My fiancee and I made the drive out to one of our favorite restaurants tonight only to discover that many changes had taken place since our last visit. This was a place that we used to go to at least once per month (actually the only restaurant that we made a point of reserving time to go to); the sort of place that you've been to frequently enough over a long enough period of time that you get to know the staff in both the front and back of the house, where all the waiters say hi and know your drink order the moment you walk through the door and you feel comfortable placing an order for whatever [the chef] thinks is the best thing that night.
I can't say that seeing how things are now was a total shock when we walked in since there had been warning signs--our friends who worked there grumbling about a change in ownership and then the place being "temporarily closed" the last time we tried to go definitely indicated that something was afoot. I have to say though, it was downright alienating to walk into a place that had been so familiar for so long and then realizing that the decor was 90% the same but just enough different that it wasn't quite right, that you can't recognize any of the staff, that the menu is similar but not the same and that the other patrons are a different sort of crowd from what you're accustomed to. And it was really rather disturbing and kind of sad.
Anyhow, all that as mainly an inelegant meditation on how a place like a restaurant can be a place where people work or relax or enjoy themselves or come to think of as something identified with the notion of "home." Hats off to the pros out there who help make their place feel like that to the people who go there!