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Childhood memories of restaurant dining

I've been flooded with memories recently with the news that Anthony's Pier 4 in Boston is closing next month after 50 years of serving Bostonians and tourists seafood with a history and a view. Although I haven't been in several years due to it's decline as premier dining destination I have many fond memories from childhood. When my parents would ask what restaurant I wanted to celebrate my birthday I often chose Pier 4 because of the wonderful popovers that started every meal, the celebrity photos lining the walls of the entryway, the view of the ocean and the deep dish apple pie for dessert! Yeah, I loved to eat even as a kid.

Had another great memory tonight as I ate a quick dinner of pasta shells with marinara sauce and a slice of buttered bread. Almost every summer we would go to Cape Cod for a few days and always dined at least onece at what I believe was called the Leaning Tower of Pizza. Always got the same meal, pasta shells with marinara and meatballs, served with a roll and butter. It's probably why I still love pasta shells today, always reminds me of Cape Cod.

And I'm always haunted (in a good way) by the many meals my family ate at Howard Johnson restaurants. I remember the bread plate contained a white roll and a piece of date nut bread. As a kid I hated that date nut bread but my mom loved it and ended up taking all the pieces nobody else wanted to eat. Now I wish I could go back in time and have those slices. Date nut bread has become one of my favorites! What I wouldn't give right now for a Hojo Blueberry Toastee!

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  1. I thought I was an elegant little three or four year old, so I would never, never order a kid's meal, I would always order what I just knew was the most sophisticated and elegant meal around -- soup and salad. I always wanted a cup of chicken noodle or vegetable soup and a little iceberg, etc. salad with thousand island dressing and Saltines. I thought soup and salad was the epitome of fanciness.

    I remember eating the tails from my parents' catfish at Shaw's catfish house -- crunchy! I would get a catfish burger (fried catfish filet on a bun) and the best hushpuppies in the world.

    1. I remember a place that i went as a child called Sea Ketch. Even though it was a seafood restaurant, they were known for the chicken cordon bleu and chicken Kiev. I aways got one of these with the clam chowder and roqufort cheese dressing. So fancy.
      And for breakfast it was Cypress Inn for pigs in a blanket. Syrup on sausage? What?! Yes, please.
      And Fung Wongs for mu shu pork or sweet and sour chicken.
      Such a treat as a child

      1. When I was very young, my parents took us to a cafeteria in the downtown of a small suburban city. We would go through the line and each choose a meat, but my parents would buy veggie sides and later split those with us at the table. I don't think we we were allowed to get dessert.

        Later, I remember that we found this casual burger place that made several "special" burgers--one had "everything" on it and a special sauce. It was topped off the two sweet pickles on toothpicks in the shape of a T.

        I don't think I was ever taken to a nice place to eat when I was young. But later, after we kids flew the coop, my parents adored eating out. And the did so all over town.

        1. My favorite memory is of having dinner at a red-boothed steak house at the shore in New Jersey. My great aunt and uncle each has a cocktail; I of course had a Shirley Temple. As was my practice, I sipped the drink, saving the maraschino cherry for last. But before I could eat it, the waiter whisked my drink away. I started to cry and then told my great uncle what had happened. This being their local place, he got up and spoke to the waiter. A minute later, the waiter returned with a pony glass filled with cherries--just for me.

          2 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            What a sweet story. Hope you didn't get a bellyache from all those cherries. :-)

            1. re: escondido123

              My aunt and uncle used to take us to a fancy inn in their town. We ALWAYS got Shirley Temples to drink which made us feel so grown up! Such a good memory!

            2. I have popover memories, too - at Patricia Murphy's restaurant on Long Island, which was the only place my parents ever went to for our rare restaurant dinners. My mother did not drive, so going to Gertz department store in Queens involved a lot of walking and bus transfers. I was probably 4-5 yrs old at the time. We always had lunch at their restaurant. It had large B/W murals of the NYC area. I remember one with a woman in mid-air, above a diving board. There were C-shaped dark green leatherette booths but the only food memory is the kid's dessert, the clown head made from a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a cone as the head, raisin eyes, and a maraschino cherry nose. Aerosol whipped cream was the hair.

              3 Replies
              1. re: greygarious

                That reminds me of an ice cream cone I would get at a local ice cream stand that was only open in summer. The funny face cone. Ice cream in the cone, bubble gum nose, red wax lips..I forget what the eyes were made of. Didn't really matter, just loved the funny face!

                1. re: greygarious

                  So happpens the Gertz family were friends and customers of mine...really nice people...as for Patricia Murphy's one of my childhood crushes worked as a popover girl...many years later I did get her popover!

                2. When I was a child, eating out for anyone like our family was a rarity (1950s/early 1960s). And certainly did not include children on the rare occasions parents ate out. I was well into my teens before I ate in a restaurant.

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                      Yes, that certainly. Particularly in my early years (food rationing didnt come to an end until I was 4). But it was also a class thing, I think. Even middle class families, such as ours, only ate in restaurants rarely - and when they did it was very much "adults only".

                      1. re: Harters

                        Middle class English too. The first meal out I remember was for my 16th birthday. Apparently me eyes popped when my poussin arrived. And the creme brulee has never been matched, though I continue the fight to find one as good.

                    2. re: Harters

                      We were fortunate to eat out frequently as children in the late 60s early 70s. We weren't really wealthy although my father had his own business. He worked 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year and had no hobbies except his family. When he got home from work he wanted dinner, family and tv and he was happy. Sunday was for hopping in the car and exploring someplace which usually included lunch/dinner on the road. And regardless of where we were dad would always find someplace to get ice cream, his favorite food!

                    3. The Old Oaken Bucket in Westford (or Chelmsford) MA.
                      Mother's day dinner or 1st communion celebration, all 8 of us dressed up. Dad at the head of the table with Prime Rib, the kids with pasta/sauce/meatballs, Mom with baked stuffed shrimp.. Real butter pats in the bread basket. I always brought those home and made toast till the butter was gone.

                      I think its a 99 restaurant now.

