Seventies-era Starkville, as it turns out, had more burger joints than I remembered – apparently I am not the only one with fond food memories from that day. But deep down, I’m not so much a burger guy. My Pavlovian responses are more attuned to the pizza man and the ice cream truck, so those are the places where the reminiscing will commence this week.
I cannot begin to explain how this happened, but as we moved into the early eighties Starkville rated two sit-down Pizza Huts. In my world, the western Pizza Hut (still standing today) was the family location of choice – that’s where we went after church as a family or youth group. I even remember when they expanded and added the “garden room”. This is where I learned how to blow my straw paper across the restaurant, or if I squeezed it down instead of sending it sailing I could make it squirm like a worm by dropping a few drops of Pepsi on it. Oh, and they had pizza, too. The other Hut, in the same parking lot as the Cinema 2-4-6-12 (I have forgotten how many theaters it eventually squeezed in) was the date night location. This was particularly important for pre-driving dates – the dinner and the movie were in spittin’ distance of the other, though the spittin’ was not a practice on dates. For a season there was even an arcade with real video games like Centipede and Galaga. Sadly, this location has met the wrecking ball, along with my generation’s dating history. I guess what happened at Pizza Hut Two will stay forever in the rubble of Pizza Hut Two. Whew.
The Hut was not the only place you could get a good pizza, though. Every now and then we would head for Pizza King. It lives in my memory as a small, dimly lit place on University Avenue near the Catholic Church. For some reason I just found it fascinating and outside the box that they cut the pizza into squares, instead of the traditional triangle. I really liked the unique taste of their pizza, though today I could not clearly define the difference in flavor profiles. The whole place just smelled good, too –and by good I mean it smelled like pizza – you were just immersed in pizza air. And as a good Baptist I dig immersion.
I don’t remember much about the pizza at Shakey’s on Academy Road, but I do remember that each table had a telephone and that’s how you placed your order. It didn’t last long, but at least it was novel. And at some point along the way, we all hoped and prayed that Domino’s would arrive in a discounted 31 minutes.
There’s nothing better after a good pizza than a big bowl of ice cream. Or if you’re going out, a tall cone will do nicely. First a bit of history: where Bop’s stands now, once stood a mini-mall. Yes, really. “Mall” might be pushing the limits of the definition a bit – but there were at least two or three other stores only a short walk from Baskin Robbins without actually going outside. In our younger days my brother and I would get the upside-down-clown-faced ice cream cones or maybe a Chilly Burger. As an ice cream addict, I am glad we have more to choose from these days, but it’s still hard to beat B & R’s peanut butter and chocolate. However, I would be remiss not to mention another of my favorites - the lemon drop ice cream we sold in my days as a clerk at Northgate Superette. I think it was Luvel’s - lemon ice cream (not sherbet or sorbet) with little pieces of lemon drops mixed throughout. A definite rival to peanut butter and chocolate, if I could only find some. (Sigh.)
After last week’s discussion of burger joints, I got several emails reminding me of the Mug ‘N Cone, located where Petty’s BBQ lives today. That could well have been the source of my first soft-serve ice cream cone ever. And though the Health Food Hut (in Southdale Shopping Center ) was not exactly an ice cream place, the only thing I ever ate from there was a giant, deep chocolate, frozen yogurt shake with a healthy portion of real peanut butter blended in. I just about got brain freeze remembering that one.
The original Baskin Robbins disappeared for a few years – mall and all - then came back inside a convenience store. Pizza Hut Two was also demolished then reborn as a carry-out location. That’s all good, but I would give just about anything for a square piece of Pizza King sausage pizza and a bowl of Luvel’s lemon drop ice cream. Just sayin’.
Don’t give up. There are more memories to come, including yours.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .