Saturday, October 15, 2016

Oh , for the old times

As we walked out of an unnamed restaurant in Morelia the other day I told my wife that I longed for some of the old dives that were around in the 70's and 80's.

Restaurants were places were you could come in around 5 for a few drinks, some appetizers and after an hour decide to stay for dinner.

The food that came out was plain, simple, nourishing and good.  ( and cheaper )

It was not created by using tweezers, mandolins or liquid nitrogen.  Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things, it's just that having dinner at some new places has become a show of sorts.

You are presented with a spiral cut of a pickled beet, topped with a slice of pickled pork rind.

In the 70's one of my favorite hang outs was a place that was called Victoria Station.

Victoria Station was a chain of railroad themed restaurants that featured steaks and prime rib. At their heyday they had over 100 locations in the US. Sadly it went bust in the mid 80's

The inviting concept was that you felt that you were at a railroad station in London or some place in merry ol England. ( Victoria Station to be specific )

You entered the restaurant next to one of the London phone booths, The place was filled with all kinds of Old English railroad artifacts.  It was usually made up of about 4 or 5 old railroad cars with one caboose in front. Their flagship restaurant was at 50 Broadway, which was a few blocks from the Embarcadero and a few blocks from the famous North Beach area of  San Francisco.

This restaurant was very popular and packed most of the time.  It was one of my favorite places which I must have visited and gorged myself on one of my favorite hunks of meat, Prime Rib.

In those days, you could actually get Prime , Prime Rib and not Choice which is the only affordable cuts of beef nowadays.
To give you an example, one primal cut of the rib roast which has about 7 ribs, the last time I purchased a whole roast for a party cost me around $ 135 dollars, compared to Prime, which was around  $ 275.  ( about 4 or 5 years ago ).

So, what that means is restaurants that charge you about $35 dollars for a cut, would have to charge at least $ 60 or 75 dollars if you actually had a "Prime" cut.

All this discussion was because when we left the restaurant I was still unsatisfied after having a nice piece of beef, which was expensive especially in Mexico prices. The end result just wasn't there.
Perhaps my memory is better of times before, or perhaps it's just that the affordable quality of beef has been slowing, being compromised as expenses of raising the animals keeps on  escalating.

Look at the prices $10.45 for a large cut
Lunch menu Cheeseburger for $ 3.15

 Every time we would walk out of a Victoria Station restaurant you were satiated and felt like you had had a good dinner and good time. This is one of dining experiences that I have not had in a real long time. I have had great dining experiences both here in Mexico and in the States,  But they have been getting less and less, simply because of where we live. I am sure if we were in Mexico City my satisfaction level would change, but you have to give up certain things for living in a beautiful area with great year round climate.

Another thing I remember is when you walked in , there was a huge display refrigerator with glass doors displaying the aging prime ribs. There were probably 50 or 60 of them on display.

I only visited maybe two or three other Victoria Stations. One I remember was at Universal City in Hollywood. The neat thing about that location was that you parked below the little hill where it was and got into a funicular to ride up to the location.

Oh well, take a look at the menus and enjoy the prices that you could spend. Dinner for two with wine was less than 30 or 40  bucks.

There are still a few places that we have dined at in the last 4 or 5 years, that still do a stellar job of doing the dinner experience. One is Lawry's Prime Rib in Los Angeles and the other is the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. ( can you tell I love Prime Rib?)

I wonder if something like on of those opened up in Mexico it would be successful?

 Perhaps in Mexico City, I know we have been to some other places in Mexico City that are the upscale dining experiences from the states, one is The Palm.  The Palm is know for it's huge lobsters and prime steaks also. There are also stellar old time Mexico restaurants that we use to go to when ever we visited MC.  Hacienda de Los Morales and Restaurante San Angel Inn were both very traditional and memorable places that are still around. For what it's worth, I would bet you that no tweezers are used in any of their menu preparations...

Everything seems to be more removed from a old homey dining experiences. It's not that I want the owner or chef to come and sit down with us and drink with us, it just seems that there is something missing from dining experiences nowadays.  ( maybe it's looking around the dining room and seeing everyone on their cell phone basking in the dull light of the screen as they are required to text someone along with a picture of the soup de jour)

Perhaps it's that my memory is better than reality today.

In Morelia we have some excellent restaurants and even a few great steakhouses. But they all lack the grandeur of the over the top experience.   One thing everybody tells me is that "times have changed"  Yep, times have,  but at least my memory of those great time has not escaped my dwindling brain cells.

On thing for sure is that we have had to scale down our expectations of the grand ol dining experience in Patzcuaro and local environs.  As I mentioned before you have to give up certain things  to live in this beautiful part of the county.

I guess there is always Sanborns, eh? But I want Victoria Station!


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