I Miss You, Restaurant Matchbooks

Categories: Complaint Desk

Matchbook.jpg
There's a large glass container filled with matchbooks in my apartment. Actually they're in a big Ziploc bag because I'm too lazy to unpack them, but I used to have them out in a big glass bowl on a table in my living room. I'd use them like most people use matches: to burn things. But I also liked that they were a flammable little road map to all the restaurants I'd eaten at in the past: fine dining, bistros, pizzerias and basement bars in New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Charleston, New Orleans and elsewhere.

Some of the matchbook memories are more visceral than others. A blue box marks a memorable dinner I had with my mom at Zatinya in D.C. A black one with thin white lettering marks a birthday party where all my friends gathered to mark my third decade of not dying. I like those matches for far more than candle-lighting. Digging through the bowl is like paging through a photo album filled with my life's great meals.

The collection isn't growing as quickly as it used to, though. And it's come to a stand still since I moved to Dallas. Smoking bans have obviously caused the matchboxes that used to grace so many host stands to disappear. Maybe the reason is financial, too -- some of the more intricate and irregularly shaped boxes look like they were expensive.

Whatever the reason, the business cards that have replaced those boxes don't have the same appeal. I'll grab one when I walk into a restaurant, but then it just sits in my wallet until the corners round and I dump them out on my dresser like playing cards. The restaurant Rolodex doesn't have nearly the romance as my bowl of matches. I need that strike of sulfur to ignite my memories.

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19 comments
Missmaei
Missmaei

i recently purchased a clay vase from a thrift store filled to the brink with corks of pricey vintages of anothers red and white journey. My friend and I road mapped quite an amazing story by googling them all. The decline of matchbooks make me nostalgic, a road now less traveled

GMR
GMR

I like the responses.  Almost all are postive but as with any of these blogs there are always one or two people who throw a "turd in the punchbowl".  I too enjoy and still enjoy collecting matchbooks.  For the record I do not presently and have never smoked.  Like others commented the matches are like a photo album, sparking memory's of a visit to a favorite restaurant or bar.  I also agree business cards don't cut it. Matchbooks are like a work of art in that it's amazing what someone can put on a small canvas.  In the Dallas area check out Diego's Tex-Mex in Westlake.  They have a simple 20 strike matchbook with their name on them.  I too have several glass vases full of matches I've collected in my travels.

Gus Micthem
Gus Micthem

Aaaaa Grapevine, the bar not the cafe or the town and Adairs

Great Matchbooks ! and before Cell phones a grate place to write that chicks number 

therrick
therrick

What I noticed in Dallas before the smoking ban went into effect is that a lot of places just started using blank white or black matchbooks anyways.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

So I went home yesterday and grabbed my matchbook jar.  The wife and started going through them, we found a matchbook from Sahara, which reminded us of our first trip to Vegas and winning $1200 on a slot machine our last night there.  We found another book from the Groovy Mule in Denton which borought back memories of our first time drinking Mule Fuel together.

jxw
jxw

What is interesting about matchbooks, now that fewer people smoke, is that approximately 80% of those who pick up a matchbook (or matchbox) do not smoke.  Of the smokers who pick up a matchbook, less than 50% use it to light a cigarette.  I agree with Scott, matchbooks are still the best way to remember the name of a place.  Business cards do not quite make the grade.  Yes, I have a number of glass jars around the house filled with matchbooks and matchboxes..

Bev Garvin
Bev Garvin

Matchbooks & Wine Corks I collect them.  Now I have PLENTY of wine corks, matchbooks not so much.  Now I only find them when I travel which is still cool but I miss them too.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I don't miss matchbooks; because they come with "stanky" smokers.  Only thing more irritating than a smoker, is a person on a bicycle in the road....with tight bike shorts, and a fat arse!

Mervis
Mervis

Plus, did you ever try to fashion a roach clip out of a business card????

just sayin'
just sayin'

Back in the day, my junk drawer that was filled with matches was like a game of Russian Roulette. There was a 5 in 6 chance that a girl would dig in there for matches and come out with something from a nice restaurant or a cool bar. But there was always the chance for that 1 live round that was from The Mens Club or Babydolls.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

Now you can collect Valet tickets

mark
mark

I remember hearing that many bars switched to nameless matchbooks due to liability. Apparently, when a person(s) does something stupid due to being "over served" the matchbooks can be used as evidence to charge the bar. Seems like a bit of a stretch. Anybody else hear something like that?

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

My stats say that 100% of those stats are from your butt.

Joe Tone
Joe Tone

As the Deadspin guys would say: +1

Nick R.
Nick R.

Well played, Jon. Well played. 

jxw
jxw

So what do your stats say?  Mine are based on an article I read several years ago.  From personal observation, I would say they are pretty accurate.  Always willing to hear about later research.

jxw
jxw

I gave a look but couldn't find the article.  This was just a comment or quote in a longer article about whether matchbooks are going to go the way of sugar packets (with the names of restaurants, hotels, whatever, on them).  I do remember the quote and from my observations since, it does seem accurate.  On the other hand, you do raise an interesting point -- did the person being quoted pull those figures out of his/her butt?  Good question, but I suspect we will never know for sure. 

Alice Laussade
Alice Laussade

I was just trying to call your butt knowledgeable.

More importantly: There's a matchbooks article that studied people who pick up matchbooks?!? I want to read that please tell me where.

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