                      1. This topic is certainly in my wheelhouse.

                        1. Very frequently, when my mom picked me up from kindergarten back in '72-'73 she'd ask me if I wanted to get some ice cream. (This was an early lesson in rhetorical questions.) We would then repair to the local Dairy Queen for Dip Cones or a burger joint called the Dairy Mart for chocolate soft serve. A very fond memory.

                        2. Fried clams were one my very favorite childhood foods, and there were a few local restos that served them. The Zuider Zee, the Captain's Galley, Southern Seas, and, yes, the Red Slobster were beloved dining destinations because of the clams.

                        3. There was little to sing about during a nine month stint ('77-'78) in Gallup, New Mexico, but one highlight was a retro steak house called Culpepper Cattle Company. It had a bricked in live-fire hearth where the meats were grilled, and that was quite fascinating for a pyromaniacal 10-year-old boy. But those flame-broiled cheeseburgers were simply out of this world. To this day, I cannot remember a better burger. And the Italian dressing CCC put on their salads was something special.

                        4. We got out of Gallup as often as possible, and that meant a sojourn in the 1970 Torino across the Land of Enchantment to the Lone Star State. Without exception, we stopped in a 1950s diner in Santa Rosa called the Silver Moon. I loved the joint's retro neon sign, and the chow within was great road food. The Silver Moon still exists. Alas, that great sign does not.

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                          I stopped in Gallup once, drive right by it 2 or 3 times a year, but I only stopped once.

                          1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                            I haven't been back since '78. At that point, Route 66 was disappearing in favor of I-40. I'd like to return, just for old times sake.

                          2. re: Perilagu Khan

                            I do believe I ate at Culpepper's in 1978. I would never remember the name, but I remember the circumstance and the hearth. We were on a family trip from northern Minnesota to my uncle's home in Phoenix in a '76 Ford Maverick (yeah...I know). My dad was watching his wallet so he could buy as many Model T fenders at a blow-out Phoenix flea market as he could. Wallet-watching meant all meals were eaten out of the Coleman cooler in the trunk, and largely consisted of bologna and Velveeta sandwiches, with Kellogg's Fun-Pack cereal for breakfast. By the time we rolled into Gallup, my mother (never known for her patience, let alone 1500 miles of bologna-eating patience) declared that it was beyond time for a hot meal. It was indeed a delicious burger. Wonder if we're remembering the same place? At the time (age 14, and probably as pyromanical) I was wowed by the flames.

                            1. re: cayjohan

                              It had to have been the same place. There wasn't another like it anywhere near Gallup. Culpepper's was actually a few miles east of Gallup on Route 66. You would have struck it coming into town from the east.

                              PS--My maternal grandparents owned a sky blue '76 Mav. Small world, eh? :)

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                I'm betting it was the one and same. Route 66 was our road. Glad to have a restaurant name to affix to the memory.

                                The Mav? I sympathize with anyone who has dealt with one.

                                1. re: cayjohan

                                  After shipping, I have to think your dad could have found the fenders cheaper in Minnesota. I also hope you had the backseat to yourself.

                                  When I was a kid we went on a couple long car trips and always ate lunch out of a cooler. We mostly pulled a tent camper so we didn't eat in restaurants too much.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    Right?! But there is no arguing with a vintage car fanatic. None. Almost all of our family road trips involved a swap meet at the other end, and boy, did we use that cooler. I was probably an insufferable snot about cooler-dining, as I had inherited family mealtimes at the age of 12 when my mom went to work on afternoon shifts, so I felt some sort of entitlement toward restaurant dining since *I* was the long-suffering cook-in-the-kitchen-all-week. Plus, at 14 I considered myself a wee bit too *sophisticated* for baloney on Wonder bread (see: "insufferable snot," above).

                                    I still have that very same cooler. And yes, I did inflict a lot of on-the-road cooler-dining on my kids...who were much less insufferable about the whole experience. Thankfully.

                                    I am, today, getting that venerable old cooler ready for a Duluth road trip commencing at the crack of dawn. The cooler is destined to be loaded up with North Shore smoked fish and fancy-ass cheeses and good wines. My snottiness as a kid has apparently mellowed to "discernment." (Tongue firmly in cheek...)

                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                      I have a friend who's father was into restoring cars. He restored a Model T touring car that his FIL bought new and he restored a 1929 Model A pickup after he drove it for years to and from work. In the winter (back in the 60s) when cars weren't starting because of the below zero weather, he went out and gave it a crank and it would go. His boys were pleased when in the 70s he switched to restoring Mustangs. One of the boys drove a '65 fastback and the other a '70 Boss 302. They ended up selling those to help pay for college.

                                      Back to the cooler thing. I remember stopping in Wyoming somewhere and the temperature was 103 and windy. We stopped at a rest stop to make sandwiches (Wonderbread). The bread was dried out before mom got done making them.

                                2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                  There was a Culpeper Cattle Company in West Palm Beach, FL on Military Trail, more famous for their humongous happy hour 2 for 1 cocktails than the food. I may have eaten there, but I don't remember.

                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                    I think there was a chain of Culpepper Cattle Company restaurants. The name came from the title of a movie.

                                    1. re: John E.

                                      I remember the movie. Not exactly an epic. It bothered me that Culpeper was spelled incorrectly. But that's Hollywood.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        Right. I do wonder if the one in Gallup was part of the chain, though. Not much similarity between West Palm Beach, FL and Gallup, NM.

                              2. All you can eat fish fry night at the Howard Johnsons in Pittsburgh (Oakland). The whole family would go, including grandparents, aunt, uncle, cousins. I remember the place being packed to the gills and wait staff carrying around trays of fried fish to replenish plates. The grandparents would make us eat until we were stuffed so we'd get their money's worth. And I remember making "lemonade" from glasses of water, the lemons that came with the fish and sugar packets. Great memories!

                                1. Here's my contribution to this subject from yesteryear, as I reflected on the food I had at the place that was to become the Shake Shack empire.

