Honestly, I know fried things aren’t all that great for you, but a recent sandwich I had at Melody’s Coastal Café in Richmond Hill, GA will live out in my memories as one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had with its soft New Orleans roll wrapped around flaky nuggets of cod.
But it wasn’t the sandwich that made Melody’s incredible. What made it incredible was Laura Lash, the waitress.
The restaurant was empty at 4:00pm on a Sunday, and I was glad. It gave me time to look around and enjoy the seafaring atmosphere, whitewashed walls with beachy knickknacks, and popular rock songs playing in the background.
Laura was a young, beautiful blond girl of barely twenty. Her mascaraed made up eyes stood out like headlights on her heart shaped face. For a moment, I wondered if they were real.
After taking my order and placing the sandwich down in front of me, she asked how I came about finding their restaurant. I told her I was only exploring Savannah for the weekend, but saw it on my GPS under local dinner places. Surprising me, she sat down on the opposite bench and began telling me the story behind her family owned restaurant.
She and her family had picked up and moved to Marion, Ohio after her father had been hired for a well-paying job in another state, only to then be told the business had folded and he, along with 800 others, were now without work. Once in Ohio, her stepmother made the fearless decision to invest their money in a small pizzeria, Mazzie’s, in Marion. Laura, only 16, quit high school to help support the family.
Having built the business to a successful level after a few years, the family desired to move out of Marion and its problematic neighborhood. They took a trip to Richmond Hill, Ga to look into a hotdog place for sale. The place was too small, but on their way, they passed a vacant restaurant on Highway 17 and made another split decision to purchase it to create a full-service restaurant, something her father always wanted to do. In few weeks, their business and home were sold.
She went on to share all the obstacles they ran into, including a family friend running off with all the restaurant alcohol and liquor bought with the family’s own money, as well as, having to use up savings to house their family of six people and six dogs into a hotel room for a month while the occupants of their soon-to-be home waited 60, not 30, days before moving out. Undaunted, this family proceeded to use their own elbow grease to make something out of old building and within two months had the restaurant up and running. Their efforts paid off in 2016 and 2017 when Melody’s Coastal Café was awarded the Best of Bryan burger, along with Laura winning Best Waitress out of 40 other nominees in the area.
I had to agree with the judges. She was young. She had not finished high school, but she proudly told me how she’d paid off her brand-new car within a year, making a payment of $1200 a month. She told me of her plans to take over the bar and expand the specials when she turned 21. In the meantime, she would sand and repaint all the chairs by hand.
As we talked in intimate solitude, I learned of her recent challenge with a significant relationship and the depression and severe weight loss that followed. Looking at her, I saw only a healthy, beautiful woman who was not only strong, but had learned to value a softer side. When I mentioned this, she told me she spent last weekend wandering the zoo and enjoying the animals and her own company. “People my age are too busy with media and drama,” she said. “There is something about getting back to the earth.”
I left that restaurant humbled by the inspiration I found in such an unlikely place. But that’s often where gold lies.
If you’re ever visiting Savannah, it’s worth a trip to Melody’s Coastal Café, home of the Best Waitress.