Life’s Funny

Baked into Memory

A familiar treat bridges generations


By Maria Johnson

“Do you make baklava?”

It’s a question I get fairly often from people who know I’m half Greek. But, seeing as how the Greek part came from my father, who did very little of the cooking when I was growing up, the answer is no.

Or it was no, until a few weeks ago.

That’s when I tied on an apron with 80-year-old Joanne Macropoulos, a stalwart at Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Greensboro.

For more than 40 years, as long as the church has had its annual Greek Festival, Joanne has helped to make and sell the pastries, a huge draw and moneymaker at the three-day wingding.

You know what I mean if you’ve inched along in the pastry line, waiting for your chance to salivate and shell out for the confections — the densely sweet baklava; the kourambiedes topped with powdered sugar; the twisted koulourakia; the shredded-wheat-look-alike kataifi; the nut-topped spice cookie melomakarona: and the wickedly moist yogurt cake, yaourtopeta.

These delicacies brought Joanne and me together. Sort of.

Technically, I met her in the intensive-care unit after my dad had a major stroke three years ago. But pastries, in a roundabout way, led to that connection.

Here’s how it happened: My dad loved the Greek festival. Specifically, he loved the pastries at the Greek festival. And therefore — even though he and my Methodist mom didn’t attend church there after they retired in Greensboro — our family’s attendance at the festival was mandatory.

Every year, about the time we finished our Athenian chicken and Spartan vegetable plates in the fellowship hall, Daddy would clear his throat and say, as if the thought had just occurred to him, “Would anybody like some pastries?”

This was our cue to nod, and say “Sure” and offer to buy them, at which point he would wave us off in an I-got-this gesture and shuffle off to the pastry table, where he’d drop a few phrases in Greek and wait until he got a nibble from another Greek speaker. He always hooked someone.

Pretty soon, he’d be telling some poor dear pastry lady, as succinctly as possible — which was not very — about how he came here from Greece as a kid and, I’m fast-forwarding here, about the amazing accomplishments of his entire family who were, in short, brilliant.

That’s when he’d start pointing at us from across the room. He’d wave. The pastry lady would wave. We’d waved back. And he’d return to the table with boxes, plural, of pastries. He was so happy in those moments.

This went on for 20 years.

Until the stroke.

The next morning, as my dad struggled to respond, we couldn’t tell how much he comprehended. I knew one thing for sure: The first language in would be the last language out.

I drove to the Greek church, where we’d had so many good times over pastries, and threw myself on the mercy of the priest, Father Thomas Newlin, who didn’t know me from Eve’s housecat.

Still, I asked: Did he know anyone, preferably a native of Greece, who could come to the hospital to talk and pray in Greek? He thought he did. I gave him the room number.

The next day, Joanne appeared. I’m not exaggerating when I say she looked like an angel. She was white-haired, erect, serene — one of those people who shines with a light from within. We roused my dad.

Joanne stepped up, touched his shoulder and spoke to him in Greek. Then she prayed. My dad — who before the stroke found a quiet place every morning and evening and prayed by himself, always in Greek  — looked at her through heavy eyes. His right hand, the only hand he could move, trembled over his chest. He was trying to cross himself.

Joanne visited again, each time bearing pastries for our family, who kept a bedside vigil until Daddy died, at age 95, a couple of weeks later. Joanne came to the funeral, this lady who didn’t really know us, but somehow did. We knew her, too.

We continued to see her at Greek festivals — it seemed like a tradition we needed to carry on — but more often, Joanne and I ran into each other at the Spears Family YMCA, where we both work out.

One day, I stopped her in the hallway. We chatted for a while, and then I blurted out:

“Would you teach me to make baklava?”

I’m not sure where that came from. Maybe I was channeling my Greek yiayia and namesake, though I’m pretty sure she knew how to make baklava. Maybe I wanted to feel closer to my Greek heritage, especially with my dad being gone, and I figured the shortest path was in learning to make a crowd-pleaser that screams “GREEK!”

Or maybe I knew, from time spent in the kitchen with my Alabama-born grandmother, and my mother, and my husband, and our two sons, that if you really want to bond with someone, you cook with them. You create together.

In any case, I was relieved at Joanne’s reply:


I arrived at her door with two pounds of butter.

She handed me an apron. “It says ‘Greece’ on it and everything,” she said. We laughed. I’d take every advantage I could get.

She showed me the basics. How to blend sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves with ground English walnuts; how to paint a heavy metal baking pan with butter, then layer the leaf-like phyllo dough, which she orders in rolls from New York.

Every sheet gets brushed with melted butter.

Every two sheets, you sprinkle the walnut mixture.

Phyllo. Butter. Phyllo. Butter. Nuts.

Phyllo. Butter. Phyllo. Butter. Nuts.

On a nearby table, a plastic-spine recipe book from the Greek church in Charleston, S.C., was laid open to her favorite baklava recipe.

She didn’t need it.

I asked how long had she been making baklava.

She looked at me with the mock-shock expression I’d seen my dad wear so many times.

“I was born knowing how to make baklava!” she said.