                                  1. One of my most favorite restaurant memories from childhood was eating at the Automat in Manhattan with my Dad. He used to always let me put the quarters in the slot for the window, and sometimes when I'd take the food out, I could peer through the window and see the people working behind in the kitchen. I would beg him to take me there every time we'd go into the city.

                                    My other favorite memory was from Chinatown in Manhattan. We used to always go to this restaurant called See Eng Luck (sorry if my spelling is bad), which I found out many, many years later was actually 4-5-6 in Chinese. We used to always order a dish called "Green Fish", which I guess was fish which was wrapped in seaweed and fried. It was served with a pile of spicy sea salt on the platter to dip the fish into.

                                    Although I loved that place, my real reason for wanting to go was the "dancing chicken" which was located in a little shop down the street. It was a live chicken in a carnival booth thing. You'd put your money in, and it played Chinese music while the chicken danced around on a moving platter of some sort. When the dance was up, the machine gave the chicken some food as a treat.

                                    And one more wonderful childhood memory from now long-gone NYC...The Garden Cafeteria on the Lower East Side. My mom would always take me back to school shopping on Orchard St. in the LES. I hated shopping, but she'd bribe me by taking me to the Garden Cafeteria for lunch. They served tea in glasses, with the metal holders, Russian style. When you got up to the counter with your tray, you'd better know exactly what you wanted to eat. It was the original "Soup Nazi". I loved when he'd yell at my mom "NU??? Vhat do you vant already???"

                                    Alas, all this is now gone. I think the Garden Cafeteria is now some annoying hipster hot spot serving local farm to table food for $30 an entree...

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: mwk

                                      I always wanted to go to the Automat but never got the chance. I would see it on tv in old movies. As a little kid I couldn't imagine where the food was coming from!

                                      1. re: Jpan99

                                        On grade school field trips into Manhattan for one museum or play, the class was sometimes taken to the Horn & Hardart for lunch. I seem to remember 15 cents for lemon meringue pie. The Automat had an interesting history. Like the numbered grid of streets and avenues in Manhattan, it was in part designed to accommodate people who did not read or write English.

                                        I was an only child, and meals at home were plated at the stove. My first experience of family style meal service was at a Catskill Mountain boarding house that was our usual summer vacation. I thought it was quite exciting to eat with strangers and to pass bowls, platters, and pitchers.

                                      2. re: mwk

                                        I LOVED the Automat. My father would take me there when I went into the city with him on a Sat., so he could put in a few extra hours in his "shop" on 47th St. I think the one we went to was on 42nd St. and they had a special area set aside for single women or women with escorts. Dad was my escort - I felt like I was part of the elite. Favs there were mac 'n cheese and hot apple pie with vanilla sauce. (FYI, there's a sweet little book "The Automat. The History, Recipes and Allure of Horan and Hardart's Masterpiece" by Diehl and Hardart.)

                                        1. re: mwk

                                          I think you're married to me and I just didn't realize you had a Chowhound profile.

                                          1. re: Chatsworth

                                            Ha! So you probably also heard tales of these places? One other place I didn't mention was Gertel's Bakery, which was also on the LES. They had the best Black and White cookies I've ever had to this day.

                                            They lasted longer than the other places as well. I actually went to visit it just before it closed in 2007. The cookies were as good as ever.

                                        2. We dined out at mid and low range places quite a bit when I was a child, because my dad was the only passable cook in the family.
                                          My favorite memory of a place was a roadside tavern/restaurant on the way up to my dad's hunting cabin in the Pennsylvania mountains. We would leave Friday after school, drive for about 2 hours and stop for dinner. It had low lighting and tasty pizza. And it was in the dark middle of nowhere, which felt very cozy. Candles on the tables, fireplace, all that. That was one of the thing I liked most about those weekends was that dinner stop.
                                          Now that I'm older, I realize it was just a watering hole with food, but, whatever...

                                          1. When I was a kid the family vacationed for two weeks in Cape May. One of the highlights was always dinner at the Marquis de Lafeyette Hotel, which my parents liked because it had singing waiters. I liked it because I could order steak and a Shirley Temple. The wonderful bartender always made it with 2 or 3 cherries :)

                                            Also in Cape May was (actually still is) The Ugly Mug. I know dad liked its liverwurst and onions, the fact that they had Guiness on tap (not that common back then) and al fresco dining. I just remember the real turkey breast sandwich that was too big to get my mouth around.

                                            For real fancy, my parents would take me to brunch at a French restaurant (I believe it was Lautrec). I got to order any omelette I wanted (always cheese . . . what can I say, I was a kid). Better yet? Their brunch dessert was a big platter of cut up fresh fruit with squares of dark and milk chocolate. That still sounds pretty damned good.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: gaffk

                                              Your chocolate story reminds me of another restaurant. We would go to the 88 restaurant in Nashua, NH. Have no idea what I ate but at the end of the meal when you got the bill they brought around a platter of milk and dark chocolate chunks. I'd always grab the biggest piece of milk chocolate I could find! These days that would be some kind of health issue I'm sure, passing around the same plate of chocolate to all tables. :-) How times change.

                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                Cape May is a great restaurant town. I don't have many pleasant memories of living in Jersey--sorry, it just wasn't for me--but Cape May was one of them. Heck, if I got rich, I might just by myself a little house in CM and live there during the summer.

                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                  No need to apologize to me . . .I don't live in Jersey either.

                                                  But you're right about the restaurants in Cape May now. When we went every year (the 70s), Cape May wasn't so trendy. The family (mom, dad, sisters; aunt, uncle, cousins; gmom and gpop) rented the same 3-story Victorian on Jackson Street . . . just steps from the beach and, more importantly, Frank's Arcade.

                                                  A few years ago I rented the third floor suite of the now updated B&B and took mom down there for a few days. I think I gained 5 pounds. 410 Bank Street and The Ebbit Room at the Virginia were wonderful (in the 70's the Virginia was pretty run down, but did have a restaurant that introduced the family to the glory that is cold gazpacho soup; a dish which mom perfected thereafter).

