Yesterday I read that Beadle's Cafeteria in Pasadena closed after fifty years in business. They were right down the street from work and I would occasionally go there for lunch. The main reasons I ate there -- there was never any waiting in line and the lunchroom was quiet so I could read in peace -- proved to be presages of Beadle's demise: almost nobody was eating there, and the few who were were generally, well, old. The place definitely was not attracting a young new clientele. Beadle's was tucked in the ground level of a parking structure in the middle of a busy city block, and I'll bet not many people even knew it was there. The food was never that great (although they served excellent chess pie), but it was inexpensive and fast and reliable in a mediocre sort of way.
When I was a little kid, my family used to drive out to Claremont every once in a while to eat at a great old smorgasbord called Griswold's. Right at the head of the buffet they served little cubes of red jello, and my sisters and I liked to put them on the warm plates and watch them melt and slide around while we finished loading up; we'd end up with pink juice oozing into our mashed potatoes and Swedish meatballs. Attached to the restaurant was a bakery that sold Scandinavian pastries and smelled just heavenly -- we'd wander around in there while waiting for our table, then invariably visit again after dinner to buy something we'd spotted earlier. Griswold's is now a Buca di Beppo.
Years and years ago there was a smorgasbord called, I believe, Smorgy Boys next door to my current place of employment, where I have worked since 1985. The buffet closed a few years before I started working next door, but their sign remained up for quite some time after that. During my first few years on the job, every now and then some distraught person would come into the bookstore and want to know what had happened to Smorgy Boys -- invariably they had driven from some faraway place with their young family, wanting to share with their own children a restaurant they'd loved as a kid, only to find it boarded up.
All we've got now is Hometown Buffet. Times is hard, man.