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Quietly, Circle of Friends has been gathering a loyal following since it opened a year ago. From one friend after another, I started hearing, “You have to get there. It’s amazing.” So finally I overcame my fear of ethnic food and found myself stepping through the door. 

I was first greeted by Dolly, the owner. “You can sit here or here or anywhere,” she said with a smile. 

I chose a seat by the wall in the front and took in the space. It was a mix of things I remembered fondly from my grandmother’s home and things you would probably find in different countries around the world. The hodge podge feel gave the place a homey warmth that made me want to stay longer than a short lunch would allow. 

Scrolling through the menu, there really was only one choice for a girl that did not know what she wanted: Around the World. A taste of many of the dishes on the menu for a small price. This was my way to discover what I might actually like. 

After my order was put in, I relaxed into my seat. The one person that was not relaxing was Dolly. She was a blur of motion as she checked in with customers who wanted to know more about her (“I married a West Virginia man.”) and looked for any small way she might make them feel more comfortable. Her smile sparkled just like the sequins on her hat. I was mesmerized by how such a small woman could fill a space with her warm personality. 

Circle of Friends foodBefore long, my food arrived. It was a dazzling collection of food that I had never seen before and certainly hadn’t eaten. As I felt overwhelmed and not sure where to begin, Dolly appeared again. She gave me instructions on how each dish was to be eaten that helped with that feeling of being overwhelmed. A lemon on this and some sauce on that. I was in heaven. 

I made my way as thoughtfully through the dishes, but one thing was becoming abundantly clear: I had gotten a lot of food for $9. Much more food than I had anticipated based on the price. The value was extraordinary. So I ate slowly trying to will my stomach take in more of this deliciousness.

Dolly made appearances at my table with her smile, making sure that I was as happy as the other diners. I was. My only regret being that I didn’t have someone with me to enjoy all of this food. 

Circle of Friends is a great place to try if you’ve never had ethnic food. Dolly is patient and will happily explain every dish to you, as well as the proper way to eat it. And with a dish like one of the Around the Worlds, you literally get to taste cuisine from many different places at once at a very budget-friendly price. Plan for a leisurely meal here. Mostly because once seated, you won’t want to leave and you’ll definitely want to become friends with the lovely owner, Dolly.