                                                  But the real treat was the discovery that the Ugly Mug remained, largely unchanged. That and, not only did the arcade remain, I'm still pretty killer at ski ball. And the expression on the kid's face when I handed him all my tickets, since I have long passed the age when arcade "prizes" are a good thing.

                                                  1. re: gaffk

                                                    Our favorite is Fresco's. The vodka sauce there is the best I've had.

                                                    Went to Freda's last time I was in CM, and it was a revelation.

                                                    For down-scale, plain ol' shore cookin', we like the Pilot House. Best fish sandwich I've ever eaten is the fried flounder sandwich there.

                                                    But beware the fried chicken at the Chalfont! It's supposedly fried up by a couple of old black ladies named Dot and Lil, but tastes like it was cooked by a couple of yobs from Secaucus named Biff and Lionel. And it costs around $20 a plate. What an idiot I was to fall for this eyewash.

                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                      Fresco's is 410 Bank St's sister restaurant. Since we live in area with a number of good Italian spots, but not much New Orleans-style, we went with Bank Street. (Plus, NO was where mom and dad honeymooned in '57, so I think that cuisine has the nostalgia factor for her similar to the Ugly Mug turkey sandwich has for me.)

                                                      But maybe it's time for a return visit, since I'm not familiar with Freda's and when I'm on the Mall I'm magnetically drawn to the Ugly Mug and just walk by the other options.

                                                      Agree on the Chalfont . . . my parents crossed that one off the list when I was about 8 years old. Definitely a tourist spot living on its reputation and grand appearance.

                                              2. I’m also from an age and family when going out to a restaurant was an extreme rarity.

                                                My earliest memory of restaurant dining is from grade school, when my grandparents took us out for dinner on the last day of school a few years in a row. We went to a celebrated place that was way out in the country (Peter Pan Inn for anyone that remembers in the DC area), with the most perfectly fried shrimp and hush puppies with cheese in them. They had peacocks outside and we got a quarter for each “A” we received.

                                                We also ate once a year at the original Phillips crab house in Ocean City, Maryland during our yearly vacation. Back then (1960s), it was a local seafood house and it’s truly tragic what this has become.

                                                My first fine dining experience was when I was 12, and my great aunt invited me to the Nutcracker ballet just before Christmas. We went to the Serbian Crown, a white tablecloth and tuxedoed waiter restaurant back when it was in Tenleytown (DC), and I can still remember the cheesy custard baked inside a filo-type dough as an appetizer – I had never had an appetizer before in my life! I’ve never found a recipe in my adulthood that replicates what I remember of that dish. I doubt I had another fine dining experience until late in high school and started dating.
                                                ETA - I just recalled as a mid-teen being taken to The Palm when the above mentioned great aunt had her caricature added to the wall. I don't remember the food at all -- it was all about sitting at "her table" and the fuss over the caricature unveiling. She knew how to live, I have to say.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Terrie H.

                                                  Your cheese appetizer was probably pretty close to this recipe which happens to be Armenian but you will find this dish of cheese boreg in many cultures. I'm Albanian and this is pretty close to how we make them.


                                                2. My family lives in Los Angeles, and we ate out a lot when I was young. My favorite restaurant was Ah Fong's. It was dark and decorated to the hilt. They had a dish called Beef Soo Chow that was out-of-this-world good. Another restaurant I liked was The Luau. They gave gardenias to the women.

                                                  I also remember having lunch with Mom once in a while at Bullocks, a department store. We would get dressed up, and there was a fashion show in the restaurant while we ate. It felt so sophisticated.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: brandygirl

                                                    We lived in Philadelphia. Once a year mom would take each of us (4 girls) to Center City for a shopping trip to Wanamaker's (we weren't that well-off, so shopping the rest of the year was Sears or Klein's). Not too sure where my sisters chose to eat on their "Wanamaker Day," but for me it was always the Crystal Tea Room . . . so elegant and, as you say, so sophisticated.

                                                  2. in manhattan,
                                                    i believe the restaurant was called moskowitz and lupowitz.
                                                    they served hearty, huge, portions and normally had a klezmer band playing.

                                                    1. In '69, Dad worked at Purdue University and was invited to a weekend conference to......The Sheraton in French Lick, Indiana ! A fantastic, old-school hotel, huge dining room filled with 8-tops, each setting finished with a small 5-pack of Marlboro's or Kools....The salads came out with Sardines on top ! I must have been in such a state that the entre' was a blur, but I came to when the Baked Alaska was delivered. Looking across the dining room and seeing a large flaming dessert on every table, who ever thought French Lick, IN had that much class.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: 3MTA3

                                                        The old hotel has been restored and is beautiful. It would be a great place to visit and reminisce.

                                                      2. My grandparents lived near the Green Acres mall in Valley Stream (Nassau county, NY). Grandpa loved to go to restaurants... although my grandma was (still is) a good cook, he wanted to treat her with a night out sometimes. He was cool like that. :)
                                                        I would tag along. Some of my favorite places to go with them:

                                                        House of Chang, a huge Chinese banquet type place right near the mall. Where I learned to love wonton soup and eggrolls.

                                                        Cooky's Steak Pub (in the mall) where they new the waitresses and I could get pizza from the snack bar while Grandpa enjoyed a nice "chop".

                                                        Woolworth's lunch counter in Jamaica, Queens--I'd hop on the bus with Grandma and we'd shop and have grilled cheese sandwiches.

                                                        We sadly lost Grandpa earlier this year (91 years old and drove until the day he died). Grandma and I were reminiscing about these places the other day.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: iluvcookies

                                                          We had a Woolworth's in town with a lunch counter. My mom and I would go on a Saturday. She loved the patty melt. On rare occasions we would have a banana split. I loved that they had bunches of balloons at the counter. Inside each balloon was a piece of paper with a price on it. When you ordered the banana split you popped one balloon and paid whatever the paper said...59 cents..75 cents...supposedly some of them said "free" but we never got one of those!

                                                          1. re: Jpan99

                                                            We had a Woolworth's in our small town, it was right next to the Ben Franklin store. The Woolworth's had a pet section with a Myna bird that spoke several words and would occasionally let out a loud wolf whistle.

