Thursday, November 09, 2006

Where have all the smorgasbords gone?

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.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've heard people reminisce about the dear departed Smorgasbord in Pasadena, calling it Smorgy Brothers, Smorgy Boys, even Porky Brothers. Having worked in that bookstore in the early eighties just after it closed, I heard it all from the nostalgic, disoriented former plate-pilers who wandered in. I'm here to tell you, from many years of personal experience in my childhood, that the real name of the place was Perry Boys Smorgy. Perry Boys was wedged between the bookstore and the jewelers, and it's dim interior was populated with vinyl-upholstered poufs and, my favortie, a soft-serv ice cream dispenser. Where has all the meatloaf gone?

Chris Hyde said...

You gotta move to Kansas for the smorgasbord. I swear, every other restaurant in Topeka is a buffet of some kind. It about drove my wife crazy (she's not a fan of that type of eatery)...but I definitely enjoyed it when we lived there!

Anonymous said...

Remember a small chain called "Po Folks"? The only place out west where you could get decent greens and catfish AND moon pies! Thanks for the memories

sarasue.com

Anonymous said...

please, please, someone tell me if they opened up another place (smorgys) as we knew it for twenty years. i know they moved to garfield exit off of the 60 fwy. we visited there after closing down in pasadena for 5 yrs or so. the arrival of hometown buffet down the street is what did smorgys in, i've been to hometown a handful of times but it doesn't compare, really miss my smorgys. I heard that the owner had moved to hawaii? help please anyone.

Brent said...

It was indeed called Perry Boys Smorgy, and it was AWESOME to go eat there as a kid!

Anonymous said...

We had one on 82nd Ave, in Portland, Oregon. Had all the ambiance (sans the food fights) of a high school cafeteria. Bug zappers, no-pest strips, blazé food...just to the left of a WalMart cafeteria...

Matthew NowInBaltimore said...

So, there was an AWESOME Perry Boys in San Diego, in Kearny Mesa by what is now the Target, but then was Fed*Mart. The interior was like an old fifties nightclub, with scarlet padded doors, and dim lights, and a roughy two story (valuted) dining area with red draperies keeping out the sun. The food was (as a kid) perfect. Meatloaf on a tray of ketchupy gravy, enchiladas in spicy sauce, carved turkey swiming (again) in salty gravy, obviously reconstituted potatoes, and un-explained heaps of yellow corn. Yes, as described by others, red Jello cubes, and the hugely awesome soft-serve bar topped off every 6-13 year's dream. I'd forgotten the HUGE pictures of the Perry Boys on the wall. Other poeters have left out the giant bowl of red-bound, tiny, FREE bible verse (New testament?) books at the cash register. When did the Kearny Mesa one close? 1980? Earlier? where did the whole chain start, and end?

raymond olsen said...

Hey, Yo ! In Concord, California -- 30 minutes east of Oakland -- we had a Smorgy Boys on Willow Pass Road back in the mid-1960s to about 1972, or so. The sign out front had a chubby, funny little man holding a tray with a chef's hat. Nothing too spectacular, but an institution worth the $1.25 entry fee which was alot of cash to pony up back then. There's a Mickie Dees in the building there today .. and the crowd begins to boo.

Unknown said...

When I was in the Army stationed at Fort Ord a bunch of us would go over to Perry Boys Smorgy in Monterey and eat lunch for 50cents. Not sure whether it was military discount or not. Supper was 75 cents. The salads were great. The rest of the food was okay. I liked their fried chicken and would try to eat there at least twice a month. We didn't have a lot of money back then (military pay was meager at best) so Perry Boys was a great for me. I think of that place from time to time. The dining room had tropical plants and water falls throughout the dining room. The buffets were spread out and overall it was a bright spot in the army life. Years were 1969 to 1971. Shame it's no longer in business.

Anonymous said...

There was a Perry Boys in Santa Cruz, CA on Ocean Street. I know they were open through the '60's and I think they closed by the early '70's. Yes, the food was a little blasé, but most food was blasé back then, right? We would do family dinners there, birthdays, etc. with my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. My cousins were a few years older than I was, and I can remember them doing MAJOR damage to the fried chicken and dinner roll platters. That's all they'd eat, plateful after plateful of fried chicken and rolls! And no, they weren't obese, lol! On Sundays they would do roast beef that to my recollection was pretty darn good. My mom detested the place, but we kids absolutely loved it. The soft serve ice cream machine was the bomb!

Anonymous said...

I miss Griswolds too, it was a great place for starving college students. But Perry Boys was even better. We used to have one in San Mateo where I grew up. As a kid it was heaven as you could just load up on your favorite foods, over and over.

They do have smorgys now but they are called casino buffets. The price has gone up and the selection is mediocre compared to the old smorgys. And not convenient for most of us.

Anonymous said...

There was a Perry Boys Smorgasbord in Monterey, Ca. on Fremont or Del Monte St, back in the 1960's.
Food was pretty descent. Price was right.
Ate there once, while training at Fort Ord, Ca. in Monterey.
Visited there a few times after the Army, on vacations.
Too bad they are now all long gone.

Anonymous said...

I remember Griswold's. We use to eat at the one in Redlands quite a bit throughout the 60's and 70's. Later (sometime in the 80's) we'd go to the one in Claremont as well.

I don't have much memory of the food overall; however, I remember their honey-raisin bran muffins. They were the absolute stickiest, gooeyist, moistest bran muffins I have ever eaten in my life. Through the past 30 years of sampling muffins, I still haven't found anything to rival what Griswold's had.

I miss them terribly.

McGehee said...

In Sacramento we had Perry Boys, and also (IIRC) Ole Frijole, a Mexican smorgy.

Anonymous said...

Lechuga&SirGeorgez. - eat yr hurt out ... &Y ru comment YEARS Later on obsolete, defunct, & No gives a poot anymore Dumazz historical feednotes!

Ricardo Gutierrez said...

I ate there as a kid and I remember the soft-serv ice cream dispenser. Though I recall, maybe just myself and family, calling it Smorgy's

tiffstoe said...

I have the best memories of eating at Perry Boys in Pasadena with my grandparents. We simply called it Smorgys. I remember the vinyl booths and the long vinyl walled entrance. My favorite wasn't the soft serve, it was the jello and the red plastic cups from the all you can eat soda dispenser. I loved playing with that thing. I also have great memories of Griswolds in Claremont. I especially loved the big barrels full of candy in the shoppe. Sigh...a time gone but not forgotten. I'd sure love to see some old photos if anyone had any
Tiffany