Monday, June 18, 2007

The long good-bye.

Montreal-Ben's (rip)

It came as no surprise but I was still saddened to hear that Ben's had closed. This was one of the places to go for Montreal smoked meat. Even despite the fact that perhaps you favored Shwartzes or Dunn's there was no denying that Ben's was a Montreal landmark. this was the real deal. Melmac plates Formica counters and a ' wall of fame' that had pictures of people that even your parents could not recognize. The waiters like everything in the place remained constant and a throw back to an earlier time.

There was no one great moment when things started to slide. Just a slow erosion of a once great place.

The photocopies replaces drink list and menus. The portions seemed to be getting smaller and smaller. The waiters were no longer the old regulars. The souvenir postcard disappeared. And perhaps more importantly so did Irving Kravitz. He was a last surviving son of the original owners. An elderly man he used to sit by the door and greet people as they came into and out of his establishment. His had been a continuous presence. It was after his passing the the slide started to happen.

My last visit wasn't sad but simple acceptance of the inevitable. The portions had seemed to have gotten even smaller. The black and white photos on the Montreal Canadians were at least twenty years old and were part of the charm just seemed sad. It was summer and the doors were open because the air conditioning which had broken down the summer before had still not been fixed. Nor did it seem that the owners were even planing on it. Instead they had placed several large industrial sized fans around the dinning room. The staff whose uniformed had always been back pants and a white shirt were sporting orange tee-shirts as part of a labor protest. (They wanted 40 cents and hour more.)

Whatever the reason it was clear that the owners had lost interest in the place. Even despite publicly proclaiming that they had turned down a huge amount of money from a developer. Perhaps the labor dispute had given then the chance that they were looking for to shut the place down. The building where Ben's was situated is the sole inhabitant of a prominent downtown lot.

This was a place full of memories. Countless evenings had ended there with a post bar nosh. It had been a place where one was able to catch up with friends from out of town. One inevitably took them there. You had gone there with your parents. One can only imagine how many business deal had been struck over a plate of smoked meat. A place where preety much most of the city seemed to have been to.

Now building that once meat so, a must go to place, much sits alone and abandoned on it's lot. A developers sign is nearby proclaiming the impending development of the space. Ben's was ninety-eight years old. Even if it had it's moment it deserved a better ending than a long slow fade out.

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