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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Car hop incident leads to love

In July 1964, I met my husband, Carl. We only knew each other for about a month or so. I knew when I first met him that he was "The One" for me. Several of our friends met for a gathering (I do not recall what it was about) then we all traveled to the Eat'n Park located on Washington Blvd. in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, Pa. Carl was in his white hardtop 1960 Chevy Impala and I was in my sister's Rambler.

It was in the fall, and there were car hops that placed the tray on your opened window before they brought your order to the car, so you could eat while parked. Well, I kept (by accident) rolling down the window, and the tray would hit Carl's car parked next to mine. He had this great big smile, and he tried to look angry as he said, "Hey, watch it! You will scratch the paint." I was so nervous, it happened several times.

We will be married 43 years in August this year. And we still go to Eat'n Park at the Waterfront. We have lots of fond memories of Eat'n Park, and we keep making new ones with our grandchildren.

Pittsburgh, PA Share

Smiley's birthday party makes family vacation even better

My story is actually a fairly recent one. I, my husband, and our four children took a vacation to Ligonier, PA in July 2006. We took a day and drove into Latrobe, PA. We decided to eat at your restaurant. We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that we just happened to be there during the week you were celebrating Smiley's birthday. You were offering 99-cent kids meals. We were ecstatic! We ate at Eat'n Park almost every day, and the kids loved the Smiley cookies as well as the Smiley tattoos from his birthday party! The kids wore those tattoos proudly!

Believe it or not, when we talk about that vacation, Eat'n Park is always part of the conversation. The staff there was REALLY friendly, and even suggested sites for us to see in the area! Ever since that summer, when the kids get to choose the restaurant, they almost always choose Eat'n Park! Thank you for making our vacation an even better one!!

Kreston, OH Share

Ever heard of a "Big Girl" Burger?

This is not so much of a story as it is a bit of trivia. When I was a teenager, I did not care for cheese. Consequently, I always requested my Big Boy burger without the cheese. What was the name of a "Big Boy Burger" that didn't have cheese? The answer is "a Big Girl Burger."

You may think this is a contrived question and answer. However, I can state factually that when I would order a "Big Girl Burger" at any Eat'n Park in the Pittsburgh area, that the servers always knew exactly what I wanted and always served the burger without the cheese.

Wexford, PA Share

Car hop days provide happy memories

When I was a teenager and was allowed to use the family car, I would meet my friends at the Washington Boulevard location. I remember the servers would rollerskate up to our car and take our orders. Sometimes, when they put the tray with food and drinks on the window trays, they would spill either on themselves or on us, and they would apologize to no end. I remember we would pass food from one car to another and on warm nights sit on the hood of the car and just have a ball laughing, planning our summer nights. I remember when it rained, how they tried to keep the food dry.

When I tell my now adult children about these wonderful times, they don't believe me, but these are some of the best memories of my life and always make me smile and laugh. I wish I could turn the clock back to those wonderful days. Now we go to the McKnight Road location and are considered regulars, as your staff recognizes us and really takes care of us. We truly love going there. We go at least 2 to 4 times a month. Congratulations and Happy Birthday!

The Kaufmans
Pittsburgh, PA Share

New Kensington Mural Remembered

It was probably about 1967 or 1968 when mom would first allow us to walk down to the Eat'n Park in the Parnassus section of New Kensington. We considered ourselves lucky to live so close! Usually this treat happened on a Friday, so often our order was a delicious Eat'n Park fish sandwich. The piece de resistance, though, was walking home with strawberry pie. It wasn't Eat'n Park without the strawberry pie!

For years a very cool mural was painted on the wall depicting Eat'n Park's waitstaff. So many of those women had been there for years and years! It was a wonderful touch to honor those special ladies who greeted us kids with a smile every time we'd come for our strawberry pie and fish sandwich. To tell you the truth, it doesn't feel much different today--40 years later.

Cranberry Township, PA Share

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Farm Tour 2009

When spring finally rolls around and the snow on the ground begins to melt, I know it’s time to make my visits with our farmers. I always find these visits to be very educational and exciting. Even though there is nothing growing yet, my objective is to make sure our farmers understand what we are looking for in the coming year.

