Don and I were in San Fran, last October. We spent one night at the lovely Fairmont Hotel. It was our big 40th, so we dressed in tiki attire and headed down to the hotel's Tonga Room. Our plans changed when we learned that the tropical paradise bar/restaurant, had been booked for a closed event.
So we did what we do best on all our travels... we adapted and found fun elsewhere. We headed a few blocks away to the Powell Street, with its colorful neon signs. We had drinks at the Sir Francis Drake hotel, then crossed over to Sears.
This is how the dining room looked at about 8:30 pm. We were pretty thrilled the place was still in business. We remembered coming here about 20 years ago.
The long dining room looked different to me. It was filled with old photographs and memorabilia, but I remembered more of a vintage, white tablecloth place. Pink walls? I can't really remember.
I was a little disappointed when our server arrived at the table. He was quite young and had only been on the job for 2 weeks. I had hoped for some old character, who would remember all the restaurant history. Open since 1938!
But then I met Eddie in the front of the restaurant. He wasn't really all that old, but he was chatty and wore a vest, covered in teddy bears. That's a conversation starter.
He pointed out some old photos and news clips on the wall.
This pic looked like it could have been from 20 years ago. It doesn't look as retro as I remembered.
I loved this write up about a former maitre d' who used to greet guests at Sears. He didn't start working as a host, until he was 105!
I'm afraid he had already passed, when we dined 2 decades ago. What a treat it would have been, to have been shown to our table by Sidney Amber!
Don and I finally got down to studying the menu.
Ben used to park 2 pink Cadillacs in front of the biz, with heaters and radios on. What a hoot to sit in a glamorous pink caddy, waiting for your table!
The restaurant is no longer owned by the Sears family, but at least the new ownership added evening dining. Back when visited years ago, we couldn't have ordered Lobster Ravioli. That was my choice. It came stuffed with eastern lobster and ricotta cheese. It was served with a healthy blob of sauteed spinach and lobster saffron cream. Yummy rich!
Don went for the Chef's special of Teriyaki Tuna Steak with sesame seeds. It was served with mashed potatoes and broccoli with teriyaki sauce. All good!
We were stuffed, but it seemed a shame not to order the thing that Sears is known for. We asked for a half order of Swedish Pancakes, made using the same recipe that belonged to Ben Sears' Swedish wife.
Our server brought us a full order anyway. Oh how I could use some of those pancakes right now. We weren't able to finish even a quarter, but took them with us.
By the time we finished up, the restaurant had emptied out. I was able to make a quick look around, while Don paid up.
There were lots of antiques in front.
Lots of old-timey photos on the wall.
And of course and old mixer and sewing machine.
This is the room that I loved the best. The dining counter/bar was set up with all the stools set properly for the morning... napkins and forks, at the ready.
About 3 minutes after I snapped this photo, the room filled with staff. A cake was placed on the counter and the kitchen and restaurant staff burst into Happy Birthday! Our waiter had sort of an embarrassed grin, like we'd caught them all goofing off on the job. But I loved it. What a happy looking crew! We added a big "Happy Birthday!" on our way out.
Sears in 2020
I'm glad we had our odd little anniversary dinner at Sears. I'm glad it's managed to stay open, all these years.
I'm writing this almost 8 months later, with all my stay-at-home-pandemic time. I just looked Sears up on the internet and I'm glad to see they are at least serving carryout food, now. I so hope they will be able to open before too long and get back to normal.
I have such memories of this old train station, from when I lived in Ann Arbor.
I took this photo for my high school photography class, in 1974. I loved the castle-like stonework. I remember eating inside with my family. The Gandy Dancer Restaurant had only been open a few years.
The grand building didn't look much different last July, when Don and I visited Ann Arbor.
The Michigan Central Railroad station was completed in 1886. Historic figures from Winston Churchill to John F. Kennedy, stepped off trains at this station. The building was converted to a restaurant, in 1970.
July 4, 2019
Last summer, Don and I spent a couple of nights in Ann Arbor and dropped by for lunch.
We crossed over the bricks of old Depot Street and killed a few minutes admiring flowers and flags along the brick sidewalk. At 11:30 the doors opened!
The rounded entrance was just how I remembered it. The inside entry seemed much more dramatic, with soaring ceiling and stained glass.
I was glad we'd arrived before other diners, so I could snap some photos. In the past, I never had a chance to study the red oak ceilings or the glowing lamps.
