Tastings: Great American Road Food

See original article in Groupaway Magazine here
Colorful restaurants serve up regional grub along highways and byways

By Lauren Borrelli and Laura Smith

Being cooped up in a car or bus for a long road trip makes for a restless, hungry group and fast food can get really old after a while. Let everyone stretch their legs and stop at one of the countless eateries often overlooked for those ubiquitous golden arches. Find the spots frequented by the locals, and you’re all but guaranteed a tasty, affordable meal. Tear into a talked-about sandwich at a mom-and-pop shop or a stack of flapjacks at a downtown diner. These roadside restaurants have locally inspired menus, fun decor, storied histories and a real taste of Americana. Just be sure to check on reservations beforehand.

ABBOTT’S LOBSTER IN THE ROUGH
Noank, Connecticut
Grab a seat at a picnic table and put on a bib for an outdoor, New England seafood feast. Abbott’s is famous for its hot lobster roll: a quarter pound of lobster meat drizzled with melted butter and served on a toasted bun. Connecticut Magazine tagged another choice, the New England Seafood Feast, as a “dish to try before you die.” The meal begins with clam chowder and shrimp cocktail followed by steamed mussels and lobster. And who could forget the drawn butter and coleslaw?

This family-owned heirloom hosts groups of 25 to 200 on two acres of waterfront property. Motorcoaches are a familiar sight, says owner Jerry Mears. Abbott’s may operate only 128 days out of the year, but Mears still hosts 50 to 70 group events such as rehearsal dinners, birthday parties and tours from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Table service and special menus (including an appetizer, choice of entrée and dessert) are offered to groups. abbotts-lobster.com

13 COINS
Seattle, Washington
A Rainy City institution since 1967, 13 Coins is named after a Peruvian tale in which a poor young man asks a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, pledging 13 coins and his undying love. This sweet story inspired a 24-hour diner known for its high-backed booths, swiveling captains’ chairs, live music and spirited staff.

The menu of late-night munchies alongside high-end entrées has more than 130 items, including everything from a ham-and-cheddar scramble for $8 to rock lobster tails for $80. Monday through Thursday, customers can order the “three for $25” special, which includes an appetizer, entrée and dessert. The most popular dinner dish, says manager Tom Gray, is “The Believer,” a breast of chicken parmigiana breaded and pan fried, then served with melted mozzarella and parmesan cheeses in a white cream sauce.

Gray hosts several large groups a week, “catering to anybody at any time,” he says. “You can show up in your robe or in a tuxedo.” There’s a second location 20 minutes away in Seatac. 13coins.com

ANTOINETTE’S SWEETS
Depew, New York
Outside Buffalo, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and candy store beckons customers inside with its intoxicating chocolate aroma. Started in 1953, this family-owned shop is known for its big sundaes smothered in homemade syrups, thick hot fudge, marshmallow sauce and fresh whipped cream. Available in 15 flavors and served in tall tulip glasses or banana split boats, the sundaes are $3.95 for two scoops and $6.95 for three.

Antoinette’s scoops 30 specialty sundaes, but one of its most popular sweets is sponge candy, an aerated honeycomb drenched in milk chocolate. Other candies include truffles, nonpareils, molasses pops and more. The shop easily seats 70 customers, and a second location in West Seneca is less than 20 minutes away.

LOVELESS CAFE
Nashville, Tennessee
With its country charm, down-home cooking and barrage of famous former guests (Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and Faith Hill, for example), it’s no wonder locals and tourists alike love this landmark. In 1951, Lon and Annie Loveless set up picnic tables in their front yard and sold homemade fried chicken to people driving up and down U.S. Highway 100. Now that’s real road food.

The restaurant is famous for its fried chicken, country ham and biscuits, still made using Annie’s own secret recipe. Family-style menus start at $11.95 per person for an entrée and three sides. The cafe also bakes 30 different pies, cobblers and cakes. Best of all, groups receive complimentary meals for drivers and guides.

Pagers in hand, diners can peruse through pottery, oil paintings and garden art in the adjacent Motel Shops and fill shopping bags with homemade preserves and sliced smoked meats from Loveless Hams and Jams Country Market. lovelesscafe.com

CONEY I-LANDER
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Chili-dog connoisseurs keep going back to Coney I-Lander for its Coneys — small, slow-grilled hot dogs topped with no-bean chili, raw onions and mustard. The dog’s named after New York’s famed Coney Island, and it can come “loaded” with grated cheese or cayenne pepper. Service is quick, and the food is cheap; three or four dogs are less than $10. The hot dog stand opened in 1926 and now has seven locations in and around Tulsa. “Our Coneys are something that, literally, you won’t find anywhere else,” says Kyle Cermak, general manager of the MEK Corporation, which owns the franchise. The Coney I-Lander, which can seat groups up to 50, is a tasty part of the city’s history.

