Miller’s Bar: How About Lunch?

We sat there like four teenagers in the corner malt shop hungrily munching on what the waitress announced were seven-ounce burgers. Cholesterol be hanged! We were just as happy as pigs wallowing around in mud, though dressed in crisp summer attire.

Each bite took us back to Bloomfield’s Ted’s Drive-In restaurant where 10 years ago a they tore down that high school hang-out to put up another chain pharmacy. Die-hards are waiting for the reversal to take place and cute carhops to again deliver food right to the car.

This is how it all came to be. Ann and George Krikorian had returned home from their three-month stay in Florida in April, but a busy schedule of family responsibilities including babysitting grandchildren had prevented us from getting together. Yet that day, carnivores were united!

We circled the busy parking lot several times before landing. In no time the Krikorians had arrived, and with hugs and kisses accomplished we were soon seated and ordering.

“You know, we don’t have menus,” said the waitress, “and we are on the honor system. No itemized bills.” She rattled on, “If you have been here before you know we have onion rings and fries to go with the burgers. We also have grilled cheese and tuna salad sandwiches and soft drinks plus the bar. That’s all.”

She concluded, “When you are finished just go up to the bar and tell them what you ordered and pay. It rolled off her tongue automatically like she had done so a thousand times before. From the look of the busy parking lot, I guessed she had.

I had read in the Detroit newspaper that Miller’s Bar on Dearborn’s Michigan Ave. had been voted “one of Detroit area’s best” for a hamburger. Dearborn was a destination we usually went to for Middle-Eastern dining, so it took a lunch date with the Krikorians to finally get us there.

Surveying our surroundings I said, “Hey, this is a nice place,” and soon our burgers, fries, and onion rings arrived. Conversation came to a standstill. Our ice-filled glasses were filled with, as we in Michigan say, pop or soft drinks (soda for you East Coast dwellers). I took note of the glasses but it was George who spoke up, saying they were similar to those we used to sip tea from—during the good ol’ days in our community center surjarans (coffee houses).

We piled on the dill chips, ketchup, mustard, and for the brave, a thick slice of white onion. Love at first bite: juicy and delish. Soiled napkins aplenty later, the gentlemen paid the barkeep and we departed for the Krikorian’s house, where we were to meet Onnig and Shoushig Hachigian for our just desserts.

More hugs and kisses and the six of us surrounded a table filled with sweet treats. Simit, jello, paklava, Shoushig’s Sock it to Me cake, Italian pannetone, assorted cookies, coffee, and tea topped off our lunch. True to its reputation, the Krikorian house has a well-stocked larder of goodies. Ann and Shoushig are famous for their culinary ability, but today also found them cracking their share of jokes keeping up with their spouses.

Engaging conversation brought roars of laughter as each one took turns regaling us with stories of their community involvement and foibles thereof. No one had their eye on the clock. Five hours passed quickly, with no eviction notice from the Krikorians.

There was good-natured ribbing between the longtime-wed Krikorians as to who snagged whom at the AYF Olympics way back when in Providence, R.I. They are nearing the magic 50-year mark so it obviously was a good decision.

The all-time favorite topic of Armenian politics took center stage, too. We laughed at how we translated slightly lewd jokes for our parents and yes, they were funnier in Armenian even if our mothers did say, “Aman, aman, ad eench pisoutiun eh?” (What kind of nastiness is that?).

Someone declared that there was no Armenian profanity, that their father only swore in Turkish. We all jumped on the bandwagon contributing our share of Turkish swear words freely releasing what we knew our parents would never have allowed us to utter in their midst.

Thanks to our parents’ first priority of establishing Armenian churches and community centers, these friendships shared at the Krikorian dining table were forged long ago, a direct result of each person’s involvement in their ethnic lifestyle.

Want to meet for burgers at Miller’s? Let me know and I’ll dig out my saddle shoes and poodle skirt. But only if you promise to get a duck tail haircut. Just too cool.

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Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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