As many of us who live in the Tri-State area and have a love affair with beef know, Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse is the name of a chain of restaurants in NY, NJ and PA. One in particular is near and dear to my heart as I have had countless meals there, most of which was when I was a kid, stood for over 30 years at the corner of Central Park Ave and Underhill St.
However call it bad luck, call it greed, call it mis-management, but in 2010, the proud restaurant chain of over 70 locations was forced to shut down 47 steakhouses across the area, including the one in Yonkers, thus sealing off and ending another link to my youth and keeping in a long-standing New York tradition of “out with the old and in with the new”.
The “new” however is still yet to be determined as nothing as of 2011 has been put in the location’s place.
Charlie Brown’s was in my opinion, an experience. Perhaps my view of the restaurant is severely clouded behind a six-year-old’s eyes, but the place was special. First of all it had a salad bar and while that may not be so special, it is becoming quite the antiquated amenity for restaurants across the country.
People would flock to restaurants years ago simply based on how good of a salad bar they had, despite whatever the regular menu had to offer. I have to imagine though that the cost effectiveness of maintaining the salad bar led to its demise and nowadays, we only have two options, house salad or caesar.
Aside from all that, the restaurant was shaped in a very intimate way. There were 5 different full-sized rooms for you to eat in. The first being the bar area of course, but there were 3 other areas that only had booths in them. So you really could have a very nice experience of sitting in a dimly lit quiet booth with either your date, spouse or family.
The fifth room was also an experience all its own as it was shaped like an old library from someone’s mansion, complete with real and fake books, fire-place and old pictures. A far cry from the Australian themed steakhouses of the 21st century.
As time went on however, so to, did the intimacy, the flare and perhaps even the patrons themselves. In time, the areas that were “booth only” became riddled with as many tables as they could legally squeeze into the space and the dining area lost its charm amongst the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.
I am still bewildered however as to how so many of these restaurants needed to close down and especially the one in Yonkers. Did people stop going? Was it dead there on like a Friday or Saturday night? Could they not compete with the Outbacks, Chili’s and Red Lobsters of the world?
One of my favorite things about the restaurant has always been something that I am sure if I was to eat it, I probably would puke! The logo!
Created in 1966 by the same three businessmen who started the restaurant chain, I like to think that it is a picture of two businessmen…or Women since Women are now equal in the workplace, shaking hands over a business dinner meeting.
Another nice touch on the outside of the building are the trees that line the outside. Something about a restaurant having an enticing and intimate decor on the outside just simply makes it all the better dining experience in my opinion. When you visit a restaurant, your experience begins the moment you leave your car and walk up to the door.
Finally…after your meal, after you have eaten the “Queen” or “King” cut Prime Rib dinners, once you have sat with your family laughing and chewing your way through a delightful evening, after all this…a balloon would be given to each child as they exited the restaurant.
Almost without fail, I would release the balloon up into the sky within the first 10 seconds of getting it, but again, this was all a part of the Charlie Brown’s experience.
The location will hopefully yield new memories for other kids when it becomes home to a new establishment in the future and as for myself, the Steakhouse on Central Ave will always be in business in my mind, always keeping its intimacy and always keeping me coming back for years to come.