BIG TEXAN STEAK RANCH
Amarillo, Texas
Better bring your appetite to this showdown. If you can eat a 72-ounce steak along with a salad, baked potato, shrimp cocktail and dinner roll in less than an hour, you’ll get your $72 back — and your name on the list of champions, totaling more than 1,300 since 1962. For major bragging rights, beat the record and scarf it all down in less than 8 minutes and 52 seconds. Not that hungry? Try smaller entrées such as chicken fried steak or spare ribs with regional appetizers like fried rattlesnake and mountain oysters (and no, the latter isn’t seafood). Then top it all off with some homemade fudge.

The Big Texan has been featured on the Travel Channel and in several movies. Located off I-40, the restaurant has an unloading site for buses, and the main dining room can seat up to 600. Group tour leaders can work with the steakhouse on menu and budget, says co-owner Bobby Lee. Stop by the gift shop for a snakeskin belt and reserve a room at the adjacent Big Texan Motel with its Texas-shaped pool. Lee describes his restaurant as a perfect portrayal of the Old West, “right out of an old Clint Eastwood film.” Just look for Big Moo, the giant steer, out front. bigtexan.com

PANCAKE PANTRY
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Tennessee’s first pancake house, dating back 50 years, has people lining up for its 24 varieties of made-from-scratch pancakes. The rustic establishment is still under original management and expanded to a second location in Nashville. The sweet potato pancakes served with cinnamon cream syrup are crowd pleasers, as are the Smoky Mountain buckwheat cakes and Georgia peach crepes. Waffles, omelettes, eggs, bacon and hash browns round out the breakfast menu, while lunch features burgers, gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups and salads. Box lunches can be prepared ahead of time for a group picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Like a lot of restaurants in mountainous Gatlinburg, the Pancake Pantry doesn’t have extensive parking. Many hotels and motels, however, are located within walking distance. And tour buses can park on the street until 9 a.m. For breakfast, groups of 40 to 50 should make reservations before 7:30 a.m. when crowds start to form. Bus operators and tour guides for groups of 25 or more are treated to free meals.

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Odd jobs give hotels extra flair

See the original article in Groupaway Magazine here

Next time you’re at a hotel, think about all the people who make your stay a pleasant one. There’s the concierge, the chef, housekeeping, the Duck Master. Wait, what? Well, if you’re staying at a Peabody Hotel, then yes, the Duck Master and his trademark, feathered friends are an important part of the overall experience.

The Duck Master is responsible for the twice daily duck march. At 11 a.m., five ducks are led down the elevator from their “duck palace” on the roof to the fountain in the Grand Lobby in front of a crowd of up to 100 onlookers. The process is reversed at 5 p.m. when the ducks march back down the red carpet and ride up to their habitat for the night.

This ducky tradition started in 1933 when Frank Schutt, general manager of the original Peabody Memphis, and a friend placed decoy ducks in the Grand Lobby fountain as a prank.

The Peabody Orlando recently hired a new Duck Master, a coveted position considering there are only three in the world. (There’s a third Peabody in Little Rock, Ark.) Alan Villaverde, managing director of the Peabody Orlando, says he found what he was looking for in Donald Tompkins, a former AT&T employee and sea lion host at Sea World. “He must be the point person for the image and personality of the ducks,” Villaverde says.

In addition to leading the daily ceremony, the Duck Master works with guest services, conducts media interviews, and brings the animals to schools to talk about wildlife and the environment. “I’ve only been here two months and it’s been everything I thought it would be,” Tompkins says. “It’s a fun job…there’s a lot of customer interface and I enjoy talking to people.”

Of course, working with ducks isn’t the only cool job out there. At The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, two hotel chefs, who serve as guacamologists, whip up homemade guacamole and margaritas for guests every night starting at 6 p.m.

Farther south in Miami, The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach employs a tanning butler whose job is to slather on sunscreen. Armed with a custom-made holster filled with sunscreen of varying SPFs, a water mister and sunglass cleaner, the butler is paid to hang around the pool.

