Restaurants open, have their run, then close. New restaurants open. And close eventually. Some stay. For generations. Of those, some live on their laurels, their food going hopelessly out of fashion, or poorer in quality. The few truly great ones hang around maintaining standards set long ago. Some even improve. New staffs come and go. But you can always count on the menu. And the quality. These are the rare ones. The ones where families celebrate big events. Graduations. Anniversaries.
We had “our” family restaurant. We celebrated the big occasions there, with parents, grandparents, kids. The kids, no matter how young, sensed that this place was special and behaved accordingly to the relief of people at nearby tables who cringed when we were seated with little ones. A family could afford it only occasionally. It was dark and plush and loud with laughter. We could always count on the quality of their food and service. They remembered the table we liked and our favorite waiter, even though we only ate there once or twice a year.
Suddenly, and with ample ruffles and flourishes, they moved to bigger, more impressive digs. The menu stayed comfortingly unchanged. But the room changed. It wasn’t dark and cozy anymore. It was large and blindingly bright and the the laughter that once echoed happily now banged against walls along with the pots and pans in the way too busy open kitchen. The wasn’t quite what we remembered from our last visit, and the food had always been memorable. The waiters seemed rushed, but stopped long enough to announce that the eatery had been bought out by a restaurant conglomerate and planned to open outlets in malls and on secondary highways.
Our tradition was broken. We didn’t return this year. We tried an alternate restaurant. It was nice, dark and cozy, loud and celebratory. The menu lived up to the place we’d abandoned. News flash: they’ve just been bought out by a small restaurant conglomerate.
I guess it’s time to start a new tradition.