11.25.2008

Restaurants to Remember

There are three resturants that I can recall that I have enjoyed and miss. They are restaurants that hold wonderful memories, whose favors still make it to my taste buds when I think about them, and which are no longer in business.

The first is from when I was growing up – The Aztec Mexican Restaurant in San Diego. The Aztec I remember was near the edge of Old Town next to a pottery shop and wonderful jewelry store – I still have the turquoise braclet I bought as a teenager. It was adobe looking on the outside, with windows, but somewhat dark on the inside; nugahide booths, piƱatas hanging from the ceiling and a guitar player on the weekends. The family who owned it always greeted Daddy when we were there, and I remember the grown daughter especially friendly and kind.

The Aztec is were I fell in love with tacos. They had the best tacos and refried beans. The shell was just the right crispy. The meat was just the right, with shredded lettuce and the “sprinkle” cheese. Daddy would tell me to be careful with the chips that were served before the meal, they were so delicious, so as not to “spoil” my dinner – but that never happened. As I got older I ordered the combination plate with a taco, cheese enchilada, rice and beans.

When the new trolley system was put in a number of years ago, that went right through Old Town, the Aztec and surrounding businesses were eliminated and the trolley station went right smack dab were the Aztec used to be. When Daddy was still alive, our quest was to find a Mexican restaurant that could live up to the savory wonder of the Aztec. I thought I had found one, Tony’s Jacal in Solana Beach, but Daddy didn’t think so. I think Tony’s Jacal is as close as I will ever get to the Aztec, but to Daddy that taste could never be repeated.

Yakatori Japanese Restaurant in San Diego was the next. There were a few Yakatori’s in town, but I liked and remember the one in the Sports Arena area the most. That’s were I had sushi for the first time. California Roll – regular and inside out, Unagi, Spicy Scallops, Miso Soup, Edamane, and Spicy Pocket Kani. Ohhhh, it all sounds so delicious!

Anyway, I used to frequent it more, especially with my friends the Herns, but less regularly in the past few years. At one time, there was the main restaurant, two sushi bars and the full bar at the restaurant. In recent years, with sushi not as popular as it was in the last 1980’s, it was down-sized to the restaurant and the smaller sushi bar.

Last year my step-mom asked to go there for her birthday, so off we went thinking of sushi (in my case) and teriyaki and tempura (for my step-mom and my husband.) We drove the back way to avoid traffic, drove around to the front of the building, talked about what we were going to have on the way and lo and behold – it was closed! We could not believe it! What happened! I don’t even know how long it had been gone, goes to show you how often we actually went!

Finally, there is Rockfish Restaurant in Phoenix. They are a chain and are mostly in Texas, but the one we visited was in Phoenix. When we in Phoenix, just after we got married in 2003, Rockfish opened in the center down the street from us. We loved it! We tried to go once every couple of weeks if not sooner. They gave you tokens for the jukebox, had internet specials often, were a cool haven in the desert heat.

We had incredible crab cakes; the “bomb” – shrimp stuffed with mild jalapenos, cheese and bacon; Shrimp Martini – a shrimp cocktail with avocado, tomatoes, and tequila (if you like) and multi-colored tortilla chips; Gouda Spinach Dip, Jalapeno Corn Fritters, criss-cross fries and an awesome Rock-A-Rita – just to name a few things. We would often just order appetizers for dinner and plan our future. We would sit and talk about our Sauce Festival (more on that in later stories), and enjoying our lives as newlyweds.

There were two Rockfish Restaurants in the Phoenix area, the one we went to on the west side of town which had closed, I think the beginning of 2007 – we weren’t around enough any more to keep them in business. Then there was one on the east side of town, which we had been to on a previous visit since we moved, when visiting relatives.

So last summer we were out there again visiting family and had planned to visit Rockfish on the east side of town. We took my husband’s brother-in-law with us. As we drove the 40 minutes from Gary’s house to Rockfish, we talked about what we were going to order, about the best margaritas we had ever had that we were going to get to sip again, about the air conditioning and misters on a warm day. We were sooo excited!!! As we got closer, we saw that the area was hoppin’. People were pouring into the many other restaurants in the area, and we spotted our beloved Rockfish! As we drove past to turn in the shopping area, we noticed the parking lot at Rockfish looked a little sparse, perhaps it had not opened yet this evening – odd. We drove around the other side and parked and realize there was not a car in the lot – not a good sign. We walked up to the front door, still hoping for the best, and read the sign that they had closed for good three days before. Unbelievable.

I had actually gone to their website four days prior to pull up the directions to the restaurant, and there was no indication of the closing. When we got home the next day and I checked my email, there was a message that they would be closing with the date. Too bad, so sad – for us this time. Well, we will just have to take a road trip to Texas some time soon.

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