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Your Best restaurant experience as a child? [before HS age]

There are lots of threads about excellent meals and great childhood memories, but I looked and I couldn't find one about favourite restaurant experiences as a child.

So, did you have a formative or striking restaurant experience that you still remember?

Tell us!

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  1. Just before HS, maybe 8th Grade, our Scout troop did a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, a hundred miles up Illinois 1 from our town. That's a heck of a place, with a Spitfire attacking a Stuka, both hanging from the entrance hall ceiling, and a WW2 German U-boat and a replica coal mine to tour. Lunch was in a cafeteria, another exotic experience for farm-town kids, with a hot plate, roll, drink and Jell-O for $1.10 … and they had LAMB CHOPS. I had read of these but never seen nor tasted any, so of course I had to get that. I tasted and then ignored the mint jelly (see? Good taste even then!) and went to work on that chop. What a revelation! We had plenty of delicious meat at home, including rabbit and the very large and tasty Illinois squirrels, but this was a whole new thing, and if I'd had another dollar I'd have done it again.

    Of course I told Mom all about it and asked why we never had that, and learned that Dad had been fed a lot of elderly mutton in the Army, and wanted nothing to do with any damn sheep meat ever again. I wasn't even supposed to mention it to him, and of course it was years before I had any more. I have since striven, to the best of my ability, to compensate for what I missed.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Will Owen

      I'm with dad. Only people from foreign cultures should be allowed to prepare sheep meat.

      1. re: flavrmeistr

        Yes, preferably Greeks.

        Oh...or Mexicans if they make good birria.

        1. re: EarlyBird

          ...or anyone within spitting distance of the Meditterranean.

    2. Sirloin steak dinner at the hotel restaurant at the Holiday Inn in Omaha Nebraska. We were moving from Colorado and had to hole up in Nebraska because of a freak snowstorm closing the Interstate.

      I was just over 8 years old and it was the first time I was permitted to order my own meal. It came with a salad, soup with crackers, baked potato and mushrooms and I also had ice cream to finish things off.

      My parents still remind me that it was the most expensive item on the menu.

      1. Diwana's on Drummond Street near Euston Station. my parents would insist that I eat some dosa before they let me eat Pani Puri and drink Kashmiri Falooda. I should say that it wasn't one experience but many great Sunday evenings after dropping my Aunt off at the station. Of course, this was followed by sweets from Ambala's and the occasional parking ticket because parking was so bad. I grew up on Diwana's.

        1. When I was in the single numerical age, there used to be a restaurant called The Cambridge Inn .....they made the most incredible Brioche Popovers with sweet cream butter......after the meal, they had a large chest/trunk filled with Goody Bags for the good kids. I remember it like it was yesterday.....

          1. Great thread idea! Dad traveled M-F. He had friends from all over the country. Mom was a great cook. (Just lost her four weeks ago at 90) Eating out was not rare but always special. As a late in life kid we ate with the adults only most of the time.

            First shrimp cocktail is a great memory. Small town country club. I make my cocktail sauce like mom did, the recipe from the CC.

            Trout Almondine, in a hotel dining room. Still love.

            Salad Bar and "Mocktails" at Sam Wilson's Meat Market. In KC it was a big deal. A wheel of cheddar to slice yourself.

            Shrimp Scampi. Who knew ?

            Finally, two Italian places. One, dad went to for lunch when he stopped traveling. They named a sandwich after him. The other we have gone to for thirty years. First with my folks and now my husband.

            Trips with dad and eating are for another post. Thank you for making me remember.

            1. A 3rd grade trip to Carnegie Hall gave our class the opportunity to have lunch at Horn and Hardart--the Automat--on W 57th st in Manhattan. I still remember putting the token in the slot to get some juice and lifting the spout too soon. Only half a cup of juice! But the mac and cheese was delicious, so much better than at home.
              I do so miss the automat... it closed only a few short years after that trip.

              5 Replies
              1. re: iluvcookies

                Went there too, but we used nickels, no tokens.......my brother eating chocolate cupcakes and a glass of milk, me rice pudding...Usually for lunch around Christmas time , after a day of shopping @ Macy's on 34th street!

                Too bad they closed up.

                1. re: PHREDDY

                  If I recall, the tokens followed the nickels, they cost $.35/each. this was in the mid 1980s.

                  1. re: iluvcookies

                    Yes., now I do....The rie pudding also had whipped cream on top. I think the last store was on the corner of 42nd street and 3rd avenue, which is now a GAP.

                2. re: iluvcookies

                  I miss the automat too.

                  My best restaurant experiences are two fold:
                  In the late fifties, my mother had a CHinese friend who took us to hole in the wall places in NY Chinatown, generally we were the only non CHinese patrons. She would order for us and I developed a taste for many mysterious treats.

                  Second, every Sunday my grandparents took us to Sea Fare, where I tried every fish on the menu. Seafood is still my favorite food group.

                3. I grew up in the mountains of KY, a little town called Corbin. Better known as where Colonel Sanders started serving fried chicken. He had a great restaurant. The chicken was wonderful, shrimp, pork chops, steaks, great food. My mother was not a great cook, I knew the Colonel and his Lady served good stuff.

                  We also had the Wilbur Hotel that served Pheasant under glass. Yes, a little mountain town had gourmet food.

                  I knew I wanted to eat the "fancy" food. And I continue to seek out good food.

                  1. Grew up in SE PA. Occasionally, Dad would take us to The Collegeville Inn, where they had a smorgasbord. Choices seemed to go on forever. That's where we were taught HOW to eat at a buffet!?! You didn't put a big pile of mashed potatoes or mac & cheese on your plate when there was a big medium rare prime rib being hand carved. You didn't spoon corn onto plate when there were big shrimp or crab legs. You could have corn or potatoes ANY day... go for the stuff that was "special".

                    Remember a place called Zaberer's... along the way to "the shore"... WAY before AC Expressway was done. Very quirky decor... all kiinds of interesting thingss on walls. Remember what they brought to munch on while you waited for your food. A MASSIVE glass (sorta snifter-ish) filled with crushed ice and jam packed with carrot sticks, celery, REAL olives with pits!!

                    Florida vacation in early 60's... LONG drive in big honkin Ford station wagon with NO AC!! We were in Miami... or maybe Miami Beach. Ate breakfast several times at a place called Wolfie's... a buffet. Remember my grandmother SNEAKING a roll/bun into her purse everytime... like she was pulling some bank heist! The rest of the vacation, the game was... WHAT could you sneak into her purse without getting caught... handful of sugar packets, salt shaker, fork/spoon.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: kseiverd

                      Change the name of the restaurant and my memory mirrors kseiverd's first paragraph about the smorgasbord.

                      There were lots of mom and pop places we frequented when I was a child but it was the trip to the fancy Sunday buffet place that blew my mind. I can't remember the name. It had a Spanish themed decor that struck me as exotic. I was around 8yo and it was the first time I ever saw a carving station.

                      1. re: kseiverd

                        I had forgotten about Zaberer's. Thanks for the memory.

                        1. re: kseiverd

                          Wolfie's ..was not a buffet, but they start you off with a big basket of rolls/bread, butter...if you only wanted coffee and that basket, it was 50 cents...35 cents for the rolls and 15 cents for the coffee....went there about '62 or '63 with my uncle who worked for this new company "Avis"...
                          OOOO....one more thing, they hade these little onion pocket rolls....

                          1. re: kseiverd

                            Used to drive my parents crazy at Collegeville Inn. We didn't often have olives - keeping expenses down to necessities - so I'd take biiiiig bowls of olives and just gorge myself!

                          2. Having dim sum with my dad. It was the in the late 60's, maybe early 70's in Boston's chinatown. It was my first exposure to steamed buns, shrimp toast and peking duck, which he had special ordered two days earlier.

                            Afterwords we walked around, stopping in to all the stores where my dad stocked up on spices, dried noodles etc that we couldn't find at home. He also bought a huge box of wooden chopsticks at a kitchen supply store which we used my whole childhood. They had every size wok hanging from the ceiling, huge steamer baskets and pots big enough that I could have climbed into.

                            At our last stop he bought me some sesame candies that were so good but so sticky! I still remember barely being able to open my mouth.