The Benjamin Hotel in New York offers a good night’s sleep or your money back. To guarantee this promise, the hotel employs a sleep concierge who presents a pillow menu to guests, complete with 12 different kinds of pillows to choose from. The concierge then offers advice on how best to get some shuteye.

The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco employs a coin washer of all things. In the mid-1930s, this employee cleaned the change women were using to pay for lunch so they wouldn’t get their white gloves dirty. Today, the coin washer cleans about $700 to $800 in coins a week in an old, manually operated machine.

— Laura Smith

‘Avenue Q’ gives adult twist to Muppets

Kerri Brackin (from left), Nicky, Rod and Brent Michael DiRoma in “Avenue Q,” which uses puppets and actors to tell the story of a college graduate trying to survive in New York City. Credit: Courtesy of John Daughtry/News & Record

To view the original article in Go Triad, click here

Most women can’t go without their iPhones or lipstick. Kerri Brackin doesn’t know what to do with herself when she doesn’t have a puppet with her.

Brackin is one of 12 performers creating laughs and gasps on stage for the Avenue Q 2010 tour, which will come to Greensboro Friday and Saturday.

The tour, which will travel to about 70 cities this year and will end June 26 in Ottawa, Ontario, began in September.

“Avenue Q” tells the story of Princeton, a recent college graduate who moves to New York City with big dreams and discovers the color of life through issues, including race, pornography, sexual orientation and sex itself. Puppets and humans create the adult-themed humor and stories in the production.

The show, whose characters are mirrors of the “Sesame Street” characters, began in 2003, ending its Broadway production on Sept. 13.

The main roles Brackin plays are Mrs. T (a kindergarten teacher) and one of the Bad Idea Bears, which is her favorite role. The Bad Idea Bears are Care Bearlike characters, who innocently try to manipulate people into giving in to their desires. They function as shoulder devils. Later in the performance, they convert to Scientology.

Brackin also plays the second hand to the Nicky and Trekkie Monster characters. Nicky is a parody of Ernie from “Sesame Street” and is a messy and jobless roommate. The Trekkie Monster is a Cookie Monster parody who is addicted to Internet porn instead of cookies.

“My particular part in the show is very, very puppet-heavy,” she said. “I work with literally every single puppet in the entire show.”

But performing with puppets wasn’t first nature to Brackin.

“It was the craziest thing,” she said. “It made the rehearsal process very, very different from anything I had ever done before, especially in terms of a musical theater kind of setting.”

Brackin began performing at age 8 in professional musical theater productions.

Feeling the need to “do the whole high school, college thing,” she said, Brackin took several years off to get her undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma. She attended law school for a year at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and got a master’s degree in psychology from Pace University.

She had the itch to go to New York City to begin performing again and soon was on stage. Before “Avenue Q,” she toured with the production of “Hairspray.”

When Brackin got called back to audition with “Avenue Q,” she attended a “puppet camp” and got her first experience with the fuzzy characters.

“Originally in rehearsals, it was so much about the technical aspects of it, opposed to acting, singing,” she said. “It was so much about the puppets.

“Now, it’s almost kind of become second nature. I don’t know what I do when I don’t have a puppet on my arm.”

And those puppets don’t come with family-friendly slapstick humor. “Avenue Q” is known for its profanity and adult themes.

Brackin, who comes from a conservative family, had to warn her family what to expect when they saw the production, she said.

“But honestly, I think that the majority of audiences and most of the people that come &ellipses;they enjoy it, and there’s something for everyone in the show,” she said. “It is really cool to see how the different audiences across the country react to it.”

For Brackin, the audiences are what make the show.

“We’ve had a lot of really great cities we’ve gotten to play recently, and I think that the audiences really don’t know what a huge impact they make on us as the actors on the stage,” she said.

“They’ve been fantastic, and it makes it that much more fun for us.”

Fine wine and thyme

The Pendulum

Chris Russell, owner of B. Christopher’s, B’s Bistro and Benjamin’s Seafood, said he plans to open a “gastro pub” on Williamson Avenue near Elon’s campus soon. Photo by Lindsay Fendt.

The easiest thing about Chris Russell’s job? The commute between the three businesses he owns.

Russell, full name Benjamin Christopher Russell, owns the upscale restaurant B. Christopher’s as well as B’s Bistro and Benjamin’s Seafood. All three are located next to each other in the same plaza on Church Street in Burlington.