As we talked, a CD of bouzouki music played in the background, and Joanne told me her story: How she was born in the village of Karpenisi, 180 miles northwest of Athens; how her mother died when she was 7; how her older sister passed up a chance to come to America to live with family, but Joanne, then 14, jumped at the opportunity. She figured she’d have a better wardrobe here.

“I have to have more than two pairs of shoes,” she announced to her family, who bought their children one pair of shoes for the summer and one for the winter.

Anyone who knows the sylphlike Joanne, and how stylishly she dresses, would not be surprised to hear her motivation for immigrating. Neither would they be shocked to learn that she traveled alone, on an ocean liner, for 15 days, until she met family in New Jersey and traveled by car to another village: Burlington, as in North Carolina, NC.

It was 1952. There was no Greek church in Burlington, so her family came to the Greensboro church. That’s where Joanne met and married George Macropoulos, who was the son of the priest, thanks to an Eastern Orthodox rule that allows men to marry before they become priests.

“Have you ever heard the saying that the son of a priest is the grandson of the devil?” Joanne said with a twinkle in her eye.

She and George — who died in 2003 — had two sons, Nick and Chris, who have done very well, as have Joanne’s three grandchildren, Alex, Christina and Stephen, who are, in short, “brilliant.”

Into the oven went the pan of baklava and, as we waited, out came the pictures and stories. I nodded in recognition. I was in hauntingly familiar territory. It occurred to me that Joanne, at some point, probably had met my dad at the church’s pastry table and listened to him gush about his family. Sitting at her kitchen table, it felt like we were closing a giant, invisible circuit.

The other feeling that grabbed me floated in Joanne’s soft vowels, slightly gargled in the back of her throat, a sound I cannot make no matter how I try to pronounce certain Greek words. I had not heard those sounds since my dad died.

I wanted to cry. At soft rolling vowels. Want to know how weird and powerful memory can be? There you go.

The smell of butter and cinnamon and the sight of golden phyllo said the pan was ready to come out of the oven, cool, be drenched in simple syrup of water, sugar and lemon juice and left to absorb the sweetness overnight. Joanne explained how, if you pour the syrup over a spoon to break the stream, no place in the pan becomes sodden.

It was the kind of knowledge that lurks between the lines of a recipe, where the secrets of cooking, and so much more, live. For this kind of knowledge, you have to show up ready to work in the kitchen, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

And the baklava we made?

It was, in short, brilliant.   OH

Contact Maria at This year’s Greek Festival is scheduled for September 28-30.

An Open Hearth for Open Hearts

In the Ganem family, hospitality is the language of love

By Nancy Oakley     Photographs by Amy Freeman


Lisa Ganem animatedly recalls the moment she and her husband, Sam, knew they’d found the perfect house in which to spend their twilight years. “We’d been looking, looking, looking,” she says. “I showed him this house, and he said, ‘This is it. I can tell by the smile on your face.’” The humble ranch house on a quiet street in the middle of Irving Park was the kind of place anyone would overlook driving by it — anyone except the bright-eyed and imaginative Lisa, who had redone a similar rancher when she and Sam and their three children lived in Salisbury years ago.

“I didn’t have the vision,” Sam Ganem allows, admitting that he couldn’t see beyond the dwelling’s age, with its small rooms, cork floor, knotty-pine kitchen and overgrown shrubs. But where he saw darkness, Lisa saw light. “She just goes, ‘Oh, this is great! We could do this, and this and this,’” Sam remembers fondly.  “And I said, ‘OK, fine. Just give me an outdoor kitchen.’”

As a gastroenterologist for Eagle Physicians, his days are “filled with all sorts of commotion,” as they are for Lisa, owner of Certicode, a company that collects, analyzes and reports diagnosis and treatment data on cancer patients, and offers accreditation support to cancer programs, with the goal of improving patient care. “Cooking is relaxing,” says Sam, explaining that his interest in it developed in childhood. Coming from a large Lebanese family, he’d watch his aunts and uncles putter around the kitchen. “I’d pick up ideas here and there, put them in things I would like to do,” he says. After he and Lisa met (in the ER of the hospital in her small hometown in Tennessee, where she was working as a med-tech), cooking became a shared pastime. “We loved to cook,” says Lisa. “It was our calming thing.” They explained as much to each of his aunts, “the one that made the best tabbouleh, the one that made the best grape leaves, and we wrote down the recipes and learned to make them,” Lisa recalls. “And now it’s a big thing at Christmastime — his birthday’s on Christmas Eve — and we make a big Lebanese feast.”

With Sam working and her staying at home to rear three small children — Paige, John and Frances — Lisa had assumed the family’s culinary responsibilities. In 2004, after 10 years in Salisbury, they began looking for larger environs — but not too large — and moved to Greensboro, settling into a shaded house on Dover Road. As the kids grew older, Sam started firing up the oven again, branching out beyond the Lebanese delicacies he grew up with. Italian, Mexican and Asian fare became part of his repertoire. “I’ll go into a restaurant and say, ‘This is good.’ And I’ll talk to the waiter and I’ll say, ‘What’s in this? And they’ll kind of tell me what’s in it. And I’ll go, “I can make this,” he says with quiet certitude. A trip to New Orleans might result in a gumbo once he’s back home. “He thinks about things,” Lisa says admiringly, adding that Sam, also a musician who played guitar for a rock band in his teenage years, has the same remarkable ability to strum any tune he hears.

