Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Where I Ate Dinner at a Child.






When I was a kid this was the only restaurant in my neighborhood. That would have been the mid-sixties. Was your neighborhood this spare on places to eat? How often did you go out to dinner as a kid? Where did you go? What did you order? Linton's had no ambience and was pretty much like the diner, Littleton's, that was right down the road. We went out to eat a lot when we went to the shore in the summer. But not much beyond that. Christmas Eve found us at Linton's though. An odd tradition.In retrospect, I believe there were restaurants for the adult crowd, but not the sort of place children were welcome.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

My childhood (up until the age of 11, when we emigrated to America) was financially constrained, to say the least. Unless you count an occasional dinner at the fish-and-chip or pie-and-mash shop, I did not eat in a restaurant until we came to America. Even then, it was a rare thing, a real treat. We used to go to Shoney's Big Boy and I'd always get the fish plate--I thought it was so ritzy because it came with cole slaw not a lettuce salad. I just don't think people in general ate out as much then. I was well into my twenties before eating at a restaurant didn't always seem like a special occasion.

Deb

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, we had little money too. But if I picture my neighborhood, there were no real restaurants. Just soda fountains mostly. Now on a Tuesday night in downtown Royal Oak, a virtual restaurant district near us, you can't find a parking place despite numerous structures and lots.

Jerry House said...

We never went out to dinner when I was a child, but we would occasionally go out for lunch, usually on a Sunday. When I was younger it was at Rocky Farms, a small mom and pop restaurant and ice cream shop in Westford, Mass. We always had burgers: me a cheeseburger with lots of ketchup, my sister would have a pepper burger (grilled green peppers on the burger), and my brother -- I can't remember what the heck he had but it wasn't a cheeseburger because he hates cheese. Rocky Farms would grill their hamburger buns in grease and I thought they were delicious. We would sometimes stop by there early in the evening for ice cream cones. They had a lot of flavors and I tried every one although I most often ended up with strawberry. Rocky Farms was near a four-way intersection and on one of the corner's was Polly's Diner, a fascinating place for a young kid because they had a small single-engine airplane on the roof. We never went into Polly's, though, because they served liquor and neither of my parents drank at the time.

The other restaurant we went to was Skip's, a popular place near the center of town. My sister and I would always have the grilled lobster roll. Yum.

Once a year, my mother would take me clothes shopping for school. We'd take a bus to the city and shop at Pollard's. (Pollard's was on one side of the main street and Bon Marche was directly across the street and never the twain should meet. You were either a Pollard's family or a Bon Marche family. There was no middle ground.) Once shopping was done we'd go to the Dutch Tea Room with its cheesy murals of scenes of Holland which I thought was so sophisticated. They served a grilled nut roll that I would die for.

All three places are long gone. Still with us, though, is Kimball's, an ice cream place in Westford which we would go to once, perhaps twice, a year. Each of us would order a banana split large enough to serve as supper. We kids would have a hard (and when we were very young, impossible) time finishing ours. I still stop by Kimball's when I'm in the area. The splits are just as large and as good as they were when I was a kid, but the place itself has grown into a tourist destination with large lines, a huge parking lot, a gift shop, a petting zoo, amusements and a conference center -- a far cry from its early days when old man Kimball would park three or four empty cars in the parking lot so people passing by would think they always had customers.

Margot Kinberg said...

We didn't go out to dinner very much when I was a child. But there were a few local places we went to once in a great while. I still remember them.

George said...

Five kids and two adults can run up a restaurant bill fast, so my parents used to take us to a local pizzeria, Leon's. For about $20, my parents were able to get us all salads, a big pizza, and Cokes. That qualified as a bargain in the Sixties.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember no pizzerias from my childhood. I do remember the Horn and Hardarts's automat though, In fact, it was my wish to go there for my 10th birthday. Also HOJO came along. We went there for clam strips.

Charles Gramlich said...

The closest place was about 6 miles away. Called the Dairy Diner. Sometimes Charleston had a regular restaurant and sometimes not. The Dairy Diner was always there

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think Linton's was basically a diner and the other Littleton's certainly was. It was strictly about convenience though. Nothing very interesting to eat. Much like we got at home on a good night.

Nancy Humphrys said...

As a kid in the Twin Cities, the place I remember best is Hasty-Tasty, a little restaurant that had average food but an abundance of chewing gum stuck under the tables...ewww. The saving grace of HT was that they sold delicious, fresh Abdullah chocolates.