Russell moved to Elon College, N.C., in 1984 from Mississippi when he was in the eighth grade.

After working in several local restaurants in high school, Russell decided he wanted to pursue a career in the restaurant industry.

Russell attended Elon College from 1990-93 and got his start in the restaurant industry during that time.

After graduating from Elon, he worked and managed several locations.

“I knew it was something I’d always been interested in,” he said.  “I thought it would be time to start something myself.”

After working and taking culinary classes in Washington, D.C., for more than 10 years, Russell decided he wanted to come back to Elon to open his own restaurants.

“I moved here partially out of the comfort level,” he said. “It was a good thing to come back. It’s a nice place to raise a family, too.”

B. Christopher’s opened more than 10 years ago, B’s Bistro four years ago and Benjamin’s three years ago. Benjamin’s is a seafood restaurant that specializes in fried seafood, something Russell said was different from his culinary style.

“There was a void in the (restaurant) marketplace,” Russell said. “I thought fresh seafood would be the niche.”

Russell’s day typically begins at 9 a.m., prepping for meals, cooking and managing the business aspect of the three locations. All of his recipes are original and  He usually takes a break in the middle of the afternoon to spend time with his 6-year-old and 8-year-old kids, he said.

The only challenge Russell has is employing and managing 60 people to ensure they all get what they need.

“There are a lot of control issues you have to let go of,” he said.

Russell said he also enjoys the occasional surprises he finds in his freezer. As a hunting club member, Russell’s friends have left him a full deer and once 300 lbs. of halibut in hopes of having him use it for a catered event.

Russell continues to partner with Elon, as well. This past year, B. Christopher’s worked with the athletic department in advertising at football games and providing a source for off-campus catering.

Russell said his newest endeavor will be opening an all-new restaurant this spring on Williamson Avenue near Acorn Coffee Shop. While he couldn’t specify details yet, he said it is going to be what he calls a “gastro pub,” similar to a bistro and driven by a chef.

Russell thought Elon needed a more nightlife-type restaurant and has had a mutual discussion with the university.

“Elon is such a cool school,” he said. “That’s the one area that might be lacking.”

Gerald Whittington, vice president for business, finance and technology, said the university has been talking to several people about developing more retail shops and restaurants in the Town of Elon. Whittington said the university cannot comment on the details until all of the contracts are signed.

Russell said he thinks by having more upscale and unique restaurants like the one coming in the spring, students will not find as much of a need to venture to Greensboro or Chapel Hill, N.C.

A “love of hospitality” is the reason Russell said he continues to do his work.

“I feel like hospitality is in my blood,” he said. “It’s a natural fit for me.”

College classrooms get smarter with new technology

Laura Smith

The Pendulum

Business professors teach in classrooms with high-tech gadgets in the Koury Business Center, which was built in 2007. Photo by David Wells

Business professors teach in classrooms with high-tech gadgets in the Koury Business Center, which was built in 2007. Photo by David Wells

A few years ago, a colorful Powerpoint presentation was enough to teach a classroom full of college students about the principles of business or the alignments of the planets. Today, students are learning on a more advanced level thanks to the installation of new technology in classrooms.

At Oakland University in Michigan, the administration recently spent $15,000 in technology upgrades in each general classroom, according to an article by the Detroit Free Press.

Elon University is no different. The school has spent anywhere from $18,000 to $24,000 per classroom in the past several years, according to Fred Melchor, director of technology support.

“Back in the early days all a professor needed was a chalkboard and chalk,” Melchor said. “We have always tried to stay not ahead of the curve but on the curve. As the technology progressed, we went with it.”

Elon’s classrooms are considered either level one, two or three, Melchor said. A level one classroom has no technology. A level two classroom has moderate technology such as a TV and DVD player. A level three classroom has full hookups, including a TV, DVD system and a wireless control system.

According to Melchor, 90 percent of Elon classrooms are at level three and the rest are at level two.

In addition to HD televisions and DVD systems, Elon is moving toward the use of Smartboards.

Smartboards are white boards that can throw an image a short distance and allow for professors to map to other elements within the board using special pens and a projector that is built in.

Currently there are three in Lindner Hall, one in Duke, one in Belk Library and one in Mooney.

Smartboards are gaining popularity in the School of Education, Melchor said. Because of the rising prevalence of these systems in public schools, the education program at Elon felt it was necessary to have education majors trained in using a Smartboard.

