Spring is here. That means budding trees, sunny daffodils, April showers, tornados, and construction season. Walk down State Street and you'll discover the reason the 25th Crazylegs Classic runners are using a different route this year. The 300 and 400 blocks of State Street are torn up for the summer. Among other things, this means many restaurants won't be able to offer alfresco dining.
Construction isn't the only sign of change on State Street. The homogenization continues. Small, local businesses continue to be replaced by national chains (and not everyone thinks that's bad).
Long gone are local favorites such as Good Karma, the Ovens of Brittany, Petrie's, the Caramel Crisp Shop, Renenbohm's (not small, but definitely local), The Penny University (right off State Street on Fairchild), the Uptown, Stemp Typewriter, the Ethel Woods corset store, Ella's Delicatessen, Hill's Department Store, and Weber's Restaurant.
Today, State Street is littered with names such as Starbucks, The Gap, Taco Grande, and now the restaurant that dares you to say its name aloud: Fuddruckers.
The 25-year old chain that claims to create "the world's greatest hamburger" (and doesn't have an apostrophe in its name) recently moved into 651 State Street. Sure it's cool to try an ostrich burger, but the novelty of eating big bird burgers wears off soon -- and if you've dined on fresh ostrich in Curaçao, you'll be really be disappointed with this semi-fast food version. UW students may be excited by the sidewalk sign that's been out in front of the restaurant announcing that it will soon stay open until 4 a.m. on weekends, but there are other places I'd rather spend my time on weekends. And any organization with a website that downloads at a tortoise-like pace is definitely more interested in flash than providing substantive information about its menu.
I used to eat pizza at 651 State Street, but that was long ago -- back when this was the location of the Italian Village, a restaurant that served great food without resorting to gimmicks. The Italian Village was where many students from Central headed after a home basketball game or school dance. There were other places for pizza back then, including the old Paisan's on University Avenue by Lorenzo's, but I think because they were a few blocks further away, they tended to be frequented by university students, not high school students. Feel free to challenge (or supplement) my recollections, however.
Reminiscing about pizza in the 1960s also brings back memories of Lombardino's on University and Highland, not far away from West High School. Lombardino's is still there, but clusters of plastic grapes no longer dangle from the ceiling. It's under new ownership, and the menu has been updated, but Lombardino's still serves great pizza (although the recipe has definitely changed and the choices are limited).
Thinking about pizza past and present has raised a question I cannot answer: Where did Purgolders eat pizza? I can't remember any pizza places near East High School in the 1960s. Perhaps, someone can fill in the gap. Or maybe we'll discover the Purgolders preferred hanging out at the Ice Cream Shop or some other local spot to late night pizza.
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