Martin Scorsese stokes nostalgia for bygone restaurant chains Lum's and Howard Johnson's
A Robert DeNiro says, "There ain't a better hot dog in America."
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Martin Scorsese's marvelous new movie The Irishman reunites the old gang to tell the saga of Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) from the perspective of Teamsters official and unofficial Mafia hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro). Seeing these iconic actors back together, along with Joe Pesci, through the magic of CGI de-aging is a throwback to the cinema of the 1970s, when Pacino and DeNiro carved their reputations as the best of their generation.
But that is not the only nostalgia at work in The Irishman. The epic also makes you drool for some vintage hot dogs.
One of the big things we learn about Hoffa is that the General President of the Teamsters loved hot fudge sundaes. Pacino spoons several cups of ice cream throughout the movie. Hoffa even savors sundaes in prison. He also enjoys encased meats.
Midway through the story, right after Hoffa gets out of jail, he heads to Miami for a meeting. DeNiro's character caters the affair.
"The first thing I did was, I picked up some chili dogs from Lum's, which Jimmy loved almost as much as ice cream," DeNiro narrates. "The secret is they steam them in beer. There ain't a better hot dog in America."
We know his love for Lum's is not unique. We have written about Lum's before, and we know MeTV fans share a love for those bear-steamed franks. The fast-food chain grew to 450 locations around the country and even purchased Caesar's Palace (it's a wonder the chain did not turn up in the Casino).
Scorsese even shows the beer-steaming process onscreen, as a short-order cook pours a pitcher of beer over the hot dogs on a flat-top grill.
But, by the end of the Seventies, the chain was struggling. Lum's largely vanished in the early Eighties.
The Irishman similarly gave us warm-and-fuzzy stomach growlings for HoJo's. Later in the film, DeNiro and Pesci stay at a Howard Johnson's. In the morning, they eat breakfast in the motel's empty restaurant. The production perfectly recreates the sherbet orange and teal interior of the bygone chain, which was beloved for its "28 Flavors" of ice cream.
When DeNiro fixes himself a coffee, we even see some of those flavors posted on the wall — Banana, Strawberry Ripple, Burgundy Cherry, Butter Pecan.
Today, just one location remains, in Lake George, New York. And all the CGI in the world can't bring Strawberry Ripple back to your mouth.