Every restaurant today offers the “doggie bag,” or some kind of take-home container for leftovers. There must have been a time when this wasn’t done, especially at the classier restaurants. Might have five-star Maisonette resisted the trend? —CLEAN YOUR PLATE
Welcome to the Doctor’s first all-restaurant column, one that spans from deli pickles to burgers to Maisonette, but which manages to completely bypass this issue’s cover theme of hot dogs. We have also, probably for the first time anywhere, just paired the words Maisonette and hot dogs in the same sentence.
Nat Comisar, former proprietor of Maisonette (officially, there was no “the” in its name), says that as far back as he can remember, the restaurant always provided ways for diners to carry home unfinished portions of their delicious meals to accompany their delicious memories. Instead of using a vulgar name like “doggie bag,” though, perhaps a restaurant of such renown might have called it a “Dachshund Dior.” Nat’s grandparents, who opened the restaurant in 1949, are no longer available to support this theory.
By the mid-1990s, when take-home leftovers had become as acceptable as the Macarena, Maisonette was providing bright fuchsia-colored bags for transport of surplus cuisine. Insurance probably disallowed the inclusion of flambé desserts. Please note this column’s second historic event: The words Maisonette and Macarena in the same sentence. Bon appétit, dude.
One reason I love Izzy’s, Cincinnati’s famous deli, is because I get a tub of sliced pickles as I sit down. They’re delicious, but I can never eat them all. After seeing your recent column about restaurants having to discard all uneaten food, I wondered: How many Izzy’s pickles a day are tossed? That’s tragic. —IZZY OR IZN’T
As discussed in our January column, health regulations quite reasonably forbid restaurants from serving any food that another patron may have touched. Therefore, all left-behind Izzy’s pickles face certain death. This is sad, but not “tragic.” Ordering corned beef on white bread is tragic.
Izzy’s CEO John Geisen says that locations vary, but about 10 gallons of pickles per day are served gratis at each restaurant, and are part of the deli’s 116 years of Cincinnati popularity. A waitress at Izzy’s on Red Bank told the Doctor that it’s not unusual for groups of diners to empty the tub, but uneaten pickle percentages are not monitored. Another unknown is the percentage of customers who still think that Izzy’s is strictly kosher, and whose eyes bulge when asked if they want cheese on their sandwich.
The Doctor thanks you for your question, which allowed his gleefully written-off lunch at Izzy’s. He encourages readers to submit inquiries about higher-end restaurants, or requests to compare weekend packages at local hotels with those in Venice.
I was walking around Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, and was stopped in my tracks at the sight of an Ollie’s Trolley. Same colors, logo, everything. I always believed my beloved Ollie’s was a unique Cincinnati institution. This was an existential crisis for me. What’s the deal?! —TROLLEY TRAUMA
Warning: Do not, under any circumstances, visit Louisville! It could cause a psychic break. You are extremely lucky that you did not venture on a See America First road trip decades ago, because there was a time when Ollie’s Trolleys were parked in dozens of cities.
The franchise was launched in the mid-1970s with the hope of being as big a chain as Kentucky Fried Chicken. In fact, the same guy who had turned Colonel Sanders’s recipe into an empire was the guy behind Ollie’s. John Y. Brown Jr.—he was also governor of Kentucky in the 1980s—envisioned his walk-up burger stand as an alternative to the ever-slowing service at so-called fast food restaurants. It turned out to be one of his few business failures.
But unlike the disappearance of, say, Burger Chef, a few Trolleys were saved by local owners. Today, they survive only in Louisville, Washington, D.C., and on Central Avenue in Over-the-Rhine. Cincinnati’s Mr. Ollie (Marvin Smith) still makes the original Ollieburger and fries, but his menu also includes ribs, fish, and dishes from his Georgia background. That place in D.C. might have the same signage as your beloved Ollie’s, but be thankful you didn’t go in and eat anything.