by Dianne Longson

I still miss the old Bus Stop Café. Once located where Trekkers now stands, it was the quintessential welcoming respite for students like myself to start each day -- a standard campus ritual.

Regular customers always sat at a particular counter to be served by their favourite server. Besides the aroma of strong coffee and UBC cinnamon buns, the friendly service provided by Doris, her sister, and numerous other middle-aged women who treated us like family, made the Bus Stop a truly remarkable place.

After returning to campus a few years ago, I had forgotten about another good old-fashioned eatery until my department relocated across campus. I decided with some trepidation to check out another old haunt, The Barn, further down Main Mall near the Engineers' "E."

I was a little apprehensive because as we all know, things never stay the same, and you can never go home again. Right?

I took a stroll over to The Barn and cautiously stepped inside to size up the place and check out the menu. To my surprise I saw a daily soup and sandwich special advertised on the chalkboard and the soup didn't sound like Campbell's. Much to my delight the soup tasted home-made.

Since that day I've returned on numerous occasions. Of course the inevitable happened -- one day I had a craving for a hamburger, and not McDonald's.

Something drew me to The Barn. My lucky day! The special was a Hawaiian burger with fries. Without a doubt, it was the best hamburger I ever remember eating.

Not long after, with the delectable memory still lingering, I had to return. On that fortuitous occasion, the special of the day was a Mexican burger. I think it was better than the first one, but I really can't be sure.

On both occasions I felt compelled to compliment the cook. I could tell this didn't happen too often because both times it took awhile for the shocked expressions to relax into smiles.

Seated beside an open, wood-frame window in the friendly dining room (with pink geraniums sprouting up over the windowsill), there's plenty of fresh air and an opportunity to let the mind wander. I sat and pondered how even the washrooms with their ancient plumbing fixtures, stuck away upstairs, have that old café feel.

Thank goodness for The Barn. It is better than I remember. It feels a lot like home, and reminds me of Doris and the others welcoming me on many dark, damp mornings.

And the added bonus? Now I know what real burgers taste like.