In Roxborough, the Philadelphia neighborhood where my family moved in 1963, the first fast food restaurant to litter the landscape was Gino’s. We’d eaten steak sandwiches and hoagies from Delassandro’s, in Wissahickon, for years, but Gino’s was the first hamburger joint I remember. To my chagrin, I recall the jingle, “Everybody Goes to Gino’s, Cause Gino’s is the Place to Go,” and the spokesperson, the annoying Soupy Sales.
By the time Burger King, Mc Donald’s, and their clones had become ubiquitous, I’d learned to disdain fast food. The only time I’d made an exception to my one-woman boycott of all fast food was in Japan, where I ate a school of Macadonaldo’s fish-settos, as the Japanese called them. I deviated there perhaps because I wanted a taste of home, albeit a high-fat, high-calorie taste.
That ache for familiar food led Jack and me to a series of fast food restaurant chains here in Costa Rica that we would never have patronized back in the States. The first one was TGI Friday’s, where the price of a burger was eye-poppingly high, the atmosphere circus-like, and the quality of the food poor. We liked Pizza Hut, but not the taste of the meat toppings: pepperoni in Costa Rica is not like pepperoni back home.
Hooligans, in the Multiplaza at Escazu, had much to like, despite the fact that it was a sports bar, and had a zillion TVs tuned to soccer games. We loved the fries, and became hooked on the chicken fingers. We began to eat there every-other Thursday, alternating with Samurai Fusion, a fabulous Japanese restaurant across the highway.
A few months ago, we arrived at noon for lunch, and found a notice that the place was being remodeled. “Closed for remodeling means something new is coming,” pronounced Jack.
We experienced withdrawal pains, and began to search for other Hooligans in the Central Valley. We drove all the way to Heredia, a two-hour drive from our house. That was too far, we decided, and the traffic was predictably congested. “I’ll make them at home!” I declared, and tried several recipes, but none matched the crispy, moist fingers at Hooligans.
Yesterday, we stopped by, just to peek, and voilà it had re-opened. The results of remodeling weren’t apparent at first. My glass of wine had been downsized— I noticed that right away. Everything else seemed the same.
When the bill came, we thought there must be a mistake. “What’s this?” I asked, checking it over. The waitress had charged us a dollar for a little more barbecue sauce. Unbelievable! Then we realized that we were paying six dollars more for the same chicken fingers and wine we always get. Only the prices had been remodeled. As suddenly as it had started, our love affair with Hooligans was over.