She found her ‘Cheers.’ And a sweet slice of Lexington life.

Coach John Calipari with community columnist Sarah Katzenmaier at the Chipotle near campus.
Coach John Calipari with community columnist Sarah Katzenmaier at the Chipotle near campus.

Remember the old sitcom, “Cheers,” with the theme song, ”Sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name”? My Cheers is the Chipotle near the University of Kentucky. For those not old enough to remember, “Cheers” was a sitcom on NBC’s Thursday night lineup from 1982 to 1993, set in a bar of the same name where a group of locals meet to socialize. It won nearly 30 Emmys, probably because people longed for their own Cheers.

Chipotle is my more diverse, 2019 version of Cheers. Many people I’ve met there over the course of 10 years have touched my life. One past employee I hope to call friend for life. Another, Art Goldman, invited me to my first Hanuukah party and I learned he’s my nephew’s friend. A young couple who eat there as often as I do, I now know are my neighbors. A brave young woman with MS defies traffic and comes over from Good Samaritan Hospital in her motorized wheelchair. A disabled Army vet banters with me about politics, while his younger more liberal wife backs me up.

I’ve struck up conversations with many students while standing in line. One was looking for a particular musical skill set; I’d just met a student the day before who had that skill, so I hooked them up on SoundCloud. Many police officers, construction workers and medical staff eat there every day with their own lunch bunches. A regular from the sherriff’s office takes advantage of his license plate to park illegally — only sometimes! Tryver Akpan, a theater major from Owensboro, known as the dancing man, invited me to dance with him. Coach Cal and famous student athletes are often spotted there. Occasionally, a person without means wanders in asking for money; I offer a meal, but sadly, a burrito isn’t what they crave.

Chipotle is my Cheers for many reasons. One is that I didn’t have the typical college experience; I was married, working two jobs, and the evening class program didn’t offer a full curriculum, so it took 10 years — at night. So, just being on campus now is exciting. My son and I were already regulars, but when he started UK, he graciously agreed to share some of his college experiences (like State Street 2015!) by letting me tag along. One thing he and his friends often shared was lunch on campus and Chipotle was a great place to meet up. It reminded me of elementary school; they share while the day’s memories are fresh, but then it’s lost forever.

Unfortunately, Chipotle has no parking, yet McDonald’s lot is so close it appears to belong to Chipotle. Despite the many signs not to park there, people do. The two businesses have failed to reach a deal on parking, so McDs has a private impound deal with Metro Towing. McD’s spotter alerts the tow truck hiding nearby. Before you can get in line at Chipotle, they can have the tow bar set and you owe them $73, or $142 if they leave the lot. Regulars and staff often yell, “Tow Truck”, and someone runs for the door.

I’ve driven several irate souls to Metro because they were stranded. An older man from out of town waiting for his wife to get out of surgery, because the hospital lot was full; a mom and her disabled daughter, assuming a handicap sticker would be honored; and many students late for class. It’s been an interesting lesson in human nature, seeing how people react, when they have no one to blame but themselves.

Each visit brings a new adventure. The staff are all uniquely special. Thanks to Matt, Chaz, Stephanie, Corrine, Kim, Colton, James, Kayla, Danielle, Leticia, Zach, Colby, Tay, Justin, Cesar, Alyssa, Jalen, Demarco, LaDonna and Kelsey for making each visit special while I enjoy my Chipotle addiction. Their goal is to provide the best experience they can. If you stop by, tell them Sarah sent you.

Sarah Moore Katzenmaier, Lexington native, works as a consultant for IBM and is a photographer in her spare time. Email her at: skatzenmaier@gmail.com