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We Gotta Make This Pie Higher!

How weird was Shakey’s? This is not part 2 of “food roundup,” but I wanted to get something out of the way: how weird was Shakey’s in its prime? How weird can you stand it, brother?

Shakey’s in its 1970s tudor-beamed and beer-soaked splendor provoked a marvelous and completely unprompted set of psycho-responsive feedback loops:

1) It’s Dark! We already mentioned that, but it bears repeating. So dark your eyes had to adjust to the lack of light dark. So dark that after you fetched your pitcher from the bar and your pizza from the counter and sat down at the shiny bench in front of one of the long, smooth, wooden tables, you more or less detected the presence of fellow diners by sonar, or in this case, nearby telltale sounds of furtive stuffing of faceholes with Mojo potatoes and chicken wings.

2) Quiet. Too Quiet. When they weren’t cramming their faces with exotic delights from the all-you-can-eat “bunch-a-lunch” buffet tables, people tended to speak in hushed tones at Shakey’s, although the plink-a-dink player piano never stopped playing, and the vaudevillian sounds of comedic uproar continually ushered forth from this nickolodeon machine or that game with a crank that cost a nickel where you tried to rescue a cow from a burning building with a crane. Even with the frequent addition of live entertainment, the guileless sounds of banjos and sousaphones only served to remind wary eaters that there is no escape from the pyrrhic victory of a plate full of 20 uneaten chicken wings set next to a plate entirely full of gnawed bones.

Sounds would rattle and dislocate inside the huge old barn-like structures, with the calm of a quiet corner suddenly overwhelmed by the sea-chanty singing ministrations issuing froth from the group of off-duty bunco officers currently occupying themselves with drinking in the “private room,” a side space off All-You-Can-Eat Alley containing a pool table, a Hamm’s Beer sign perpetually on the fritz, and a half dozen knocked-over metal-and-vinyl dining chairs, topped off with a healthy dollop of alienation and bitter resentment.

To your left are bathrooms. Enjoy the trip!

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