But the new girl on the team named Dee (in town this week from LA) and I got to chatting. She's very nice. She invited me to join her, our boss, and few others for dinner. I didn't want her to think I was standoff-ish by not going with them, so I said I'd go. I didn't have high hopes.
Six of us drove to the Carytown area in downtown Richmond (our office and hotel are in the suburbs), parked, and decided to go for a walk before dinner. It was a brilliantly beautiful evening; nice and warm with a gentle breeze. The street was full of little shops and restaurants and was quite charming. We all thought that Nacho Mama's looked like a fun place to eat Mexican food, and they had patio dining so we went inside to get a table.
The handsome and lively gentleman named Raul checked but said it would be a wait for a patio table for 6, so we agreed to eat indoors. My gaydar was spiking off the charts on Raul. As we waited for the large table upstairs to be cleared, we ordered drinks and Dee asked Raul what were his favorite dishes. He listed for her his favorites and talked about each dish's ingredients. One of my other colleagues named Angie asked Raul where he was from, and he replied that he was from Texas. Amazingly, Angie and Raul were from the same small town outside Corpus Christi and talked about the neighborhoods and landmarks they knew in common. Raul shared that he was the owner of Nacho Mama's, not just the maitre d'.
With margaritas in hand we went upstairs to a small dining room and Raul said he'd come up to see us in a few minutes. Our waiter Sam showed up with chips and salsa for us to snack on while we looked over the menu. Through the course of the evening we learned that Sam was from Miami, moved to Richmond a little more than a year ago, and is moving next month to Missouri to live with his new girlfriend while he goes to nursing school. (Dee and Angie felt no shame in getting all the details on Sam and Raul.)
Raul came upstairs to our dining room, margarita in hand, and asked us where we were from. Each of the others stated where they were from and when it came to me Raul said "You're from here, right?" I said "No, I'm from the Washington DC area." Raul said "Hmm, cuz you look familiar to me", which made me chuckle inside. I think his gaydar was bleeping too.
Sam returned and we ordered our meals. Raul was still with us so Dee and Angie got him to reveal that he'd had the restaurant for 14 years and had worked hard to make a success of it. But Raul had a way of making just about everything funny. At one point he said that his grandmother had raised him and was over-protective. He said "She wouldn't let me play football so I was a cheerleader - I mean... in the marching band!" We all howled with laughter!! It seemed like we were laughing the entire time we were there, and it wasn't just the margaritas. I think he really enjoyed that our group took such an interest in him and his place. He pulled out his iPhone and said he wanted a picture of us. When Sam came back Raul gave Sam the phone and posed with us.
When our food came Raul went back downstairs for a while. A little while later a guy appeared at the entrance to the small dining room where we were eating and asked "Are you the group from Canada?" We said no, that we were all from the US. A little while later a woman appeared at the doorway and asked if we were the group from Missouri. We laughed and again said no. A little while later another guy appeared and asked if we were the group from Canada and Missouri!!! Again we chuckled and said no, but figured there must be a group from Canada and Missouri in one of the other dining rooms.
When Raul came back we told him about the 3 people asking if we were from Canada and Missouri. He erupted into laughter!! Finally able to speak, he told us those 3 people were his friends and that he'd told them (as a joke) we were from Canada and Missouri and suggested they come up and meet us! We all cracked up.
As we were about to leave, the 3 women stopped at the restroom. My boss and the other guy exited the restaurant and made cell phone calls while they waited. As I was walking out the door I saw Raul and the 2 guys and the woman who'd asked if we were from Canada and Missouri sitting at a table on the patio. When Raul saw me he asked "How did you like it? Was everything good?" I told him the food was delicious and the service and atmosphere were wonderful. I added "The only thing that could have made it better would be if we could have sat on the patio." Raul leaned over, grabbed my hand, pulled me onto the bench beside him, and said "There. Now you can say you got to sit on the patio!" We all laughed, and Raul said again that he thought we'd met before.
The ladies came outside to find me talking and laughing with Raul and his friends so he said "Come on ladies, one more picture. Lean in close." He handed the iPhone to his friend and said "Now, take a good one. I'm not 29 anymore - I'm 30 now!!" We all cracked up again.
I will definitely return to Nacho Mama's next month when I'm in Richmond again. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was really fun. What more could you ask for?
Crush du Jour: Ben Corliss