Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Time Travel

Thanksgiving was pretty low-key. Neither of us has any family in the area and our friends have their own family doings, so our day was a quiet one.
The day began with the Packer-Lions game at 9:30am. The guys played a nearly flawless game that continues to show the team's talent. This coming Thursday's game against Dallas, another 10-1 team, will be exciting. Wednesday night I made a Cranberry Coffeecake to eat as we watched the game.

I also made this nice frittata to eat during half-time.

Since we had no "real" plans for a Thanksgiving feast, last week when I asked Dale what we should do, he said "Let's go to The Mermaid." So that is what we did.

The Mermaid Restaurant is a trip back in time to the 1950's Southern California beach city culture. It sits at the end of Pier Avenue facing The Strand in Hermosa Beach. It is a dive bar in the sense that you pretty much go there to drink, not for the ambience--even though it faces the ocean. It is not a sleezy place, although it does have patrons that are euphemistically known as "characters" or "local color". This is the kind of place that has "regulars". The restaurant is of the dinner house type with Naugahyde booths, a piano bar, and a somewhat nautical motif. Steaks, chops, fish, shrimp cocktails as well as burgers and sandwiches. "Mystery soup" is listed under the soup choices--you gotta love that. The food is considered quite good, is reasonably priced, and has a loyal following.

The Mermaid is the kind of place you might not venture into on your own. Even though I have lived in this area for close to 30 years, the first time I went in was about five years ago with Dale. Dale's Mermaid experience goes way back to the early '70s when his family first moved to this area. Eventually he ended up working at The Mermaid for many years, parking cars and bussing tables. Dale has many stories about his time there--a big, dysfunctional family atmosphere.

The soul of The Mermaid was its owner, Boots. Originally from South Dakota, he bought the place in 1954, and never changed a thing since. By all accounts he was a no-nonsense crusty old guy with a heart of gold. He had his ways and his rules and that was that. If you didn't like it, you could leave. He did not tolerate swearing and kicked out boisterous patrons.
He passed away this past July at age 85.

Because of Boots' passing, the fate of The Mermaid is uncertain as is the fate of the huge chunk of beach-front property he owned. Good Stuff (you can still see it on Baywatch re-runs), The Poopdeck, and The Mermaid take up about a block of prime real estate fronting The Strand, and he also owned about a half of the block east of the beach. These properties represent the last hold outs to the Hermosa Beach Pier, I mean "beautification" plan. Everything else is all bright and shiny for the scenesters from wherever. The Mermaid was the last example of the way things used to be down at the beach. The developers are salivating. The price tag is 27 million dollars. The heirs might not be able to pay the estate taxes. We'll see how this plays out.

OK...enough of the depressing stuff and on to THE FOOD!

In addition to the regular menu, there was a special Thanksgiving prix-fix menu. $13.95--a bargain!

I started with a KetelOne on the rocks....hey...when in Rome!
First up was soup. We chose the special soup--Cream of Sweet Potato. WOW, this was so good! Nice and thick, it was pretty much just pureed sweet potatoes.
Next was salad....huge plates of fresh leaf lettuce--none of that frou-frou mesclun mix here! My bleu cheese dressing had lots of big chunks of cheese.

The entrees were tasty as well. A scoop of potatoes, a mound of stuffing with 4 thick slices of turkey on top, gravy, a piece of sweet potato, and a couple stray veggies made the plate. Everything had a nice, fresh home-style flavor to it. I was 100% satisfied. We took our pumpkin pie to go.

After dinner, we took a little stroll on The Strand to work off a few calories, and reminisced on the beachy times of old.

(P.S. For some unknown reason, you have to click twice on the BOOTS link to get to the correct page. Make the effort, it is a nice story to read) Here is a subsequent update to this story.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

That's a pretty nice dinner. Cooking up a turkey is too much work for only two people. And beats resorting to frozen dinners. :)

Denis Faye said...

I love learning about the history of own town. I wish i'd have known Boots was a South Dakota boy. Being one myself, I would have shook his hand.

Maybe he would have willed me the place...

MaryRuth said...

Boots may or may not have allowed you to shake his hand...apparently he was that kind of a guy.
We were just there a few weeks ago, and the place is changing already. There were frat kids on a golf outing boozing it up there.
Yeah, history is great, I guess it is a sign of old age...I actually LIKE learning about this stuff!