                            1. Actually I remember so many...but one special "Continental" restaurant called Villa Bianca. The restaurant named for the owners' daughter....I could not have been more than 7 or 8 years old
                              All of the waiters were in tuxedos, buss boys in white shirts, bow ties and cumberbuns!
                              As your drinks were served.....kids; Shirley Temples, mom and dad hard stuff, they would bring over the "cart"...green olives, black olives, stuffed mushrooms, roasted peppers and onions, some cheeses, Italian salami, etc.....everyone got to pick about 3 or 4 items for themselves on a little plate to enjoy before the meal....to me this was fine dining.

                              I remember duck, roasted pork tenderloin, prime ribs, veal dishes and whole fish being broken down served table side as a first course for the whole family.
                              When dad said we're going Bianca's...my brother and I got my little sister dressed, we had on our jackets and ties and were sitting in the car waiting for mom & dad to get in and go!

                              4 Replies
                                1. re: OCEllen

                                  The restaurant was near Flushing, (Queens) NYC .

                                  1. re: PHREDDY

                                    There was a similar restaurant I remember from the early 60's in Chicago, Club El Bianco, where I had snails as an appetizer... the first time. Very similar service and style to your Villa Bianca.

                                    1. re: OCEllen

                                      I wonder if those type of restaurants will ever comeback? Nice memories for me, and obviously you too!

                              1. My family did not eat at restaurants when I was very young, except on the last day of school when my grandparents would take us to the Peter Pan Inn. It was in the country and food was served family style, with wonderful hush puppies and peacocks in the garden.

                                But the ultimate early restaurant experience was when I was about 10, and my great aunt, who was on the board of directors for the Washington Ballet (this would have been 1968), took me to the old Serbian Crown restaurant, where I had food I had never heard of before, - filo dough with cheese custard being the highlight I can still remember. Then we saw the Nutcracker at Lisner.

                                That great aunt was the most interesting person I've had in my life, bar none. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Kris!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Terrie H.

                                  It's nice to have a thread where we're not compelled to snark : )

                                    1. re: Terrie H.

                                      So funny, I was just telling some friends about Peter Pan last week. I grew up in the Baltimore suburbs and we drove out there for dinner maybe once/summer. I think we always had the fried chicken. Loved the hush puppies, but was slightly scared of the peacocks.

                                      1. re: masha

                                        It's great to hear when others have similar memories. masha. I can guarantee I had the fried shrimp, which has left me on a lifelong search for fried shrimp that tastes as good as my memories. They apparently fried good food back then!

                                    2. The earliest I remember 6-7 was at "Bucks" Cafe after church. The grown ups at plate lunches.....vegetables, chicken, meat loaf and the like. Me? I always ate a ham sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk. Always!!! Love a ham sandwich today too!

                                      The other was at the Rotisserie. The only thing I remember was eating the House Salad dressing..."Come Back Sauce" on toasted bread. The other was individual Chocolate Ice Box Pie. Oh how I love those things. What I ate in between I can't remember. Was too excited waiting on the pie to remember.

                                      Later when I was in my late teens, I ate there and saw "Mr Alex" and reminded him of the time he gave me a bottle of Come Back for my very own. What a TREASURE for a 7 year old. Anyway, when we left the hostess handed me a small sack and said Mr Alex said to give it to me. I looked inside and it was another bottle of the House Dressing. It wasn't until I got home that I realized ....there in his own hand writing was the recipe.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                                        Old Mr. Alex was the helluva nice guy, huh? Good story.

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          Yep! And he should have been. My Step father dropped a lot of paper in there. I remember him insisting on picking up the tab many times for 8 or 10 folks..sometimes more. After numerous cocktails, all sorts of appetizers, steaks and seafood, desserts, and tip he'd spend almost $125 ..........

                                      2. Wow. So many.

                                        When I was a li'l nipper I used to be a fried clam fanatic (apologies to the poster of the same name). And there were a couple of places--Southern Seas and the Zuider Zee--that served terrific fried clam platters. I didn't even have to look at a menu.

                                        I also remember a very traditional Tex-Mex joint called El Sombrero that served fabulous chips and chile, and had a world-class collection of velvet paintings on the walls.

                                        And there was a place down the street from El Sombrero called Underwood's BBQ. The cue was only average, but the sauce was something a little extra.

                                        And speaking of sauce, there was an Italian restaurant called Plains Pizza--between Underwood's and El Sombrero, as luck would have it--that served a fantastic Bolognese-style sauce with their spaghetti. We usually got this to go in styrofoam containers. Once, however, we dined in and a monster thunderstorm hit. It rained so hard that water leapt the curb and began sluicing into the restaurant. Not something one sees often in west Texas.

                                        PS--I've managed to procure the recipes for that spaghetti sauce and the BBQ sauce. Now if I could only get the recipe for El Sombrero's salsa, I would die a happy man.

                                        1. My family was frugal in general, but every year, the week before Christmas, we had lunch at Le Bec Fin. This started when I was 6 or 7 and continued through my 30's! I discovered the magic of escargot, truffles and foie early on due to this one lunch a year.

                                          1. Just thought of another. Don't know if this qualifies as a "restaurant" experience, but very frequently, when my mom picked me up from kindergarten, she would ask me the rhetorical question,"Do you want to get some ice cream?" We then repaired to Dairy Queen for a Dip Cone or a little local burger joint called the Dairy Mart for some chocolate soft serve.

                                            One of my dearest mom memories.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              I have a similar memory. My grandfather always picked me up from school after he retired, sat and watched dance practice (bless his heart) and then took me out for ice cream if it was warm or a donut and hot cocoa if it was cold.
                                              We just talked about my day, how I felt things went at dance, or anything. I'm so lucky he's still around.

                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                You really are lucky! I would have given anything to have my grandparents around when I was an adult. He sounds very sweet, too. This is why I adopted other people's grandparents as I got older. :)

                                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                                  I don't take that luck for granted. I'm 37 and get to call up my pappy for a chat.
                                                  The ones you adopt are just as lucky. We can learn so much from our older friends :)

                                                  1. re: alliegator

                                                    So very true, alligator. Bet your pappy is awfully proud of you. ♥

                                            2. Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, Ca.. We went every year for Mother's Day, they had the best fried chicken, so juicy and with a crispy coating that shattered when you bit into it.

                                              Sadly, it's no longer the same chicken at all. Mom asked us to take her there about 8 yrs ago, and we were all disappointed, most especially Mom, who is a fried chicken connoisseur.

                                              1. My Grandmother and Mother grew up in Chicago. So for them the Walnut room in Marshall Field's on State street was old stomping grounds and nothing special.

                                                In 1959, at 5 years old, I got to ride the Illinois Central from Flossmoor into town and accompany Nana and Mom Christmas shopping. Which always included lunch at the Walnut room and that huge tree. My biggest problem was whether to have the chicken pot pie or the chicken croquet. And we always had some thin minty candies.

                                                3 years later, my sister turned 5, joined us, and I now had somebody in the toy department. I also remember Mom making me give up my seat on the train to the businessmen at the end of the day because "you're young and they have been working hard all day." Sat going into the Loop, stood coming back. Every time.

                                                And if reality is different from my memories, please be kind and leave me in my happy dreams.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                  My father's family is from Chicago - the treat was for Grandma to take you to Field's for lunch. She always got mushroom soup. And those "minty candies" are Field's famous Frango mints!

                                                  My parents took my sister and me on a vacation to Spain when I was about 10. Wonderful food. We tended to be the first people in the restaurants because we were little and couldn't make it to 10pm to eat. I remember one meal where we ate roast suckling pig and lamb and we lingered at the table for hours, only to find a full busload of folks waiting in the lobby for a table when we emerged.

                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                    The Walnut Room is still there, still exactly elegant, and still a tradition.

                                                  2. Mine was also going to dim sum with my dad. He had to do the weekly shopping every Sunday so I would accompany him and we would always get dim sum first.

                                                    For a long time, it was the only dim sum house in my city, and it was very high quality. The wait for a table in this huge place could be very long, but it was worth it. It was so delicious.

                                                    My mom is the type of person who thinks eating out on a regular basis is a waste of money, so we would have to hide our special weekly meal from her, though of course she always knew what we were up to.

