This is some sad news that Brad Pearson hit me with this morning. The Dallas Morning News has the full story, but the upshot is that Big State, my beloved lunch counter, will turn off the griddle for good tonight after 66 years.
Irving, as you may or may not know, does not have many obvious charms. This old-timey soda fountain, with its retro sign, Frito pie, and Blue Bell ice cream shakes, was one of them. My parents took me there are as a special treat when my brother and I were kids—my mom and I always got perfect, buttery grilled cheeses on Texas toast, hers with a side of pickles, and split a basket of fries. My dad liked the malteds. As a teenager, I would eat there most often with my friend Michael, who I met in middle school and who remains one of the best, most important people I know. I dragged my college roommate, Pam, and the lone college boyfriend who came to visit during the summer. The friendly folks behind the counter, churning shakes and flipping burgers and writing tickets, never seemed to change or age even as I did, and neither did the clientele—a mix of good ol’ boy Irvingites, cops, fire fighters, families, and newly licensed teens.
It was a sweet spot, a funny little world that I couldn’t really believe still existed. And now, of course, it won’t. But we were lucky to have it as long as we did.
Update 5/28: Bradford reports on Frontburner: This is of limited appeal, but that limit extends to our own Liz Johnstone, who speaks fondly of what I imagine to be a very average grilled cheese at Irving’s Big State Drug. Turns out that dream may not die. The new owner—Rick Fairless, of Strokers motorcycle bar/NOT gentleman’s club—promises to “keep the Big State name and make it a true 1950s soda fountain shop.” Perhaps he’ll bring some of that Strokers charm to Big State Drug.