It was the beginning of the new era of restaurants, as I look back, but back then I don’t think we realized it. There was a new chain in town and it got everybody’s attention. The old staid look of restaurants had just changed and to this day, ambience and décor have become sometimes just as important as the food. There was a restaurant that had opened up, that was based in California called Victoria Station. It was impressive just to look at. I guess it was to evoke the image of London’s Victoria Train Station, and there was even an English style telephone booth on the grounds. The item that really caught one’s attention was the grouping of railroad cars, several box cars and a caboose. A true theme restaurant and one wasn’t even at Disneyland. The interior was also appointed with either true antiques or excellent reproductions of railroad paraphernalia.
It was not fine dining, but it was fun and it captured the imagination of the public. This was a divergent course for a restaurant and they captured the fun of the moment. They prided themselves on Prime Rib dinners, and this was an extremely popular entrée at most restaurants at the time. In that era, it seemed every restaurant worth their salt, served Prime Rib with Au Jus and horseradish, either in a sauce or freshly ground. I remember having “Shrimp Victoria” which was a variation of Shrimp Scampi, as there were only a few places that I would have Prime Rib, because I always felt back then, that one got more fat, then meat, so I tried to avoid the dish as often as I could. The other thing that I remember and it was the “buzz” was the salad bar. This was a novel idea back then, and to think that even burger joints nowadays can be counted on having a salad bar. I seem to remember the salad bar over the actual dinner, only because it was a new concept and so was the restaurant design.
It was also the era of Liebfraumilch, the generic wine originally of the Rheinhessen, but now from anywhere along the Rhine River. The funny thing is that most wine labels from Germany by law tell the consumer so much about the wine; it is almost information overload, until you get to Liebfraumilch. Then you get the bare bone facts; it is a product of Germany, it is from the Rheinhessen, it is a Qualitatswein and that it is a white wine. I will go out on a limb and guess that this wine was made from the Sylvaner varietal that is the most common grape grown in the area. Compare that with most other German wine labels and the label could be white with Wine across it. Of course most Liebfraumilch labels are very colorful with a lot of gold ink. It was the era and we all drank it Liebfraumilch from students on up the pecking order of dining society.