                                                    It broke my heart that after more than 15+ years after they had started doing dim sum weekends (they had been open for many years more than that, and were a well established Cantonese place that did community wedding banquets, too), with several other dim sum places that had opened around town, an owner change, and the quality going down hill, the place closed down a few years ago. Returning to my hometown, I recall driving by it and feeling slight heartache at seeing it shuttered up.

                                                    RIP Tien Hong! Great Sunday morning memories with my dad and you will never be forgotten!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                      Was it Tien Hong In Austin? I loved that place? We used to drive in from Temple on the weekend when we first moved here. It in fact might have been my first dim sum.

                                                      1. re: pickychicky1979

                                                        Yes, that was the place. The original structure was demolished and now there is an American-Chinese fast food style resto standing there. Tien Hong got pretty gross in its later years, cold, mushy, watery dim sum, and all the fillings on many of the dumplings tasted the same, and heard through the grapevine they had major health inspection problems. But in its glory days (must have been the 90s) that was one damned good place.

                                                    2. Breakfast at a greasy diner before going to work with my dad on Saturday mornings. Who knew you could have potatoes for breakfast?

                                                      1. Dad liked bar food and Mom liked fine dining. Needless to say, I liked hanging out with both of them and as the oldest of four, realized fairly quickly that if I played my cards right I'd get more time with both of them staying flexible about meals.

                                                        So my recollection goes from my first bar pie in some quiet town in PA while Dad negotiated with a two old birds about the price of an antique couch he had his eye on and thought taking them for a "cocktail" and a hot bar pie might butter them up a bit...while Mom made sure I learned how to order from fine dining menus by the time I was 10.

                                                        My favorite birthday dinner with Mom remains a six course meal at The Manor still doing its thing years later. My favorite meals with Dad always consisted of neighborhood food: local bar pies, deli sandwiches and diners.

                                                        1. My maternal grandmother's 80th birthday at a (then) 1-Michelin-starred restaurant in town -- my first super-fancy restaurant experience. Beautiful room in an old art nouveau villa, fabulous food. My first sweetbreads, which to this day remain my favorite offal.

                                                          I also used to love the (not nearly as fancy, but still special occasion) Sunday dinner buffets at the American Embassy Club. It was exotic to this German gal to have a carving station for prime rib -- the food I mostly OD'd on, with plenty of delicious horseradish sour cream. This was also where I experienced my first Caesar salad, baked Alaska, and Shirley Temples, all of which were completely unfamiliar.

                                                          Lastly, our go-to Germanized Chinese restaurant. They had an item I would order almost exclusively, from my childhood years into my 20s: Special Chinese Noodle Soup, at a whopping $15. But this was a massive bowl of umami -- nice thick noodles, delicious broth (likely brimming with MSG, but whatever), and chicken, duck, beef, prawns, vegetables, shiitakes....

                                                          I was genuinely sad when I returned to my hometown a few summers ago and noticed that the restaurant had closed: the building now houses a phone card shop. Perhaps the owners went back to the homeland after these many years, who knows. I miss that soup A LOT.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                            I totally loved getting Shirley Temples with extra cherries, please, when I was a little girl. And yes, many of our old favorites from childhood were brimming with MSG back then. :)

                                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                                              Yes, still like the _occasional_ Maraschino cherry in my drink. Actually, scratch that. I will eat anyone's cherry from their drink if they let me :-)

                                                              It felt so sophisticated to have your own "cocktail" -- or mocktail, I guess. That club also made a very nice other non-alcoholic concoction called "The Car Driver", which I loved, too.

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                My sister got the Shirley Temple. I got the Roy Rogers.

                                                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                  HEE HEE, that's right! But one of the bartenders used to tell me it was a highball. HA HA HA!

                                                            2. re: linguafood

                                                              How does a Chinese restaurant Germanize itself? Very curious.

                                                              1. re: juster

                                                                It appends very long and dense footnotes to the menu.

                                                                1. re: juster

                                                                  Probably not very much different from American-Chinese, I suppose. A lot of "chop suey" dishes, "Happy Family" and such. It definitely had Cantonese owners.

                                                                  I don't remember ever seeing anything "exotic" like chicken feet or pig's ear on the menu.

                                                              2. We used to go to a restaurant in New Jersey right over the bridge from Philadelphia called The Pub. We went there on a very regular basis (at least once a month). The decor was sort of medieval (suits of armor and such) and the food was mostly steaks and seafood and there was a very large salad bar with freshly made Caesar salad. It was there where I learned to appreciate anchovies (which were in the salad), filet mignon (and other cuts of steak), and also how to order a steak. Back then it was medium well ('cause I was just a kid), but eventually, it became medium rare.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                  It was there where I learned to appreciate anchovies ...

                                                                  Sounds much like my summer vacations in Atlantic City, with dinner at Zaber's.....I was eating Gifilte Fish, Creamed Herring and Chopped Liver before I even knew what it was.

                                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                                    We also did summers in Atlantic City and made it to Zaberer's a few times. What I remember from there was during dessert when they bought out a bowl of melon balls with a flaming cup of rum(?) and you used a skewer to dip the melon balls into the rum. This was back in the '70s when no one cared if kids were exposed to alcohol (and they let us play with fire too!).

                                                                    Another place on the Black Horse Pike we stopped into was called Giovanni's.

                                                                    What I will always remember about that place was that the meal came in courses (that was the first time I encountered that) and in the middle of the meal (right before the main course, I believe), we were presented with "intermezzo" which was a small bowl of sherbet.

                                                                    But now that I think about it, I wonder what such an "upscale" place was doing in such a remote part of Jersey. It really wasn't that close to AC.

                                                                    1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                      Heh heh. I didn't realize any place in Jersey was "remote."

                                                                      1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                        You must have made some visits to Hackney's as well. Back in the day (1950's and early 60's) a bucket of 100 steamed clams with broth and melted butter was $1.25. And a 2-lb. steamed lobster platter was $4.00. It burned down in the early '70's. Mom was in mourning for a year.

                                                                        1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                          Never made it there. We didn't start our AC vacations until the mid '70s. But do you remember another place on the Black Horse Pike called Visco's? They also had a big sign that said Pasta Galore, so that's what we called it.

                                                                          1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                            Nope. Don't remember Visco's. We would, however, often drive to the shore from Philly on a Sunday afternoon for dinner at The Smithville Inn, The Knife and Fork (A.C.), The Tuckahoe Inn, Hackney's or Zaberer's. There was also Michel's just a few miles on the other side of the T-P Bridge. Not fine dining, but a fun, informal place

                                                                    2. re: Philly Ray

                                                                      The Pub is still there. i was there about three years ago with a friend and It was like going through a time warp to 1958. The furnishings must be the originals, the menu is unchanged, the salad bar the same (the first I ever recall encountering) and the donation boxes are still next to the cloakroom which had a 'no tipping' policy. I had the Hickory Shrimp Kebabs which I loved 50 years ago. Also unchanged.

                                                                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                        I know The Pub is still there. It has been a few years since I have been there, but my daughter is now 6 years old and I'm plotting her first visit there. I think she is ready, lol.

                                                                    3. Many, but the one that goes back the furthest are
                                                                      1. Giant baked stuffed shrimp at Scholers restaurant in Hartford
                                                                      2. A seafood pasta dish called seafood gino at Kay's fish market in West Hartford
                                                                      3. The first time I had general tso's at the flower drum song in Bloomfield
                                                                      4. Of course, fried clam strips at howard johnsons!

                                                                      We are talking late 70s to early 80s.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: AdamD

                                                                        fried clam strips at howard johnsons!

                                                                        What, no chowda?

                                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                                          No memorable chowdas! A few seaside lobstahs though!

                                                                        2. re: AdamD

                                                                          Same area and timeframe as you, but I don't remember your restaurants (except HoJos, where I was partial to the corn toastees).