And then, of course, there’s grilling, which he’s so fond of — and which necessitated that outdoor kitchen in their new abode that Lisa dubbed “The Nest” after they bought it in the fall of 2016.

“I knew what it could be,” she says. “It could never be grand, it could never be palatial.” But it could easily become a home. So Lisa enlisted the help of local designer and draftsman Jim Weisman, whom she describes as “a joy” to work with. Over a six-month period, she says, “We went back and forth, back and forth” until they agreed on a plan that would open up those dark nooks and crannies and small rooms that Sam had found so off-putting. By mid-April of 2017, builder Kevin Otey and his crew broke ground and began the transformation that would last another six months.

They added a small front porch with narrow, rectangular columns, and dormers, encased in copper, which help shed water and give the house more definition, as do the bronze gutters.

Inside, a new front door, molding and millwork, such as the graceful curvilinear design on the dining room ceiling and the partially coffered den ceiling, lend an elegant touch to the more open spaces, thanks in part to widened doorways to the dining room, den and former living room. Now Lisa’s office, it overlooks the front yard, owing to a large picture window (a friend’s suggestion) that replaced what had been a blank wall flanked by two standard-size windows. “You can just sit in here and do your thing,” Lisa says, adding that the leafy view — and visiting squirrels outside — is a favorite of their three cats: Yanna, a Craigslist find, Parker, so-named because the Ganems rescued him from a parking deck, and Fillip, an orange striped fellow, whose name derives from the Chick-fil-A parking lot where Lisa and Sam found him half-frozen.

And who wouldn’t want to hang out here, among the soft palette of cream and grays? Particularly striking is a statement wall covered in grasscloth, behind the office bookshelves, a suggestion of interior designer Lauren Tilley. “My builder and I were like, ‘grasscloth, are you kidding me?!’” Lisa says of the material that is seeing a sudden resurgence since its heyday in the 1950s. But she concedes, “It really did set off those walls.”

The cream-colored walls create a sense of airiness throughout the rest of the house, which now has a seamless flow: a new hallway separates the living area from the master; in a finished attic, Sam can retreat among framed Beatles album covers, books and memorabilia from his rock band days; while extra bedrooms can accommodate visiting family members. There are no plans as yet for the finished basement, but with its newly whitewashed brick hearth, the work of the appropriately named Nathan Wainscott, the room holds the promise of a space for relaxing or merrymaking.

Anchoring the house is the den and indoor kitchen, where, flanking a vented fireplace, are a set of bookshelves and a built-in aquarium, a “bucket list” feature for Lisa. “The cabinet guy — he’d never done this before — he was like a deer in the headlights,” she says, as colorful angelfish, platys and goldfish, among others, glide through the backlit tank filled with greenery. With help from Triad Reef Critters, which had seen freestanding aquariums before, they found a builder with a template that would accommodate the tank and all its accouterments.

It’s a complement to the sea green and cream colors of the den, from the sofa and recovered recliners to the exposed wood chairs, which Lisa “adores,” in part because they were gifts from Sam’s mother when she moved to Abbotswood. Almost everything in the house is bestowed with meaning: the portraits of their children in the dining room, its chandelier (another cast-off from Sam’s mother), its table, a piece by the now-defunct custom furniture makers Councill Craftsmen in Denton. “They don’t make the hardwood anymore,” Lisa says wistfully. Her sparkle returns when pointing out a piece of artwork in the den, an abstract of pink and bluish green and cream by local painter, Amy Gordon. “She had just had a show at Tyler White [O’Brien],” Lisa explains, “And they called [her] and said, ‘Lisa just wants one of your pieces.’ And she said, ‘Well I’m wiped out, but I’ve done a couple of things in blue, so I’ll just bring ’em over.’” Lisa and Sam were astounded when they saw the painting, titled The Clearing, not only for its hues, so similar to the ones they favored, but also because it seemed destined for the empty wall by the new hallway leading to the master . . . especially when they discovered the artist’s subtle written message in the canvas: “Making space for new memories.”

It’s the perfect companion to the Zen-like aquarium, the soft candles and orchids scattered about. Nearby is a framed print of a dictionary definition of “nest” which reads: ‘noun. 1. A snug, comfortable or cozy residence or situation; a retreat, or place of habitual resort.” Lisa laughs at the popularity of the print among visiting guests who ask where she acquired it. “TJ Maxx?” she suggests, with a shrug.

If coziness is synonymous with the concept of a nest, it is essential to any kitchen. And certainly, the indoor kitchen, with its spacious granite-topped island and crisp cream cabinets, bookended by a laundry room and mudroom, is just that. But the true pièce de résistance is the outdoor kitchen that Sam requested and the adjacent patio, overlooking the backyard, the focus of which is a saltwater pool.

Originally, the backyard consisted of grass, trees and a profusion of boxwoods that the house’s previous owner had acquired from Mount Vernon. There had been a sunroom in the den area, (now extended to a wall of windows), but otherwise, no direct access to the yard. The back of the house simply dropped off from a fairly high level. But now? A spacious patio with table and chairs leads to steps flanked by wrought-iron railing (a nod to the original wrought-iron work, the only adornment in the front of the house) and terraced landscaping. “It was definitely a vision that Jim Weisman thought over,” Lisa says. “I wanted to get in that yard. It was so high up, I just wanted to get down there.”

