Archive for August, 2012

A friend of mine who worked for the forest service said he used to go into burn areas months after a forest fire became buried under deep snow. They would use heat seeking instruments to detect smoldering, burried logs. While I always thought that incredible, as a camper I have several times restarted the dead coals from the previous night’s fire by purposefuly arranging thin twigs and branches and then blowing like a kid trying to extinguish ten or so birthday candles. Both were matchless experiences.

Most new places open at old sites. Like campfire rings in the wilderness where prior establishments set up shop, some with great success and some with not even a taste of it. With a little luck the new campers find the bed of coals waiting for the right combination of combustibles to be laid on top with a fair amount of huffing and puffing to be blown back to life. The new Darcy’s, which rests on top of the old Percy’s site, should not have to waste a lot of breath considering the prices on the new menu and the quality of the food they have set out to serve.

I can’t think of a spot in the Valley where so many have gathered around the fire for so many years. Personally, I go back to 1966 or so when University City was being built by my great uncle, Clyde Higgenbottom, who was a superintendent for Halverson Construction.

The shopping mall that Clyde built became the center of the Valley as soon as the occupancy permit was issued. My first love at U-City was the wishing well at the heart of the mall where I would toss pennies into the clear water and watch them sway back and forth as they came to rest along side the other glistening coins on the white and blue mosaic tile that made up the pond’s floor.

My favorites changed over the years as I went from childhood to adulthood wandering the stores at the mall. As a grade-schooler I loved the pet department in the back southeast corner of Newberry’s where I bought tropical fish for my first aquarium. Then in junior high it was the second floor of The Crescent where I bought my first album, Talking Book by Stevie Wonder in 1972.Later when I became aware of the opposite gender, Hamers and Harvey’s clothing stores had the all the threads I needed. And always the crowded aisles of the Hallmark store yielded the perfect gift for every occassion I was forced to shop for.

My appetite for good food never changed however and so the one constant favorite from the beginning was The Golden Hour. Back then there were no chains, not Mc Donald’s or Arby’s,which were the first two to arrive in the Valley just across the street, (Arby’s then McDonald’s, if memory serves). The Golden Hour was the pinnacle of Valley dining and their Sunday buffet was the pinnacle of the pinnacle.

I worked there in high school and knew the buffet line well. I whittled away at the baron of beef with a long, white-handled carving knife at the end of the line, attempting to figure out where to place the slabs of beef on the already too-full plates of the glutonous customers that came smiling up to me.

Then I graduated and moved on. The Golden Hour soon graduated into Percy’s as my old boss Percy Howell slipped into retirement and turned the reigns over to his daughter and son-in-law, Pat and Greg Kroetch, who kept the fire well stoked. For years the campfire ring at Percy’s enjoyed the Valley’s warmest blaze.

It packed them in with karoake way too many nights a week and it was the place to go after shopping, especially Christmas shopping. That folkway long outlasted U-City Mall as shoppers found there way back from the U-Surper Mall on Indiana every Christmas season and most specifically on Christmas Eve when a toddy at Percy’s was a local tradition and hidden treasure for natives and newbies alike.

Then after the better part of a career, Greg passed away and Pat left the building like Elvis, turning it over however relunctantly to the new owners of the Luxury Box. With the king gone, the building that had warmed so many for so long became cold. Like a transplant recipient that rejects its donor organ, the old building would not accept its new enterprise and for whatever reason the Luxury Box slipped into the history books.

And now we have Darcy’s.

As I said, I go way back at this particular spot on Google Earth and I predict with the confidence of Notradomus that these new guys will resussitate the fire from the deep down smoldering, golden embers that have been at that location longer than most of our citizens have either been alive or lived here. Darcy’s is a new concept at an old, sheltering site. It is a camper that I think Percy would welcome.

Having opened the sandwich shop, Casey’s, several years ago, Annette and Kevin Hayes, do know the first thing and everything else about making good sandwiches and salads. As the new owners, they have a dinner menu that includes traditional American favoites but the bulk of their menu reads like a sandwich shop, a very good sandwich shop that knows how important good salads are these days in a weight watchers world.

They also know how important price is in our present penny-pinching paradigm. Most new places push the envelope just a tad when it comes to prices, apparently thinking their newness justifies it. Not Darcy’s.

Their prices are so good that McDonald’s next door needs to be  worried as should all the Valley sit-down restaurants. Why would you want a $5 fast food burger you get handed to you in a bag after waiting in line when you can pay just $2  more at Darcy’s and get one served with fries by a smiling young waitress. And for that matter why would you go to any other sit-down restaurant where you would pay $3 more for perhaps an inferior restaurant burger?

Beyond their brilliant and bold price positioning, Darcy’s is obviously emphasising quality recipes with fresh ingredients. While my time to test things out has been limitted, I have been doing my part to help rekindle the flames having sampled their menu on four seperate occassions in the few weeks they’ve had their doors open. It is apparent to me that the owners are hands-on and heads-up in the kitchen.

On top of their food and prices and beautiful setting, Darcy’s has location, resting on the Valley’s warmest bed of coals where we have been blessed with decades of professional yet down home hospitallity. The new owners appear to have all the right talents and skills to rekindle the blaze and tend to it for years to come.

Everyone orders what we know and love and that is why I tried the Chef Salad first thing. I really was not expecting much for $7.  It was not quite as bountiful as the $11 version you find at a few other places, but the ingredients were fresh and this size was all a person needs and so the value was far greater considering $7 worth of good salad that you eat all of is way better than$11 dollars worth of salad that you over eat what you can and take home the rest only to have it too soggy to enjoy the next day.

The Hawaain Has been one of my go-to sandwiches forever. Now I know Darcy’s is the place to go to for my go-to. Like Beatles said, its way beyond compare.

McDonald’s price compares, but their quality and portions do not.

These chicken strips are phenomenal.They are so good that the word “strips” should be replaced in this case by “jewels”. Because if McDonalds can call their’s nuggets, these are priceless jewels by comparison. Like Darcy’s fish and onion rings, the chicken is hand battered, and a better batter is beyond imagination. Best of all, they are on a special happy hour menu in the lounge for only $5 , fries and all. When it comes to chicken at Darcy’s, I say better batter up.