Here in Kansas City, we have a chain of BBQ restaurants that is famous for the greeting each customer receives. As you walk up to the counter, the energetic folks at Gates BBQ will shout, “Hi! May I help you?”

Although, to be honest, it sounds a tad bit like, “Hahmehaheppyou!”

Last week, we spent several days in the South. And I lost count of the times I was asked, “May I help you?” The difference down there? It wasn’t followed up with some smoked meat and fries tossed onto a platter and pushed down the cafeteria line. No, what came next was outstanding customer service and, more often than not, amazing food.

(Not that I’m complaining about Gates by any means. I’m just saying that our Southern eating experiences were something completely different.)

I’m so accustomed to mediocre or even lousy service that for the first couple of days, I honestly thought we were “lucking out.” It actually took me about four days to realize we weren’t just reaping the rewards of some good restaurant karma; we were experiencing that wonder we hear about, but rarely get to see firsthand up here in the, ahem, North.

We were experiencing Southern hospitality.

And ooooh, I loved it! Southern hospitality – from the friendly waiter at Chevy’s and the apologetic waitress at Flipper’s who gave us a discount after the cook put sausage on the sausage-free pizza we ordered to the helpful hotel desk guy who drew me a map of (wrong) driving directions from Orlando to Tallahassee and my Aunt Roz who welcomed us into her home and offered “something cold to drink,” which meant apple juice or Coke – works for me.

For more tips on what works, visit We Are THAT Family.

And for a few vacation photos, check out my Flickr albums.

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