They cleared out the boxwoods, leaving enough, along with some camellias and hollies, to line the periphery of the yard, the center of which is taken up with the pool. “I love it, love it,” Lisa enthuses. “It’s so calming. It has fountains you can turn on. All kinds of uplighting, landscape lighting so it’s nice at night.” Even the next-door neighbors are appreciative of the view.

And certainly, of the aromas of steaks, burgers and Sam’s specialties, lamb chops and honey-lime chicken, wafting from his impressive stainless-steel grill. He especially appreciates a flat surface designated for searing meat, (essential to successful grilling, to seal in the flavors) and a feature for inserting a spit, for roasting. And he is never without his digital thermometer, another must-have. “Some people have those fancy thermometers where they put the probe in, and they can see [the temperature] on their telephone,” Sam notes. “That’s a bunch of baloney! I just watch ’em, because that’s part of the fun, too. Watching them. Have a sip of wine. Put the thermometer in and say, ‘Yeah. It’s ready.’ Great satisfaction.” Beside the grill is a mini-refrigerator and griddle where, he says, “I can do a couple of pounds of bacon, pancakes.” When he isn’t cooking breakfast, he’s out on the patio most mornings, according to Lisa. “The sky is orange and the sun just comes in beautifully. He’ll come out here with his coffee. It’s like his quiet moment when the sun comes up.”

Otherwise, the outdoor area is a gathering place for family and entertaining. A mere month after the Ganems moved into The Nest last October, they hosted their annual oyster roast, a tradition started by some friends who used to frequent the oyster bar at Green’s Supper Club every Thanksgiving. “We had three bushels of oysters; had ’em raw, cooked, steamed. Brunswick stew,” says Sam. “Everybody was out here in their coats,” Lisa chimes in. No matter. Just bring out the portable heater to keep guests warm. “Definitely my love language and one of his love languages is hospitality,” she reflects. Since the oyster roast, the Ganems have hosted a gathering at Easter, a bridal shower and family dinner of Indian kabobs for eldest child Paige. As a newly minted medical school grad, she’ll follow in Dad’s footsteps by pursuing a path in internal medicine, and with husband-to-be, Mark Aderholdt, will settle in Greenville, S.C. Son John starts law school in Tennessee in the fall and the youngest, Frances, will return to Chapel Hill. There will be more dinners and parties, and reasons to celebrate — the Christmas feast and Sam’s birthday, for one. “We’re really close,” says Lisa. “The kids — we wanted a place they wanted to come to.” For now, she and Sam enjoy the company of Yanna, curled up on one the sea-green recliners in the den, Parker, who’s likely retreated to the basement, and a sleepy, contended Fillip, who stretches the rug in the den. Far from empty, The Nest, for all who live here, is decidedly best.   OH

Nancy Oakley is the senior editor of O.Henry

Where’s the Beef?

The Cheapskate’s Guide to Cheap Steaks

By David Claude Bailey

Let’s just get this out of the way. I am an expert on steaks, having served a weekly apprenticeship that spanned almost two decades at the University of Steakology in Reidsville. In my youth, grill master extraordinaire Claude Colonelue Bailey presided over a smoking-hot seminar every single Saturday night. Sometimes he lectured on the uses and benefits of fresh garlic, A-1 sauce and even homemade rubs, but his lessons always employed lots of salt and ground pepper and a Weber that almost glowed under its burden of white-hot charcoal. I have eaten, by my scientific calculations, more than 4,000 T-bones, sirloins, filet mignons, porterhouses, New York strips and other delectable cuts of beef in my lifetime. I’m a glutton for homework.

His teaching assistant, my mother, turned out the extraordinary complements to our weekly lessons. She always peeled and hand-cut potatoes and double fried them. She’d pre-rub her salad bowl with cloves of garlic, and we’d usually have hand-beaten biscuits or, on special occasions, her cloverleaf rolls.

Inevitably after Dad remarked about how God is great, God is good, and had thanked Him for our food, mother would say, as if we hadn’t heard it a thousand times, “You could drive all the way to Greensboro and not get a steak dinner this good.”

My sister, Betty, and I would roll our eyes. And then, almost ritually, before the meal was over, Dad would wonder aloud why anyone would pay for a steak in a restaurant when you could cook a better steak at home. More sibling eye-rolling ensued.

Since then, I was fortunate to have been a restaurant critic for more than a decade and have tried steaks in dozens of restaurants, some of them Prime, aged steaks, seared at 800 degrees. Let me say that I certainly appreciate the difference between USDA, aged Prime meat and what’s available in the grocery store and at most restaurants. But being someone of Scots-Irish ancestry, it has always been with the utmost reluctance that I readily cough up $50-plus for a T-Bone steak. Especially, if I’m not on expense account.

So I have always been on the lookout for what I call The Cheapskate’s Cheap Steaks. Believe me, they’re out there, though I’ve wrestled with many gristly and fat pieces of meat to find them, at the best and the worst of restaurants. In fact, I’ve learned Dad’s lesson: At most restaurants, you’re better off ordering something other than steak.

