This morning I received some very sad news: the first location of the Famous Dave’s restaurant chain in Hayward Wisconsin, burned to the ground this morning.
For many, this is nothing but a semi-interesting and piece of trivia about a semi-delicious BBQ restaurant chain. But to me, this news is heartbreaking.
This lakeside restaurant and resort was built on Round Lake in Hayward 20 years ago. I was ten years old, and I remember when it was brand new and you had to wait what felt like hours in order to get a table. I remember my first taste of their ribs, although at the time I remember I was much more interested in their cornbread. I remember when they introduced me to the brilliance that is BBQ chicken salad. (I was, like, 14 at the time, so this was big news to me). And I remember the first time my parents FINALLY agreed to order the family meal that was served on a garbage can lid.
The first time I took my now husband up to my family’s cabin on Hinton Bay (an off shoot of Round Lake), we stopped at Dave’s before we even dropped off our things. It was Fourth of July weekend. We sat out at a picnic table overlooking the lake and drank Mike’s Hard Lemonade while we waited for word from my parents that they had arrived at the house. I was in film school at the time, so I kept snapping pictures for my photography class, I guess in an attempt to capture the essence of a summer afternoon. At night, the woods rang with the booming echoes of Dave’s fireworks.
Last February my husband and I went up to the cabin for Valentine’s weekend. It was the first time I was there without my family. Hinton Bay is about eight miles out of town, surrounded by woods and farmland. The roads were packed with snow and very slick, and by the time dinner rolled around we didn’t want to brave them in my 2004 Kia with the 2011 tires. Instead, we decided to head to Dave’s on the other side of the lake. It was pure dark as we drove except for our headlights. No streetlamps, no houses, nothing….until we turned a corner and there was Dave’s. A place after my own heart, they kept their Christmas lights up all winter, so even in the dead of February it still felt magical. Inside was warm and full of delicious smells, the chickens turning on their spits and the servers passing by with trays of messy goodness. We took our food to go and went home. Maybe if I’d known that was the last time I was going to be there, we would have gotten a table.
I know they are going to rebuild—the place was a Round Lake tradition and, if the crowds are any indication, a very successful restaurant. And I know there is talk of putting up a temporary location until the new building opens. And it’s not even that “it won’t be the same.” Of course it won’t, but it will be close enough that I know I am going to love it. It’s just a shock is all, when a place like this disappears. You never think about places like these being gone until they are. I didn’t get engaged there. I didn’t have my first date there or my first kiss or anything as big as all that. But it did play a role in my life, and now that it is gone, the hole it left is surprisingly significant to me.