A Magical Place

shakeys-pizzaThere’s more to going out to eat than just “going out to eat.” Sure, sometimes we just need to grab a quick bite, but to truly go out means so much more than going for the food and staying for the pie. It’s an event, a special occasion, or perhaps even a ritual. We do it to celebrate. We do it to meet old friends—or to make new ones.

I’m sure it would only take most of us just a minute to think of one significant memory that happened while eating out. It might have been a first date. (Or a last date.) It might have been that time you got a big promotion at work. (Or lost a job.) It could be something as simple as the time you ate that twenty pound hamburger in less than five hours. (What? You don’t remember that?)

I’ve heard it said that the greatest comic book ever written was the one you read when you were twelve. One could probably say the same thing about restaurants. Because nothing you’ll ever do as an adult will ever have the same magical quality of the place you went to as a kid.

One of these places for me was Shakey’s Pizza, as evidenced by the wonderful photograph above. To me, this was what “going out” was all about. It was fun, it was different, it was special, and it just might be the place I honed the excellent pizza-eating skills I possess yet today. My memories now are fuzzy, of course, but a few specific things still stand out clear. It was dark. I loved that. It made you feel like you were leaving the waking world behind and truly entering a new domain. (Not to mention it made swiping extra slices that much easier.) They played old movies and cartoons up on the wall. How awesome was that? I remember popcorn—or maybe it was peanuts—but you could throw a handful in the general vicinity of your mouth and it didn’t matter how many hit the floor.

It would be nice to be able to go back and re-live that. But, as the saying goes, you can never go home. If for whatever reason you did try to track down an old haunt, you would now find it:

  1. Run down and dirty (and depressing)
  2. All modernized and shiny (and even more depressing)
  3. Torn down and replaced with a Starbucks (no comment)

So perhaps these things are best left to our memories. And I’m okay with that. Because there are still plenty of places out there to create new memories and hone new pizza-eating skills.

What magical place did you go out to eat at as a kid? Share your story below. One lucky winner will receive a free slice of memory pizza.

20 Responses to “A Magical Place”

Tom Rooney said
November 14, 2008 at 6:24 am


My place was the Monroe Diner in my home town. It was right On Main Street and everyone from young to old would come in there during the day. We didn’t have much money as kids, but remember getting a cup of mashed potatoes with brown gravy for fifty cents. There was a giant jukebox in the back that would belt out 50 hits. You could select your song by using the selector on every table and at the counter. We would pile nickels into it and stay there for hours. This was a great place to go and warm up after ice skating each day.

But the diner is no longer there because strip malls have taken over Main Street. McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Chucky Cheese are the norms now. So much for progress.

Biz said
November 14, 2008 at 6:38 am

It definitely was peanuts! You could just shell them at the table and then sweep them to the floor!

Isn’t this the place too where you could watch them make the pizza behind a glass window??

Happy Friday Charlie!

Megan said
November 14, 2008 at 7:04 am

Going out to eat was so exciting when I was younger. It was a family event and we always lingered for at least an hour. We also went out to our favorite place for good report cards. As you said, it was magical. Everything was bigger than life and so exciting no matter where we ate!

Jill said
November 14, 2008 at 7:10 am

Oh my gosh! Shakeys Pizza – haven’t thought about that place in years. We used to go there when we visited some family friends in another state (no Shakeys where we lived), so that place makes me think of running all over the restaurant with my friend, and yes it was VERY dark in there. Loved it.

Brooke said
November 14, 2008 at 7:12 am

You were my first ever stranger comment on my blog!!! Thanks.
Anyway mine is Shorty’s Diner. It was like 50’s diner (in the 80’s though) where the servers were on roller skates and danced. It is one of my favorite memories because I got my mom and dad to take me thereone year for my brithday and they were divorced by then so it was a special treat to have them both at t the table at the same time.

Charlie said
November 14, 2008 at 7:24 am

Biz: I’ve been thinking about it more, and for some reason I’m pretty sure the peanuts were at The Ground Round. I think the popcorn was at Shakey’s. While popcorn at a pizza place sounds strange, maybe it was to go along with the movies? Hard to tell.

Brooke: Thank you for noticing I’m stranger. 🙂

I followed you off a PastaQueen comment, I believe, and liked the picture you painted of fall. Thanks for stopping by!

Kyddryn said
November 14, 2008 at 8:27 am

The T&C in Little Compton, RI – it was a little roadside dive that served the best steamers (steamed Ipswitch clams) ever. They had a pinball machine, a jukebox, a couple of rickety tables and a bar.

They also made a wicked Shirley Temple.

I loved that place. I have no idea what’s there now – the T&C (Town and Country) was long gone by my teen years.

Manchester’s, also in RI – I have fond memories of clandestine lunches there with my grandfather. He would order scotch and a bowl of clam chowder, and I had the grilled cheese, fries, and mud pie. He loved to watch me try to eat the mud pie – the slice was at least a hand-span high, and it set the gold standard for every mud pie since. I never managed an entire piece, or even half of one. he never chastised me for wasting food, or told me I’d get fat eating like that, and I never ratted him out on the scotch he wasn’t supposed to be drinking.

And finally, The Commons Lunch, again in Little Compton. Lobster roll and a coffee frappe. Oh, baby.

Dang. Now I’m hungry.