                                                                          I fondly remember my Aunt Peg taking me and my cousins to L'Americain in downtown Hartford. It was the first place I ever had steak tartare, which I still love. I also remember thinking the Magic Pan at Westfarms was pretty happenin' with those fancy crepes and all, and of course the mall was new then, too. :)

                                                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                            I remember L'Americain, the Magic Pan and of course the mall.
                                                                            Your comment reminded me of when Brown Thompson & Co. opened-such a big deal over fried mushroom caps ! :)

                                                                            Kays was a tiny little place next to the crown at bishop's coner. To this day some of the best seafood dishes Ive ever had!

                                                                            1. re: AdamD

                                                                              Good times! I'll ask my mom if she remembers Kay's. And BTs! That I remember for sure.

                                                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                What about the Hu Ke Lau!
                                                                                Pu-Pu platters. pineapple drinks and fire shows! Probably dating myself, but also we ate a lot of meals at the farm shop- nothing memorable other than the candy store and the rainbow sherbet for dessert.

                                                                                I am sure a few more will pop into my head.
                                                                                I always find myself stopping at Park Lane Pizza when I am back in West Hartford. I love that pizza.

                                                                                1. re: AdamD

                                                                                  Yes! Yes! That was a special treat back then! It's a Goodwill now. :( The Farm Shop was always good for ice cream...tho' we ate more often at Friendly's because we had two in town. And we always went to the one farther away because it was "the good Friendly's." Big beef cheeseburger on toast, rare, extra pickles with the sandwich and a strawberry soda with no ice, please.

                                                                        3. Any restaurant with my Dad! He'd take me to lunch at a BBQ place where we sat in old school desks with real sawdust underfoot. The crowded delicatessen for corned beef sandwiches and sauerkraut. Grits for breakfast for the first time in Mobile (because it was the true south and we had to have grits!) Huevos Rancheros in Matamoros (because... it was Mexico.) El Fenix in Dallas every Sunday after church. Oysters Rockefeller for the first (and only) time at the Zider Zee. It was my birthday. Dad exposed us to a new world through food and in turn, his grand-kids and great-grand sons. Miss him.

                                                                          1. what a fun read this thread has been. Lots of great memories. My family had a tight budget what with three kids and blue collar jobs so going out to eat was quite a treat. One that the parents usually left us kids out of. But we occasionally went out to The Wagon Wheel which was a family style restaurant. Pigs in a blanket were my go to there because of the salty/sweet thing. Another favorite memory was The Magic Moment where the waiters did magic table side and the food was so fancy to me. I had my first chicken cordon bleu. So good. They made the salad table side and it had hearts of palm and bay shrimp. So fancy for a little kid. And my funny memory was from a diner called Sean's Coney Island. Dad gave me money and told me to go place an order for two "hecks"(or that's what I heard.). I looked at him funny and said you're kidding right? He said no and sent me in. He was a big joker and I thought he was playing. Well I got inside and ordered three "hoax". I had it in my head it was a joke and hoax inadvertantly came out. The waitress looked confused and said "what?" So i repeated myself and she said "do you want a H.E.C?(ham egg and cheese). My face was on fire from flushing from embarrassment. Hoax...duh. My dad still thinks its funny. I should a kept that one to myself.

                                                                            1. We were living in Japan and there was a wonderful German Restaurant in Tokyo. I must have been in 2nd. grade. I still remember my first bites of potato pancakes and apple strudel. Having been born on the Az. Mex border Sonoran and and from my mother's family southern cooking was the normal. The German was exotic. My father's family were from Germany and later on we'd see a bit more German dishes coming to the table. Right then that was heaven.

                                                                              1. When my mother would go visit Grandma in New Jersey every summer, my father would take me and my three sisters to the Kahiki Supper Club for a weekend dinner, not far from where we lived in Columbus, Ohio. Apparently my mother didn't like Polynesian food.
                                                                                There was a dark grotto with waterfalls in the entrance, and huge tikis and grass huts inside, with a rain forest behind a huge glass wall.
                                                                                I always had pressed duck and rice, and a pineapple juice slushy drink with an umbrella (if you deconstructed the umbrella, the center was made of chinese newspapers. I loved to uncurl the paper and see the writing in there).
                                                                                We had an appetizer that included meatballs on skewers and a little flaming terra cotta pot.
                                                                                Unfortunately, the Kahiki hasn't survived, but their website tells the story of this wonderful place.

                                                                                20 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                                                  The demise of tiki restaurants and bars is one of the great cultural tragedies of the human record.

                                                                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                    I so agree about the demise of tiki. I am a major fan and remember those drinks and food fondly from when I was a teen. BUT, it is coming back in a few select places. Sadly Julie Reiner's Lani Kai in NYC closed recently after a few years run. But out in CA Forbidden Island and Smuggler's Cove are going strong, and the Hukilau festival goes on every year down in Florida, which has several great tiki places. In NYC Gold Bar has tiki Mondays and Brian Miller, formerly of Lani Kai, hosts and bartends. Some amazing food and drinks. I'm working right now on a tiki cocktail menu for a restaurant. I have a friend who is a tiki author and am putting many 1930-1950 tiki drinks on the menu, plus modern spins on tiki.

                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                      Yeah, both rum and tiki drinks are making a huge comeback, fret not.

                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                        Light the torches and make your own orgeat (I'm gonna!)!

                                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                                          Linguafood- Aged rum is increasing in sales the past few years. Tiki drinks have been making strides for several years now. There is a tiki drink following with several tiki festivals around the country. I work in this industry and both see what is happening, and keep up with the latest industry statistics. I never said huge comeback, but there is a strong interest.

                                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                                            Whichever you want to call it. A friend of mine (who owns a rum store) has organized two national rum festivals in Germany in the last couple of years, and the interest definitely seems to have increased -- not just in the fatherland.

                                                                                            The whole tequila trend from a few years ago never really caught on, I guess. I love learning about rum, as I know next to nothing about it.

                                                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                Yes, a friend of mine organizes the Miami Rum Renaissance, an acquaintance the UK Rum Fest. Both do extraordinarily well.

                                                                                                Mezcal/tequila has a huge following in the US lately. Not a trend, solid growth.

                                                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                                                  Ha! I bet they've met each other by now -- I know he's currently hopping around Miami, Trinidad.... and somewhere else. Lucky bastard.

                                                                                                  I like mezcal (had the pleasure of trying the Ilegal recently -- smoky almost like a scotch), but the tequila "thing" didn't catch on much in Germany. Maybe the next time around.

                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                    Your friend wouldn't happen to be Dirk?

                                                                                                2. re: linguafood

                                                                                                  What on earth is a rum store? Is it in the United States or Germany? Hard to imagine any average American booze hound having the patience to locate and frequent a store selling just one specific spirit:) The whole impulse control instant gratification thing. Maybe a connoisseur ?

                                                                                                  1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                    This is in Berlin, Germany (http://rum-depot.de).

                                                                                                    And yes, obviously for connoisseurs who are looking for a huge variety of rhums/rums.

                                                                                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                                                            I doubt that's part of his assortment, but who knows.

                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                              Stroh is a high proof spiced rum from Austria.

                                                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                Yep, I know. And easy enough to see if he is, indeed, selling it at the Rum Depot via the link I posted.

                                                                                      2. My absolute favorite when I was in elementary school was this Japanese restaurant (Koma? something like that). I don't think I ever ordered anything except prawn and vegetable tempura over a big bowl of rice (which I would douse with Kikkoman), always with green tea ice cream afterwards. Num.

                                                                                        We probably only went there once or twice, but out somewhere in central California was this place called Andersen's Pea Soup. It seems like it was this big building that stood alone in a field, but I could be wrong about that. They would bring you *drum roll* pea soup along with a tray of toppings like bacon, cheese, croutons, green onions, sour cream...... Loved it. My boyfriend and I drove past it on a trip a few years ago, and had planned to go, but he was sick from the amusement park.... Now I wish I'd gone in while he lied down in the car.

                                                                                        In middle school there was this place called Bella Vista. It was this enormous place in the mountains east of Albuquerque. There was always a long line, then a host/ess would walk you to your table, through all these rooms, big and small. It seemed like it took minutes to get to your table. It was pretty dim in there, with candles and fireplaces. I'd always get a Shirley Temple, and we would go on all-you-can-eat fried fish/fried chicken night (your choice, but you couldn't have both). They also had good spaghetti. It burned down a few years ago.