Touch screen panels are also becoming more prevalent on Elon’s campus. Created by Creston Digital Media, these panels allow for information at the touch of the finger. There is a panel already installed highlighting Elon sustainability in the lobby of Lidner.

Another feature Elon has been using is electronic response systems. These gadgets allow students to respond to a question anonymously by clicking.

“You can immediately see on the screen how many people chose what answer,” Melchor said. “You can see if you get (the answer) right or wrong.”

Tony Crider, associate professor of physics, uses these devices on a regular basis. He said they allow for group work where students can decide the answer in groups and as a whole.

“They keep students engaged,” Crider said. “Sometimes there’s no moment to say ‘What do I really think?’ It’s nice to pause and get input from everybody in the classroom. It’s helpful for students to put in an answer.”

Crider said he also enjoys using the Smartboards, especially for annotating slides.

“It’s difficult on the spur of the moment to draw on a slide,” he said. “You can’t do that with a mouse easily. (With a Smartboard) I can pull up a pen and start sketching right away.”

Crider is also a member of the Elon Visual Culture Group, which consists of different faculty members from varying departments who look at how visuals can help students and how data can be presented.

In the future, the Elon faculty is hoping to integrate even more technology into their lessons.
“I think you’ll see we always take into consideration what the faculty want,” Melchor said. “They would like to have more HD on campus … and remote clickers for Powerpoint.”

Another feature the faculty is hoping to acquire is video teleconferencing, Melchor said. This would allow professors to record their class and post it on Blackboard.

“Regardless of the Smartboards or whether it’s the clickers, you need to have multiple lines of information coming into the classroom,” Crider said. “I don’t like the idea of the instructor being the source of all knowledge.”

Joe Davis, assistant director of campus technology support for classrooms, said this technology is also beneficial for marketing the university.

“We’re bringing in students who almost expect to see (the technology),” he said. “If we don’t have it, what gives us that marketing edge? It also gives faculty members a new way to help transfer that knowledge to the students.”

Postcards showcase Greensboro’s history

By Laura Smith

Go Triad

For a little more than a decade, Tara Sandercock has been collecting postcards — mostly from early 1900s to 1960s. Credit: Jerry Wolford/News & Record

For a little more than a decade, Tara Sandercock has been collecting postcards — mostly from early 1900s to 1960s. Credit: Jerry Wolford/News & Record

For Tara McKenzie Sandercock, the postcards she has been collecting in the past decade are more than just a message sender, they are a piece of history.

“A postcard doesn’t take up much room, yet is speaks volumes,” she said. “It tells a story.”

Sandercock, who is vice president of grants and initiatives at The Community Foundation of Greensboro, recently acquired her great-great-aunt Carrie’s collection of postcards from around the world. Combined with Sandercock’s own collection, the cards are now displayed for the public at the Foundation in its latest Community Collects exhibit, “Greetings from Greensboro!”

It all began as a little girl when Sandercock’s grandmother, Ruth Louise Davis, shared Carrie’s postcard collection with her.

In the early 1900s, Carrie —- her full name was Caroline Farquhar —- was a Quaker and Latin teacher who traveled around the world with her siblings. In her travels, she collected postcards from the countries she visited including places in Europe, Japan and Egypt.

As a child, Sandercock hoped to acquire the collection someday.

“They were just fascinating to me as a child,” said Sandercock, vice president of grants and initiatives at the Community Foundation. “I remember looking at these incredible photos, and I loved that design era where they were hand-colored.

“I remember we would see the postcards and we would look up their places on the globe,” Sandercock said, “and it was an early part of my education. Just the photographs of these were amazing.”

Sandercock moved to Greensboro 12 years ago and spent a good deal of time at antique fairs and flea markets in search of her other collectible interest: pottery.

While “flea-tiquing,” as her brother calls it, and looking for pottery, Sandercock came across a stand selling old postcards, and a postcard of Greensboro caught her eye. The postcard helped her remember how much she had loved her great-great-aunt’s collection. So she bought the card.

Since that day, she has made it her passion to find old postcards, mainly from the 1900s to the 1960s. Her great-great-aunt’s collection has only added to the compilation, and she estimates the oldest card she has is from about 1902.

Sandercock looks for postcards from Greensboro and the town where she grew up, Clarksville, N.Y..

