Great restaurants should be protected, at least as much as whales and trees.
I'm not big on passing new legislation. I figure we have plenty already. But I think we ought to consider the passage of a Restaurant Preservation Ordinance.

Breathes there a more woeful man in the world of travel than he who returns with salivating anticipation to a favorite restaurant after years of painful, longing separation only to find it closed?

This sad fate befell me recently. Worse, I was in the company of my 11-year-old son, Sam, so I couldn't break down and weep for fear that he might think his dad had lost his marbles. It occurred one terrible afternoon in Atlanta when I stared in disbelief at the empty shell that had been Aleck's Barbecue Heaven.

Aleck's held a legendary spot in our household. I had regaled Sam with stories about Aleck's since he was a toddler. I like to think that through my repeated descriptions, the tiny 'cue shack had gained a certain mythological status, and I hope that in Sam's mind's eye the place was shrouded in mist, like something in a fairy tale. And then Goldilocks sat down with the three bears at the magical barbecue shack, where they polished off a pile of tender, juicy ribs and Goldilocks said, "They're just right," and the bears smacked their lips in joyful agreement and everybody lived happily ever after.

I had wanted him to conceive of Aleck's in such an exalted manner because, in the end, there are few true shrines in this world. Aleck's was one of them. I wanted him to walk through its rusted screen door with the proper reverence.

But here we were, in the car, driving up and down the street in disbelief.

"It was here, I swear," I said, driving slowly, leaning forward over the steering wheel. "What's the address again?"