French toast! The scones! The coffee! It was a seamless transition, and soon our motley crew settled into the new place. The regulars were such a thing unto ourselves that we actually bought a collective gift for the new restaurant: a lovely planter (complete with plant).By the time Java Dive re-opened, many of us were so settled in Milton’s that we embraced being in both places, paying our tasty rent with a coffee here, sandwich there.
In little time, Milton’s started getting a tad too busy to hang out in for hours, bent over a laptop, especially during the lunch rush. Many of us tucked our schedules around the restaurant accordingly, showing up during the slow times to take up a lot of space for as long as possible. The restaurant’s growing popularity started to be such a factor that we joked about setting up a red velvet roped-off section just for us. At some point, Milton’s simply got too darn popular for doing anything in but meeting friends for meal.
Now that Milton’s is closing — and yes, I know that Dave and Sula will be opening a new place that I will surely love — I can’t help but feel sad, kind of like I felt when Paradise closed. There are some places that are so much than what they appear to be, and Milton’s was such a place. It was where we met to change or save our lives, eat too much and laugh about it, share our biggest or smallest secrets, and find ourselves safely tucked into a booth of warmth and peace. In a sense, such places are like acupuncture points on the body: push in on them, and everything can come into alignment.
Here are some of my sweetest Milton’s memories:
- Long talks with the late Preston who, at the same time I was dealing with cancer and chemo and surgery, was facing his own cancer. I remember he once sat at my table, took my hand, asked me how I really was, listened deeply and even picked up the check (French Toast of course). Preston and his wife Pat were such a part of Milton’s that most of the regulars and staff met at his funeral to cry together.
- Sitting in a booth with Kelley Hunt, telling her the story of someone related to a Milton’s waitress whose “love was so big…..” “All heaven broke loose!” Kelley finished my sentence. We exhaled and pulled out a notebook, and over French toast and bacon on a bitter cold morning, wrote some of one of our favorite songs, “Love.”
- Hundreds of pizzas ordered with Natalie, Daniel and Forest, who all loved Milton’s dearly. Upon hearing the news that Milton’s was closing, Natalie wrote, “My childhood is dead.”
- Sharing pancakes and French toast with my mom and late stepfather, Henry, who embraced Milton’s as the place to go after Paradise (their previous place to get pancakes whenever they came to town) closed.
- Shakily making my way into Milton’s a day or so after major surgery, helped by Ken to my seat, so I could heal myself with the food there.
- Daniel coming home with a giant container of bacon given to him by the Milton’s kitchen after a summer of washing dishes there (thanks, Dave, for giving Daniel his first job!). Forest still is dazzled with the sheer volume of bacon Daniel brought home.
- Anniversary dinners with Ken at Milton’s during the bouts when dinner was happily offered.
- Poetry readings as well as concerts (remember Rick Frydman’s release party for his CD, complete with duets with Ardys, Amy and others?) when we turned the chairs toward the back to listen.
- Crazily-hot summer days made bearable by going out to Milton’s for breakfast before the temperature topped 90, and then sitting outside at one of the tables, talking with dear friends about climate change, eggs, and what we love most in love.
This week, I’ve sad goodbye the best way I know how: I dropped in for breakfast twice, and upon putting that last first bite of French toast into my mouth (the candy of the breakfast world!), I said goodbye to Milton’s, but also, thank you from the bottom of my heart (and stomach).