(click image to enlarge)
My memories all involve family celebrations. There are no photos of my family dining, when I was in high school. I wish I had pics from 1990, when we celebrated my brother's law school graduation. The waiters were patient and delightful, with my squirmy 1 and 3 year olds. Both fell asleep and the adults happily relaxed finished up our wine.
In 2005, Don and I ate Easter brunch at Gandy Dancer, with our kids. Heidi and Scott didn't fidget and toss food, this time.
We were visiting the U of M campus that weekend. It was the spring before Heidi started college there. It was fun to watch the kids enjoying a little Gandy Dancer experience. I had been between their ages, when I first stepped inside that building.
Our Table, 2019
I was a little disappointed that we weren't seated in the space that had once been a grand waiting room.
The area in the old waiting room, seemed cozy and historic. Some of the seating looked like original station benches. But we were taken into the glassed in dining room, where we dined with the kids, 15 years ago.
Our table looked to be pretty close to the same spot, where we sat for brunch! It turned out to be the best table for train viewing. When Amtrak went by, the staff and diners clapped.
Power Lunch Special!
Don and I were pretty delighted to order off the "Fast & Fresh" lunch menu, for $16.50. As we chowed down on our 4th of July feast, I looked out over the tracks. I remember taking Amtrak, back when Amtrak was a new thing. I remember heading off on those very tracks, to Detroit and St. Louis.
Our meal started with toasty breads and salads. My Caesar was the real thing, with fat anchovies! Don's Martha's Vineyard Salad, was actually the best. Bibb lettuce, pine nuts, blue cheese and maple raspberry vinaigrette!
My shrimp and artichoke linguine, was heavenly. Provencale tomato sauce! Don's IPA battered fish came with coleslaw and fries. All mighty tasty. Hard to believe these were lunch sizes!
After we finished up, we had a wonderful chat with the general manager, Charlene. She had seen me snapping a photo of the first floor bar and invited me to look upstairs where the origanl had been.
I looked up and I could see the balcony connected to the room above. And a wonderful train model! Love that!
Charlene pointed me towards the stairs and I wandered up for a look. I could see across the dining room, to the rounded terra cotta fireplace.
Charlene pointed out the sign hanging above the curious fireplace. Funny, I didn't know Detroit was only 38 miles from Ann Arbor.
Charlene said the sign was originally on the outside of the building. It had been damaged in a train accident.
Charlene pointed out a photograph, on the wall. She said she had found the old black and white print, in the attic and had it framed. "This is why we clap when trains go by!" That's pretty funny. I love traditions like that. Show gratitude for the train not crashing!
The image looks even older, but I believe the accident happened in the 1960's. Some kids had caused the derailment, when they vandalized the tracks, by pulling up nails. Charlene showed me where the train hit the building (and sign). Luckily no one was killed.
The Baggage Room
Charlene also gave us a peek into what had been the old baggage room, which wasn't always connected as it is today. It was amazing to picture horses coming into this space, with luggage and cargo.
Charlene pointed out the scale that was used. She also reminded me that the name Gandy Dancer, refers to the "section hands" who once laid and maintained the railroad tracks.
Before we took off, I had a quick look at a few dining spots that I would love to enjoy in the future.
I'm so glad we were able to squeeze in a lunch on a holiday, but I would really love to come back for a drawn out dinner at night. There are so many cozy spots.
I looked through some windows and found two romantic tables. I believe these tables might have been part of the old ticket booth. I wish I could click a button and see the interior space, just as it was in the late 1800's.
Gandy Dancer in 2020
The article was from a while back, so I'm hoping they might be at least partially opened by now. I hope someday I'll get that chance to dine again at one of those extra cozy tables!
Cozy Cafe in Mount Shasta, California
I love a little stone building!
The air was chilly, but sunshine was warming the outside garden area. We headed inside to see about lunch options.
The little cafe had three rooms. The first room was all about coffee and ordering.
We ordered and moved into the middle room. We would have sat by the boarded up fireplace, but the table was occupied by 3 policeman.
I wish I'd been able to join in some of their socializing. The 3 policeman chatted up a storm with each other, as well as a number of locals who wandered over. One employee grabbed a baby from a customer and introduced the tot to the cooing officers. It was very entertaining.
Soup, Salad and Sandwich
We ordered just a light bite. Don had bean soup and BLT sandwich.
I had a mixed green salad for less than 6 dollars. It was actually pretty tasty, along with a big, fat yeast roll, that made me feel I'd gone back to the grade school cafeteria. I mean that as a compliment. It was heavenly.
