Fairfield columnist’s new book offers full menu of past dining spots in town – The Vacaville Reporter

For the second time in as many years, Daily Republic columnist, self-proclaimed Fairfield “comedian” and storyteller Tony Wade has written a book about the town’s bygone days, the most recent being “Lost Restaurants of Fairfield, California”.

A sort of continuation of his debut effort, “Growing Up in Fairfield, California,” this equally light and lively read unfolds across 197 pages, nine chapters and an epilogue, dozens of archival black-and-white photos and images. graphics, as he serves up hearty, humorous fare at long-gone beloved dining spots, from the Firehouse Deli-Cafe to the Hi-Fi Drive-in to Dan & Ruth’s Cafe, and their sometimes colorful owners.

Published by American Palate, a division of The History Press, the book is dedicated, he noted on the page preceding the table of contents, to county restaurateurs “who over the decades have nurtured bodies, hearts and souls of generations of Fairfielders.”

In the preface, dubbed “Meals and Memory,” Wade noted that memories written in the “I Grew Up in Fairfield” Facebook group often had “many threads” that “default to food” in a town known to some. classy restaurants but mostly “good old American food.” He also included a quote from author Michael Moss’ 2021 book, “Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions,” that “most people have a food memory that helps define who they are”.

But the new book, in addition to recounting memories of “old places you could eat,” is also a catalog of untold stories about restaurant owners, including Yozo Ikenaga, who owned and operated the Mint Grill and the Park Inn and was later sent to a Japanese internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the outbreak of World War II for the United States.

His research, Wade added in the preface, showed “how woven into the very fabric of Fairfield restaurants were and are.”

The nine chapters of the book cover the city’s first restaurants, hamburger restaurants, “classic” places, ethnic restaurants, pizzerias, “reincarnated restaurants”, some places, pastries and desserts in the city of Suisun, and one titled “Setting the Record”. Straight,” which asks questions like “Was Arnold’s Food in Fairfield the inspiration for Arnold’s ‘Happy Days’? and “Colonial cuisine or colonial cuisine?”

The photos add visual evidence and commentary on the era, much of it mid to late 20th century, naturally evoking a healthy dose of nostalgia. There’s Union Avenue in the early 1900s; the Park Inn, which later became the Black Swan and the Ranch House; the Sno-White Drive-in, later the Sno-Man Drive-in, which, as Wade wrote, “remained in the minds of many Armijo students far longer than algebra did. never did”; the exterior of the Firehouse Deli-Cafe; a portrait of Dan and Ruth Amarillas, namesakes of the Rockville Road restaurant; the hungry hunter in 1996; and Johnson’s Pastries and Cafeteria in downtown Fairfield, a mid-1960s vintage, large American sedan in the foreground.

Wade’s informal bibliography cites several books. Besides Moss, there is “The Omnivorous Mind: Our Revolving Relationship with Food” by John Allen, “The Restaurant: From Concept to Operation” by John R. Walker, as well as the websites Ancestry.com, Facebook, Newspapers.com and editions of the Daily Republic on microfilm at the Fairfield Civic Center Library.

Tony Wade’s new book, “Lost Restaurants of Fairfield, California,” has an official release date from the publisher on July 4. (Photo courtesy – American Palate, a division of The History Press)

During an interview Tuesday at the Solano County Government Center in Fairfield, where he works part-time for the Registrar of Electors during election seasons, Wade, 58 and a Portsmouth, Virginie, once again came across as cheerful, forthcoming and thoughtful as the tone of the new book and her diary column, “Back in the Day.”

A tall, thin man with a pleasant baritone voice, he said his initial idea for his second effort was a book about Vacaville, which would require “a lot of research”.

One editor instead suggested “lost restaurants,” Wade recalled, adding, “I balked at that. How interesting could that be? »

But, as it turned out, it seemed to suggest, the editor was onto something.

The new book is, fundamentally, he says, at “the intersection of meals of memories,” how when we eat, “you use all of your senses. Sometimes those memories can stay with you for the rest of your life.

The project started in November with daily writing and lasted several months. It was only “10% written”, according to information from its columns, while the first book was already “75% written” and relied primarily on previously written weekly columns.

Wade said he knew names like The Firehouse Deli-Cafe and Smorga Bob’s, but the dozens of other restaurants, cafes and eateries he had never heard of.

“I had to do a lot of research, come across some interesting information,” he said.

He spoke at length about Ikenaga, who owned The Mint Grill in Suisun City, and whose life largely ended with his arrest by the FBI and eventual internment at the Poston War Relocation Center in Yuma, Arizona, where he was tragically separated from his family, who were sent to Gila River Camp in Gila, Arizona.

“He was a respected businessman, a Japanese immigrant,” Wade said, adding that the Mint Grill later became a candy store.

In 1940, Ikenaga opened the Park Inn, which became “a huge success”, but by early 1942, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was already under new management, he said. .

Wade also mentioned the history of the first Baskin-Robbins to open in Fairfield, owned and operated by sisters Mary Minakata and Elsie Nakamura from 1969 to 1990. The sisters were the daughters of first-generation Japanese immigrants, or Issei, this which makes them Nisei, or second generation, Japanese-Americans.

He interviewed Elsie’s mother, Jayne Nakamura, admitting he was “hesitant to ask about Yozo Ikenaga”. It turned out that one of Ikenaga’s daughters was best friends with Jayne’s mother. So he contacted Ikenaga’s relatives in San Francisco and got a wealth of information.

“Ikenaga was highly respected in the Fairfield community,” he said. “He was in the Lion’s Club and also in photography and videography. He was demonized.

Wade said the editor limited it to 40,000 words and 100 photos, but “Lost Restaurants” came in at 48,000 words and 110 photos.

One of the “coolest things” about the journey to completing the book was discovering a restaurant called Voie, a French word meaning “here,” Wade said, smiling at the memory.

In the book, he wrote, “When many locals see the dilapidated envelope of the former Here restaurant at 1721 North Texas Street, they may find it very hard to believe that at one time it was the fanciest place in town.” It featured white tablecloths, a turquoise upholstered chair, gold-framed paintings, antique mirrors, and a dress code. Today, he writes, the space is “now a car shop”.

As he did with his first book, Wade is planning several author signing events in the coming weeks and months for “Lost Restaurants of Fairfield, California,” which sells for $21.99. Its official publisher release date is July 4th.


  • Early Bird Author Signature — 1:30-4:30 p.m., June 25, Joe’s Buffet
    834 Texas St., Fairfield.
  • Suisun City Fourth of July — 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Harbor Square, 700 Main St., Suisun City.
  • Author Signature — 6:30-8 p.m., July 7, Fairfield Civic Center Library, 1150 Kentucky St.,
  • Author’s signature — 6:30-8 p.m., July 14, Fairfield Cordelia Library, 5050 Business Center Drive, Fairfield.
  • Author’s signature — 1:30-4:30 p.m., July 30, Dave’s Giant Hamburgers, 1055 North Texas St., Fairfield.
  • Fairfield Tomato & Vine Festival – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 10 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 11, downtown Fairfield.
  • Waterfront Festival – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. October 1, Harbor Square, 700 Main St., Suisun City.
  • Rancho Solano Holiday Boutique – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 20, The Rancho Solano Clubhouse, 3250 Rancho Solano Parkway, Fairfield.

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