Doomed businesses and restaurants are scary and sad places any time of year. Throw in 12 hours of daily darkness, sub-zero temps, and a holiday that is thick with social and familial baggage and these doomed businesses start to look like something off of Quentin Tarantino's cutting room floor.
I personally enjoyed eating and shopping with the damned last night - right here in Bozeman!
Having the motivation to flee my home for the evening to avoid a planned all-female holiday gathering, I ventured out into the deep freeze to soak up a little holiday chaos. My concrete objectives were few: burger, beer, shop, return home sometime after 9 pm.
Since I was dining alone, I could go anywhere, having to please no one but myself. I also didn't want to go anywhere crowded or hip. Like I said: burger, beer, shop, home after 9. Since I was in the middle of Bozeman's chain shopping district, I decided to see what happens when the owners of a franchise (Bennigan's) decide to break away from the chain and go it alone (now the Bozeman Tavern) - in the same building, with similar food, but minus all the corporate-supplied buttons and logo'd polo shirts.
I've decided that while chain restaurants are generally not great in their own way; independent restaurants that used to be chain restaurants now trying to pretend to be similar chain restaurants results in something even weirder.
Walking into the Bozeman Tavern was just that - weird. It's got the death vibe all over it; often mentioned on Eater, it's that sense you get that this ship is going down; no matter what the stewards say and no matter how long the string quartet plays on the promenade deck. Ti-tan-ic.
The restaurant was just like some sort of shell - like the one an insect lives in and leaves behind once it transforms and flies away. The sports memorabilia is on the wall, but there is less of it. There's the huge row of draft beer taps. Even the menu options are eerily similar. Monte Cristo sandwich, anyone? Only on these menus, since the corporate ties and glossy food photos are gone, one is forced to make menu decisions based on words alone. Hey, at least the plastic sleeves were new, clean and grease-free!
Additionally, there were about 15 people in the whole place. Yikes. While the beer was cheap - $2, and the fries crispy, the over-done and grainy burger simply filled my hunger void and nothing else. This was truly a great way to start to my night of the damned.
Burger, beer....oh yes, shopping. To continue the theme night adventure, I headed over to the overtly doomed Linens and Things to see if there were any store fixtures or used janitorial supplies left for sale.
"6 Days Left!" exclaimed the huge signs in the windows. Left until what? I guess they mean that in six days you won't be able to buy any mismatched stemware, "California-king" sheets, commercial fixtures and displays, twelve-foot "solid wood" curtain rods, or your choice of shiny ersatz "silver" chafing dishes?
What an evening!
I was sort of full, and now I was wandering in the comforting confines of 30,000 square feet of brightly lit, mostly empty home wares chain store goodness. The best part, I actually overheard a couple questioning the value of the now 80% off! aforementioned chafing dish. At this point, I really was expecting Tarantino or Chritopher Walken to enter the scene.
After getting my fill of middle-class house ware leftovers, I headed next door to see what a store that is still alleging to be solvent looks and feels like. In contrast, the yet to go out of business World Market seemed somehow charmless and safe. Like a show home in a new neighborhood. This definitely didn't fit the bill tonight...or did it?
Managing to achieve my final goal of getting back after 9pm by stopping by the grocery store and topping off the gas in the car; I basked in the warm glow that only a night with the damned can provide.