Sunday, June 02, 2013

Five Closed Restaurants...Five Gaping Holes in My Life

Last week I spent a few days in Seattle with The Cheetahman eating great food, taking some pictures, and catching up with a few old friends. Along the way one afternoon, while deliberating the location of our evening meal, a little burger joint back in Bountiful named Carmack's came up, because there's really no way to have a conversation about food without thinking of some of the great food that has been lost to history.

In an attempt to respect that history, I have produced the following list of favorite restaurants I have lost over the years. In an attempt to be constructive instead of merely complaining, I have also included suggestions for the restaurants that have filled these gaping culinary holes in my heart.

1. Bob's Deli, North Salt Lake

The first time I ever had beef jerky I was twenty minutes removed from a youth soccer game when I was six years old. My friend Steve and I were getting a ride home from his dad, and on the way we swung by Bob Kellersburger's warehouse so he could pick up some steaks. Steve's dad got us some jerky for our trouble. Years later I became such a fan that my mother sent me bi-monthly shipments of Bob's X-Spice jerky for the entirety of my LDS mission to Chicago. Then Bob retired, and Kellersburger's is now an Atlantis Burger.

The Replacement: I've never found a spot-on substitute for Bob's X-Spice, but a friend referred me to Thompsons' Smokehouse outside of Tooele for some good homemade jerky. It's definitely in the ballpark, and hey, any excuse to drive to Tooele, right?

2. Carmack's, Bountiful

Longtime Bountiful residents almost universally hold up Carmack's as the Greatest of the Local Burger Joints, and universally mourn the day the original spot went up in flames back in the 1990s. My only regret is that I didn't enjoy it more when it was around, as I spent most of my youth fixated on generic McDonald's hamburgers instead of appreciating the classic burgers that sprang from Carmack's ancient equipment. A few years after the original burned down, the owners attempted to open a new restaurant off of 5th South, but it wasn't the same, and died a pretty quick death.

The Replacement: Maddox Drive-In, Brigham City (Admittedly a stretch, since Maddox is no one's second banana).

3. R&B's, West Yellowstone, Montana

As a kid, R&B's was noted as the best burger joint in West Yellowstone (at least to my family), and was a traditional stop whenever we'd make our yearly pilgrimage to my grandparents' place in Island Park. Sometime in my teens the place went out of business, and now the building is entirely vacant.

The Replacement: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There is not a single place I look forward to eating at when I go to Island Park in the summer. If anyone out there in the interwebs has any suggestions, I am EAGER to be proven wrong.

4. Eat-a-Burger, Bountiful/Salt Lake City

As a teenager, Eat-a-Burger had great hamburgers and even better spicy fries. Its locations were shaped like old '50s-style diners, complete with barstools and chrome-lined booths. Over the years they went out of business one at a time...first my go-to spot in Bountiful off 5th South, then eventually the last spot I knew of in Holladay off Highland Drive just a few years ago. I don't know how many times I ate at one of their locations, but the time I remember best was meeting up at the Bountiful spot with my friend Noel shortly after I thought I had been stood up for a date.*

The Replacement: I still miss Eat-a-Burger's hamburgers, and the old juke box that my buddy Brian and I used to play "House of the Rising Sun" on, but the cajun fries at Five Guys are a dead ringer for the spicy fries. And the burgers at Salt City Burger are fantastic. Still feels like swapping a dollar for four quarters, though.

5. Manuel's, Salt Lake City

The photo banner at the top of this blog includes an image of my dad holding a proud infant in a sombrero. That's me. We were at a small Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake called Manuel's that was one of my family's favorite lunch spots for years until it closed its doors well into my twenties. I won't kid around: it was about as authentic as a late '70s Bee Gees drumbeat, but I am as fond of Manuel's as I am of any of the ghosts on this list.

The Replacement: The Red Iguana, obviously.


*A story that may deserve its own post.