This year, my first stop was to Dawson Orchards (http://www.dawsonsorchards.com/), in Enon Valley, PA. When I got to the orchard, I was greeted by the owner, Carolyn McQuiston, who was ready to show me around. Carolyn’s apples can be found on our salad bar from October to May throughout our restaurants in Western PA, Ohio, and West Virginia. We started the tour at the packing house, where she showed me how the apples were washed and then packed into either bags for retail or boxes for foodservice. She informed me that apples harvested in September and October are placed in Controlled atmosphere storage (CA) until they are ready to be shipped.

From the top: Apples being cleaned, packing the apples, cold storage, me in the orchard.

Controlled atmosphere storage is a method in which oxygen levels, temperature and humidity are kept constant. The exact conditions in these rooms are set according to the apple variety to achieve the best quality. CA storage is used by all apple growers, regardless if they are from Pennsylvania, New York or Washington. So remember: the apple you eat in April was most likely harvested in September or October from the previous year.

After we left the pack house, she toured me through the orchards, and before I left she invited me inside for the best apple dumpling I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk her into sharing the recipe with me, so I convinced Regis, our head of menu development, to share an apple recipe that you’ll be seeing in Eat’n Park in September: Waldorf Salad. Scroll to the bottom of my post to get it.

A few weeks after my visit with Dawson’s, I was off to meet with a few of our farmers in Western PA: Art King from Harvest Valley Farms (http://www.harvestvalleyfarms.com/) and Don Brenckle from Brenckle’s Farm and Greenhouses (http://www.brenckle.com/). We have been working with these two farmers for the past 5 years, so they know the drill and always look for us to try to execute something new. Both of these farmers grow tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, beets and corn. In the coming months, look for these items to be incorporated within our menu and salad bar.

Top: Me, in the greenhouse at Harvest Valley Farms
Bottom: Brenckle's Farm and Greenhouse

The tour wouldn’t be complete without visiting my good friend of about 7 years, Steve Groff. Steve’s farm, Cedar Meadow Farm (http://www.cedarmeadowfarm.com/), is located in Holtwood, PA. Cedar Meadow Farm grows tomatoes for our Eastern PA restaurants. Steve’s farm is a little unique because he doesn’t till his land; in fact, some of his land has not been turned in over 30 years. Steve has pioneered the "Permanent Cover Cropping System", which includes no-tillage, cover crops, and effective crop rotations as a way to increase profits, enhance soil and water quality, and reduce pesticides.

The cornerstone of this system is a unique emphasis on maintaining a permanent cover of crop residues and cover crops on the soil surface and having something living in the soil at all times. All vegetables and crops are then seeded or transplanted into the organic mulch. This permanent cover aids in weed control, has virtually eliminated soil erosion and has increased soil and water quality.

As I looked at the barely thawed out land, I noticed many large radishes that were decomposing on the top of the soil. Steve told me they were called Tillage Radishes. These radishes are planted late in the growing season and are used to aerate the soil and bring nitrogen (an essential element for growing vegetables) to the surface. Basically, the roots of the radish grow deep into the soil and when the ground freezes, these radishes pop out of the soil from the pressure of the frozen ground. When this happens, the radish leaves a hole in the ground (providing aeration) and the root on the surface of the soil provides the nitrogen for the next crop that will be planted. To learn more about Tillage Radishes, check out http://www.tillageradish.com/.

Top: Cedar Meadow Farms
Middle: Steve's son, inspecting a Tillage Radish during the growing season
Bottom: Steve Groff, in a field of decomposing Tillage Radishes

We are so proud to work with these growers and hope that you take the opportunity to stop in and check out the local products we feature at your neighborhood Eat’n Park.

Until next time,

Recipe: Simple Waldorf Salad
Yield: Approx. 9 cups

  • 2 lbs apples (Peeled, cored, and diced)
  • 5 oz. celery (minced)
  • 2 oz. walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 cup grapes (halved)
  • ½ lemon
  • 3.5 oz. mayonnaise
  1. Place apples in a mixing bowl and squeeze lemon juice over them. Toss to coat.
  2. Combine all remaining ingredients.
  3. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Celebrating 60 years together

I am also celebrating 60 years, as I was born in February 1949. Forward 16 years from then, in 1965, when I pulled into the Eat'n Park in Wexford with my $75 1957 Plymouth Belvedere.

