The other day my folks and I were talking about some of the best meals we've ever had, and it didn't take long for stories of homemade, stick-to-your ribs meals served up in small rural town cafes to come up. From the chicken-fried steak in Winchester, Texas to the homemade pies in Mayville, North Dakota, small rural cafes have provided some of our best and most memorable food experiences. All that talk of great food got us thinking about lunch, and when my mother suggested we drive to another of her favorite small town cafes, my dad and I quickly agreed.
We headed out to Hunter, North Dakota, population 312. The Hunter Cafe is just down the street from the grain elevator right there on highway 18, just off 200 west. We arrived as the lunch crowd, a few of the local farmers and their wives, was finishing up. The meal was satisfying with the Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese soup memorable.
As we were heading back home, my mother suggested that we stop in Hillsboro to browse a couple of antique stores. Hillsboro, like every small North Dakota town is marked by its grain elevators, and from there, right across Main Street, were the antique shops sitting side-by-side like two good friends.
We stepped into Uniquely Yours and were greeted with great displays of the fabulous farmhouse finds one would expect of a small, rural town shop.
These red, rusty metal numbered signs caught my eye.
I decided to take one home.
This beautiful display featured a fabulous vintage wedding dress.
I just love, love, love this dress! It's so delicate and feminine.
Owner Kathy Duval wasn't in during our visit, but Michelle Hammond, owner of Sapphire's was very capably minding both shops. Sapphire's Floral and More is exactly what its name implies. It's a floral and coffee shop that also offers a unique collection of all things vintage.
This kitchen display could be seen from the doorway that connects these two shops. The pink mixmaster drew us in; the beautiful displays and Michelle's hospitality kept us there.
I sorted through this collection of vintage aprons and found a delightful waist-tie apron with an organdy overlay and ties.
I fell in love with this tiny school desk chair. The record albums sitting atop the chair dwarf it in comparison.
I went for a meal and a couple of vintage treasures, but as we rolled out of town through the streets lined with quaint, old houses, past the court house in the center of the town's square, the grain elevator still visible on the horizon I realized something. The real treasure I'd found was not confined to my shopping bags. The real treasure was my deeper appreciation and understanding of the significance of this small rural town and others just like it all across the Midwest.
These seemingly insignificant blips on a map feed our nation. They personify a strong work ethic, exemplify community, and consistently remind us that being nice always matters.
Sincere thanks and appreciation to:
Sapphire's Floral and More, Michelle Hammond, Owner
9 North Main, Hillsboro, ND 58045
Uniquely Yours Antiques, Crafts, and Jewelry; Kathy Duval, Owner
7 North Main, Hillsboro, ND 58045
All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.