                                                                                        Quick ones --
                                                                                        Dim sum for Sunday brunch at a huge place in San Francisco. I loved all the little plates and all the waiters with carts.

                                                                                        The Farmhouse -- a barn-looking place with a fortune teller machine in the lobby and great minestrone soup, for which I found a purported recipe today. Also soft bread with sesame seeds on it. No idea what the actual meals were.

                                                                                        Old South BBQ. We would eat in, then take home quarts of the best barbecue sauce EVAH.

                                                                                        Cloverdale creamery, where my grandpa and I walked to together for ice cream.

                                                                                        I loved going to the dentist for several reasons: 1. He was a nice dentist and I got a prize after (usually a wiener dog pen) and got to read Highlights and Ranger Rick. 2. I got to go on BART because this was my parents' old dentist in a whole other town. 3. When we got back to the BART station, I always got to get a Chinese dumpling or two from the street cart vendor.

                                                                                        One I WISH I remember, but sadly I just remember the entryway -- we went to Chez Panisse once. I must have been pretty small.

                                                                                        Once when I visited my brother, we went to several restaurants all in one day (Berkeley, maybe SF). He was a chef, so I felt so special meeting the chefs and peeking in the kitchens and having special dishes made for us. It was neat just going around eating all day, like, who does that? I think that was the first time I had sashimi, and I loved it.

                                                                                        Big Bertha's in Moriarty, NM, where my mom and I would eat different kinds of pie while we waited for... something.

                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: juster


                                                                                          Your recollection of Pea Soup Anderson's made me smile. It is a 10 minute ride from my home in rural central Ca. They still serve good soup and it does fine business feeding travelers and catering.

                                                                                          1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                            Jealous! Do locals go there? IS it a building alone in a field?

                                                                                            1. re: juster


                                                                                              It WAS in a field for a good long while as the area nearby was nothing more than a truck stop. It has grown over the years but not a lot. It thrives as it's right off of interstate 5. We take out of town visitors there for the novelty and a bowl of pea soup with some of their famous onion rolls and Danish pastry. Our Rotary club meets there. :-)

                                                                                            2. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                              Nana, just saying hello from another Central CA'er... at least former. I live in Colorado now but grew up in Visalia. My mom and stepdad live in Clovis now.

                                                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                Hey juliejulez,

                                                                                                Nothing like those San Joaquin Valley summers, huh? But the Mexican food is awesome. :-)

                                                                                                1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                  It was 82 up here near Lodi/Stockton yesterday.Tonight there is a huge thunderstorm going on as I type.

                                                                                                  1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                    Hey Lilli..
                                                                                                    You never know what find on these boards..
                                                                                                    Have some family in Stockton....one of my cousins is a chef at the prison!

                                                                                                    1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                      Visited the in laws in Lompoc and the first place to eat out was Pea Soup Andersons. The same as visiting Kennedy Space Center, you have to go eat rock shrimp at Dixie Crossroads.

                                                                                                      And having grown up with pea soup, I found Anderson's to be great. It had never dawned on me that you could add something other then ham to it.

                                                                                                    2. re: Lillipop


                                                                                                      Yes, it was glorious. I spent some time out on the porch watching, listening and smelling. The crickets got silent and I saw a big toad waddling along in front of me. We used to gig frogs on the canal banks and have fried frog legs!! :-)

                                                                                                    3. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                      Ha! I only had to live through one in my recent move back in Dec 2010. I took off again in May of last year, so I just missed it! Oh darn.

                                                                                                      But yes, I miss the Mexican food, and all the roadside produce stands.

                                                                                                  2. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                    We live in Southern California and DS went to Berkeley, so every trip up and back required at least one stop in Buellton for the bottomless split pea soup. And the wonderful bakery.

                                                                                                    The "traveler's special"

                                                                                                2. My earliest memorable dining experience was probably in the dining car of the James Whitcomb Riley, the C&O train from Washington DC to Indianapolis. This would have been in the summer of 1966 in the pre-Amtrak era when I was 7. They had white linen tablecloths, crystal glasses and real silverware. I was served THE BEST bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich in my entire life by a white-gloved waiter. I cannot recall being served by anyone in white gloves since. After Amtrak took over passenger service in the early seventies, all you could get was a box containing a stale ham and cheese sandwich and a warm Coke. The country has gone to hell.

                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                    I wonder if we could market White Glove Weekend Dinner Trains--- like short cruises? Someone should be weary of Carnival right about now.
                                                                                                    A weekend trip on the sleeper train that went away on a Friday night, then fed you breakfast lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday brunch and a long early dinner coming back.

                                                                                                    It wouldn't even matter where it went TO, because you'd be going Through.

                                                                                                    Celebrity chefs could make appearances; then the Food Network would buy one and it'd storm the populace like Food Trucks.
                                                                                                    I can see it now -- Welcome to 2016 and the 5th Season Of Celebrity Food Train! As always, each chef can only cook with what is on the train and must prepare b-l-d, br-multicourse; but this season the twist is that the winner Gets a Dining Train running from Salt Lake to Seattle!!

                                                                                                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                      A ride on the auto train from Sanford to Lorton includes a rubbery chicken dinner and cheap Chablis. It beats walking, though.

                                                                                                      1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                                                        Try the Napa Valley Wine Train five course gourmet dinner. Have not been but it is on my bucket list:) Your marketing idea is genius BTW!

                                                                                                      2. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                        LOL. Thanks for that. Your last sentence makes that the best thing I read all day.

                                                                                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                          Yes, I was just thinking of myself as a small town girl from Idaho. My father was transferred to an even smaller town in Colo. when I was almost six in the early 50's. We traveled by train from Boisie to Denver and I was so flabbergasted by white linen, white gloves and crystal light fixtures at my first meal in the dining car which was breakfast. My oatmeal arrived on a bowl covered by a silver dome with a little handle on top. I had orange juice with pulp which I thought was very fancy. It came in a glass with a stem which I had never seen and there was a pat of real butter to be spread on my toast and savored. I may have had butter before, but I don't recall anything but Nucoa spread. We spent 2 days on that train, but the glamour of that first meal remains clear in my memory.
                                                                                                          A second experience when I was 16 years old and had lunch at Blum's in S.F. They brought me a finger bowl!!! I felt like royalty.

                                                                                                          1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                            My grandfather worked for the Soo Line and later the Rock Island railroad for over 30 years. My dad worked as a fire starter in the yard as a teen (this was before diesel engines). They got free rail passes during the Depression and travelled to visit family several times. When O was quite young in the early 70s my dad was afraid that passenger rail was going away (this was before Amtrak) so we took a train from Omaha to Denver. I too rember the white linen in the dining car. My eldest brother ordered french toast. We were used to Wonder bread French toast so when his order came and it was made with French bread with a thick battered crust we thought it was fried fish. I also remember getting the fresh squeezed orange juice. My mother always said we didn't drink it at home but ordered it in restaurants when it cost .50¢ for a small glass.

                                                                                                        2. We used to eat lunch after church every Sunday, usually at places like the restaurant inside the Walgreens drug store (they did a 'steamship' beef roast that they carved tableside...my brother loved that roast beef). Now, please remember that this was before Martha Steward, before much of anybody thought about stuff like 'gracious living.' One day a 'new' place opened in the building next to the church, The Jefferson Avenue Boarding House, in a formerly decrepit building. The place was expensive (and the neighborhood, at the time, was not) and it was a source of great speculation among churchgoers. To this day, I'm not sure how it happened, but a whole group of us were invited over for brunch after church one Sunday, and I remember sitting in front a a big white pottery bowl, while a server came around the table and ladled oatmeal (oatmeal!) from a big cast-iron dutch oven into our bowls. There were all kind of add-ins on the table, brown sugar and raisins and cream...and I remember being stunned that not only could oatmeal taste so good, (my previous experience had been multi-flavored envelopes full of the instant stuff) but that oatmeal could be so... well... special. I'm sure there were other courses that followed the oatmeal, but I remember that part of the meal so well...the big white bowls; the shiny, heavy spoons, the simple, familiar food that was about a million times better than I'd ever thought it could be. I think it was my first realization that there was a difference between living, and living well; between eating, and eating well. If I'm a big ol' food snob these days, I think it started with a bowl of oatmeal.