The car smoked and had more holes than a swiss cheese sandwich, but it was my pride and joy. My AM tube radio could pull in WABC and DJ Cousin Bruce from New York at night. The tail fins and whip antenna were true Americana tackiness that I still love today. What better destination for a 16 year-old teen to seek out on a Friday night...flirting with girls and driving my buddies to a great restaurant that we could afford. The new-found independence was exhilarating.

Memories of good food and Doo Wop music still come to mind as I frequent the Cranberry Eat'n Park about once each week. My wife and I relax there and talk about changes in the world and about the good things that have never changed. We always enjoy the friendliness of the servers and management at Eat'n Park. The food is as delicious as it was in "65". The Smiley Cookies we take to our grandkids have already created fond memories that will last for a long, long time.

Harmony, PA Share

There's more than one way to eat a Smiley Cookie

When my now 17 year old son was about 4, he had some interesting quirks, including not eating the faces of cookies. This wasn't a problem with, say, a gingerbread cookie, where he would just break off the head and eat the body. The Smiley Cookie was a challenge.

Like any preschooler, he loved cookies, and wanting to enjoy his Smiley Cookie, he developed an interesting way to do so. He would eat only the outside edges of the cookie, up until the point he reached the eyes and mouth, and then he would be done. If anyone else tried to eat the rest, he would become upset, so as we left the restaurant, someone would sneak it off his plate to enjoy the rest.

One afternoon, his grandmother brought over a package of Smiley Cookies that had about 8 cookies left in it. The cookies were left on the table overnight, and the next morning, we found the package open and the edges nibbled off of every single cookie! Now he eats them eyes, mouth and all. Whenever I go home to Ambridge, PA, I have to stop by the Sewickley Eat'n Park and pick up a bunch to bring home to him.

Fairfax, VA Share

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Place to Call Home

My two older sisters and I go to dinner on Friday nights, and after I had my first child, we would meet at Eat'n Park or other places, but mostly at Eat'n Park. When my daughter Ashley was about 2 years old (she is now 20) we were riding past Eat'n Park when she spoke up...

Ashley: "Can we go see Aunt Laur?"
Me: "I don't know if she is home, but we can call her and check later."
Ashley: "Why can't we just stop at her house?"
Me: "Because we are not near her house."
Ashley: "Yes we are, we just passed it up."
Me: (After explaining that we did not pass it up) "Where do you think Aunt Laur lives?"
Ashley: "Back there at Eat'n Park."

At this point I just started to laugh and called my two sisters to tell them at we probably need to go out to other restuarants, since Ashley thinks Eat'n Park is Aunt Laurs house!

Verona, PA Share

Tribute to a Dear Grandmother

I remember growing up as a little kid, when I would go visit my grandmother in Ruffsdale, Pennsylvania, her favorite restaurant was Eat'n Park. Every time Mom and I would go visit, we would go to Eat'n Park. Grandma would always get the same thing: the Philly steak and cheese with fries (she didn't eat fries often because she had heart problems, but she seemed to love them there). I remember every time we'd go, Grandma would say, "Maybe I will try something different this time."

My Grandmother passed away August 17, 2004. Guess what her last meal out was? Eat'n Park's Philly Steak & Cheese with Fries! For the longest time when I'd go there, I wouldn't order anything else as I felt like I was honoring my Grandma in some sort of way. Well, now my dear friend Daniel is a manager at the Eat 'n Park in Parma Ohio. Sounds silly, but it's like my Grandmother had something to do with it. I am a firm believer of that and always will be.

You can bet however, thanks to my Grandmother, I love going to Eat'n Park. When I got the email to write my memories for the 60 year anniversary, I knew I had to write this memory. I write this as I tear up and think of the good times I shared with such a wonderful woman who brought a smile to the face of everyone she met, even the Eat'n Park crew in New Stanton, PA. Thank you, Eat'n Park, for bringing back these great memories to me, and for helping me share such happy memories with my dear Grandmother.

