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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grandma's Pies and Restaurant

So I talked to my sister on the phone for a long time this weekend, and it turns out the people who live in my late grandparents' house think it is haunted. Of course I don't believe this really, and it isn't supposedly haunted by my grandparents, but instead my great grandparents who also lived there. I never met them, but I did research them quite a bit when I worked at Ellis Island (apparently they visited France a lot). Anyways, apparently the people who live there now smell smoke and hear big band music at random times when no one else is home (whatever). It caused my sister and I to start talking about all our grandparents' funerals we have been to. The first one, my dad's dad was when I was in college, when we were all barely starting to feel like grown-ups at all (I realize there are plenty of people who never get to know any of their grandparents for any significant amount of time, and I feel fortunate to have known the four of them during the years I was growing up). The second one was when I was in grad school.  When I got questioned by the airport security person as to why I was flying from Detroit to Laguardia at 6am on a Thursday I just burst out crying at her hostility - "My grandma died!!". I don't think I stopped crying until the wheels of the plane touched down in New York. It was terrible. I had dreams when I was a small child that one day my grandparents would die, but it still never seems like it should happen. It seems like the end of the world in that moment, like anything that would ever happen after that could only be very bleak and cold. The third funeral I was only in town for because of my friend's bachelorette party. That one almost seemed like the worst just because she was so much fun, undeniably, and had such an incredible zest for life. I also felt horrible for my grandpa who doesn't have his wife of 63 years anymore. Also, it almost gets to a point with grandparents' funerals where you aren't just mourning the person, you are mourning a time when everyone's lives were intertwined, when your cousins actually knew what was going on with you through triumphs and failures.

So finally I said to my sister the thing is not to miss them so much. The thing is not to be sad forever. The important thing is to remember what was fun about them, and appreciate the ways they inspired you to be the person you are doing the work you do in the world. And when I think about the happiest moments with all my grandparents I think about the Great Lakes and going on vacations "Up North" in MI. That is what people do in MI for vacation - they drive 4 hours north and go lay on a beach somewhere and eat ice cream. That being the pattern, Standish is a good place to stop to eat. We used to stop at Wheeler's there, and while I see most of the reviews online are not good, it will forever have a place in my heart as the place we took a moment to stretch our legs on long car rides and eat delicious open faced roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy. As I remember, they also offered a ridiculous variety of pies.


So somehow after this conversation with my sister Saturday night I wanted to go to Grandma's on Central Ave. Of course it isn't ambitious or cool at all. Who else serves open faced roast beef sandwiches though? No one, I would think. Being a person who no longer has any grandmothers this place does feel like going to Grandma's. The holiday decorations are often ridiculous and kitschy (love it! especially for Valentine's Day). The amount of pies you can choose from is overwhelming (just like my grandmother would have wanted it). The menu includes club sandwiches, yankee pot roast, and liver and onions. We went on Saturday night, and my husband went for the dinner special. It is a crazy good deal including 3 sides (he got minestrone, carrots, and fries), roll and butter, complimentary glass of wine, and a slice of pie. I got a garden salad with ranch dressing. With all my affection for fancy salads and nutrient-rich greens, I have to say there is still something nostalgic for my Midwestern upbringing related to the taste of iceberg lettuce, croutons, and ranch dressing all together. I had the open-faced roast beef sandwich, and it was exactly what I was hoping for - the bread soggy from soaking up all the gravy, the roast beef so tender it can be eaten with just a fork. We also rarely ever make potatoes ourselves, because I enjoy making bread and he likes making pasta, so the mashed potatoes were a special treat to me. He had the liver and onions and actually said when he ordered it "I know this is straight out of the 1940s - but..." I tasted it and thought it was quite good. After much, much deliberation for what to have for his free piece of pie we went with the Napoleon Apple. It had a layer of apple filling, a layer of vanilla pudding, and chocolate and vanilla frosting on top with some sort of streusel type sugar crumble around the edges. We've previously had Boston Cream Pie and the Pumpkin, and this was just as good as those. I enjoyed the coffee too. We sat there for a while before remembering we had to go up to the front to pay, so that is good to know.  Anyways, anyone looking for a bit of nostalgia, or to feel like they are actually visiting their grandma, can visit this restaurant as some kind of reminder or momentary substitute. I like it for what it is, even as I realize it makes me not very hip at all to request it on a Saturday night.

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