                                                                                                          1. When I was a kid there was a restaurant about 30 miles away called The Blue Mound Inn. It was near Blue Mounds State Park in extreme SW Minnesota. Their specialty was "Turkey on the Rock". (The state park has geologic features of exposed Sioux Quartzite. There are rock formations that are normally sort of pinkish but are covered with blue/gray lichen.)

                                                                                                            Anyway, there is this giant rock at about waist level in the dining room and they incorporated it into the buffet, that's where the turkey is carved. (I think they built the restaurant around the rock.) The Blue Mound Inn has your ubiquitous Thanksgiving dinner available every day. As a child, the food was merely something to gobble down so we could hurry up and play on the rocks and ledges outside. Looking back on it, there is no way in hell I would let my kids climb around those rocks like my parents allowed their children. We easily could have fallen and broken our necks.

                                                                                                            1. Queen Victoria Restaurant, Central, Hong Kong. My Grand Aunt took me to lunch and introduced me to 'Russian Beluga Caviar' by ordering a whole portion for myself!! At least 2-3 oz!!!! Those days! At least 45+ years ago, the egg sizes were huge!!

                                                                                                              1. My late mom did not really drive she knew how but preferred not to. We lived in a small town (Petaluma Ca.) and I was her youngest of four so while the others were in school and I had not started school yet if mom had errands to run downtown ( about 5 blocks south of us) I got to go with her. We walked down the main drag and I knew if I played my cards right and acted reasonably sane I would score a nice lunch with her at a cozy little place. She usually caved in and took me to Showers restaurant so I could order a plate of french fries and a Coca Cola all for me! My strategy was that then on our trek back home I would beg her to stop at Woolworth's to buy me a little wax paper bag full of roasted cashews or at the Polly Ann Bakery for a pastry or at Chandler's Dairy for a butter rum ice cream cone.I was a smart little four year old but my mom also loved food and she liked to treat me once in awhile:)The hilarious thing is that as a teenager from age 13 up my girlfriends and I hung out @ Showers restaurant every day together after school eating their french fries drinking cokes and flirting with every cute boy who came in there:)Then when I was older we would eat in San Francisco when my sister moved there (12 years older than me)when we all visited her and when I stayed with her during the summers. There used to be so many wonderful bakeries and cafes in San Francisco in the early 1960's.

                                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                  In my small hometown the was a Woolworth's and a Walgreen's with soda fountain/lunch counters. They both closed when I was about 12 years old. I remember wanting to get a treat at the Woolworth's in the worst way. I don't even remember getting an orange pop. I also don't remember asking either. I was the youngest of four and back in the day we knew when to pester mom for something.

                                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                    I knew when to mount my campaigns with her and when to just shut my pie-hole and be a good little mouse:) She actually enjoyed taking me out with her because it was just about the only time I acted sane and not feral.When I was at home with my siblings...me being the youngest? I had to constantly aggressively pursue any smidgen of power I could get.Mom got tired of breaking up my scream fests with my older brothers:)

                                                                                                                  2. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                    Have family in Petaluma, now...I love that little town...

                                                                                                                    1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                      Yes, Petaluma has grown a lot, but is still nice & in such a beautiful area. We pass thru all the time on the way to visit son in Redwood Valley.

                                                                                                                      1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                        Even though it has grown from when I was a kid there it still has that small town feel.That is so cool you have visited there Phreddy:)!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                          Hi Liilipop...I live in Petaluma! Moved here about seven years ago, and don't ever plan on leaving. We're about four blocks off the main drag. Where was the Woolworths?

                                                                                                                          1. re: kcshigekawa

                                                                                                                            Petaluma Blvd.North....just southwest of Petaluma Blvd. and Washington St. intersection.Not sure the old building is still there. It was next to an old fashioned bakery. I grew up in the 600 block of Kentucky St. I know you love that great town.It has grown a lot but I noticed there are so many ethnic and really cool food venues there.It was the *egg capital of the world* when I was a kid:)Showers was located near the southwest corner of Petaluma Blvd and Western Ave...about two buildings up. I am sure it is still a restaurant venue in that location.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                              I'll have to see if I can find some old photos...

                                                                                                                              Petaluma still IS the egg capital of the world...at least in our neighborhood! I have two hens in my side yard, and our neighbors have three. The houses are close enough that my cat can sit in the window and watch the chicken channel all day long...! And the eggs are so good...

                                                                                                                              I see bumperstickers all the time saying "Keep Petaluma Eggcentric", and the annual Butter and Eggs parade is coming up at the end of the month.

                                                                                                                              1. re: kcshigekawa

                                                                                                                                if you Google Katherine J. Rinehart you will find her beautiful book of photographs of Petaluma. Petaluma A History in Architecture. I bought a copy for myself and my nephew who still resides there:)

                                                                                                                                1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                                  Thanks, Lillipop! I remember (now...with your help) reading about her in the Argus-Courier, and had forgotten all about it!

                                                                                                                          2. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                            My cousins, were raised there after WW2, and were in the , what else, egg business...today he is a lawyer in town.

                                                                                                                      2. We went to a French restaurant, I had escargot for the first time. Don't remember the rest of the meal.

                                                                                                                        1. I mentioned this in the diners thread I believe, but as a kid my dad and I would have "dates" and go to Mearle's Drive In (Visalia CA). I would get a grilled cheese sandwich (still my favorite thing to order in a diner) and a lime freeze which is just lime sherbet with sprite, served in one of those tall soda fountain glasses. My dad passed away when I was 18 so these times are by far my favorite foodish related memory (along with the times where'd go to the store late at night, me in my PJs, to buy those pink and white frosted circus animal cookies)

                                                                                                                          Also we ate at Cattlemen's Steakhouse once in Selma, CA. It was the first time I had a really good steak. I was probably 10-12.

                                                                                                                          Otherwise most of our dining out was just fast food, usually Carl's Jr, on payday, and we'd eat there, or places like Sizzler. I liked the frozen yogurt machines there.

                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                            I loved the little plastic sticks they put in your steak at Sizzler to tell you how it was cooked. I collected everybody's and took them home. Most of them, including mine, were pink (med rare), but my grandpa's was another color... grey or brown? Dunno what I did with them once I got them home.

                                                                                                                              1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                There was a local drive-in down the street in my small town. On Thursdays in the summer my mom and two older brothers and I would go there and usually get the food to go. (My sister was already out of the house but I remember when she worked there. I later learned her pay was .85¢/hour. ) The hamburgers were 5 for a buck. My brothers would each eat two, my mom would have one, and since I didn't eat hamburgers, I'd eather get a hotdog or a fried shrimp basket (my brothers would never eat shrimp or fish of any kind). The reason we went on Thursdays was because that was the day my dad played in a golf league. My mom bowled so she was ok with it. I'm fairly certain my mother's daytime bowling league did not include any drinking. ; ) (I remember going to the basement nursery at the bowling alley while my mother bowled. My brothers were at school.)

                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                  I almost forgot somerhing about the visits to the drive in. I would save the waxed cups and lids, the waxed paper straws (I think they were extras) and the cardboard thing that held the drinks. Those things along with the white paper sack were enough for me to play 'drive-in' at home.

                                                                                                                              2. re: juliejulez


                                                                                                                                We lived near Greeley in the 50's. My Dad would take me to the A&W and I'd have french fries and a root beer float. The first banana split I ever had was at a five and dime counter with Dad one Saturday. Mom often pulled week-end shifts and he and I would take advantage of "baching" it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                                                  Yeah I think that's how those "dates" started with me and my dad... my mom went back to work when I was 6 and she worked weekend shifts every few weeks. Not sure what happened to my brother during those dates though LOL!

                                                                                                                                  Your mention of A&W reminds me that that was another place we'd go sometime... it was one where we could order from the car and they'd bring the trays out and prop on the window opening. I liked corn dogs there (still like them at baseball games).

                                                                                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                    I was a car hop at a huge A&W in San Mateo while in college! Good times.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                                                      When I was in college we would jam at least 7 guys in a car, go to White Castle and abuse the car hops, by starting off with 70 hamburgers...they would laugh, when we said bring it on only one tray!!!
                                                                                                                                      It was fun!

