Carpe Diem closed this week. Sunday the 23rd was the last day. While this might not seem significant, given that restaurants in Decatur come and go quite frequently, Carpe Diem was a special place, I think. It captured the spirit of Decatur – the kindness, the acceptance, the style, the “chill-ness” that, I fear, is on the wane.
The location was indicative of that spirit, nestled between the Ice House apartments and the CSX rail line. When I think of Decatur, I think of trains. Something became complete in me when sunning on the patio at Carpe Diem, with a freight train lumbering past. Call it Good Vibrations.
The fare was not all that different from sister stores, Après Diem and Carroll Street Café; but at Carpe Diem, there was just enough “Decatur gestalt” added by the chef that made it that much more special. Great wine list, wide variety of options for vegans and carnivores alike. A great place to have a quick beer on the veranda, next to that huge fountain, or to snuggle into a banquette inside with your Honey over an appetizer and a split of champagne.
The staff…well, it’s said that the place reflects the people, and the people were awesome. Quietly competent, never pushy, just chatty enough…every single person, from hostess to bartender to server, treated every customer with kindness and respect. Given the eclectic nature of Decatur, that should be taken as a huge compliment. I haven’t found another establishment that does it better.
The patrons ranged from Sunday school classes at Sunday brunch to gay boys, transsexuals, illicit lovers, girls-night-out’ers, Baby Boomer couples, first dates, divorce settlements, business lunchers, closet intellectuals and barflys. The bar was comfy with leather couches, chairs, two-fer tables and a raised banquette that allowed a conning-tower view of the entire bar. The downstairs room was expansive and often featured great local art. It was in this room that my Bride and I had our wedding reception in 2005. It is a very special place.
It’s the spirit of Carpe Diem that I’ll miss the most, I think. As I said, it reflects the spirit of Decatur – a quiet, confident, working-class sophistication that allows everyone to be who they really are…and it’s okay, with everyone.
So farewell, Carpe Diem. The name is a command that, in Latin, embraces what it was all about.
Decatur is the poorer for its passing…