I recently learned that the IHOP a couple of blocks from closed its doors for the last time. We went there often for Sunday brunch. We used to go to Denny’s until they closed it down. Denny’s has fond memories for us.
Growing up my family traveled every summer as most families do to visit grandparents and family. My parents had emigrated from Mexico in 1962 as newlyweds looking for better opportunities. They had both left parents and many siblings behind to embark on a new life together and each year made the pilgrimage back to visit and relate tales of life in the country they now called home. On the last stop before crossing the U.S. and Mexican border we always ate “our last meal” at Denny’s. Back in those days, once you crossed over into Mexico there were no casual restaurants to stop in for a quick bite and there were no fast food chains in Laredo, Texas. It was either stopping at a very fancy restaurant or taking our chances with a roadside taco stand and putting us at risk for Montezuma’s revenge.
We’d eat hearty because our next good meal would not be until we arrived at grandma’s house. All week long we’d have our fill of fresh, authentic Mexican food – quesadillas, enchiladas, chiles rellenos, tamales, rice, beans and lots and lots of tortillas.
Once our week long “vacation” was over we’d begin the long drive home and crossing back over into the states, we would stop at Denny’s again – we couldn’t wait to have a familiar meal of a coke, burger and fries! As children, a week felt like forever and by the end of it we longed for the comforts of home. A hot, juicy burger with melted cheese and the crisp crunch of pickles, lettuce and tomatoes tasted heavenly! It was torture waiting for the ketchup as it slowly poured out of the bottle onto the crisp, slightly greasy french fries – it was almost too much to bear. The meal was finished off with an icy cold coke.
This simplest and satisfying of meals was one we eagerly looked forward to and missed more than anything. Not the television shows, friends or toys. Although we would still have another eight hours of travel, a hamburger meal at Denny’s was all it took to make us feel at home again. It was not only a familiar landmark but a comforting ritual on our journey.
Today my family consists of my husband and three children. We continue to travel to México to visit our families and use the same route. The city of Laredo, Texas has grown extensively and now has many, MANY drive-through and quick stop restaurants. There are also many new casual restaurants on the Southern side of the border. That same Denny’s restaurant is still in Laredo in the same spot. Although there are now many options from which to eat a hamburger meal, it has become a family tradition to stop at Denny’s no matter what time of day it might be to make it our “last meal” and to stop there again first thing on our way back home. It just wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. My kids look forward to this just as much as my sisters and I did those many years ago.