February 28, 2011

Our Wedding Curse

Table Leona's
My husband and I have been trying, with limited success, to have a date night once a month.  Usually, we skip the date in favor of hanging out with friends, or even just going to sleep early.  But once in a while one of us gets it in our heads (usually me) that it's high time we went out and enjoyed each other's company a bit.  Usually there's some sort of outside force prompting this idea- the the arrival of Valentine's Day, or our anniversary.  Sunday night's date was prompted by the discovery that one of our favorite restaurants was closing.

M and I tried really hard to make our wedding personal and unique.  One way we did this was by foregoing the standard table numbers, and instead using the names of our favorite restaurants.  Instead of putting up numbers in the middle of the table, we had menus from all the best places to grab a bite in Chicago.

Unbeknownst to us, we were cursing those restaurants.

There were nineteen tables, represtenting 19 restaurants.  In the almost three years of our marriage, three have closed, and two have closed and reopened.

RIP Standee's
First, there was Standee's Diner.  It was the most fabulous greasy spoon diner, just down the back steps from my old apartment.  They were open 24/7, and they had WONDERFUL malts.  There was a jukebox that was well stocked with all our favorite bands- Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd...  There were reproductions of Union Army recruitment posters from the Civil War on the wall- advertising how many brass buttons you'd get on your uniform, and that they were looking for, "Brave, Sober Young Men."  Aside from that, it was standard stuff.  And it had been there when my old landlord's father bought the building.  It was an institution.

Until one day when we stopped by for a bite to eat, and it was all boarded up.  It was like getting punched in the gut.  We had only missed it by a matter of days, and that was that.  No more jukebox, no more posters, no more sweet middle aged blond waitress calling me sweetheart and teasing me for my love of malts.  Standee's was gone forever.

RIP Costa's
And then, only a month later, dining disaster again.  Our favorite Greek restaurant, Costa's made headlines in the local news.  It had burned to the ground.  The owner said he had no interest in opening a new restaurant, he was getting old anyway, and to this day the lot stands completely empty.  This was a particularly unpleasant was to say goodbye for me, as the restaurant stood two blocks away from where I was taking classes.  Day after day I would walk past the charred rubble, remembering gigantes and the AMAZING garlic tortellini they would make.  I could almost smell the spanikopita in the ashes.

And last week, seemingly out of the blue, another restaurant from our wedding tables announced it was closing.  Earwax Cafe.  This one hurt even more, as it was one of three restaurants in town that did EXCELLENT vegetarian food and had WONDERFUL meaty selections.  They made the best veggie burger in the city, a black bean quinoa burger TO DIE FOR.  They also had the most delicous sweet potato and black bean quesodillas, great smoothies and shakes, and the ambiance!  Oh, what a place!  Completely decorated in the style of an old time freak show- painted tapestries of bearded ladies, carved monkeys and masks, bright colors and beautiful carved wooden shadow boxes everywhere.  We loved that place.  Once upon a time, they even had a great video rental running out of the basement, but that ended with the death of VHS.

RIP Earwax
This time, though, we were prepared.  We decided to go on closing night, and actually bid farewell to Earwax.  We were lucky- we figured that we needed to go out early if we were having a date on a Sunday night, so we arrived at six.  It was a zoo.  We waited twenty minutes for a table, and by the time we were seated, they were out of almost everything.  They stopped seating people before we could order- it wasn't even seven o'clock.  They had no chicken, no bison, no buffalo seitan, no eggs, no buns, no peaches, no strawberries, no cherries, no ice cream, and no salad.  They were out of stew, chili, veggie loaf, soda, or goat cheese.  And nobody cared.  I got the third to last Earwax veggie burger ever.  The staff were doing shots, constantly hugging and sighing.  The off duty staff kept coming in with their dogs and their kids, to bid a final farewell.

It was fun, but very sad.

Since 2008 two more restaurants have closed and reopened for health violations, including the one that catered our wedding.  One of our restaurants had to close for a week when a car went through its front window.  A few are thriving, a few more definitely struggling in the down economy- one of those is widely considered THE place for Chicago Deep Dish and still just filed for bankruptcy.  And I really have to wonder if this is our fault for involving them in our wedding.

It's amazing how attached you get to places.  I always picture myself bringing the girls to Earwax, it was such a fun place for kids.  I would have eaten well and still had a happy night out with my girls.  But now... no more.  Goodbye Earwax.  Goodbye Standee's.  Goodbye Costa's.

Three down, sixteen to go.


  1. Thanks for following my blog!
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  2. Your mother and I had our first date at a wonderful restaurant in Columbus that closed down a few years later. We never expected to see Seva again, but decades later, we moved to Ann Arbor and there it was, thriving in its "new" location. Goodbye isn't always forever!

  3. I hate to break it to you, but you're not currently a Powerful Evil Wizard.
    Old projects end and new ones begin. It can hurt to watch, but you can't claim credit for the passage of time.
    Goodbye isn't always forever, but don't waste your time hoping. Work with what exists and what you can create.

  4. I remember my one semester at UArts Philly. The attitude was that we were each other's enemy's. That we'd be vying for the same jobs. It was a competition. That wasn't why I did art. So I left.



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