However, over my years in Greensboro, I’ve found some notable exceptions to Dad’s rule. But it’s not just any steak that I’m after. To be a good cheapskate’s cheap steak, the meal should be a special experience. I’m always looking for a complete steak dinner — the meat, French fries, a fresh garden salad and a first-rate serving of bread. Plus, the ambiance of the place, in combination with the food, ought to provide more than the sum of the parts. What I’ve tried to do here is spotlight steaks and venues that are, above all else, places that present extraordinary cuts of beef, seared to perfection, in an ambiance that provides, for at least an hour or so, something you simply can’t reproduce at home. And all this at a price not a lot more than it costs me to grill a steak at home, just as my dad did. 


Café Europa

200 N. Davie St., (336) 389-1010,

The Meat of the Matter (How the steak, itself, rates) hhh (3 out of five stars). 6-ounce sirloin steak-&-frites, “lunch-sized (available at supper on request). Grilled — tender, juicy and not overly seasoned — Europa’s steak is a tad thin, though this is in the tradition of steaks I’ve had abroad. Larger 8-ounce “dinner” steak available for $18.

The Tab (For a steak dinner  — with the price per ounce of steak calculated based on the total tab)  $13 ($2.17 per ounce of steak). Served without bread or salad — steak & frites means just that.

Ambiance, service and measure of difference This lively, downtown brasserie has a stylish, Continental interior, featuring distinctive hardwood paneling. The vibe is urbane, almost clubby with attentive service. It’s hard to choose between the bustling bar and the popular patio. Measure of difference: Hippest spot in town to eat steak & frites.

Sides and Extras The fries are cut as shoestrings and best eaten before they cool. I enjoyed the cabernet butter, but ask for it on the side so it doesn’t overpower the steak. A salad is $2.50 extra, and I think Europa’s Caesar is well worth the price.

The Bottom Line With intimate corners and booths, plus sidewalk dining, Europa’s Continental “chic” nicely complements its reasonably priced and hearty fare — prepared with élan. And I highly recommend the mussels.


Lucky 32

1421 Westover Terrace, (336) 370-0707,

The Meat of the Matter hhhhh (5 out of five stars). 10-ounce, Black Angus salt-and-pepper ribeye available at lunch only. I found this easily the best “cheap” steak in terms of taste, preparation and quality. Unlike some other ribeyes, the meat was marbled and rich, with excellent texture.

The Tab $16 ($1.60 per ounce of steak). Served with bread and one side. No salad.

Ambiance, service and measure of difference My advice? Eat in the bar with its rich, hardwood accents and intimate, high-back tufted booths. It’s, at the same time, both atmospheric and airy. I’ve always found the service attentive and obliging. Measure of difference: For us, Lucky 32 rates as a special-occasion destination.

Sides and Extras The Texas Pete-fried onions atop the steak were a fun addition. And I could almost make a meal off Lucky’s excellent bread. The fries are hand-cut, double-fried and first-rate. I, however, find it hard to resist Lucky’s collards, sassy and tangled with side meat. Salad is $3.25 extra.

The Bottom Line Lucky 32 is always like an old friend to me, welcoming, cozy and totally predictable. Yes, the lunch-priced ribeye costs a couple bucks more than other steaks, but the total package of food, service and ambiance is hard to beat.


Oakcrest Family Restaurant

2435 Battleground Ave., (336) 288-7585,

The Meat of the Matter hhh (3 out of five stars). Two 5-ounce ribeyes. It’s hard to imagine getting more meat for your money. Marinated, liberally seasoned with garlic and griddled, here’s a classic, cafe steak — in fact, two of them for the price of one.

The Tab $9.99  ($1.11 per ounce of steak). Served with Texas toast, salad and fries.

Ambiance, service and measure of difference I love Oakcrest’s emphasis on family dining. Don’t expect fawning service, white tablecloths or atmospheric flourishes. Instead, look for a spanking clean, well-lit interior that screams  ’50s diner chic, with pine booths, retro furnishings. Come twice and your waitress will know you by name. Measure of difference: Incredible bang for the buck.

Sides and Extras The service is family-friendly and the servings are humongous. And I’m a total sap for the garlicky, griddled Texas toast. Ask for the house-made Greek dressing atop the large iceberg-based salad. I found the rough-cut, skin-on fries, though probably frozen, some of the best in town.  

The Bottom Line Unless I’m missing it, this is one of the best meat-and-potato deals in town. And sometimes a no-frills, expedient diner experience is just what you’re looking for.


Tripps Restaurant

1605 Highwoods Blvd., (336) 292-0226,

The Meat of the Matter hhhh (4 out of five stars). 7-ounce, center-cut “petite” sirloin. Lightly seasoned and nicely seared with grill marks on the exterior, yet rare on the interior.

The Tab $14.79 ($2.11 per ounce of steak). Served with bread, fries, steamed zucchini and a salad.

Ambiance, service and measure of difference With an inviting steakhouse/fern-bar décor, accented with hardwood and exposed brick, I like Tripps for its inviting, casually-elegant ambiance that feels nothing like a chain. Measure of difference: Here’s the total steak-dinner package — bread, salad, fries, vegetable and the steak itself — at an almost unbelievable price.

