Hello, friends. It’s been too long. A lot has changed in my life since I last paid $5 to eat too much pizza and write about it. I’m once again growing my beard out. I got to see my favorite band of all-time live and proceeded to survive a Greyhound trip I never thought would end. I’m a changed man now.

But, I still love food, and I still love Erie. Oh, how I hope you haven’t forgotten about my exploits since I’ve been gone. For this edition of Aaron Eats Erie, I wanted to hit a more local eatery. Winter was finally over, the sun was shining, and I never really had a choice; I had to go to Sara’s.

For those unacquainted, Sara’s is a diner and ice cream joint located by Presque Isle. For years and years, Sara’s has been an essential block of Erie culture, used to buffer awkward first dates among teenagers through the beauty of hot dogs and ice cream. It’s a welcoming environment, and one that’s perfect for the warm weather.

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m an old man now. I’m 20. I’ve seen things, felt heartbreak. I listen to Mac DeMarco now. On Friday nights, I watch Doctor Who and am usually asleep by 1 a.m. or so. So, as I begrudgingly walked toward the car, still groggy from naps previous, I could only hope that the promise of a legendary “orange-vanilla twist” might change the way I see this hip, youngster attraction.

When we reached Sara’s, fellow Edge editor Mary Kate Carroll reached into, not only her wallet, but her heart, and handed me $10 to spend on dinner. She’s nice like that – sympathetic toward my “paid on Friday, broke by Sunday” attitude. I decided on chicken tenders and fries. Should something go wrong in the process of ordering Sara’s legenDAIRY ice cream, at least I could have this.

We soon noted Sara’s state-of-the-art drink machines – you know, the ones that contain too many choice for your own good. After what felt like decades, I was up to bat, and I quickly settled on diet vanilla root beer before retrieving my order from the counter. We unanimously decided on a place to sit inside. Unfortunately, several of the “tables” are only wide enough to house one tray, effectively eliminating the possibility of anyone eating across from you.

Luckily for us, we found a regular-sized table. We dived into our food, and almost immediately, I was covered with sauce. Perhaps a white shirt might not have been the best choice.

As Mary Kate described her “incredible” onion rings, we talked summer plans, jobs, and a year winding down. Before long, it was time for dessert – the supposed highlight of our trip. As others placed their orders, I stared aimlessly at the menu, swamped with indecisiveness. I was scared, and everyone knew it. Then, Knight Caller Mary Stephens (affectionately known as “Other Mary”) put a single hand on my shoulder. I turned, and she assured me that things were going to be okay. I went with my gut and placed an order for one orange-vanilla twist with twinklecoat – a request denied by the cashier.

Nevertheless, it was everything I could have hoped for and more. I had my order placed in a cup, essentially turning it into a melted creamscicle. There were smiles all around and as we took to  our cars, I reflected on what I had accomplished this past year – the friends I’d made, the features I’d written, and the foods I had eaten. A single tear rolled down my cheek, and I know at that moment that, while this was the end of an era, this wasn’t the end. I took my obligatory photo with Homer Simpson, and went home feeling a sense of accomplishment.