Nothing's what it used to be, or so the fogies tell us. I feel myself turning into one lately. The news that Roznovsky's had shuttered its clapboard burger joint on a somnolent West End corner put me into a certified fogey funk; I haven't felt so out of sorts since Joe Matranga up and closed his spaghetti house one summer while I was away on vacation.
Roznovsky's ramshackle old corner grocery building could always transport me into the heart of small-town Texas; in the heavy stillness of a summer afternoon, over a cheeseburger and a longneck, I could practically hear screen doors banging and the phantom click of dominos. But now that I've visited Roznovsky's younger, northside location -- their sole remaining outpost -- I'm beginning to see that my attachment to the decrepit wooden original may have blinded me
o its flaws.
I wanted to like the newer model, a clean, well-lighted place festooned with urban-sportsbar paraphernalia and baseball mementoes from Ron Roznovsky's UT All-American days. I appreciated the irony that it looked more like the real, unsentimental version of modern small-town Texas than the converted grocery ever did.
No matter how much I admired the gimme cap gallery and vintage Longhorn blanket, though, the food kept getting in my way. The cheeseburger I once revered was dry and unyielding, the patty a testament to the sorrows of the industrial age. When did the slippage occur? Beguiled by my surroundings, did I simply fail to notice?
The newfangled seasoned fries I ordered were puffy and bronzed and great at first bite, but their appeal faded fast; the more inert they grew, the more I wondered whether I was eating those frozen "coated fries" I've seen in the restaurant trade magazines. Fogeydom loomed.
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Even the refrigerated longnecks were not what they once were -- namely, iced down with the genuine article, and swaddled in a tissue-paper wrapper. Or am I just fantasizing the tissue and the ice? I really don't know anymore; that's what nostalgia can do to you.
Come back, Joe Matranga; as one fogey to another, all is forgiven.
-- Alison Cook
Roznovsky's Hamburgers, 3401 West T.C. Jester at 34th, 957-1100.