Several factors have figured into our dining decisions over the past couple of evenings. With errands to run, we found ourselves choosing to dine out rather than eating in. Two evenings in a row, no less. But with Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday, when most restaurants are closed, we agreed to let it count as our sweethearts’ treat.

On Thursday we ate at The Depot Restaurant at Cody Creek in Dobson, NC. This place is a visual experience as much as it is about food. You pass through a covered bridge across the creek in order to get down into the ‘village’ that is Cody Creek. They have a nice website at http://www.codycreek.net for those of you who would like to check it out.

Once there, you’ll find charming log and stone structures reminiscent of a by-gone era. A little chapel sits off to one side, a gazebo in the middle of the parking lot, a country store, cabins, and of course, the restaurant. Even inside the decor is a delight. A waterfall greets you and the walls are lined with artwork.

The food is delicious. Simply prepared, whether grilled, fried, or slapped together on a sandwich, I’ve never been disappointed. Their steak is wonderful and the rainbow trout is fresh. The appetizers are also quite tasty although I’m sure they are heavy in calories.

Most of the time the service is also good. Thursday must have been an off night. The toast was missing from our plates, one scrawny butter for the baked potato, (enough for me but not my husband), and his tea glass stayed empty for much longer than he liked. In fact, at times, he just stopped another wait staffer to ask if they could send ours to the table. Never good.

But the booth we sat at, the much preferred back corner with view of the waterfall, and the hot steamy baked potato, perfectly grilled steak, made up for the lacking service.

Contrast that against Chili’s on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem, NC near Hanes Mall. A simple meal of chips and salsa and a shared plate of sliders, turned into a fabulous experience with a waitress who has her craft finely honed. With the right balance of attentiveness juxtaposed against over friendliness, she wafted by to replace our chips with a fresh bowl as ours was mostly broken bits, refilled drinks, brought our shared sliders order on two separate plates, and brought a to-go cup of water for me with a slice of lime! Perfection!

We left the same tip amount in dollars for both of those waitresses, the one at The Depot getting about fifteen percent and the one at Chili’s getting a little closer to thirty percent.

So, those of you in the business of serving customers in a restaurant, take notes from the Chili’s attendant. Be attentive, but not overly friendly; take care of your customers and they will take care of you; and throw in a little something extra that says they are special, like the lime slice in the to-go cup of water.

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