Sides and Extras Our meal started with a small, freshly baked loaf of bread, a nice way to begin the dining experience. The fries came sizzling hot, and the salad was fresh and generous, with almonds, bacon and garlicky croquettes. The combination was, all around, a notch above what I expect from a chain — or from anyone else for the price.

The Bottom Line Steaks are a specialty at Tripps, a Greensboro-based chain, but it was the entire experience that combined to deliver exceptional value — polite service, generous sides, a decent selection of wine and beer, plus a grilled sirloin thick enough to still be rare.


The Pavilion Restaurant

2010 West Vandalia Road, (336) 852-1272,

The Meat of the Matter hhhh (4 out of five stars). 5-ounce Petite Sirloin. In spite of the really low price, this was an outstanding steak, thick and juicy, well-seasoned and perfectly cooked rare, as ordered. No, it’s not a huge cut, but excellent, as are Pavilion’s other steak offerings.

The Tab $12.95 ($2.59 per ounce of steak). Served with Texas toast, fries and salad.

Ambiance, service and measure of difference I love the vintage, fine-dining décor of this venerable eatery, with its exposed brick walls, frosted-and-cut-glass panels between booths and découpaged tables featuring magazine covers from yesteryear. Measure of difference: Pavilion’s food is carefully prepared and, above all else, value-priced — in a setting that bespeaks a tradition of fine dining.

Sides and Extras The service is attentive, friendly and personable. The generous iceberg salad was fresh — the dressing, homemade. The crunchy, lightly battered fries came sizzling. And I inhaled my two slices of buttery, Texas toast.

The Bottom Line Going to The Pavilion is like stepping back into a more gracious and leisurely era. It is definitely an institution. But it’s kept pace with the times and, in my opinion, is one of Greensboro’s best- kept fine-dining secrets.


Chez Anne

My house, by invitation only — and don’t hold your breath.

The Meat of the Matter hhhhhhh (seven out of five stars). 8-ounce, Angus top sirloin from Harris Teeter VIC-priced. Grilled rare to perfection on a Weber by a Kansas City Certified Barbecue Judge — me! Dusted with asada seasoning.

The Tab $10 ($1.25 per ounce). With Chef Anne’s pommes Lyonnaise, a salad featuring home-grown mesclun, along with her handmade, buttery biscuits, here’s a meal that’s hard to beat.

Ambiance, service and measure of difference Farmhouse shabby décor, complemented by eclectic furnishings, mismatched tableware but incredible, tableside service from the chef herself, Chez Anne is my favorite venue. Al fresco dining available. Staggering selection of beer, wine and single-malt Scotch. Measure of difference: No need for a designated driver.

Sides and Extras An incredible meal, cooked to order with the one added ingredient no one else can deliver — true love. I will definitely be eating here again.

The Bottom Line My dad was right. The best value on a steak dinner is the one you cook yourself, provided you have an excellent sous chef who will accept as a tip — and the highest compliment of her culinary skill — a hug and a kiss.  OH

The Accidental Astrologer

Summer Simmer

The heat’s on in June but the stars say, “Cool it!”


By Astrid Stellanova

Star Children, I do relate to all the mischief you are in right this hot minute with Summer Solstice approaching on the 21st. We’re all hot and bothered. I’m a hopeless romantic, too. June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Let. That. Sink. In. If I was to finally tie the knot with Beau, I’d have more pink, tulle, icing and frou-frou going on than Shelby’s wedding in Steel Magnolias. I would also hand out Pepto-Bismol as a wedding favor, because shortening and sugar are a plural food group in my world, and happiness or heartache still bring stomach ache.

Pepto-Bismol solves at least one of the problems. You’re welcome. I’m dispensing a few more warnings that just about all of y’all in Star Land need to heed. And why not follow the (free) counsel of older and wiser Astrid? – Ad Astra


Gemini (May 21–June 20)

Honey, you got an itch to be bewitched. And when you say I do, remember it’s durn difficult to find the undo button. Most folks just settle for a do-over before they have been done over. You have lost your mind because somebody has been wooing and undoing you. Your powers to charm and bewilder can strike in the same sentence. If you see a greener pasture, we know your M.O. You will be over the fence and bolted before the one you loved and left has even figured it out. The sensible thing would be to just hit the pause button. But Sugar, sensible is not in your wheelhouse.

Cancer (June 21–July 22)

You cannot hear thunder. What got into you, Sugar? Let me just say, Karma honked the horn at you and you just sashayed right on past. You cannot outrun your destiny. Take two minutes to read that again. There is a real need for you to own what happened, and make amends.

Leo (July 23–Aug. 22)

My Lord! Somebody steered you wrong, but you decided that somebody knew more than everybody else. That friend could be a serial killer and you would still think they would go for your bail. This is going to hurt, this cliff dive, because you convinced yourself the very one driving you over cared about you. Let the healing begin.

Virgo (August 23–Sept. 22)

This is your life. And this month is like spending 24 hours in a Vegas casino and winning a cup of quarters. Yes, Sugar, it does beat losing. But not by much. Go get you some sunshine, rehydrate, then have a square meal and recover your senses. 

Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 22)

It’s a recurring theme: You need to escape, and your bag is packed with your best clean underwear with good elastic. Answer this: Are you running from love, or towards it, Honey?  When you recover from itchy feet, you may find nothing that scary is chasing you.

Scorpio (October 23–November 21)

Where is your sense of self-preservation? Is this love or is it suicide? You and your beloved are like planets circling the same sun but on a collision course. You don’t have to treat love like nuclear fusion. Love doesn’t have to destroy you to excite you.

Sagittarius (November 22–December 21)

Be like my dog Woodrow and hit the woof. Howl! Holler! You have tamped down all your emotions and now it is time to let them out! You are not dead yet, despite all your attempts to give that impression.

Capricorn (December 22–January 19)

If you loved yourself as much as you love your pocketbook, you wouldn’t let yourself go just because a no-good somebody broke your little heart. Time to splash out on some new duds, a haircut and some Crest teeth strips. Then, love, grin and bear it. 

Aquarius (January 20–February 18)

How far are you going to take this bad mood of yours? I will tell you that orange sure ain’t your color and it sure ain’t the new black. If you kill/maim/sabotage somebody in a jealous rage, the only thing you will have discovered is your own personal hell.

Pisces (February 19–March 20)

By the time word of your adventure traveled back, and it traveled fast, there was nobody who could look you straight in the eye and not think: Lordamercy! So you blew your inheritance on something like a big trip to Dollywood. It ain’t nobody’s business but yours. Live on the memories, Sweet Thing.

Aries (March 21–April 19)

I’d like to introduce you to your future. But I won’t. It ain’t in my power to tell you what will happen if you take the steps you’ve been contemplating. It’s extreme, even for you, Sugar. For the love of Pepto-Bismol, don’t run over a small child just trying to get ahead when you will anyhow.

Taurus (April 20–May 20)

Lord help us. There is not enough sunscreen in the world to keep you from SPFing this thing up. You know what I mean. You have got one powerful opportunity, and all you need to do is exercise just a smidge of caution. But that ain’t happening unless somebody bodily restrains you.  OH

For years, Astrid Stellanova owned and operated Curl Up and Dye Beauty Salon in the boondocks of North Carolina until arthritic fingers and her popular astrological readings provoked a new career path.

Life of Jane

City Girl

A brief history of Borden and the boro


By Jane Borden

I believe identity is shaped by place, especially by the towns and cities of childhood. As a memoirist, I’ve made a (modest) career out of self-investigation. As a new parent, I’m more confused than ever. Therefore, to learn about myself, I turned to Greensboro’s past. Here’s a timeline of our shared histories.

circa 1750

• Before it was Greensboro, the area was known as Capefair, which was settled by Quaker migrants from Pennsylvania.

• Before I was Jane, I was going to be named Millie, after one of my father’s aunts. Actually, my mother’s doctor believed I would be a boy, so before Millie, I was probably Robert. Or Doug.

Late 18th century

• Greensboro becomes the third most populous city in North Carolina.

• I’ve been third place, generally speaking, most of my life. I always made the varsity teams in school, but I never started. I was good enough at improv to be placed on one of the theater’s house teams — but not on one that performed weekend nights. I published a book! It wasn’t a best-seller. You get the idea.

Late 18th century

• Sallie Stockard wrote in The History of Guilford County, North Carolina, that Greensboro was established on “an unbroken forest with thick undergrowth of huckleberry bushes, that bore a finely flavored fruit.”

• I almost always have fruit on me. Raisins, apple slices, a tangerine: You’ll find them in the side console of my car door, at the bottom of my purse, smushed into a pants pocket. I feel more in touch with Greensboro than ever.


• The city’s name became Greensborough, after Nathanael Greene. Other places in America named after the same man include Greeneville, Tennessee, Greenville, South Carolina, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a 128-foot long Army tug boat and a nuclear submarine.

• I was named after Jane Pullen, who was named for Jane Armfield. Other women in America named for Jane Armfield include Jane Preyer, Janie Fountain, Ellie Jane Preyer and Janie Vaughan.

Early 1800s

• The county seat moved from Martinville to Greensborough, deemed the natural choice on account of being the geographic center of the county. Later, a courthouse was built to hear local disputes and cases.

• My parents’ house was also deemed a natural location for a courthouse, by me, who filed countless complaints, and made arguments for both the prosecution and defense, depending on what had been asked of me or what I had been caught doing. My parents are still surprised I’m not a lawyer. But I think I understood, even then, that an actual court of law would never accept my key tactic of “wearing down” the judge.


• Greensboro did witness the demise of the Confederacy when Governor Vance surrendered to Union officials in the parlor of Blandwood Mansion.

• And I am still witnessing the demise of the Confederacy, because its prevailing ideologies are slow to disappear.


• The Bank of Greensboro becomes the first bank chartered by the state of North Carolina.

• When I was a freshman at Page High School, I saved money all year to buy an  $85 ring at Glitters on Elm Street. It was a big green eyeball, encased in dragon claws. Needless to say, I was cool.


• The Daily Record was first printed. A later iteration of it would eventually merge with another local paper, the Greensboro Daily News, and become the Greensboro News & Record.

• In 2005, I started writing about my life. But I have no employees. Still, like newspaper staffers everywhere, I wonder if I chose the wrong career.


