It’s easy for the eye to drift upward. The tall walls, covered with the large, color-saturated works of local artists, pulls your gaze toward the distant ceiling, which it never quite seems to reach. The long, open dining area at one end houses a stage that looks like it was pulled from a production of Hair, awash in psychedelic mesh of color. You are at a table with several friends, the backlit Matisse reproductions that wash the bar in blue distracting you from the beer list. The list is long, but you want a brew from Virginia, and those beers are highlighted in orange, making your job easy, if you can tear your eyes from the Matisse.
You’re in Clementine Cafe, a mainstay of Main St. in Harrisonburg, VA. Housed in what used to be the Strand Theatre, Clementine offers a mix of casual and fine dining paired with a full entertainment schedule. Scanning the menu you see your choices range widely, from sandwiches and burgers to Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin Scalopini, barbeque to a Duck Confit Ramen Bowl. You hate having so many choices. You love having so many choices. Your beer, a vanilla porter, seems like a good match for the barbeque. Then you notice the barbeque comes from Hank’s Smokehouse, a local favorite also operated by Clementine’s owners, and that seals the deal. Your friends choose the falafel and the ramen; they’re not as picky about matching their drinks to their meals. You hope someday they see the light.
On the stage a crew is setting up for a show later in the evening. You check the schedule: Southern Culture on the Skids and the Judy Chops. Southern Culture on the Skids! You remember seeing them years ago in Louisville, KY; their song about banana pudding still gets stuck in your head. You scan the list of recent shows, a mix of local and nationally known acts. Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts. You can’t believe you missed the indie band Waxahatchee, though you realize you’ve read more about them than you’ve listened to their music. But what better way to get to know a band than to see them live?
The food comes. You order a second round. You think how places like this keep the downtown vibrant, keep business busy, keep property values on the up and up. Your beers come and you toast with your friends. To good food. To an evening out, and many more.