                                                            After about the third grade, my friends and I would ride our bikes downtown for candy at Woolworth's or Ben Franklin and doughnuts at the bakery.

                                                            I remember going into Woolworth's with my mother, and I always wanted to sit at the counter on those stools and get a treat. Alas, we never did.

                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                              We also never ate at my very small local Woolworth's counter as a child and longed too. My mother shopped and i stood at the partition near the entry and watched the plates come up and watched the girls make shakes and malts. Before they went under here I worked in the bakery of a grocery store a few doors down. I cashed my paycheck at the grocery store and ate lunch there every two weeks...at the counter. Tuna salad on lettuce with cottage cheese and club crackers. Ranch for the crackers to dip. It was the eighties, everything got ranch. :-)

                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                I know exactly where you are talking about. Ben Franklin is still there and you can still get some friggin' good donuts at Ohlin's.

                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                  The bus stop/transfer was at the corner where the Woolworth's was located. It had an escalator, which was great fun. I don't remember actually eating there, but we would get the cheese popcorn for the bus ride home. We didn't have school buses for town kids, we took the city bus for a quarter.

                                                                  1. re: wyogal

                                                                    Nothing better than a Woolworth's lunch counter cheeseburger. The cheese would melt down on the grill and get all crispy and bubbly. Exsquisite.

                                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                                      I grew up in a small town and then have lived mostly in suburbia ever since. I don't think I've been on a city bus more than couple dozen time in my life.

                                                                  2. re: Jpan99

                                                                    When Woolworth's announced they were closing Mom took me to the lunch counter one time, she said that it was an important thing to do before they were gone, a part of American Culture.

                                                                    Our burgers and fries came, so i shook the ketchup bottle (heinz of course) and the cap came off, showering ketchup everywhere, but especially on mom's new white pants.

                                                                2. My grandparents lived outside Chicago and when we went for a visit, Grandma would take us downtown to the museums. Lunch was always at the restaurant in Marshall Fields, which was a beautiful room. Grandma always got a bowl of mushroom soup.

                                                                  My parents were pretty good about taking us to restaurants, and my father was an army officer so we got to go to many places around the country and the world. What we always loved was ordering a salad, and getting the little salad dressing stand delivered to the table with four different kinds of dressing choose from! French, Russian, Thousand Island, and Bluecheese. Salad dressing at home was oil and vinegar so this was truly exotic.

                                                                  1. We rarely went out for meals. Mom would bring home 19 cent hamburgers for the kids and the parents went out. But once when I was about 13 my father (divorced parents) took us to a restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf in SF where my uncle's jazz band was playing. I ate lobster thermidor and my father danced with me. I felt so grown up and sophisticated.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. In the late 70's, all the major department stores in our local mall had their own restaurants in them, which always struck me as bizarre. JC Penney had one, Strouss had one, I think Sears had one too. Also our K-Marts had a large sit down restaurant as well as a deli counter/ice cream stand in the front of the store.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Atomic76

                                                                        I do have many fond memories of lunches at Nordstrom with mom which as a person who hates to shop was the best part of the trip.

                                                                      2. Oh my gosh...I have the same memory as you. I'm devastated about Anthony's...

                                                                        I went to college in Cambridge, and ANY time any of my family members would come visit, we would always go to Anthony's for dinner. I loved their popovers and always ordered a Filet Mignon for dinner. Wasn't there a little bridge that you walk across to get from the entrance to the dining area?

                                                                        I also have really fond memories of Durgin Park in Boston for the communal tables and the Indian Pudding.

                                                                        Beyond that, we really didn't go out much as a family except for when we were travelling. I remember one summer on a car trip across the country when I ordered fried shrimp literally EVERY night!

                                                                        1. How about the Pirate at the door? My folks loved Pier 4. Every trip we made to Boston from CT. always included dinner at Pier 4. This was in the 60's...
                                                                          Later, after college, my friends and I thought we were living large with dinner in the Men's Grill at Lock Ober.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: qbdave

                                                                              That and then Steve's for ice cream!

                                                                            2. Looking back on it, we ate out quite a bit when I was a child in the 1970s. I think it was because any trip to "town" was a big time commitment and therefore, if we were going to town on a Friday night, it was for grocery shopping, banking, visiting relatives and dinner. All the places were family owned.

                                                                              I have vivid memories of a pizza place where the pies were served on stands. I have never had a pizza that comes close to those of my childhood. I can still remember the thin crust and the taste of the cheese. After I married, I met the owners wife (the restaurant had long since closed) and when I told her about my memories of going there with my mom as a special treat, she said hearing such stories was one of the great joys of her life.

                                                                              There was a chain of "steak" houses that opened when I was a pre-teen. I can't remember the name. You would order your steak at the register and then walk along the cooking line to the hostess station. I remember staring through the glass wondering which steak was mine. The other part of the experience was the buffet, the selection blew my mind. Buffets were not popular back then (at least not in my area) and this was the first time I encountered one.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                the steak place - was that Mr Mike's?

                                                                              2. We didn't eat out much, but I remember a buffet that we went to on occasion, a smorgasbaord, it had that in the name, I think. It wasn't like the modern, brightly lit buffets, but a nice, somewhat fancy restaurant that had a fabulous buffet.
                                                                                Another fond memory was when Dad would go to King Leo's and get a bag of hamburgers to bring home.
                                                                                Then, there was Charlies, a red-booth "elegant" diner, as well as a cafe in Ellison's, a department store with a balcony where the food was served, and one could look down on the main floor. It also had an old-fashioned cage type elevator, with an operator.

                                                                                1. I grew up in a small town in rural Minnesota. On birthdays we would get to choose which restaurant to go to for our birthday meal. One of them was a white table place, but was really a supper club featuring steaks, seafood, and pasta. That was the nicest place in town. Of course, we got embarrassed when the waitresses would gather around the table with a cupcake and a candle stuck in it and sang happy birthday. The place was know for it's onion rings and we would get those but my dad would call ahead and place a special order for homemade potato chips. That was really special. The restaurant had fire a few years ago, it was fixed up and sold. The owner got it back and ran it a while and sold it again. It closed and then somebody bought it and opened up a Chinese buffet restaurant.