                                                                                                                              3. Like most others a few stand out, some as repeated events, one or two because they were unique. We probably ate out once every 3 months or so, usually Chinese or Mexican (SF Bay Area.) Once in a while on hot evenings - a rarity in that region - mom would boycot the kitchen and we would go to Fenton's in Piedmont. Best Milkshakes and Sundaes in the whole world.

                                                                                                                                But the event that really stands out was when my dad took a business trip to San Diego,and the whole family went. This would have been about 1965, and we rode in an airplane, landed in Los Angeles then back up in the air to San Diego. The first night was some important dinner, so my brother and I were sent to the hotel dining room by ourselves. First time in a restaurant alone for both of us. And it was - of course - that glorious victorian assemblage of turrets, towers, cupolas, and steep red roofs, the Del Coronado. I remember looking up at that enormous ceiling and thinking I had never seen that much woodwork in one room ever.

                                                                                                                                I would like to say we were adventurous youths, but we weren't. We both ordered the cheeseburger and fries (hey I was 11 or 12 at the time) and both of us asked that they not put cheese on it. For various reasons cheese wasn't a part of our childhood, and meted cheese especially. Well, the waitress was fit to be tied. No matter how many times she explained that we could have any of 3 or 4 different cheeses, and that it didn't cost any extra, and that ALL children liked cheeseburgers, my brother and I were intransigent - but polite. She finally went and discussed it with the manager and we got our cheeseless cheeseburgers, which we enjoyed greatly. The french fries (probably fresh not frozen ;-)) were a special treat as well. Once we finished our dinner (clean plate club) the somewhat mollified waitress asked if we wanted any dessert. We both ordered the lemon sherbet which we had seen on a neighboring table.

                                                                                                                                A few minutes later, the cruicial moment came. The waitress came out with two elegant cut crystal bowls - of water, with a lemon slice floating in each. I don't know what my face looked like, but my brother looked as sad as I have ever seen him while he uttered quietly "It melted."

                                                                                                                                That poor waitress who had tried so hard to do right by us lost it then and there. I doubt she had laughed that hard in years. Apparently the Del frowns on the waitresses laughing at the guests, because the manager was there in about 2 seconds to find out what exactly was going on this time, scowling at the waitress like it was her last day on earth, let alone working his dining room.

                                                                                                                                The manager, with utmost dignity asked "Is there some problem gentlemen?" To which I replied "We asked for lemon sherbet for dessert" and my brother chimed in to finish with "and it's all melted." Its a rare sight to see someone try to freeze their expression while simultaneously try not to laugh and take a deep breath. If it wasn't for the tear creeping out of one eye, he would have pulled it off. After a moment he managed to tell the waitress that she should go try to find the gentlemen their desserts. He then turned his attention to us and explained the vagaries of finger bowls to the two young heathens.

                                                                                                                                But when it got there the lemon sherbet really was very good and very refreshing - and it wasn't melted at all.

                                                                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                  KaimukiMan, I told myself that I would never ever use the 'recommend' button. You have made me break that vow.

                                                                                                                                  (That cheeseburger only must have been a California thing. To this day hamburgers without cheese are the norm in Minnesota (cheese is always extra).

                                                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                    Great story! It sounds like you were good kids, and what a sweet waitress. It must have felt both awesome and intimidating to be on your own in that restaurant.

                                                                                                                                    I remember Fenton's! Wasn't it in an old grocery store and all yellow inside? You walked through a little turnstyle. Only went a few times and might have a flawed memory, but I know I liked it, as well as another, smaller, ice cream place, maybe in San Leandro(?). I'll have to ask my dad what that was called. And chunky apple ice cream at Swenson's.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                      Making me weep at the mention of Swenson's. Wild Mountain Blackberry @the one in Petaluma and Terra Linda in the late 1960's.Where was your Swenson's located may I ask?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                                        I'm not sure which town it was in. I grew up in Fremont, but it was very possibly in another town nearby. I left there at age 11, so don't always have all the details. We moved to New Mexico in 1986, and there was actually a Swenson's here for a little while (looong gone). Looks like there are only five US locations left, one in San Francisco. Still have the blackberry, but no apple cinnamon.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                          Do they still have that wonderful Bittersweet Chocolate with orange? (Ate way too much of the stuff in Berkeley back in the day.)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                            Looks like they have one called swiss orange chip. It's brown, so that might be it.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: juster

                                                                                                                                            Ah, Blums, I miss it still. Many great lunches there with Mom and the grandmothers.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                              Their salmon en croute with lobster sauce was sublime. Loved that place.

                                                                                                                                          3. re: juster

                                                                                                                                            Your memory is pretty close juster. It was a rich butter-cream color on the outside, and parts of it were yellow on the inside. It wasn't in an old grocery store, but I can see why you might have thought so.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                              Duffy's! I was just about to fall asleep for a nap, and I remembered -- Duffy's in San Leandro. Anyone rememeber this place? I think it was on a street corner. One time I was lying in the back in front of Duffy's, sans seatbelt, and we got in a minor accident and I rolled right off the back seat.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                              Best post ever.I was laughing so loud I thought I might get myself scolded by my adult daughter who is visiting from NZ:) The way you describe the look of absolute sorrow on the face of your brother was like a scene straight out of a good Woody Allen film!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan


                                                                                                                                                Outstanding! Reading your post enroute to Easter/birthday celebration in San Rafael. I burst out laughing and startle my driving DH.
                                                                                                                                                Thead WINNER!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                                                                                                  Love San Rafael.I was born there and lived there in my early 20's. I hope you have a fun pleasant day today Italian Nana:) Enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Lillipop

                                                                                                                                                    Thank you Lillipop,

                                                                                                                                                    We had a lovely day. San Rafael is really fun to visit. So much great food...farmers' markets...restaurants, very bountiful!

                                                                                                                                                2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                  Great story! The Del Coronado is very beautiful. I didn't eat there, but can totally imagine what it was like.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                    I just read this to my husband, because I knew he would love it. By the time I finished, we were both crying and he said, "Now I hurt!" Great story!

                                                                                                                                                  2. Just remembered another. Back in '77-8 we were living in Gallup, New Mexico. It was a wretched experience for the most part, but one compensation was going to a steakhouse just east of town called Culpepper Cattle Company. Little brother and I couldn't have cared less about the steaks, but we were crazy about the burgers (char-grilled over an open flame at an island cook station in the center of the restaurant), and absolutely nuts about the salads. I don't know what it was about those salads. They were your garden variety affairs with iceberg and some kind of Italian dressing, but we were mad for them. My parents were as perplexed by our salad mania as I am to this day.

                                                                                                                                                    1. As noted on my profile page, Omar Khayyam's in San Francisco stands out as the most exotic and memorable of childhood. Kebabs, baklava, hummus, baba ganoush were all truly exotic in1965 but the pita bread served with preserves made out of honey and rose petals was indelible.

                                                                                                                                                      Not actually in a restaurant, but about a week later, we had a traditional Hawaiian luau on the beach in Oahu that comes in a close second. What a trip that was!

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                                                                                                        Even though I was only 10 when it opened I remember hearing adults talk about Omar Khayyam's. Especially the rose petal preserves.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chefpaulo

                                                                                                                                                          My mother was able to get the potato salad (supposedly) or Omar Khayyam's. It might have been one from the newspaper. It has been the family favorite and has converted non-potato salad to lovers of the stuff. When I make it for gatherings I always get the question, "Okay what did you do to the potato salad?"

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Candy

                                                                                                                                                            "Okay what did you do to the potato salad?"

                                                                                                                                                            Please, elaborate.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Some favourite memories:
                                                                                                                                                          Hippo Hamburgers in San Francisco, with its massive menu of burgers named after various animals, with a souvenir frisbee to bring home.

                                                                                                                                                          Caspers' hot dogs, various locations in the Bay area.

                                                                                                                                                          Gazpacho, complete with a chilled spoon, at El Tovar's dining room at the Grand Canyon.

                                                                                                                                                          Fresh fried calamari at a taverna in Greece.

