Pete & Sam’s. Again.

Dan Conaway

SOMETIMES THE WAIT IS WORTH IT. I remember when you couldn’t get Coors beer here – ergo – Coors was wonderful, caught in frosted mugs held beneath Rocky Mountain snowmelt waterfalls, tapped by the chosen somewhere west of here, somewhere forbidden.

Like Texas.

I went to make a TV spot in Dallas in the early ’70s and right there on the set, in an ordinary Styrofoam cooler, was a can of Coors. I popped it, took a long draw, considered it, took another, and had a moment.

Coors tasted like Budweiser – like Budweiser that’s been in the trunk of your car over a long weekend. There might have been a touch of the Rockies in there, but there was also an unmistakable hint of frat house basement and beer on special.

It wasn’t very good.

I remember hearing about a wine that was not only too cheap to be good, it was too cheap to be drinkable – a wine you couldn’t get here. Priced like Ripple, people weren’t hiding it in – or drinking it from – brown paper bags, they were putting it in wine racks, and smuggling it into town from somewhere that Charles Shaw wine – Two-Buck Chuck – is sold, somewhere forbidden.

Like Trader Joe’s.

I first tasted it when friends brought some from Atlanta. It didn’t taste like two-dollar wine (actually around three bucks now); it could easily sell for seven bucks. It does taste like that. No subtle reminders of blackberry, chocolate or sun-drenched vines, just clear images of change back from a ten and grocery store parking lots.

It’s not very good.

Trader Joe’s is evidently and finally coming to Germantown, and from the relentless news coverage of that seminal event over the last two years, one must assume that all will be well in our well-heeled suburb for the foreseeable future. However, when the unavailable becomes available, the extraordinary often becomes ordinary.

There are exceptions.

Pete & Sam’s is open again.

Sure, they were going to clean it up, but would they scrub its personality? They were going to update equipment, preparation and service, but would we recognize the place and the people? They were going to take a look at the menu, but would we still see our favorites?

Relax. It’s got a new suit, but it’s still Pete & Sam’s under there, and the new suit fits. It’s a bit more like Sunday dinner than before, but you’ll recognize the family pictures and feel right at home. There’s new china, but you’ll recognize everything on it. The bathrooms are brighter, but they’re still broom closets. They have a full bar, but you were the bar before.

But, if it makes you feel better, you can still wait for a table out front instead of in the bar, and still try and figure out who that is over there you haven’t seen in years – because they’ll be back, too.

We couldn’t have Pete & Sam’s anymore, but now we can.

And it’s good.

I’m a Memphian, and something of ours has been returned.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at