Why I can never go back to Chuck’s Steakhouse

Growing up there was a steakhouse that my sister and I would go to with my parents on special occasions. I remember the salad bar – the height of culinary sophistication of that era where I would pile a plate largely composed of cheese, croutons, ranch dressing and a few chilled slices of iceberg lettuce. There were elegantly dressed couples and woodgrain all around me and jazz being played on a piano (I can’t be sure there was an actual piano around, but my memory includes one). I just knew that when I grew up (to be a professional cheerleader, astronaut and Publix cashier) I would likely eat dinner at Chuck’s steakhouse nightly. I dreamed that I would hand off the keys to my hot pink Corvette (I blame the folks at Mattel for this)to the valet and then in I would saunter, making small talk and other pleasantries with the front of house staff, while my favorite bartender blended a Shirley Temple for me.

I am not sure if Chuck’s ever existed or if I willed it to and I cannot bring myself to google it – for fear of my dream being shattered. Memories are like that – left pristine I suppose only when you don’t reexamine them. There they stay beautiful and impervious to any new information (the place shutting down, the non-existence of that piano) and treasured. I believe they call this action sticking your head in the sand and though it can be dangerous in terms of history, in stances such as these I find it incredibly comforting.

My daughters were doing an association exercise recently where they paired a photo with the first word that came to mind. I lost sight of the fun of it, slipping into mom mode when wondering if the inkblot connotation MEANT something when one child correlated seemingly disparate options. We then landed on a man in a tuxedo shirt tying a bow tie. Both girls hurried to label the man “groom”, but I knew that he could only be a maître d at Chuck’s steakhouse steeling himself against his reservation list, checking the wine lists for availability of varietals and running through the specials one last time.

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