Anyone Remember The Ivanhoe in West Springfield, Mass.?

So many things come to mind when thinking of the Ivanhoe restaurant in West Springfield, Mass.

This populist restaurant had the same name as an 1819 novel about a Saxon knight with a relentless allegiance to King Richard and strong love for Lady Rowena. How many restaurants in West Springfield could say the same thing? None.

They had a salad bar that seemed like the culinary equivalent of the novel -- that is, quite lengthy with no end in sight.

The hostess always seemed to find us a seat even when no seating appeared available. Sometimes it meant taking, well, a lengthy walk along the carpedted floor to the back of the large restaurant but that was OK. We were socially distant in restaurants before social distancing was cool, enjoying our peace and solitude when dining out.

I always got a chuckle that Ivanhoe was part of the Abdow's Big Boy restaurant chain that had the famous cartoon logo of a smiling big boy (actually, he looked like a little kid with a bloated head) holding a plated hamburger above his shoulder. At the Ivanhoe, I almost cracked up one time when seeing a waiter with a bloated head who looked like an overgrown kid holding a hamburger plate above his shoulder. He even had the cartoon-like smile!, Yep, good anecdote.

The Ivanhoe ultimately hit the spot on every visit whether ordering a sandwich, dinner or just concentrating on the massive salad bar. It was a typical old school restaurant informally specializing in chicken, steak and seafood. The thing is, The Ivanhoe seemed to serve up food better than most. That's why we always stopped there on the way back from our vacations in Cooperstown, N.Y. Now heading back from vacation in one of the northeast United States' most beautiful, fun towns and ending up in West Springfield could have caused me to make a career out of writing depressed songs. But The Ivanhoe was so good (and welcoming) that it offset some of the sadness of just ending a vacation.

It was a real restaurant and really good until its closing in 2007.

My 5 Favorite Restaurants As a Kid

The Phantom Gourmet recently featured an interesting recent Facebook post asking readers about their favorite restaurants when growing up. Great topic and some wonderful answers but where to begin? Childhood memories often take on an infinite route.

In no particular order, here are my five favorite restaurants no longer here in the Boston area that first come to mind...

1. The Acropolis, Cambridge, Mass. I loved the succulent baked lamb with rice pilaf, the stoic smiling bald-headed host with a twinkle in his eye and the limited Greek music playlist on eight track playing over and over again. That baked lamb ... no place has ever come close to what the Acropolis served, 50 years later!

2. Bishop's, Lawrence, Mass. - The delicious Middle Eastern food introduced me to a whole new cuisine but, also, what about those perfectly-formed tasty French fries and the mountainous Baked Alaksa? The professional career waiters, who clearly loved their jobs, also added to the great experience.

3. Green Ridge Turkey Farm, Nashua, N.H. - Green Ridge felt nostalgic even before it had a chance to become nostalgic. Old-fashioned in feel and cuisine -- the living room-like ambiance, the grandmotherly-type waitresses and turkey dinners as the next best thing to Thanksgiving yielded a most special home away from home right on the hectic, confusing and discomforting Daniel Webster Highway.

4. Augustine's, Saugus, Mass. - Augustine's is an obvious choice, loved by so many as evidenced on nostalgic social media posts. I faintly remember ordering from the menu but have crystal clear memories of that long buffet with all the comfort food favorites. Someone in the back kitchen attained the near impossible by turning out Italian food that truly tasted homemade in a buffet setting -- where, as you know, offerings can typically be so generic, dry and bland. And, also, what about the nice old lady with tennis sneakers that entertained by playing rock songs on the keyboard? I once saw Boston Bruins great Ray Bourque at Augustine's. Yep, that was a highlight.

5. Bonanza Steak House, Burlington, Mass. - Formerly located near the now-defunct Tower Records, the Bonanaza Steak House never got its proper due. Sure it was popular back in the day but also took a back seat to the Ponderosa Steak House. Both restaurants operated in a nearly identical way as buffet-style steakhouses. Bonanaza had the better steaks, though, than Ponderosa and the similarly-run York Steak House, as well. What a bargain, as well! So many steakhouses charge outrageous prices nowadays just because they think they are so good!

Here's a bit of trivia to impress your friends who feel they know everything about past restaurants: Dan Blocker, who played Eric "Hoss" Cartwright on the TV show Bonanza started the Bonanza Steakhouse chain in 1963. I guess you could say he was the hoss of the company. Okkayyy... you see, hoss rhymes with boss. (Rim shot sound).

No surprise, but Bonanza and Ponderosa united under one name in 1997!

Enough of my pontificating. Now it's your turn to tell us off the top of your head, your five favorite restaurants growing up in the Boston area, or New England in general.

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