yellow dog eats – 6 june 2014

minibus memories

As empty nesters, my wife and I try to go out on ‘dates’ on Friday nights, much like we did when we were first dating over thirty years ago. This is in contrast to gathering up the kids to take them out for an inexpensive family meal. There’s nothing wrong with going out with your kids, and we both greatly miss that period in our lives. But time certainly does move on and what were once wee tots are now independent young adults.

The danger of dating as empty nesters is trying to recapture those places and experiences we once frequented as a young dating couple. You can’t go back in time to those places (although I’ve certainly seen a fair share in my cohort do their dead level best, and none for the better), so what we’ve done is use our free time to find contemporary and interesting places.

Yellow Dog Eats falls into that category. It’s a cafe running out of a modest century old building in the “heart” of Gotha, Florida, about fifteen or so minutes down the road from where we live. It’s as diametrically opposed to the touristy kitsch as you can get and still be conveniently close.

Its single greatest calling to us is their superb food, specifically their sandwiches. My wife and I have been infrequently visiting this place since we first stumbled upon it about five years ago. When I say infrequently I mean about once or twice per year. Because it is unique, I’d rather not over-indulge in the place, lest familiarity breed contempt and I stop coming altogether. Some places are worth cherishing by not overindulging, and Yellow Dog Eats is in that special category.

It’s not as if they’re so hidden no one can find them. Last night the place was packed (but not uncomfortably so). They had a local band playing out back, a pretty good band if you want to know the truth. I think they’re called Mud Rooster, but I might be wrong about that. But I don’t think I am…

Yellow Dog Eats owners have also added a few new items to the cafe since the last time we visited, specifically the VW minibus and the VW boot-chair. I don’t know if this is something the owner(s) remember, or if this is an attempt to add “flair” to the cafe to attract the older boomer generation, who do remember these vehicles and the times they were from. I certainly do. The bus doesn’t work anymore, having had the shotgun side taken out and the whole vehicle fitted out as another place for the clientele to sit, eat, and listen to the live music.

As always when we visit, we had great food and a great time. The cafe is a business after all, and it is expanding, ever so slowly, but it is expanding. My only hope is that it doesn’t get so big it ruins the very elements that make it unique, and that have to do with the small intimacy of the place and the good folks that work there.

the way around

vw seating

waiting to order

looking in the case

the band

band notes


All of it taken with the Panasonic GX1 and 20mm pancake. It’s compact yet quite competent. All the photos were post processed. I’m now beginning to use Analog Efex Pro 2 (classic camera 7 without the film scratches) as well as Silver Efex Pro 2, both from the Google Nik Collection. I opened the 20mm up to f/2 and kept it there; wide enough for some background blurring, but closed down enough from its maximum aperture of f/1.7 to give me reasonable overall sharpness on the subject. And the GX1 was excellent from its base ISO of 160 up to 1,600. Not a bad range for what and where I like to photograph.

For all my talk about being in focus, I’m not a slave to sharpness. My reason for going analog color and black and white with a digital camera is to get away from the overwhelming artificiality that too many have fallen into with digital. This obsession with the technical side (sharpness, bokeh, “micro contrast”) leaches all the enjoyment out of photography. This trip to Yellow Dog Eats was the first time in weeks that I’d really felt like limbering up the old photography muscles. For me it was as much a visual and creative experience as it was culinary. And I was able to indulge my bit of photography without causing undo annoyance with the other patrons.