Most of us have one. We don’t even have to think too long before sharing its name, its location and what we like best about it. Some of us even have a favorite table, a particular view from a perfectly placed chair, and of course, a favorite item on a menu. In fact, some of us like that item so much that the proprietors know who we are based on the order we place. And best of all, we associate certain memories with these favorite haunts, the only thing we really can share considering how many of them are gone.
I hadn’t really given this subject much thought until a couple of weeks ago, when my family and I sat down to a farewell dinner at the Silver Dragon, our favorite Chinese restaurant for the past twenty – two years and one that would be closing its doors in three days. My husband and I had frequented this establishment while still dating, sitting side by side as new couples tend to do, delighting in the good food and each other’s company. We even took home one of the paper mats displaying the Chinese zodiac, a souvenir of the dinner date we had so enjoyed. And since we found the restaurant worthy of a return visit, we told our friends and thus began a Friday night ritual, all four of us bonding over sesame chicken and egg fu young, snow white rice and endless noodles. When our children were old enough to appreciate the taste of a new culture, we introduced them to some of our favorite flavors, (conveniently not mentioning the crab meat in the cheese fried wontons until they were old enough not to balk at the unfamiliar), and soon they too would suggest the Silver Dragon for special occasions worthy of celebrating.
As we lingered over the last of the tea, munching on cookies and reading each other’s fortunes, we started listing the many other establishments with which we associated enjoyable experiences, some long before we had known each other. On report card days, my mother used to take my brother and me to La Esperanza, to celebrate our good grades over endless baskets of tortilla chips and my favorite menu item, The Sombrero, a creation at which I marveled before digging in to its many layered goodness. I loved the dim surroundings and the soft-spoken waitresses, the food which was plentiful and exotic to my Israeli palate. When the building in which it was housed was demolished, we tried its other location at the University Mall, but it just wasn’t the same.
If I delve even further into my culinary past, I have to pay homage to Straw Hat Pizza, although I’m not sure what I loved more – the smell of baked dough smothered in cheese or the fact that you could ask an employee for a penny to ride the Charlie Horse, while a Flash Gordon film played on the screen in the background. The place was more amusement park than restaurant and since I couldn’t have been more than six years old, I loved it.
And just a few doors down from that wondrous place, was another establishment which to my foreign eyes, was the embodiment of an old-fashioned American ice-cream parlor. Marvelees was as bright and loud as La Esperanza was dim and subdued. I loved everything about it, from the white, wrought-iron chairs, the mural of a Davis scene on its large wall, to the gleaming chrome of its lengthy counter. Perhaps the memory is made sweeter because it was there that I went on my first date with an American boy who dared to hold my hand as we dipped into chocolate ice-cream sundaes served in tulip shaped glasses. Teenage crushes and sugar. A winning combination.
And speaking of sweet love, it was many years later when the real deal walked through my door and we spent our first date over a cup of coffee at Cafe Tutti, right across from where the Davis police department used to be and is now Bistro 33. I don’t recall anything remarkable about the actual cafe, but I will never forget that cup of coffee and nearly three hours of shy getting to know you conversation with the man who would become my husband. Okay, so I was a cheap date.
Soga’s, The Blue Mango, The Good Earth, AJ Bumps, Mr. B’s, The Ding How, Colette, even the Dairy Queen, gone. (Ironically, Jack In The Box still stands…). While the offerings at some of these long-gone eateries was certainly worth our patronage, (Max’s amazing lemon crepes at the Crepe Bistro, the Marrakesh’s heavenly Moroccan Tagine, The Farmer’s Wife and its decadent Napoleons), what some of us remember most fondly are the occasions that brought us there and the people with whom we shared them. Whether it was a Fuziotini with my good friend Scott at, where else, Fuzio, or Schnitzel and red cabbage at Little Prague where the tortured looking violinist played lovely melodies in the background; these places fed our appetites and served as memorable backdrops to the chapters of our lives.
April 26, 2015 – Editor Note:
The restaurant, Silver Dragon mentioned in the article above, original decision having changed or been put on hold, has not closed. The restaurant is currently open for business. It appears there is a possible stall in change of ownership. We will update if this changes.
Also of note: Ding How mentioned in the post as having closed, was located downtown. The Ding How located on Covell Blvd. is still open and thriving!