Maple Heights, OH Share

Generations of memories

Almost fifty years ago, while my dad was stationed in Philadelphia, we made the trip from Level Green to Monroeville twice a month to celebrate his coming home for the weekend. We would pull into Eat'n Park on Rte 22, and you could smell the burgers as you rolled down you windows. There were still waitresses that took your order from the car then - my order, as always, was a burger and chocolate milk! I can still look back and remember that smell, wafting from the kitchen. And I can see in my heart's eye my Mom and Dad (both gone on now) and my little sister, madly waiting to share the really cool french fries they had there! Now and again as I sit down with my GRANDchildren at our Eat'n Park in Monaca, I can smell that aroma, and realize we are making memories for Ava, Ben, Dru And Ty that will carry them thru the next fifty years. Thank You for still being our memory maker.

Baden, PA Share

A Family Tradition

I have always taken my children to Eat'n Park because I felt sitting at a table and eating a meal as a family was more important than a drive thru. So when my first grandchild, Joey, was born in 1994, we would have him over for weekends. The tradition was breakfast with Grammy and Pap every time he came over. He learned the jingle "Eat'n Park's the place for smiles" and then he would say "pa-dum-bump".

Joey first lived in Penn Hills, and then his family moved to Latrobe. So our new routine was to stop at a different Eat'n Park along the way and everywhere we took him. Joey would map out where the next Eat'n Park was. He learned fast that when we went out to Eat'n Park that he would give the tip to our server and tell them what a nice job they did.

We have been to Eat'n Parks all over Pennsylvania, and we take all of our seven grandchildren there. It is a tradition to go to Eat'n Park for any occasion with my family, and that's what makes it a special occasion! When Joey, Kirk, and Somer moved to Tracy, CA for 3 years, I sent Smiley cookies for them to share with their classmates for every occasion, and my daughter needed her fix of the sticky buns! Now they are back in Pennsylvania, and of course there is not a week that goes by we're not at an Eat'n Park!

The one in the Waterfront is my youngest daughter's (a vegan) preferred place as they make her a totally special Vegan sandwich that can't be beat! My son will run down in the evening to get me a treat, I have taught them well. The tradition continues...

Leslie Marie
Munhall, PA Share

70th Birthday Surprise

It was my 70th birthday, and I wasn't too happy with letting everyone know that fact. Since my best friend and I always celebrate our birthdays together, we went to the Steubenville Eat'n Park Restaurant for dinner. Kathy got up from the table once, but I didn't give it a thought until we had completed our meal. It was then that a great band of Eat'n Park employees arrived at our booth with a candle lit on a large cinnamon roll and sang "Happy Birthday." It was such a nice gesture and my face ended up looking like one of your Smiley Cookies. It made me think that it is not important how old you are, but what you put into those years. Your employees really brightened my day. And my friend was in on it too. Thank you.

Dillonvale, OH Share

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fond memories of Grandpap and "Park and Eat"

When I was a youngster, it was a tradition in our family to go to Eat'n Park with my paternal grandparents every Sunday after church. My grandpap always called it "Park and Eat", because, as he always insisted,"You gotta park BEFORE you can eat!!"

One Sunday, after eagerly downing a "Big Boy" hamburger, large order of fries and a chocolate milkshake, my grandpap ordered strawberry pie (with extra whipped cream) and coffee for dessert. The waitress asked if he wanted cream for his coffee, and he replied, "No, thanks, I'm watching my weight." He was completely serious, and I'll always remember the look on that poor woman's face as she nearly choked trying not to explode with laughter.

Grandpap has been gone for many, many years, but now his great-great grandchildren wait anxiously for my husband and I, their grandparents, to arrive at their home in Kansas with their favorite snack, Smiley Cookies! And by the way, they prefer milk, not coffee with cream, with their Eat'n Park favorite!

Pittsburgh, PA Share

Bunny Smiley Cookies loved by kids of all ages

My friend and I were at Eat'n Park with my son for dinner. He was about 7 years old at the time. When we finished our dinner, the server asked my son what kind of cookie he wanted. It was a choice of a bunny cookie or a regular Smiley face cookie. My friend and I (being 30-somethings) both jumped up and down in our seats, repeating over and over, "Bunny cookie! bunny cookie!" as we made bunny ears with our fingers.

Well, we did not know it, but the manager was behind us, and he said to our server, "Please bring all the kids at the table a bunny cookie." We were all a little embarrassed at first, but we laughed and laughed after she brought us the cookies. Years later, we still laugh about it, and my son says to us that we are "not right." Today, we make it a tradition to go get Easter bunny cookies every year.

