American History

PLACES THAT ARE GONE

with nary a one safe from the pandemic’s killer shadow, here is a volume honoring joints and cafes and posh establishments that already have shuffled off the mortal coil in one California community. In researching and writing this nicheiest of niche books), Liz Pollock lovingly eulogizes places in her adoptive town that are gone—and offers likeminded gourmets and gourmands nationwide a model for mourning and celebrating beloved hometown third places taken down by Covid-19. A transplant Santa Cruzan since her college days, Pollock worked at and patronized not a few of the spots whose tales she presents. Her years as a bartender inform the book’s occasional side of cocktail recipes. As proprietor of Santa Cruz store Cook’s Bookcase (), the author specializes in ephemera and scarce texts on cookery and wine, a focus that clearly informed the sleuthing required to snag family photos, matchbooks, business cards, and menus—not only from restaurants but from supply and service companies—that movingly illustrate . Pollock is a dedicated reporter and engaging interviewer, running down stories that otherwise might have died with their tellers or ballooned into myth. Toggling between oral and narrative history, she covers the Santa Cruz version of the decades from the 1940s to the 1990s that saw Americans maintain historic affection for traditional meals but also open up to innovative flavors, ingredients, and cuisines. Alas, changes in taste can augur ill for old reliables, and today’s fresh and fabulous upstart is tomorrow’s castoff. Pollock profoundly understands how narrow a margin separates a neighborhood institution from a “FOR RENT” sign in the window, and how fragile a bubble encloses an independent restaurant. Her story is one of ever-changing establishment names and ownerships, each underpinned by an entrepreneurial conviction that this place at this time in this town is going to beat the odds and be around in 40 years. In Santa Cruz, a few places like Adolph’s had runs that long, but many more blossomed, enjoyed a brief hegemony, and faded. Pollock has made it her business to learn about them all, and the reader who dips into her Santa Cruz of memory will be rewarded by that. American History

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