Wednesday, September 27, 2017

They Will Survive


Years ago I remember coming to this place with my grandfather. We stood in line outside, then after a bit inside and eventually we filed to a spot along one of the side walls behind an occupied stool at the horseshoe shaped counter. (There are probably only sixteen stools total in the entire place.) When you finally get a seat, the waitress gives you a glass of water and a spoon and asks for your order. You tell her the toppings because they only served one thing, loose meat sandwiches. My favorite order was mustard, onion with cheese. They slathered the toppings on the buns before handing them off to the lady manning the steamer. She would toss spoonfuls of meat between the buns, wrap it in wax paper and hand it to you. You consumed it, cleaned up the droppings with the spoon and ordered your next one. When you went to pay, all you had to do was tell them how many canteens you ate and if you had a piece of pie with it. Because of the business model, the average person is probably in there for less than 10 minutes which means they can serve a lot of people over a lunch hour.

Years later the city wanted to tear down the Canteen to creating a parking garage. Residents had a fit so they ended up building the parking garage around the business. Now you walk through the parking garage or up the alley to get to it, that is until recently. Years later, the city is now embracing this business tucked away underneath a parking garage in an alley and are going to beautify the alley with paved walkways, landscaping and lighting. To do that they are digging up the alley and replacing all the plumbing underneath first. When i walked by on this particular day, they were right in front of the Canteen and the only way to access it was the narrow band of concrete left right in front of the building and guarded by a plastic net. Make one misstep and it was another 10 feet or so to the bottom of the pit they were digging.

I love places like this and hope that it will be there for my children to provide my future grandchildren with the same experience I went through. The only thing that has changed in the last 40 years is a few of the ladies that run it. Mind you though that not all of them have changed, just aged!

4 comments:

Kelly said...

What kind of meat? Beef? In a way it reminds me of a place we have here, though I don't recall any options... you either got a hotdog with their chili and onions on it or a burger. I always went the hotdog route.

Susan said...

That is my kind of place! Once you have something that works - stick with it. So glad they held out and the community rallied around them. It would be nice to see what the beautification looks like when it's done...just saying...

Vince said...

The big issue with places like this can be the life it had before official sanction can be killed with it. A reversal of gentrification.
But it's good the town is thinking in this way. It can mean the fabric and soul of a place is retained.

Ed said...

Kelly - They serve loose steamed beef sandwiches. I think they do have hotdogs at this place too but just for picky kids. Whenever I am in there, everybody is eating a loose meat sandwich.

Susan - One of the things that irks me is a new restaurant opening up in town that serves the same handful of sandwiches, pastas, etc. on a menu. Because they don't offer something unique, they generally go out of business in awhile, unless they are cheaper and then someone else goes out of business. Those that offer something unique, generally stay around for a lot longer.

Vince - Although in my younger years, it was more of a secret place to eat, the town now embraces it for its fame. It annually ranks on the best burger in our state list.