R. T. (Tim) Davis said...

Growing up in the smoke-filled shadow of belching steel mills in western Pennsylvania in the late 40s through the 50s and early 60s, I do not ever recall "going out to eat." Such fancy-pants luxuries were beyond my family's blue collar imagination and income. However, brief stops on Saturday shopping days at the lunch counter at G. C. Murphy's 5&10 for a hot dog and Coke were occasional treats. I never really knew anything about full service restaurants until I was in my 30s. Now that I am in my 70s, I still avoid those fancy-pants "real" restaurants and prefer the tiny neighborhood eateries that look like they were clones of the "Evening Shade" television show. And I cannot close this posting without a tip-of-the-hat to the greatest fast-food chain: Whataburger.

August West said...

When I was a kid there was no extra money for my parents to take all of us out to a restaurant. We got three squares and had to eat everything on the plate. If there was a extra roll on the table we would fight for it.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Before I read the other responses, then: almost never. We lived in Kew Gardens, Queens until we moved to Brooklyn when I was 9. The only places I ever remember eating out were the luncheonette on Queens Boulevard across (and you know how wide that is!) from my grandparents' apartment. where I remember a tuna fish sandwich on toast and a chocolate malted. Yum. There was one Chinese restaurant (can't remember the name), memorable because my mother asked my brother to "catch the waiter's eye" when she wanted the check and Ken, ever the joker, mimed snatching it out of his head. Lastly, in Rego Park, there was Topsy's, a fried chicken restaurant (double yum), whose UNCLE TOM'S CABIN decor would not be considered acceptable these days.

There and in Brooklyn, however, my mother made dinner most days. Occasionally she and my father went out without us (Bonaparte's on Avenue M was a favorite of theirs). We'd have pizza (Bella Donna) on Kings Highway, at 15 cents a slice (!). The "big splurge" restaurant was Lundy's in Sheepshead Bay, which surely had the worst system of getting a table I've ever seen. You'd pick out someone who appeared to be nearing the end of their meal and hover over their table until they left. As Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making this up. I don't ever remember going to Nathan's in Coney Island until years later.

pattinase (abbott) said...

August: That sounds like the beginning of a novel!
Jeff-That hovering detail is priceless. I hate being seated at a table near where patrons wait for that reason. Don't think I have ever been to Whataburger. Maybe there are none in Michigan.
Abdullah chocolates-also new to me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Jerry-I remember eating at a counter in People's Drugstore. Also I remember Bon Marche from Paris and London. Didn't know they had it here.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Speaking of Nathan's, Jackie said her family would go on a Sunday and they'd each have one hot dog and the 5 of them would share one cone of fries.

When we started dating (will be 50 years ago this January!) her parents and sisters and us went to Tung On on Avenue U for Sunday "dinner" and they'd order a family dinner for 3 or 4 with extra egg rolls.

I still remember, my mother would give us $1 and my brother and I were able to have two slices of pizza and a drink each and get change!

As Bill Crider would say, I miss the old days.

Jerry House said...

Patti, the Bon Marche in Lowell had no affiliation with any other store. They did have a huge rock in their bargain basement because it was too expensive to remove. It was also the store that moved cash through pneumatic tubes, presumably because they didn't trust their salespeople to make correct change. Pollard's (their competition) had no such new-fangled devices.

J F Norris said...

We went to eat out a lot more than most people commenting here. Probably three times a month on average. A lot more frequently when the house became emptier as the three youngest sons went off to college and my mother grew weary of being a housewife and cook to "the men around here" as she liked to jibe. She grumbled about it openly for years and left us (the sons, not my Dad) to our own devices once we were out of high school. I guess in retrospect our family was a lot more well to do than I'd ever thought we were. You take everything for granted when you're a kid. Only when I went away to college did I get to see drastic differences in how people my own age grew up, where they lived, how their families interacted.

We didn't go anywhere special (or "fancy pants" as RT says), but I can recall eating at three places regularly: Friendly's, which I'm sure all the East Coast people know very well; The Hungry Knight, a steak place and the closest to fine dining we ever came as a family; and an Italian joint called Venice Pizzeria where my father loved to order the Sicilian style pizza. It was square (novel for us Connecticut kids who only knew round pizzas) and had a very thick crust. This was decades before Sicilian pizza became a trendy type of pizza and given all sorts of different non-ethnic names.

J F Norris said...

"Topsy's, a fried chicken restaurant (double yum), whose UNCLE TOM'S CABIN decor would not be considered acceptable these days."

That reminds me of the Sambo's chain of pancake restaurants we used to visit when we were on our annual Florida vacations. We would joke about them for hours afterward until my mother would announce, "All right, that's enough!" and we'd shut up. Amazing what passed for "cute ideas" well into the 1970s.

Richard Robinson said...

