America's Classics: Nancy Oakes on Duarte's TavernJBF Editors
March 28, 2016
Duarte’s has always been a destination; I probably went there for the first time in the early ’60s with my parents. Our coast up here is foggy a lot, or else it's sunny until 2 P.M. and then this frostbiting fog comes rolling in and everybody has to leave their beach day and head for some place where they can get something warm and wonderful. So you go to Duarte's and you have artichoke soup and some sand dabs and a berry pie.
The lesson that Duarte’s has to teach all of us is sense of place: you’re in the artichoke fields, you're right by the ocean where the sand dabs come from. It’s really anchored in a sense of place and the food that surrounds it. And then they have the sense not to change. Whereas culinary trends come at us and everybody’s expecting something different, and I’m sure they could have turned it into a fast-food hamburger place, they had the commitment to continue serving the right things. And that’s how a tradition is born, really. It’s somebody who has the guts to say, I don't need to evolve, I don't need to experiment. All those things are great, but there’s a sense of loss when something really traditional and woven into the fabric of its area decides to change. To have a belief in what you’re offering and keep offering it—that takes commitment.
—Nancy Oakes, JBF Award Winner
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