Closed every North Carolina weekend
Sunday, August 26, 2018
There was a time when cafes existed to provide quick, convenient meals to working people.
As I am prone to point out, however, there’s generally no going back to what used to be.
The Filling Station in the Duplin County town of Kenansville is one happy exception that helps prove the general rule. It’s a café operating Monday through Friday only.
Open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., the place is well-appreciated for biscuits, fantastic burgers, chicken salad, authentic eastern North Carolina fish stew (Fridays only), plate lunches and all sorts of home-style desserts.
But forget about eating there on weekends. Customers enjoy The Filling Station during their off-work days only if they stop by during regular business hours to pick up an order of chicken salad for Saturday or Sunday consumption.
May I remind you that you’re hearing this rather admiring report from a man who spends much of his time telling TV viewers only about restaurants open on at least one weekend day out of two. It has done me a world of good to run across a place that simply does not kowtow to my particular weekend criteria.
David Brock has been operating his café since 2003, an incredible 15 years.
Nowadays, a restaurateur can’t even get a place listed on a highway sign listing food options at the next exit unless it’s is open on weekends.
For 37 years, the extended family has operated what is now called Brock’s Service on mostly rural NC 11/903 on the outskirts of Kenansville. What began as a couple of cash-fed gas pumps is now a gas station and convenience store with an associated auto service center adjoining.
It was a natural move for someone like David, with a quirky, inexplicable desire to run a restaurant, to open “The Filling Station” café right next door to an actual filling station and garage built by his father, Buck. One business cross-pollinates the other, you might say — especially since the younger Brock helps run the grocery, including pumping gas, even as he’s doubling the size of the restaurant.
He seems to ignore the incontrovertible fact that families eat out as a unit pretty much only on weekends — if then. He’ll tell you he isn’t trying to create temporary magic moments for entire families at once. He’s happy to pick up patrons, family members all, as they go about their weekly business and errand-running.
David Brock somehow understands, against all odds, that while he truly loves feeding people in a restaurant setting, it’s his job. It’s what allows him to earn a livelihood. His ability to earn that living will definitely be compromised if he doesn’t have a fulfilling life in other areas. He has had that life, and his two children have had their Dad.
You can bet he works a lot more than the eight hours on days the café is officially open, anyhow. By 6:15 every morning, he’s probably already fed 20 people breakfast. Closing the doors at 2 p.m., after the lunch rush, simply allows him time to deal with the hundreds of other tasks involved in helping run not one successful small business but two.
Following what’s likely a 14-hour day, Monday through Friday, he needs to take some time for himself and his family.
When you meet David Brock, you’ll realize that there really is something to this work-life balance concept. He’s friendly, he seems to roll with the punches and he thoroughly enjoys surveying his customers to find out what else they would like to see on his menu.
But he makes no apologies for not opening on weekends.
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is Bob’s UNC-TV report on The Filling Station cafe.