It was always special for me to go to Mr. C's Steakhouse. The food used to be fantastic. They served traditional Italian pasta dishes and, obviously, steak. I remember enjoying the bar-b-que ribs when I was a kid. But it wasn't just the food that made Mr. C's special. For one thing, he had colored lights all over the place--all shapes and sizes of Christmas lights and even lights shaped like grapes on vines--that gave the place an "It's always Christmas here!" feel. There were beautiful murals on the walls depecticing scenes from Italy. I could sit and stare at the murals and feel a part of the painting and could even imagine what the people were doing and thinking.
Sometimes wandering musicians added to the atmosphere--accordion and violin--that would play requests for each table. I would spend days trying to think of what song I would request next time I ate at Mr. C's. It usually ended up being "Turkey in the Straw."
And Mr. C himself would go table to table asking everyone how they were. I remember that one time, when we were there for lunch and it wasn't very busy, that Mr. C sat down with us for a while. He was always very friendly and gave special treatment to visitors from out of town. I think the last time I ate there, my son was less then a year old. I told Mr. C that even though I don't live in Omaha any more, I try to to to his steakhouse every time I visit.
Now, after over 50 years of being an icon of Omaha's great steak and Italian tradition, Mr. C's Steakhouse has closed. My mother called last night to give me the news, and it felt like someone had died. This great restaurant has become another victim of the "Olive Garden" chain restaurant plague that's overtaking the mom-and-pop restaurants in our hometowns. I don't understand the mentality to always eat at the same restaurant no matter what city you're in. Why can't people take a chance and try some local establishments? When I go on a trip, I almost always try to avoid the chains. But the pull of Cheesecake Factory is pretty strong.
They had an auction on Saturday where people would be able to purchase a piece of the restaurant--Christmas lights, statues, to even a stuffed parrot. I wish I could have been in town to purchase something. I'm going to keep an eye out on eBay, just in case.
Mr. C's and his family still have other restaurants in Omaha, and you can bet that I'll be eating at one next time I'm in town.