                                                                                                                                                          Sunday night dinners with wor won ton soup, sweet & sour chicken balls, tai dop voy, beef with Chinese greens and steamed rice at Hoo Hoo's in London, Ontario. The owner, Mr. Wong, would treat kids to a Jersey Milk chocolate bar to take home.

                                                                                                                                                          Lunch at Diana's Sweet Shoppe in Port Huron.

                                                                                                                                                          Dinner at Bob Evans on road trips to the States.

                                                                                                                                                          Visiting Chinatown, on trips into San Franciso and Toronto. I can't remember what we ordered, or which restaurants we visited, but I remember colourful lights, and the folding paper fans we took home as souvenirs.

                                                                                                                                                          Pizza at Frank Vetere's and Mother's Pizza.

                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                            God I love wor won ton! Don Mees in Victoria if you're ever visiting the city. The 'real thing'. Squid tentacles and all!.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                              I haven't been to Victoria in years, but I'll keep your rec in mind for my next visit. :)

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                              The Hippo in SF ~~ thanks for that wonderful memory. I still remember, on Van Ness. O.M.G.

                                                                                                                                                            3. Watching the fishing fleet come in and unload in SF, then walking down the wharf for dinner at the long-defunct Exposition Grotto - best sourdough ever! (Favorite thing to order - abalone. Glad I ate so much of it while it was plentiful and cheap.)

                                                                                                                                                              1. We were on vacation and I didn't want something heavy. I ordered a Caesar salad. It was not a typical mayo drenched salad--- it had a garlicky vinaigrette dressing, shards of Parmesan and two giant fresh herbed breadsticks crisscrossed on top. I think we went back there several more times on the trip, and I always ordered the same thing.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Several times when I was 4-6 yrs old, back in the late 60's a Japanese friend of the family took us to Nippon Japanese restaurant in NYC. Beautiful place with a stream running through it and very zen with plants. We would get a private tatami room and get sushi, tempura, and sukiyaki; staying for hours. I loved it and it started a life long love for Japanese cuisine and culture. So much so that today I am consulting to a small Japanese restaurant group in the NYC suburbs on developing their cocktail programs and small plates menu.

                                                                                                                                                                  A few years later we started spending a month vacation each summer at a lakeside cottage in Maine. Loved casual lobster feasts at various lobster pounds especially at the lobster pound fisherman's co-op near Pemmaquid point. Tall back deck where you had a great view of the working docks, lobster and fishing boats, all very interesting to a kid, and adults too. We would feast on steamed lobster, clams, corn, and oysters. Made me fall in love with mid-coastal Maine. I put in my will that my ashes be scattered at Pemmaquid Point. I even moved to Maine for several years back in 2006-2009 and consulted to several restaurants, farms, and food businesses. then helped start the Maine winery and distillery guild, and partnered with a winery and opened a brewery.

                                                                                                                                                                  Another experience as a child was back in the mid to late 60's at the Iowa state fair there was a Mexican pavillion and I tried tacos for the first time, with super spicy hot sauce. That same summer we went to an Italian restaurant where they had a fra diavolo dish that was so spicy that if you finished it, it was free. I ate and sweated and loved it. Started a love affair with spicy food. I'm actually one of the judges this week for a hot sauce competition where I'll be judging 100 different sauces.

                                                                                                                                                                  Another Japanese restaurant that made a big impression on me was a place in Eastchester, NY called Tanaka of Kyoto, a teppanyaki steakhouse. Small, only a couple of tappan tables. Tanaka-san didn't do any flashy knife tricks like many teppanyaki cooks do. the whole thing was very Japanese style, focusing on the quality of the meats, seafood, and sauces. the best onion soup I ever had, and his salad dressing was awesome. We would eat there when I was in 5th-7th grades, I lived around the corner. I would save up my weekly allowance and take my little sister there for lunch once a month. Too bad that quality Japanese food wasn't big in the 'burbs in the early 70's and the place closed after only 2-3 years. I miss that restaurant so much!

                                                                                                                                                                  When I was in 7th grade our kitchen caught fire and the house almost burned down. We lived in motels for 3-4 months and ate out for almost every meal. We ended up going to almost every restaurant in the area. We tried so many different types of food so we wouldn't get bored. I loved it, and my father let me try all his cocktails. Legal in NY state for Children to be served booze by their parents when out at a restaurant. I still remember by first sip of a Manhattan and a fine sauterne wine.

                                                                                                                                                                  Looking back, much of my present life is because of food experiences as a child.

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                                                                    Really nice to hear about such great times in your life, and as an appendage to food, even better!

                                                                                                                                                                  2. San Remo Italy. In a tiny restaurant carved out of the rock face maybe a thousand years ago. Five tables. Five courses. Fish caught an hour before landed in front of us . Literally all the food was grown/harvested within a few miles. Never ever forget those dinners. Cost in the early sixties? Maybe ten bucks including all the wine you could drink. Nirvana. BTW, I'm guessing that local wine now would be a hundred bucks a bottle. We paid 12 cents a bottle.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. The Ryland Inn back in the 1950's when it was still family owned and operated and well before it went all cootchie-cootchie with the 7 course dinners and exotic crap. Just great food, wonderful service, and the attention to detail that earned it the reputation as one of the best New Jersey restaurants

                                                                                                                                                                      1. I was lucky that once I hit "older kid" age at 9 or so, my grandparents took me along on vacations. I remember sitting by the beach at an outdoor restaurant in Aruba and ordering the shrimp. And they were HUGE! So delicious in some sort of mildly spicy broth. I've always love seafood, and that experience topped all for me at that time. Especially because I was missing school ;)

                                                                                                                                                                        1. There was a place where I grew up called "Tug Boat Annie's," which was special because it was designed to look just like a tug boat. To a kid in the land-locked Inland Empire of So. Cal., that was thrilling. We would go there on Fridays for fish, and I liked their clam chowder and the little clam shell-shaped crackers and looking out of the "port holes" onto the parking lot.

                                                                                                                                                                          Another local coffee shop was called, yes, Sambo's, and they had great hamburgers. Best of all there were cartoons of Sambo and his tiger all over the place, they'd give kids a small Sambo's coloring book, and after putting my name in for a drawing, I won a huge stuffed tiger.

                                                                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                            *cringes* What a name/theme. I remember Sambo's. Mostly the cartoons and the little triangle game with pegs that were on all the tables. It must've been a chain. I think we went there for breakfast?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                                                              We used to go between double sessions of roller skating. I didn't remember the triangle game till you mentioned it. It was right across the street from the rink.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, Sambo's was a chain, a breakfast chain, like IHOP - named after the book where a clever boy melts Tigers into butter and his mom uses the butter to make Pancakes. The book was written in 1899, and later the name Sambo became a racial slur, although never intended that way by the author.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                                                                  I suppose someday Buckwheat pancakes will have to be renamed.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                Tugboat Annie was a character in a 1933 movie and also in a TV show in the late 1950's. I remembering watching it when nothing else was on.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                  I did not know that about Tugboat Annie. I'll have to look that up.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                    WOW! Remember watching that show too!

                                                                                                                                                                                2. Oh one more: going to Tijuana, Mexico for the day, and sitting down at Caesar's Restaurant for lunch (the home of the Caesar salad). They had hot pickled carrots on the table, and I couldn't believe how much I loved them, and wolfed them down.

                                                                                                                                                                                  The whole experience of being in a different country was exhilrating, and surely led to my life long love of travel and food.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. We rarely went out to eat when I was a kid, but I remember two places...

                                                                                                                                                                                    The first is the Howard Johnson's in Chelmsford, MA (halfway between home and grandparents house); my mother and I would stop and have HoJo hotdogs (flat-sided bun, grilled 'til crispy) and a chocolate/peppermint milkshake.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The other was the Deering Ice Cream shop in Falmouth, Maine, with my grandfather. Grilled cheese sandwiches and a root beer, with ice cream for dessert.

                                                                                                                                                                                    ETA: just thinking about it...neither of the places were very exciting, but happy memories of both them, and even more, the people I was with!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kcshigekawa

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh, I remember Howard Johnson's, too, now that you mention it. When my grandparents took us to the beach, we stopped at Howard Johnson's for lunch on the way home. I always had a club sandwich. I'm a sucker for a club sandwich, even when 7, apparently.