It used to be a Galaxy Diner. It was a short-lived restaurant chain here in the Salt Lake Valley. They littered the city with distinctive buildings and then abandoned them within a few years. One of them was torn down and replaced with a bagel shop. The shiny aluminum walls and red highlights were too much for the bagel shop in Murray. They bulldozed the building and started from scratch.
Not so in Bountiful. The red has faded and is need of painting, but the aluminum walls still reflect the light blinding all drivers who pass its way. The red letters proclaiming China Gourmet are two shades darker than the washed out red on the rest of the building. I ache for the soul of the building that was supposed to fulfill its destiny in Fifties Nostalgia instead of Oriental Gorging.
It used to be a Picadilly Fish and Chips. The Tudor-style building is an anomaly in the Sandy neighborhood. The Picadilly Fish and Chips in Sugarhouse was bulldozed last month in favor of big construction on that corner. We don’t know what will replace it, but the old sign said “Say No To Pancakes” before the bulldozer took it down. The building in Sandy still stands, though. Instead of greasy scallops and shrimp, it now houses a Subway sandwich. I don’t know which is worse, the bulldozing or the appropriation and transformation of the building for its new designs.
The Thai restaurant on State Street and 7800 South used to be a Dairy Queen. The Vietnamese Noodle House on State and 2300 South used to be a Taco Bell. The Mexican Restaurant on State and 5800 South used to be an IHOP. They are all distinctive buildings that proclaim their former selves beyond the paint and the new signs.
Part of my regret is the memory of good food. I’ve never eaten at the Mexican restaurant that used to be an IHOP. For the longest time, we didn’t have an IHOP in Utah after that one closed and no matter how good the enchiladas were, I’d still be mourning the International Passport Breakfast.
I think the real problem is that I feel like buildings have personalities. It’s a human tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, but I’ve never met anyone else who felt sorry for old restaurant buildings. I look at the China Gourmet and I think, “Aww, I’m sorry you’re not a Fifties Diner. I’m sorry you aren’t what you were meant to be.” Unfulfilled wishes. That’s what those recycled buildings represent to me. They were meant to be something, whether it was a Fifties diner, a fish and chips joint, or a pancake house. Instead, they are something entirely different. They are productive places with good food, but they aren’t doing what they were meant to do. It just makes me feel a little sad.