Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bye Bye Bennigans...Not

Yesterday my husband informed me that Bennigan's was no more. According to his gloom and doom announcement, the Irish pub and grill chain had announced its bankruptcy and ceased to exist. That made me a bit sad, as Bennigan's features in many of our little family memories. Perhaps the fondest goes back to a time before we were married. When we first started dating, I had no intention of ever tying the knot, and I had announced as much to my eventual husband to be. I told him I was only in it for the good times, and he just smirked knowingly (and it still annoys me that he turned out to be right, but who can turn down a man who cooks, does laundry, vaccums, and cleans cat vomit?).

In those early years of our courtship, there was a Bennigan's near his home. Given its convenient location (and my addiction to their Mason jar ice cream dessert), it was the site of many dates. At the time, the park district had an indoor wave pool so we'd often go for a round of inner tube wave riding and then follow up with a Bennigan's dinner.

One day it was snowing, so he dropped me off at the front door while he parked the car. Because we were both fresh from the pool, our hair was dripping wet. There was no wait for a table, so the hostess seated me and I figured that he wouldn't have much trouble finding me. A few minutes later he showed up at the table snickering. "What?" I demanded, and he told me, "The hostess said your wife is over there." I guess the matching sodden coiffures that we both sported pegged us as a pair, and for some reason she assumed we'd been through nuptuals. Of course, it annoyed me to no end since I fiercely defended my single status...little did I know what the future held. Hubby still smugly reminds me of that day.

Ironically, Bennigan's played a big role in our eventual wedding. Being an unconventional couple, a plain old church wouldn't do for our ceremony. Instead, on Valentine's Day we headed to the top of the John Hancock Building and exchanged our vows with the Chicago skyline as our backdrop. Afterwards, where did our intrepid wedding party head for a meal? Bennigan's! I supposed it was fitting in a way.

Another Bennigan's milestone occurred a few years back, the day after our elderly cat Muse had died. At that point, we were down to only Tooncinator the crazy cat, which was pretty much like not having a pet at all. It was more like harboring a demonic creature that stayed in hiding most of the time, popping out only occasionally to savage you unexpectedly.

Even though I was still in mourning, I knew it would be good to get another cat. Even if we didn't decide on one at that day, we could fill out the paperwork at the shelter. They'd keep it on file for a month so we could always come back later to find a suitable pet.

Nothing particularly caught my eye, but hubby homed in on a scrawny black and white cat with an unhealthy yellow tinge to his fur and a sign on his cage that said "Not for adoption." Turns out that was because he was being treated for worms; they said they'd let us have him if we'd agree to continue the treatment. I wasn't too enthusiastic; I love tuxedo cats, but they have to have a white streak down their nose. This one's head was entirely black. But for some reason he bonded with hubby, so it looked like he'd earned himself a new home...almost.

We decided not to make any rash choices, so we went to lunch to discuss the potential new family member. Since Bennigan's was just down the road, that's where we ended up. We discussed the cat's fate as we noshed, and lucky for him he won out in the end. Now he's here at Duloc Manor, dubbed Stitch due to his unadoptable status, chubby, no longer yellowed, and totally incorrigible.

Now, according to hubby, no more Bennigan's memories would be made. Already I was missing my favorite drink (the Bulldog) and their tasty boneless Guiness wings. There is a Bennigan's almost right across from Celebration and another one out on 535, so we tended to bop between those two. I searched online and discovered that although all corporate stores were closing, franchises supposedly were not. I had no clue as to who owned our local stores so I figured I'd call them the next day.

Turns out that the 192 and 535 locations are just about the only ones remaining in the area! Both are franchise owned so both are still open for business, at least for now. To celebrate, I went to Bennigan's for lunch and indulged in Guiness wings and baked potato soup. Since it was only noon, I held off on the Bulldog.

Sadly, the Bennigan's where we had our wedding meal is closed, and I think that the other two we used to visit in the Chicago suburbs also met the same fate. Oh well, the memories aren't over just yet since we've still got two to chose from here in Florida.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly, the first Bennigan's I ever ate at was the SR-535 location, as it was a three minute walk from Vista Way, where I was staying on the WDW College Program.

The waitress flirted with me, and it was very ego-boosting for me at the time. Of course, that meant it was very tip-boosting for her, which I now believe to be the sole reason behind it. Well played, miss...well played.

Juz said...

I loved Bennigans, sadly this will be yet another empty space on 192. There are so many vacant lots appearing down there, i fear there will be more before next year is finished....