I realize the Bennigan's/Steak and Ale story was a couple weeks back, but these memories started flooding back.
When I heard Bennigan's was closing, I confess I wasn't crushed. My main beef (pun totally intended) was that I couldn't get a burger cooked medium rare since they were "afraid" of e-coli or some other nonsense.
I was never impressed with the attitude/approach/philosophy of the place, and thought the restaurant landscape could have been put to better use.
The abruptness of the situation followed the rules under Chapter 7, where a company seeks to liquidate its assets and shut down. As bad as I think Bennigan's was, it does suck for those that did like it.
But I was crushed to find that Steak and Ale got dragged down with Bennigan's. Another reason to hate Bennigan's — why bring down an actually good restaurant? Ponderosa and Bonanza, who have survived long past their prime, remain alive since they are operated by a different subsidiary of the company.
For those unfamiliar with Steak and Ale, and there are probably a lot of you, they were dimly lit steakhouses with a kick-butt salad bar. They always brought out brown bread with whipped butter. I NEVER had a bad meal at any Steak and Ale — can't say that about too many places.
I didn't live in a city with a Steak and Ale, but had one about 60 miles away in South Bend, IN, not too far from Notre Dame. I was there in May, treating my mother for Mother's Day. At least, I had one last memorable meal there.
I will miss the salad bar most of all. Nice variety, quality ingredients, and a blue cheese dressing with real chunks of blue cheese. High class all the way.
My fondest Steak and Ale memory still has to be in Atlanta. The meal itself was wonderful, but the night reminds me that too much of a good thing is really too much.
I was on a business trip to Atlanta in 1995, and had a food budget each day. On this particular trip, I couldn't spend it fast enough, so I ate more than my share of food since, well, it was paid for. This isn't the healthiest way of looking at things.
On this particular night, I went to the Braves game, and ate a nice ballpark dinner. Not too much food, but certainly plenty of food. But I decided I needed a late night dinner — at a nearby Steak and Ale. I had a really nice dinner, but it was my second dinner of the night. And so, at about 12:30 in the morning, I waddled back to my hotel and went to sleep.
Sleep, at least, until I woke up at 4:10. The hotel fire alarms were blaring. I was a whole lot of floors up in the air. Since there was a small fire in my dorm in college, I had a fear of what would happen in the middle of the night, so I was a little panicked.
Turns out that the floor cleaners had set up the fire alarm, both the first time and the second time, about 10 minutes later. At least, this was the explanation by the hotel management.
Normally, going back to bed was the best idea. But I was so full of food, I could not get back to sleep. Yes, if I had slept through the night, perhaps I would have avoided the stomachache. But it's a nice reminder of when too much is too much.
Steak and Ale isn't the first chain to break my heart and go out of business. Bill Knapp's gave me my first job, and a whole lot of good food over the years, and it's now gone.