Shade and Sweetwater,

Jane said
November 14, 2008 at 8:43 am

Oh goodness, that photo of Shakey’s brought back some memories. When my family first moved to northern Illinois, we discovered the Shakey’s in Janesville, WI, and it instantly became the kid’s first choice anytime it was our turn to pick a restaurant.

fuzzleinc said
November 14, 2008 at 10:32 am

My parents had the tendency to take my brother and I to hotel lounges – which sounds a little weird at first, but we were well-behaved kids and they took us on “off” hours (i.e. not during happy hour). My Dad would get me a little napkin full of cheese cubes, crackers, and order me a Shirley Temple. I cherished those dark lounges like nothing else. And I’ve never been able to recreate that atmosphere as an adult.

I still love cheese cubes and Shirley Temples though… now with vodka.

Amy said
November 14, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I grew up in such small towns, that we didn’t really have a place to go out to eat. Seriously – there was one bar, which I didn’t go to much growing up, and one cafe open from 6 AM – 1 PM (the bar opened at 2 PM – don’t know what people did for that hour). Didn’t get there much, either.

BUT – when we would go to the city (pop. 14,000 – I was easily impressed), we would usually eat out. The place wasn’t important, although I was partial to Pizza Hut, especially during Book-It season (wouldn’t be caught dead eating Pizza Hut now). It was just the rarity. It happened so seldom that eating out was a magical experience.

I wonder how many kids these days regard eating out with the same excitement & wonder…or does it happen so often now that it’s just taken for granted?

Andrea said
November 14, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Popcorn was definitely at The Ground Round. I remember because I always thought it tasted funny… (even when I was little). I’m not familiar with Shakey’s, so I can’t comment on peanuts vs. popcorn there.

carissa said
November 14, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I remember going to the Ground Round when I was a little kid. They used to have a promotional day for kids where your meal cost your weight in cents. So, if you weighed 59 pounds, your meal cost 59 cents.
Man, those were the days to be that carefree about body image. You couldn’t pay me to do that today!

Vicki said
November 14, 2008 at 7:46 pm

We always had our pizza delivered, so even though I’d love to talk about a pizza restaurant, I got nothin’.
I remember my dad used to have meetings for work every week or two in the evening. They were held in Portsmouth (Ohio) which was about an hour drive from us, and he’d take my mom and I with him, drop us off to shop, and when his meeting was over he’d pick us up and take us to Ponderosa! I still love that restaurant. It used to be kinda like a cafeteria setup, and I loved going down the line, looking at all the food, trying to decide what to pick. You could also watch them fix the steaks on the grill. I loved their huge baked potatoes and all the stuff that came on them. I miss those times spent with my parents.

Bridget Kay said
November 14, 2008 at 7:52 pm

I understand exactly what you mean. I’ve been discovering that every time I go out to eat, whether it be fast food or sit down, the food is just blah. I used to love getting McDonald’s cheeseburgers when I was a kid, and I can remember how excited I was. Now every time I bite into a cheeseburger I’m seasoning it with self-loathing. Ah, youth.

monica said
November 14, 2008 at 11:43 pm

My place was Caputo’s in Chicago… Italian done by Italians… The memory is hazy but I do remember the tacky decor, the checked table cloths, the string lights… dark, in a basement. It was down an alley and whenever we went my parents tried to scare us about “duppies” hiding in dark places. This was where I discovered eggplant parmesan. I can still taste it!

Kim said
November 15, 2008 at 3:51 am

Wow. Shakey’s Pizza! I do remember it. Very dark atmosphere, with shiny dark wooden long tables and benches. Old b&w movies flickering on the walls, and also lots of silly signs hanging around too. My sister and I ran amok in that place, and so did every other kid who was there. It was LOUD.

I remember Shakey’s being one of the few places we were aloud to have soda and we’d get a pitcher of it and guzzle, guzzle, guzzle. The pizza was thin and not great.

I seem to remember later that they had more of a buffet situation, but my parents didn’t like the pizza THAT much, and we stopped going there altogether.

Ahh, memories.

WeightingGame said
November 16, 2008 at 7:54 pm

just today I saw a commercial for Taco Bell and remembered diving into nacho bell grandes as a kid – it was a once-a-month treat and I loved that orange cheese, sour cream, “beef”, etc. Sooo good and I didn’t even know what a calorie was…

workout mommy said
November 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm

omigosh, you just brought back floods of memories with the mention of Shakey’s! I am the youngest of eight and this is the only restaurant I ever remember us going to as a family. We had so much fun and I remember standing on the bench watching the employees make the pizzas.

Those were the good old days! 🙂

debcurlydog said
November 17, 2008 at 8:15 am

Wow, I loved Shakey’s as a kid, we would always request that when it was our birthday. The birthday kid would get a big Sahkey’s balloon with the cardboard feet. The other kids would get the little ones. I remember the movies and on Friday or Saturday nights they would have a couple of guys up on a platform playing banjos. Ah the memories. Too bad they went to the buffet in the later years, don’t think they are around anymore.

Anna said
November 18, 2008 at 10:25 am

That was our special place too! At least until my parents finally got divorced.

But during the good times, we used to go to Shakey’s. Shakey’s had a live band and every so often, they’d call kids up to play the tamborine. Let me tell you, that was one of the highlights of my childhood — playing the tamborine at the pizza restaurant. Shakey’s also had a magician that came to the table and performed tricks. I thought it was actual magic.

Shakey’s was fun. I guess the party was over when Showbiz Pizza and Chucky Cheese arrived.