There’s nothing like strolling down Memory Lane — especially if the walk spurs hunger pangs and savory memories of meals past.
Last week’s column on restaurants gone but not forgotten triggered an avalanche of recollections about places to eat around Lynn. More than one reader called me to task for forgetting to name a particular dining spot. Others shook their heads over my ability to confuse local bars with restaurants.
Residents experts debated the merits of Bill and Bob’s and Beef and Sea where, they said, fights were known to break out, earning the establishment the nickname, “Beef and Sea and a beating.”
Others debated the relative merits of the Dairy Queen in Wyoma Square and Roland’s near the beach. Bobby Winslow remembered Johnny Joyce’s and the chopped ham sandwiches that cost 15 cents and were made with Sunbeam bread.
“It was one my family’s favorite places, and the chopped ham was made by the owners and delicious every day,” said Winslow.
Josue Hernandez weighed in with memories of the IHOP on State Street, Denny’s on the Lynnway and the Charlie Horse Sports bar. Also, Metro Pizza on Union Street and the diner counter in McLellan’s.
Tom Egan wasn’t the only reader to recall the Elm Tree Diner and the kid from Canada who worked there and played hockey. His name was Bobby Orr, but he slung hash in Lynn before making history. Thanks also to memories shared by Jim McGuire and Gerald Coraine.
Victor L’Esperance really put me in my place over Bennie’s omission from last week’s column. I love his description of the restaurant’s location in “the heart of the French neighborhood” bound by Franklin Street and Western Avenue. Former Lynn Hospital workers ate there and many met their future spouses in Bennie’s, L’Esperance said.
Patricia Brown said I forgot to include Burrows & Sanborn “with the best mac and cheese.” She pointed out how the cafeteria fit into a Lynn of yesteryear that thrived with stores, candy shops, portrait studios and movie houses. “Lynn was so beautiful and plentiful,” she said.
Leave it to Neil Rossman to nominate a local spot with the best submarine sandwich.
“My vote was/is still Russi’s on Western Avenue at the corner of Fernwood Avenue. It’s now long gone. I believe Dick Russi invented the cheese steak bomb, since I would go there to pick up the sub order for the fire house and I don’t think anyone else had them at the time.
“Also, you neglected to mention the Red Fox Cafe across the street from the (old) Fayette Street fire station — a true bucket of blood! My father was a ‘regular’ at Huntt’s and had his last meal there before shipping off to basic in February of 1942,” Rossman recollected.
Of course, no list would be complete without mentioning Rolly’s outside Wyoma Square and Riley’s Diner. Don’t forget the old Hayward’s and Mrs. Foster’s.
Let’s not hesitate to venture beyond Lynn to the bygone restaurants in neighboring communities. Swampscott had Palmer’s Restaurant, Papa John’s — a personal favorite — and, sadly, the Glover House, which straddled Salem and Marblehead and would still make a great location for someplace to eat.
Marblehead’s list included Billy’s and Brown’s, and Saugus had Augustine’s and Heck Allen’s, and Lynnfield’s list included the Kernwood and The Ship. Don’t forget Good Luck Farms serving
“New England Barbecue Chicken.” Opened in 1935 by former owner Sandy Angus’ father, it was cast in the mold of roadside restaurants when the pace was slower and you could pull off most roads next to a farmstand or into a motor court or a restaurant parking lot.
Moving on from Lynnfield, let’s not forget the Cliffside in Peabody as well as Michael’s Grand Cru and the Proctor House. How about the York Steakhouse in Revere and Fernwood?
A lot of these places hearken back to the days when going to a restaurant meant getting at least semi-dressed up and actually eating with a cloth napkin. It was a chance for your parents to scold you about using the wrong fork. Eating out was actually a big deal and a chance to have a meal in a fancy (or sort-of fancy) restaurant was usually preceded by the parental announcement: “We’re going out to eat.”
I invariably ordered breaded shrimp which, in hindsight, I don’t think was shrimp — especially since I grew up in Wyoming and Colorado in the 1970s. The most fun part about eating out was dessert and listening to your parents and grandparents talk about stuff they usually didn’t discuss around the house.
Eating out also used to mean entertainment on the scale offered by The Ship with its fake nautical theme and The Hilltop with its western motif. Both places were built on Route 1 in an era when eating out was a big enough deal that the owners figured entertainment as well as eating should be part of the package. After all, people were spending their hard-earned money so give them a little more bang for their buck.
The only thing better than going out to eat was having your parents go out to eat when you were old enough to stay home alone as a kid. It meant an evening of laughing and fighting with your siblings, eating Swanson’s TV dinners or something mom made called chipped beef, and watching the “Ghost and Mrs. Muir.”
Places like Denny’s and IHOP were where you went when you were older, and driving still felt like a novel experience and not a pain in the rear. Both places seemed to always be open, and you always seemed to show up at 2 a.m. to eat “breakfast” and goof around with your friends.
I didn’t eat in a diner until I moved to Boston to go to college and I couldn’t get enough of the old Tom Thumb Diner behind Boston University next to the MassPike. For that matter, I never ate real Italian food until I moved to Boston and went to the North End. I think the first place I ate there was the old European with the guy in the suit wearing a dour expression who would greet you at the door.
Memories make a meal that never means having to take the last bite.