Cohort Outtake: Much More Ready To Tow – And the (Not) Best Steak House

The other day I shared with you a Trabant with a tow hitch. Given its 23hp 600cc engine, the trailer had better be small. Today we’ll look at the other end of the towing spectrum, with what was once the kind of vehicle very much desired to pull a nice long Airstream or such. As in, a 1969 Buick Electra, with a big, husky 7 liter V8.

This fine big Electra was shot and posted by Matt Z at the Cohort, and it brings back memories of riding one one identical to it except it had a black vinyl top. It was owned by the Greek owner of the Best Steak House in Iowa City, where I picked up a job as busboy and dish washer for a few months in the fall-winter of 1971.

His trajectory was the typical one of so many other Greek-Americans back then: he had come to the US as a young man, worked at a relative’s restaurant for 80 some hours per week, lived in a cheap room, and saved all his money. And eventually he bought the Best Steak House, which did not live up to its name. It should have been called the Cheap Steak House. He bought low-grade meat, marinated it to soften it up some, and then had one of his young Greek cooks tenderize it with one of those mallets.

You stood in line while it was cooked and a fillet dinner (with baked potato, garlic toast and little dinner salad) was $1.69; the sirloin was $1.59, and the chopped steak (hamburger) was $.99.  It was popular with office workers and students for lunch. In the evenings, after the last dinner customers were gone, the Greek music went on the stereo, and genuine Greek food was made and served up to all the…Greeks, and me. Chicken cooked in olive oil with potatoes and vegetables. Much better than the non-best steaks.

And here’s the finale: “Bill” always hired young women to be the cashier. He had been a bachelor all his life. But then he suddenly announced that he and the current cashier were getting married. And so they did, and she started driving the big Electra to and from their mobile home. It seemed odd at first, but then it all made sense.

End of story.