Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm pretty sure cheeseburgers used to taste better

Another one bites the dust. Another icon evaporates into the ether of childhoods past. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic here, but yesterday brought the news that a northwest icon, the original Red Robin restaurant in Seattle, has been condemned to the wrecking ball.

The Red Robin chain still operates in approximately 270 locations, so it's definitely not like an asteroid wiped out this dinosaur, but another quirky, creaky, cramped old building is going away for good.

The parking was bad and the site wasn't exactly an easy one to navigate without swinging a couple of U-turns. The last time my family and I visited the original RR, I slammed my daughter's fingers in the van's sliding door, so my ongoing memory will be of shutting the door, hearing a blood-curdling scream and jerking my head back over my left shoulder to discover four fingers swollen like Jimmy Dean sausages, poking at me from an unnatural angle. Let's just say she's not as nostalgic about the demise of this place.

Other deceased, iconic restaurants of my past have preceded Red Robin:
There was Shakey's Pizza.

And Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour.

Each of these locales was a fantastic kid's birthday destination; each was furnished with turn-of-the-century, parlour d├ęcor. Shakey's featured an entire party package, plus it had a clear glass wall next to the kitchen, where you could witness your pizza being assembled (It was also where I lost my video game virginity to a game called "Pong."). Farrell's provided a free sundae on your birthday, delivered by three or four waiters, one wailing on a bass drum. They also had a huge ice cream offering known as a "Pig Trough." If you finished the entire thing, it was free.

Another nearly vanished icon is the classic American drive-in. You simply drove your automobile into a stall adjacent to the restaurant, rolled down your window, pushed an intercom button and ordered from the menu, which was attached to the intercom unit. Before long, a waitress would walk, or roller-skate, up to your car, delivering your food on a special tray which attached to your window. Boom. Instant car picnic. In my hometown of Auburn, Washington, XXX Root Beer ruled the drive-in roost:

Nowadays, it's not a "drive-in," it's a "drive-thru." Folks don't even take the time to eat in a parked car; now, we have to eat while driving. Not  a good idea, especially with burgers or burritos. Every sit-down restaurant serves up "pig troughs" for every meal. A visit to Claim Jumper or Cheesecake Factory guarantees a date with about five thousand calories. Where pizza actually used to be served in small, medium and large sizes, it's now offered up in large, extra large and UFO quantities.

Even the large chains which have weathered the cultural storm have re-branded themselves for a new America. We no longer have time to say "International House of Pancakes" or "Kentucky Fried Chicken." Nope, now it's simply "IHOP" and "KFC." I'm sure some of the other fast food giants would have shortened their names as well, but thought otherwise because:
-shortening "McDonald's to "MD's" is just too ironic.
-shortening "Pizza Hut" to "P-Hut" sounds like a tropical urinal.
-shortening "Taco Bell" to "TB"—accurate, but bad.

Life is far too short and much too important to spend much time lamenting stuff that isn't around anymore. It just seems like the new stuff isn't as good.

1 comment :

  1. Not only has food quality diminished, in my restaurant row, one is advised to refuse to leave the window without inventorying the bagged products to assure you got what you paid for. I can't count the times I have gotten home, only to find the purchased items missing, someone is not getting their burger, or fries are WAY past holding time and inedible. woe be unto you if you have the nerve to go back and insist you are made whole for the 25$ purchase. The rolled eyes, impatient sighing gives one fear that other ingredients may be put into your food, ie: body fluids or flies. Better to avoid fast food and cook what you like at home.