                                                                                  We also got to eat at a local drive-in every Thursday during the summer. That was golf league day for dad so mom would take us to the drive-in or we would go get the food and bring it home as the place was less than a mile away. I remember they sold five hamburgers for a buck.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                    It is cool that your Dad had the "in" on the chips. It sucks on the other hand that despite trying, the original owner lost it to the dreaded buffet

                                                                                  2. Too many to mention, as mom and dad were certainly my inspiration for cooking and fine dining. As a Philly area native, a trip to the Horn and Hardart Automat on Market Street was always a treat. Any visit to HoJo's was always the same - Tendersweet Fried Clam Roll and a vanilla shake. Now-defunct seafood emporium, Hackney's, in Atlantic City was where I first learned to love steamed clams when they were $1.25 for a bucket of 100. (They also had lobsters up to 5 lbs.) Rizzo's in Glenside was the standard for Italian fare and a regular haunt. My first truly exotic dinner was at Omar Khayyam's in San Francisco with flaming kebabs, cous-cous, pita bread an rose petal preserves - all new to me at 13. However, I still enjoy an occasional Sunday dinner at the William Penn Inn in Gwynedd where, at 62, I still remember being bumped up the front steps backwards in my stroller.

                                                                                    1. Living in Japan as a young child we dined in the Officer's Club frequently. It was always a thrill to a 7 year old to see the waiters running out of the kitchen with Shish Kabobs on flaming swords.

                                                                                      1. My family went out to dinner quite often, but the memory that stands out most is Christmas dinner when I was 8 years old. For some reason, mom loved to cook but rarely cooked on Christmas so we would go out in the afternoon for an early dinner. This year we went to a lovely, very fancy restaurant and I was so excited as I got to wear my favorite new dress and feel like a grown up. Well, I ordered the lamb and I guess it was so incredibly good that I literally inhaled it...right down my trachea and proceeded to start choking violently in the middle of the restaurant. My freak-out father immediately started screaming and crying, while my more level-headed mother calmly encouraged me to cough and alerted the concierge who thankfully was adept at the Heimlich and helped pop out a big chunk of meat which I guess I just had deicded not to chew very much before trying to push in the next bite. We all thanked him profusely and after a quick recovery, I sat back down and continued to chow down. After all, the lamb was really really good and I refused to let it go to waste or to my dad the human garbage disposal. Thankfully, I was OK so it's a funny memory but at the time I can imagine my parents were quite frightened.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. Grew up in in the Boston 'Burbs.
                                                                                          My most vivid memories are:
                                                                                          Wwaiting in the "holding room" on Mother's Day at Augustine's on Route 1. Rows and rows of benches waiting for red sauce Italian.
                                                                                          the other memory is laughing uncontrollably at Jimmie's Harborside when the waitstaff pulled out the little table cleaner and swept all the bread crumbs off.

                                                                                          1. I love this thread, mainly because as a parent to kids who LOVE to eat out, I am hoping that they will have such lovely memories as these.
                                                                                            I grew up around 495 in MA and my food memories are not that fancy, but special just the same: we would go out to eat at a local pub/restaurant when I was in middle school and high school and my favorite meal there was a salad (with no tomatoes or onions....so it was just a bowl of iceberg with shredded carrots) and the zucchini sticks with marinara.
                                                                                            Also, my Dad and I would occasionally go into Boston for Bruins games (at the old Garden) and we would always go to Regina's before or after.
                                                                                            The "fancy" food was to be had at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury...I decided in high school to not become a vegetarian based on their filet mignon....not sure if it would stand up to my memory now, but I have such fond memories of dinners there. We even held my rehearsal dinner there!

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: saintp

                                                                                              What a great story...a single meal to decide a lifetime of omnivorism.

                                                                                              1. re: saintp

                                                                                                I went to Bruins games with my dad too. But we always had to eat at Joe & Nemos. My dad loved the hot dogs in steamed buns. I hated hot dogs but went anyway and doused mine in ketchup so as not to taste the dog. The guy behind the counter would just cringe in horror at the site of a ketchup covered dog.

                                                                                              2. My earliest dining out memory was when I was four years old. We were moving from Duluth, MN to DC, where my dad had started a new job. He and my older brothers had gone out there a few months ahead. My mother and three sisters and I were in downtown Duluth on the day we were supposed to leave. The plan was to have some lunch and take a cab to the airport. Somehow, they walked away and left me standing alone on a busy sidewalk. I freaked out and started bawling, because I knew my family was LEAVING TOWN FOREVER WITHOUT ME. A man that looked like Phil Silvers led me over to a policeman. I was somehow able through my blubbering to describe my situation. One of them bought me a Slo-Poke and a little sack of Sugar Babies to keep me quiet while they figured out what to do. Eventually, the cop led me into a restaurant where my family was calmly eating lunch as if nothing were amiss. They acted more surprised to see me than grateful, which pissed me off. One of my sisters had the audacity to go after my Sugar Babies, which pissed me off even more. Then they brought me a little bowl of spinach (my favorite fruit) and everything was okay. After that, we got on the plane and our lives changed forever.

                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                  Oh my, what a sad story! How could they have forgotten you and sat down to a meal? I hope you've held that over their heads ever since! I would have been totally pissed off too!

                                                                                                  1. re: Jpan99

                                                                                                    I know! My mother always gave me a blank look when I brought it up, like she had no idea what I was talking about. In her defense, she was juggling a lot a lot of stuff at the time. Another time, we left my sister in a gas station restroom. My dad got 20 miles down the road before anyone noticed. With eight of us stuffed in a '49 Studebaker, it's sort of understandable. People nowadays just can't appreciate that benign neglect builds character.

                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                      When I was a kid we went on a trip to Memphis and my family ditched me (I was 5 years old) in the Peobody Hotel. I was fascinated by the ducks. They apparently all went up to the room (my family, not the ducks) and left me by the fountain. Looking back, it must have been a bellhop who brought me up to the room. The response by my family was much the same as yours.