• Greensboro became known as a center of the Southern textile industry.

• One time I tie-dyed T-shirts in Girl Scouts. You better believe it was cutting-edge fashion. I also invented a few pairs of cut-off shorts in high school, but my factory foreman (mother) wasn’t pleased with the product.


• WBIG begins broadcasting.

• In 1978, I started talking, and haven’t stopped. The only time I’m quiet is when I’m writing, and really that’s just talking onto paper.

1920s & 1930s

• During this time, Greensboro grew so rapidly that it experienced a housing shortage. Workers scrambled for one of the 80 to 100 affordable housing units built each year. Growth even continued during the Great Depression, when about 200 new families came each year.

• I put on 15 pounds in high school.


• The Greensboro Science Center was first established, but under a different name, the Greensboro Junior Museum.

• In 1987, I asked my parents for a guinea pig. Instead, they gave me a book detailing how to care for a guinea pig. I read it and didn’t want one anymore.


• The Greensboro Four sat at the segregated lunch counter at Woolworth’s on Elm Street, requesting service. The largest civil rights protests in N.C. history would take place in Greensboro over the next few years.

The concurrence of having a child and living under our current president have simultaneously increased my capacity for empathy while increasing my awareness that “not being part of the problem” still makes one part of the problem. I have joined the organization White People 4 Black Lives and am (slowly) learning to fight effectively for racial justice. I will never have the courage of the Greensboro Four, but I strive always to be better than I was the day before.

Early 1960s

• Greensboro got its own Barn Dinner Theatre.
• I performed live comedy for seven years during the aughts. However, I am a terrible cook.


• Governor Robert W. Scott ordered 600 National Guardsmen, a tank, a helicopter, an airplane and several armed personnel carriers to crush an uprising of students from Dudley High School and A&T University, who became frustrated after Dudley’s administration denied their choice for student council president on account of the candidate’s ties to the Black Power movement.

• This is where I stray from Greensboro history: Although they could occasionally be described as authoritarian, my mother’s attempts to quash my rebellions were always warranted.


• The United Arts Council of Greensboro raised $550,000 to save the Carolina Theatre of Greensboro from demolition and reopen it as a community arts performing arts center.

• I rescued several pieces of furniture off the streets of Brooklyn because, free furniture. I never refurbished any of it, but the pieces definitely lent my home “history.”


• Emerald Pointe water park opens in Greensboro.

• Around the same time, my family tied a rope swing to a tree in our side yard. I chipped my tooth once, while swinging, which is generally the reason I wasn’t allowed to go to Emerald Pointe. To wit, a decade later, while going down a slide at a water park on the Outer Banks, I broke my nose.


• Carolyn Allen became the first female mayor of Greensboro.

• Throughout my childhood, my uncle Lucius told me I could one day be the first female president of the United States. After seeing what’s happened in the last few years, I’m relieved I didn’t try to.


• The census determined that 48.33 percent of the population of Greensboro is religiously affiliated, broken down thusly: 11.85 percent Baptist, 10.25 percent Methodist, 3.97  percent Presbyterian, 3.71 percent Roman Catholic, 2.61 percent Penecostal, 1.17 percent Episcopalian, 1.02 percent Latter Day Saints, 0.96 percent Lutheran, and 11.03 percent other Christian denominations (including Greek Orthodox, Quaker, Moravian, Church of Christ and nondenominational); 0.82 percent Islam, 0.60 percent Judaism, and 0.34 percent Eastern religions.

• Similarly, I ascribe to all belief systems a little bit, but am mostly Christian. Side note: I am surprised the Presbyterian population is that small, considering how many bells are in the First Presbyterian Church’s bell choir. I got a real workout as a kid.

Current day Greensboro

• The formerly economically depressed downtown area has seen incredible redevelopment and growth, attracting new businesses, shops, bars and restaurants.

• Since college, and an early foray into sales that followed shortly after, the business areas of my brain were also neglected. Unlike Greensboro, they may never see reinvigoration.

• Greensboro is once again the headquarters of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

• I have let an errant neighborhood basketball sit in a corner of my lawn for weeks.

• Gateway University Research Park, a joint project between UNCG and A&T, attracts businesses in the nanotech, high-tech, aviation and transportation/logistics sectors.

• I recently decided I should have pursued the sciences. Unlike Greensboro, it’s probably too late for me.

• Greensboro continues to be home to eight universities and colleges.

• Sigh, I used to read. And learn. Novels, science journals, current events. I had intelligent conversations too. Now I clean sippie cups.

• The I-40 & I-85 interchange is always backed up.

• I create similar logjams when I move through parties because I keep stopping to talk to people. Then again, who am I kidding? I don’t attend parties anymore.

So, what have I learned? That Greensboro remains a thriving and innovative business and cultural center. And that I’m at a bit of a stalemate. But even if there’s no longer time for me to throw cocktail parties, read books or bathe regularly, I am buoyed by my confidence in building a happy and supportive home life for my daughter. Perhaps that’s the biggest quality I can endeavor to share with Greensboro, the city that reared me: being a beautiful place to call home.  OH

Jane Borden has exhausted the pertinent details of her life in this month’s column.