We ate away from home rarely. When I was about 5, there was a place a mile away called Jack's Beverly Fountain (on the Corner of Beverly Blvd. and another street) which had great burgers and malts. But we went rarely, as my Dad preferred to make and barbecue (now we'd say "grill") burgers at home. Later we moved further out in the country, and nothing was close. My mother was violently allergic to seafood of any kind, we couldn't even go to a restaurant that served it. So once every couple of months my father would take my brother and I to a fish place, but I don't remember any names.

I do remember a couple of times each summer we would make the long drive to a place called The Taco Kitchen, a very upscale Mexican restaurant, with excellent food. My older brother didn't like it though, so he always ordered a hamburger. I don't remember eating pizza until I was in high school and a place opened nearby. It was popular as a date night destination.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

There was a little place near Pontiac Central HS called the XXX. They served really greasy burgers with the meat chopped up. Also remember Chicken Delite which delivered.Not so many pizza joints when I was a kid. Their motto was Don't cook tonight call Chicken Delite.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess economics did influence this. Although rich people that we knew seemed to eat mostly at country clubs rather than restaurants. As my parents grew older and had more money, they ate out frequently on weekends. Eating out just became more popular. And now....

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember that commericil, Steve. Was it just Michigan?

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Patti-I looked it up. It started in Illinois and spread to a number of states but started failing in the 60's. A few remain in Winnipeg.

Nancy Humphrys said...

Oh, that darn word correct! The correct spelling is Abdallah chocolates. They are still making those delicious chocolates in Burnsville, Mn.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

One more: there was a restaurant on Austin Street in Forest Hills and possibly some in Manhattan called something like Hamburger Train. As the name suggests, you'd sit at the counter and order your burger, and the chef would put it on a train that ran around the counter and delivered it to your seat. We used to beg my mother to take us there.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I want to go there right now, Jeff.
Thanks, Nancy.

jvnase said...

I remember Continental Pizza on Ogontz just down the street from Littleton's Diner.
Loved the pizza and the memories from there.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't think Continental Pizza came along until after I was married and came back to Philly to visit. Although I worked at a place that made pizza. Vic's.

Todd Mason said...

It is Utterly remarkable how little good pizza there is in the Philadelphia area, given the Italo-American prevalence, most more Italian than I. Too busy trying to perfect their "gravy," perhaps.

Lin Yutang: What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?

Todd Mason said...

The first restaurant I remember my parents taking my brother and me to repeatedly was the vaguely Polynesian/Chinese tiki hangout the Hu Ke Lau restaurant in Chicopee, MA, across the border from the Hazardville former township within Enfield, CT, where we lived from 1973-76. The Hu Ke Lau, almost amazingly, remains in place and doing apparently decent business, with music acts and these days comedians playing there regularly. I would eat heroic amounts of the pork slices, usually dipped in the hot mustard. For less planned-for eating out, a fair amount of McD's, HoJo/Baskin Robbins and Friendly's, though I preferred Arthur Treacher's (in part for the horseradish sauce). We would get some pizza, but not that often, as I recall--sometimes at Shakey's particularly when we were on the road...I should go see if Bonanza and Ponderosa steakhouses were the same chain or competitors...I certainly remember eating in them, having gotten a tray with a numbered plastic triangle that indicated which mediocre steak you were going to get. We certainly tended to eat in better, as both my parents were fine cooks. I knew how to broil a better steak for myself by the time I was 11yo...a ski I mostly demonstrate for Alice these days, as I've been lacto-ovo-veg for almost thirty years now.

Todd Mason said...

My folks had been raised rather financially poor, though getting by (and making their own money at a young age) and were essentially middle to upper middle class all my life. I think this made them unwilling to spend too much on a restaurant meal, even when they could afford to do so (and were not at all loathe to indulge in expensive hobbies and such). They were perfectly happy with crab from Red Lobster in later years, as were the cats.

Cap'n Bob said...

When I was a child we rarely ate out. The one place I recall going to a few times was Sambo's. The menu had a story book--or maybe it was the place mats or a separate paper--that told the story of Sambo (black, but wearing a turban) being chased around a tree by a tiger until the tiger turned into pancake batter.

When I was 12 we went to a chicken shack up the highway from our home in Denbigh, Virginia. Once I started to go in ahead of the family and was quickly admonished not to use that door. It was the "Colored Only" side.

As a teenager we ate out a little more often, mostly at Mario's. This was in New York. Spaghetti and meatballs for $1.50.

Al Tucher said...

We went to Howard Johnson's fairly often, but my parents were also adventurous enough to take their five children (I'm the oldest) to New York. Asti's (Italian) and Luchow's (German) stand out in my memory.

Invariably an older woman would approach us and tell my dad, "You have such a lovely family," and I threatened to pick my nose to deter them.

WTH. I was a teenager. I was supposed to find everything mortifying.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Those cliches adults use with kids do grind. I so hard try not to say "you're getting so tall" but I always do.