She searches flea and antique markets as well as her latest discovery, eBay, where she says she usually gets postcards as cheaply as $1.50 each to about $8 for a set.

The most she has ever paid was $35 for a postcard displaying N.C. A&T with students tilling plots in front of the administration building.

A postcard, she says, is a representational account of how much has changed throughout the years.

“I’ve learned that there’s a lot of stereotyping, certainly around race, in some of the older postcards,” she said. “It’s interesting.”

Sandercock is no stranger to the subject of history, as she has been interested in the subject her whole life and even married a history teacher. She said she sees the postcards as a representation of day-to-day living in certain socio-economic groups.

One of the most memorable experiences she’s had collecting the postcards was giving her father-in-law a postcard from the small town in Pennsylvania where he grew up.

“It blew him away,” she said. “He made photocopies of it and sent it to family and friends.”

Since acquiring her great-great-aunt’s collection in May, Sandercock has added those postcards to her own collection.

Although postcards from Greensboro are the main focus in her searches, she appreciates any postcards she can find.

“I want the collection to be as broad as possible and to feature institutions that the vast spectrum of people in our community will identify with,” she said. “People that invest in the community foundation are investing in Greensboro; it’s a visual way to get some of the idea of the history.”

At the Carter Family Gallery at the Foundation, the public can see watercolor postcards from Japan, photographic postcards from Egypt and scenes from the earlier years of Greensboro. Some postcards include scenes from Bennett College, Proximity Mill, the old Emanuel Lutheran College and even the bus depot.

“It’s not just about the landmarks,” Curator Adeline Talbot said. “It’s the way people look at them; they’re amazing to look at.”

Adults can be kids, too!

By Laura Smith

News & Record/ Go Triad

PlayDate Triad allows grown-ups to be kids again by gathering to play games such as Jenga. Photo submitted

PlayDate Triad allows grown-ups to be kids again by gathering to play games such as Jenga. Photo submitted

The poor economy has only made Atlanta businessman Imari Havard’s company grow stronger, and it’s all thanks to the help of Hungry Hungry Hippos, Connect Four and Twister.

PlayDate, the brainchild of Havard and his two business partners, Ryan Hill and Ronald Gaither, has visited 26 cities in the U.S. and will come to Greensboro this Saturday. This is the second time the event has come to Greensboro; the first was in July. It’s also been to Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh.

PlayDate is an event for adults 21 and older. Instead of techno music and dancing, you’ll find a group of 30-somethings tangled up in Twister or a group of friends huddled around a game of Jenga. The cost? $10.

“We want people to realize that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to go out and have a good time,” Havard said.

And with thousands of people showing up at one event, along with food, drinks and music, there’s no lacking of fun.

“It’s proven to be one of those businesses that’s recession proof,” Hill said. “It’s difficult to find something that has high value in terms of entertainment but at a cheaper cost.”

The event began in Atlanta in 2005 when Havard, who was working for a small marketing company at the time, was looking for an alternate way to have fun besides going to clubs. So, Havard and his wife held a get together with about 80 friends at a billiards room in Atlanta with board games and cocktails. The event was so successful, numbers grew by the hundreds and by 2007, Havard, Hill and Gaither created its parent company, Timeless Entertainment Concepts (TEC).

“It’s an awesome concept,” said Latrina Harris with PlayDate affiliate, Unique Affairs, which is helping organize the event in Greensboro, as well as in several other Southeastern cities. “They saw a need to redefine what we see in nightlife with the parties that really mirrored the club scene. A lot of people have grown tired of that.”

PlayDate allows adults to be kids again by offering open tables with games, including Operation, Jenga, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Sorry! and others.

“Some don’t do the club atmosphere, so it can be hard to meet people,” Harris said. “But when you pass a game of Connect 4, you might sit down and ask to play; it gives you an excuse to meet one another.”

At 11 p.m., PlayDate takes guests “back to the playground,” Harris said. Participants can immerse themselves in signature games of Red Light/Green Light, Red Rover, musical chairs, limbo and even karaoke.

The last PlayDate in Charlotte brought in about 1,000 people, and the one in Raleigh brought in about 600.

“We sell it as an economy friendly event.” Harris said. “We’re in hard times but we want to provide an opportunity to get out and have a good time and get your mind off things.”

It doesn’t hurt that the desire to be entertained will never go away, either.

“It’s about just being as silly as possible,” Hill said. “For one night, you can come out and forget all of your adult problems and pretend you’re a kid again.”