                                                                                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                        I know that "blank stare!" There were many really wacky events in my childhood that my mother claims to have no memory of.

                                                                                                    2. I never ate at a restaurant until I reached puberty. I have had a good run since then.

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                        Me too. It's been pretty much up hill from there.

                                                                                                        1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                          Reminds me of mount Margolie from France. Not the geography, the woman at Orient Beach in St. Maarten.

                                                                                                        2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                          Were reaching pube and going to a restaurant somehow related?

                                                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                                            I have developed correlations between what a date orders for dinner and how the evening will go later, but that's a different subject that I call the chicken/lobster early warning signal.

                                                                                                        3. Smiles............having grown up in the town with the Leaning Tower of Pizza, I can imagine your nostalgia. We seldom ate out. I do remember going to the Landfall once or twice a summer (I'd always have swordfish), and certain rotary events at the Coonamessett Inn (Prime rib). Other than that, it was burgers at the yacht club or their Sunday night dinners. I don't remember a pizza before late High School, but I do remember a few clam shacks along the way, especially the one that was across from the HOJO that at least had bellies! Given the freedom of a license, I learned to find a number of great foodshacks.

                                                                                                          Working in Boston in the 70's, I had many a business lunch at Anthony's....especially if the Japanese were in town. Overdone, but I could see its appeal for an out-of-towner of someone young.

                                                                                                          1. great topic - enjoy reading all the comments

                                                                                                            our family dining out (or on the road) was both cooler class and inexpensive family restaurants - usually a chain cuz then our parents knew what we were getting in to and we'd order the same stuff over and over all over western usa.

                                                                                                            often i was fascinated by the groovy early 70's decor - bright purple naugahyde (spell?) with orange accents and all that stuff - amazing architecture. There was one chain - remember this is back a few decades - called Sambos. Yes, definitely not polite today - but on their menu they had "tiger milk" and all kinds of kid menu things. Anyway, they had great architecture. We never went to Denny's - i know that for sure - not sure why. And for sure no McD's or BK. I always wanted to go to a Stuckey's but that never happened.

                                                                                                            the cooler eating reminds me how my dad would eat while driving on these long long road trips in the often hot and desolate Western USA of the late 60's and early 70's. As with most Dads of the era - he was the worker outside of the house and mom worked doing all the domestic side of things. Anyway - it was our job to make these cooler lunches in the back seat - and we thought it was hysterical when we made a peanut butter sandwich (as it appeared from the outside edges of this thing) - but inside was a canned devilled ham or devilled tuna paste - i think my mom wondered why it was so quiet in the back seat (never usually so) - my dad just about drove off the road when he bit in to this horrifying concoction.

                                                                                                            the other family trips - like out on the boat overnight or something - our mom would pack all the things we would not eat at home (ie clean out the pantry) - so out there in some isolated anchorage - you're pretty much stuck eating whatever she brought

                                                                                                            when we visited our cousins, we all got to go out for dinner! Mr Mikes steaks - like cafeteria steak. Great concept esp for families.

                                                                                                            oh and sometimes the Old Spaghetti Factory - the parents would get giggling with that cheap sweet sangria drink - and basically we could do whatever we wanted!

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Georgia Strait

                                                                                                              LOL at the trick you sprung on your poor dad. I once fixed my dad a glass of iced tea with egg squeezins (the juice that accumulates at the bottom of a bowl of boiled eggs) mixed in. He was less than amused.

                                                                                                            2. I have a few great restaurant memories from a young age. My parents were European immigrants and taught my younger sister and I how to behave in restaurants. They didn't have the luxury of being able to afford baby sitters and so we went with them. I remember several times eating Japanese food with a friend of the family who was a neurosurgeon from the largest hospital in Tokyo and training at Columbia and Cornell on the latest techniques. He was wealthy compared to us and treated us for dinner each time. This was the mid '60's when there was only one authentic Japanese restaurant in NYC, Nippon, which opened in 1963. I remember sitting in a private room, trying sushi, tempura, sukiyaki cooked at the table in a hot pot, and beef negimaki (supposedly it was invented there at the suggestion of NY Times food critic Craig Clairborne in 1963, shortly before he gave the restaurant 3 stars in the NY Times in 1964.) I vaguely remember that to get to the room you walked a meandering path through the restaurant which had a small steam and crossing a bridge. I was only around 3-4 years old and it was probably a tiny little thing, but to me it was pretty cool. I researched the restaurant a year or so ago and found no mention of a stream or bridge. I wonder if it was real?

                                                                                                              At around the same time we spent a few weeks each summer camping in the Catskill Mountains, and we went out one night to a French restaurant. I had escargot and something else that I can't remember. The adults splurged on a special bottle of wine. My father was taking some elective courses on wines while studying at NYU and he was teaching me about them too, so I got to taste it. My mother practically swooned over it, saying it tasted like red velvet. I liked the wine, but thought that was weird and when we got home I tasted a dark blue velvet vest I had. I remember thinking that red velvet must be much tastier than blue.

                                                                                                              I remember in the late 60's spending a whole summer living in a cabin on a lake in Maine. (This led to several weeks spent each summer in Maine on a lake for most of my life, and me moving to Maine for several years living first in a small oceanfront home on Penobscot Bay, then what used to be a church on the Penobscot River.) We would go once a week to a lobster pound and get steamed lobsters and steamer clams, corn, and french fries. We would get the soft shell lobsters because they were cheaper, and easier to open and eat. Seagulls would harass us, so we would throw fries in the air which they would dive for, catch, and fight over; leaving our table alone for a short while.

                                                                                                              When I was in 7th grade our kitchen caught fire. It was partially my fault, partially my fathers. The toaster was broken and the bread wouldn't stay down and toast, so he jury rigged it with some wire, but you had to check on the toast or it would burn. I was home alone after school with my little sister and making us toast. I forgot to check on it and it caught fire and when I came up from the basement playroom the kitchen was in flames. It was pretty traumatic, trying to put out the flames with a crappy fire extinguisher that didn't work. Then running to the fire house a block away with our dog under one arm and dragging my sister along by the hand. Well, it took several months for the insurance company to pay out the claim and to rebuild the kitchen and paint the whole house. So we ate out for almost every meal on the insurance companies dime.

