I had an oyster boat at Stan's today. Stan's is an old-fashioned "stand-up-and-grabbit"-style drive-in restaurant just north of where I-90 crosses above Rainier Avenue South in Seattle. An oyster boat, as Stan's uses the term, is an oyster sandwich: five small deep-fried breaded oysters, shredded lettuce and tartar sauce on a foot-long-hot-dog bun. It is one of the most scrumptious sandwiches in the world, in my opinion.
Stan's signage (3 pics in Flickr
) boasts of his fish and chips and his hamburgers. The hamburgers are actually quite good, in fact exceptional for the price (none is over $5). The fish and chips I find uninspiring. The shrimp and chicken and catfish I've not tried. (Nor have I had the favorably reviewed Green River Float.) But the oyster boat... the oyster boat is almost enough to drag me out of my Downtown-Eastlake-U District-Fremont comfort zone. Sometimes I have two.
I think my connection with Stan's goes back to the 1960s. In those days the people in the kitchen were probably not of the indeterminate Asian ethnicity they are now (I don't remember if they were white or black back then, but I'm pretty sure they weren't Korean or Indochinese). But they had fish & chips and probably hamburgers. I think. I'm not absolutely sure Stan's was the fish & chips joint that figured in this anecdote from the day my life changed, but I'm about 90% sure it was.
August 17, 1968.
We had been back in Seattle for just three weeks after a year abroad, and the third week back we spent at Family Camp at Cascade Meadows, or maybe not Family Camp, I don't think my parents were there, but the four of us kids spent the week up there. Saturday came, and our parents came up to pick us up. There was another kid there who had no one to get him home, so my parents volunteered to give him a lift to his home on Beacon Hill. (We lived in the north end, near Green Lake.)
Somewhere on the drive back to town we stopped at a produce stand and bought some fruit, berries anyway, to snack on. But by the time we got into town and were heading south on Rainier, we were hungry and complaining about the inadequacy of a berry diet. My dad said, as we passed Stan's, "On our way back we'll stop and have fish and chips." We drove on, bearing right onto Empire Way (now MLK). Somewhere on Empire Way, a teenager coming towards us, in a car he had borrowed without his grandmother's permission, decided to hang a U-ey in front of us at 80 miles an hour. Combined with our own 35 mph or so, the collision sufficed to kill my mother instantaneously. My father died in surgery early the next morning. We never got those fish & chips.
It was at least 20 years before my next visit to Stan's. I remember being less than overwhelmed with the food. Another ten or fifteen years passed. My bride-to-be got a storage unit about two blocks from Stan's, a storage unit that we still have and that houses the bulk of the Sidney S. Culbert Memorial Esperanto Library. And one day, leaving the storage unit, I was hungry enough to go to Stan's despite my nonstellar memory of it. And that day I had the luck to notice the Oyster Boat on the menu.
Today I was standing at the counter at Stan's (it's really not designed for those of us who don't bring an enclosed vehicle to eat in, especially on days like today when it was snowing) eating an oyster boat, and two separate other customers came up to me, the first to ask what I was eating and then to bemoan the fact that he had already ordered a hamburger, and the second to tell me he wished he liked oysters because it looked so scrumptious. I shared the foregoing anecdote about the day my parents died with the second guy, and the experience was so cathartic I decided to blog about it.
Leland aka Haruo
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Labels: 1968, ethnic change, fried foods, restaurants, seafood