I wondered about our little building as I looked out into the garden from a side window. Had this once been someone's private home?
When we finished and stepped outside, I looked at the entrance and it looked more like a shop than a home.
If our little cafe had not been so busy... or if there had been someone older than 30, who might have known some history... I would have asked.
Instead, I crawled in the car and Googled. Our little cafe had been a grocery store!
Our teeny tiny dining adventure was a pleasant stop along our road trip. Our food was tasty and cheap. Our little stone building was pretty adorable!
Sometimes you just have to go back and remember a good burger.
We had no picnic packed, so we decided to pick up a little something at Jenny's
"Old Fashioned Quality"
I'm not exactly sure what old fashioned quality means. But I liked the little retro burger joint, when we pulled up.
We passed a dad and son and the patriotic flag on the window, then headed for the side entrance.
Behind the Counter
I watched 3 men working away. All 3 had some interesting tattoos, especially the guy with the shaved head.
All were friendly and efficient and before long we had out warm bag and drinks and we were off.
Noyou Headlands Park
We found a picnic table, not too far from the water.
I didn't get a photo of the raven that tried to join us. A man walking by, said that raven frequently visited people at that table.
Cheeseburger & Fries
The burger and fries reminded me of fast food when I was kid. It was nice and hot and yes, a little bit greasy. It was darn good!
After we ate, we wandered on the rocks along near the water.
There's not a whole lot to say about our Jenny's experience, except the food was cheap and decent. However, the combo of our carry out picnic and the beautiful scenery, was perfect. We even found lots of tiny, colored pieces of glass. What a fun burger and beach memory!
A Day in Vail
It's hard to believe it's been a year since Don and I joined our kids in Colorado. I'm thinking back to a wonderful lunch we had in Vail, with our son and daughter-in-law.
We spotted this corner restaurant, when we first hit the touristy town. We'd never been to Vail before, so we were going with the outward appearance. I was game to dine a place that looked like a cute little Swiss chalet, tucked into the mountains.
The interior was pretty sweet, too. The door was propped open to let in the fresh mountain air.
Soft lamps hung down from the pretty wooden ceiling.
There were shelves with copper knickknacks and framed paintings, that reminded me of "Heidi's" grandfather.
I made Scott and Chali pose with the menu and the painting on the wall.
Scott looks a little young to be the storybook grandfather, but his beard fit the part.
The Gramshammers from Austria
We learned a little about the owners, by reading the back of the menu.
Pepi was an international ski racer and a member of the Austrian "Super" Ski Team from 1955 to 1960. He's pictured with his wife Sheika, who was once a dancer and model. They came to Vail in 1962 and opened Pepi's, two years later.
Pepi is in the House
As we studied our menus, I happened to notice a fellow in a purple shirt and gray vest. He seemed to be getting quite a bit of attention as he headed out.
I asked our server and she said that was indeed Pepi. He was 87, I believe and had just finished his lunch.
Luckily, we were are all fans of German/Austrian food! We were starved.
Don and Chali ordered the mussels and were both happy.
Scott and I got Jagerschnitzel and Hungarian Veal Goulash... or was it Wiener Schnitzel!!? Why do I let a year go by before posting?
I do remember the Spatzle was smooth and buttery and red cabbage was tangy good. We were mighty content on that day in late May.
This is the room where Pepi had enjoyed his lunch. I believe we were told that the Gramshammers live in the hotel above.
The bar was empty when I passed through in search of the restroom.
I got sidetracked for quite a while, studying the walls of photos.
Pepi and Sheika evidently met a lot of famous celebrities over their years, hosting guests at their hotel and restaurant. Sophia Loren, Cary Grant, Dustin Hoffman and Leonard Bernstein...
I didn't get a photo of the Gramshammers with President Ford, but there's a photo with Arnold! The Fords spent a lot of time in Vail and Pepi and Sheika were frequent guests at the White House.
So we are staying close to home this Memorial Day weekend. No travels or dining out, due to the pandemic.
We're just thinking about some of the fun places we ate and visited a year ago.
Here we are heading back to our car after our feast. I believe those may be leftovers that Scott is carrying.
Sadly, I did a little internet search just now and learned that just a few months after our visit, Pepi died. He passed away on August 17 at the age of 87. We were so very lucky to catch a glimpse of Pepi. May he rest in peace.
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.