Pittsburgh, PA Share

Road warrior has visited 23 Eat'n Park locations - and counting

My story takes place at several locations in Ohio & Pennsylvania, in the course of the past 30 years of my travel for business as a Sales Engineer for four companies. Now retired and living in Ohio, I have traveled to Pennsylvania about every couple of months for over 30 years. My first business trip to PA in 1979 included dinner at the Sewickley Eat'nPark, near the old airport, and I have enjoyed many terrific lunches and dinners there on several occasions.

From that first experience, every trip to PA and the Pittsburgh area included either breakfast, lunch and/or dinner at the following locations, in alphabetical order:
Aliquippa, Belle Vernon, Cranberry, both in Erie, Fairview, Greensburg, Harmarville, Lancaster, Latrobe (Old and New), McKees Rocks, Monroeville, Moon Twp., New Castle, New Stanton, Sewickley, Warren, and Washington Mall.

Everywhere I went, I always was on the lookout for Eat'n Park to eat. I could always depend on having not only a good meal but, my weakness, a great piece of pie for dessert. Since the first Eat'n Park came to Ohio, our family has eaten at Canton, Chapel Hill/Akron, Medina (where we live), Parma, and Willoughby. Now, since our family has grown up, our children have their own children who ask us to take them to Eat'n Park so they can get their SMILEY Cookies. We now have nine grand children and all have enjoyed many meals at our local area Eat'n Park's great family restaurants.

Medina, OH Share

Strawberry pie effectively bribes little sister

When I was little and my sister Linda would want to use the car to see her friends, my Mom would say, "Ok, but you have to take your sister (meaning me) with you." So Linda would pick up her friend Polly, and we would all go to Eat'n Park. Back then, they still served you in the parking lot. Usually, there were guys Linda's age there too, so they would put me in the back seat and buy me a slice of strawberry pie to keep me quiet while they flirted with the guys. I was happy because I got my pie, Mom was happy because I was out for a while, and my sister was happy because she got to use the car! I still love the pie! (and that was 40+ years ago!) Happy 60th!

Aliquippa, PA Share

Whitehall Eat'n Park continues to delight, after 50+ years

We arrived here in 1956 from Philadelphia, very unfamiliar with the South Hills. Our first visit to the Whitehall Eat'n Park was with our real estate agent, who pointed out how easy it would be for us to visit the restaurant from a house just up the hill and across the railroad bridge in Baldwin. She made that sale!

There have been several remodels over the years, a new traffic light with a left-turn lane finally added, from Streets Run Road, and the neighboring businesses along Route 51 have changed. But, thankfully, not the coffee! Though the family has gone, I still live there, and still frequent Eat'n Park with friends several times a week. And we talk about old times and remember the carhops with hats and maroon slacks, and how we treated our kids on "pay day" with Big Boy hamburgers and milkshakes. The cars of the 50's are gone, too, but not my fondness for Eat'n Park. When traveling in any direction to visit those same kids, now grown with families of their own, guess what restaurant I look for? And, even though it's no longer called a "Big Boy," the servers still know exactly what I want!

Pittsburgh, PA Share

A Smiley Christmas

It was late in December, right before Christmas. I had been so busy working, and trying to get the house ready for Christmas. Somehow, I got behind and it was two days before Christmas. The Christmas tree was up and had lights on it but nothing else -- not one decoration. I knew I would not have time to decorate it.

I got this great idea ... I went down to Eat'n Park on Saxonburg Blvd/Route 8 and bought two dozen red and green Smiley Cookies. I took them home and wrapped each one in a clear wrap and tied them with a red or green ribbon at the top. I then hung them on the tree. Nothing but big red and green Smiley Cookies to cover the tree. Everyone loved the tree on Christmas day, as I always have the entire family over. The best part was the kids and adults could take a cookie when they wanted to eat one and even take them home with them. The tree looked adorable and everyone was happy to have a Smiley Cookie on Christmas Day.

Eat'n Park -- the place for smiles, and now my house too -- the place for Smiley Cookies on my Christmas tree. Eat'n Park Smiley Cookies are the BEST!

P.S. Actually, the Smiley Cookie is my very favorite cookie of all other cookies, and I am celebrating my 60th birthday with Eat'n Park this year too. Happy Birthday to both ot us! Smiley Cookies Rule!

Glenshaw, PA Share