The older I get, the more I realize that calling a search for treasure a “hunt” really is an apt description. Treasure doesn’t tend to advertise itself on the street. You’ve got to go seeking it intentionally.
Hunting for treasure requires the exercise of dedication, focus, and sharp eyesight. Above all, it assumes you don’t know everything about what’s around you. Something else is lurking there . . .
And the one who finds it will be that much richer.
As a Milwaukee resident, I take pleasure in knowing what “treasure” hides in shadows and alleyways of my community, especially in the form of tucked-away eateries. Anyone who has been to the Brady Street area knows it’s jam-packed with these gems. Until now, I thought I knew them all.
Then one day last week, I woke up with a hankering for breakfast out. I waffled on locales with my usual artistic indecisiveness, so my husband finally picked the place.
“Where are we going?” I asked, when it seemed he was ready.
“It’s a surprise,” he promised.
“Can’t be,” I shook my head. “I know all the places around here. Give me three guesses?”
But no matter how much I wheedled, he wouldn’t tell me a thing.
I set off toward downtown with him, my mind a humming mill of possibilities. I threw names out one by one, but each was calmly rejected by my laconic other half. I thought perhaps he really didn’t have a plan in mind. Yet he did seem to know where he was going: straight down Cass Street.
On and on my speculations continued, keeping pace with our steps, until we arrived at the historic Plaza Hotel & Apartments at the corner of Cass and State. I’ve admired the hotel’s Art Deco aesthetic many times; however, it never occurred to me that I could eat in there.
Sure enough, though, there was a little sign out front. “Cafe at the Plaza. Breakfast and Lunch Daily.”
“Here we are!” Nathan announced, beaming with pride.
I had to admit, he’d got me.
When we entered the place, I thought for sure we were over our price range for a casual breakfast. All I could see was a distant dining room, full of gold-clothed tables, and a maitre d’ stand. Yup, I thought. Hubby may have found a new place to eat, but when the bill comes, he’ll wish he hadn’t.
And yet again, I paid for my smug certainty with surprise.
Nathan guided me around a slight corner just before we got to that dining room. And this is what we found:
Anyone who knows me knows how giddy I get about all things vintage: especially vintage diners and soda counters that still have the chrome fixtures and counter seating and the open grill. Imagine my shock at discovering we have had such a place about six blocks from our house the entire time we’ve lived here . . . and I never knew it!
From there, my morning got even better. The host seated us in a darling enclosed courtyard with vines and umbrella tables, where we proceeded to enjoy a leisurely (and delicious) breakfast could right inside that open diner kitchen.
We enjoyed ourselves immensely. You can be sure, we’ll be back again to this little “hidden gem.”
And all that got me thinking. How often is it that we walk through life, thinking we know everything there is to know about a place? And yet if we had eyes to see, we’d find that we have only scratched the surface of what’s really there?
How much treasure are we missing because we’re not willing to hunt? Or think the hunting’s done and we’ve taken home all the prizes?
I thought I knew my neighborhood inside out. Now, I’m not so sure. Cafe at the Plaza has me looking at the familiar streets with new eyes, waiting for another hidden gem to sparkle in just the right light.
No matter where we live, or what our lives consist of, there is always something beautiful, unexpected, and delightful to discover around us.
This week, I found a treasure right under my very nose.
What might be lurking under yours?