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Small towns, big jobs

Years ago, I stopped for a noon meal in a cafe in a small North Dakota town that shall remain nameless. I was one of roughly a dozen customers being served by a single employee, who seemed to be the proprietor.

The guy was having a rough time of it. He didn't have most of the items listed on the menu -- no hamburgers or toasted cheese sandwiches, among others -- and his coffee-maker and pop machine were both on the blink. The other customers apparently had been waiting a long time for their orders, and the employee/proprietor was, well, a little surly. Less charitably, he was downright cranky. I ended up leaving before he came to my booth.

My point? Running small-town cafes is hard. Running them well is really hard.

In my travels with Agweek, I've eaten in or interviewed people in numerous small-town cafes. The overwhelming majority of the establishments are run well, and some are run superbly.

My Nov. 27 Agweek cover package looks at 10 Upper Midwest farm-town hangouts submitted by readers as being exceptionally good. Here's the link:

Thanks again to readers who submitted their favorites. And thanks to all the owners, proprietors and employees of small-town cafes who make this a better place to live.

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