                                                                                                              There was a great local Chinese restaurant that to this day is known for the quality of their food. We got on a first name basis with all the staff and the owner. I loved bbq ribs, cold hacked chicken, cold spicy sesame noodles, chicken cooked in foil, orange beef, lemon chicken, and hated sweet & sour pork.

                                                                                                              Then there was the local steakhouse where we again got on a first name basis with everyone. I came to love steak cooked medium rare. Filet mignon, rib steaks, T-bones, porterhouse's, NY strip's, etc. I tried them all, and leftovers were the next days sandwich to take to school. I also came to hate steak fries because after they started to cool off they would get all soggy. I loved their house blue cheese salad dressing, and even more a garlic/red wine vinegar dressing, all dumped over a hunk of iceberg lettuce. Or occasionally a table side made Caesar salad, topped with a few anchovies which I got because no one else liked them.

                                                                                                              My favorite place of all was called Tanaka of Kyoto, a Japanese teppanyaki / hibachi place. It was a small family run restaurant with four tables. The chef was the owner, Tanaka-san, his wife was both the hostess and server, and his uncle was the bartender who had been a bartender in a top hotel and was total old school. The food was amazing. To this day I haven't had any teppankyai style food as good, including in Japan, and the Japanese teppanyaki restaurants I currently work with. Their sesame, ginger, and mustard sauces were fantastic. There was some other very dark brown sauce I can't remember, so I must not have liked it as much. Their ginger salad dressing was my favorite, very spicy and tasty. And they made an onion soup that I dream of to this day. A clear, light brown broth that was beefy and oniony, there were several types of onions in it. Deep fried onions, sweet onions, leeks, shallots, and topped with chopped scallion. Tanaka's closed down a year or two later after only a few years in business. I always wondered what happened to them.

                                                                                                              I didn't have many memorable restaurant experiences after that until I started going out to places on my own when I got my drivers license at 17 and started taking girls out on dates. The other guys took their dates to pizza places, McDonald's, and such, but I took mine out to real restaurants. Something that may have cost me a bit more money, but worth it both in their reaction, and their parents. All of whom looked upon me favorably. ;-)>

                                                                                                              Wow, that was a jog down memory lane.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                                                                what great memories.even the scary ones..thanks for sharing

                                                                                                              2. This topic and its posts rock---thanks for that.

                                                                                                                So I've probably told this story before. My mom and dad were older when they had me....39 and 49ish. I was the only child of two spectacular people...but people who worked hard and wanted a well-behaved child. We only went out to eat on special occasions (birthdays etc) and they sure as heck would *not* stand for their meal being punctuated by a boisterous kid. Different times. So they never looked for "child-friendly" places. They looked for places they could get a great meal and a cocktail.

                                                                                                                Back in the day, there was a restaurant in Haverhill (think the decor of Goodfellas movie restaurants, except small...not a supper club, and no misbehaving gangsters, but early 70's/late 60's chic...like the cigarette machine in the lobby had really nice brands ;-) ! ) called Captain Chris. Seafood and steaks. Oh, it was luxury to order from the menu...the real menu, no kids' menu! And to have a Shirley Temple. And a creme de menthe parfait with extra cherries afterward! I felt so grown up. The selections astounded me...the cracker boat (a little wicker basket of grissini and crackers they put on the table during cocktails pre-dinner) alone fascinated me. Melba toast! Breadsticks! Rye crisp minis! What to choose?

                                                                                                                But like many others on the board, this was an exception. We didn't go out to eat much at all...3X a year? 4? and never ordered take out except sometimes for Chinese food on New Years. Pizza and burgers were made at home. So the times my dad wasn't working rotating shifts, and we could all be together and go out...wow. I was quiet on the outside but inside I was pinballing with joy.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                  Crème de menthe parfaits are a big part of my childhood restaurant memories. I remember my dad would encourage me to order one because he like just a spoonful or two of one.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                                                    I loved parfaits too! Don't see them on dessert menus any more. I liked the chocolate parfait, not a fan of mint.

                                                                                                                2. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a different world then……there were not many if any DUI laws and when people went out on the weekends for dinner it was an all night event. When people made a 7pm or later reservation that table was reserved for the night. Most places on the weekend had entertainment that started at 9pm and last call was 3am. (New Jersey)

                                                                                                                  People ate, drank and were merry. Most restaurants went over the top trying to create a memory……an event. Even in my own establishments over the years I’ve tried to stress that to my managers…..people cherish memories, people remember events. We should always strive to make their dining experience an event.

                                                                                                                  Table side cooking was the rage, Cesar Salad, Steak Diane, Chateaubriand, Dover Sole, Banana’s Foster, Cherries Jubilee, Crapes Suzette. There were bread boys with baskets of bread for you to select, I remember one Italian Restaurant had a man walking around with metal bread warmer around his neck, like a ball park hot dog vendor, with fresh garlic bread kept perfectly warm. That was dining my friends.

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                    True enough. Not only were people ready for a good time back in the day, they could afford to have a good time! Nowadays, it's fewer good times and more hard times for a lot of folks. This country ain't what it used to be.

                                                                                                                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                                                                                      I don't want to say I condone drunk driving........but it does seem the world was a lot more carefree back then. Even though we had the oil shortage and recessions and recently out of the first war we didn't "win" there was a different feel to the world. People worked hard, to party hard. Now I just see people working hard, to just get by.

                                                                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                                        Dim sum is the thing I remember. Though we are not Chinese, dad was really into it and we used to head down to the then-thriving Chinatown in Vancouver at least once a month. I wish I could remember the names of the places better (Ming's was one; I think it was upstairs -- the best places were always up or down stairs for some reason). All were pushcarts which just added to the mystery and fun. Thanks, Dad, for introducing me to the wonder that is dim sum.