I woke up this morning to the sad news that Jim Venincasa, owner of Seamus McDaniel’s restaurant in Dogtown, had passed away last night. To my knowledge, I never actually met Jim, and yet I am saddened today, as though I had lost a friend. You see, Seamus McDaniel’s isn’t just a place to grab a bite to eat to us…it’s part of our family’s history.
When Ryan and I first moved to St. Louis after we got married, we lived within walking distance of Seamus, just a few blocks down Clayton Avenue. It was the first restaurant we went to in the city, and quickly became our favorite. We couldn’t eat there often back then, because Ryan was in grad school and we, as is often the case for newlyweds, had no money. Whenever we did have a few extra dollars and a reason to celebrate, however, Seamus was one of only two restaurants we ever bothered going to, and we relished every bite.
Time moved by quickly, as it does, and I remember going out to eat with Turkey in tow when he was only a few weeks old. Seamus was the restaurant where we discovered that a high chair could be flipped upside down to create a sling for his baby carrier. So he joined us, too small to really enjoy it, but with us at the table just the same…one of our first meals out as a family of three.
We moved out of the Dogtown neighborhood when Turkey was just a few months old, but we have continued to go back to Seamus, watching the table we needed get bigger as our family continued to grow. Moose, in particular, has loved Seamus for as long as we can remember, calling it “Six Fans” (because of the ceiling fans in the dining room in which we usually eat), when he was younger, and speech was still difficult for him. As parents, we were thrilled he was talking and identifying something to us! Seamus even symbolized his successes and progress in spite of autism.
I remember going out for dinner a week before Chickadee was born, and thinking how happy I would be to come back with her in tow, just as we had with Turkey that long-ago day, once we were a family of seven. And come back we have…Seamus is still our favorite restaurant, almost fifteen years after the first time we ate there. Even though we now have to make the drive across the river from Belleville, it remains the place we go when we’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary or just life, or when we simply want the best burger we’ve ever eaten. When friends and family visit from out-of-town, we inevitably gather there…an even larger, louder group, eager to enjoy some great food, great company, and a great time.
I’m sorry that I never actually got to meet Jim, and even sorrier that I never had the chance to tell him what his restaurant means to us. I do hope, however, that the next time we stop in, I might get to talk to his wife, Susan, and tell her how glad we are that she and Jim created something that became part of our family’s story.