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The exterior of a Bennigans.In high school, my town’s Bennigan’s was where my friends and I filled up on Cokes, burgers, and Monte Cristos; we flirted, were friend zoned, and convinced the servers it was someone’s birthday when it wasn’t. The chain, which was started by Steak and Ale founder and Pillsbury executive vice president Norman E. Brinker in 1976, was where my parents often took my sisters and me for post-Mass lunches. Those were nervous outings. I didn’t want to get the Monte Cristo’s jelly or powdered sugar on my suit and tie. But overall, Bennigan’s was a series of memories, fuzzy from a halo made of smiles. Those years fell into the seventies-to-nineties halcyon days of the casual-dining chains that revolutionized popular American dining. Brinker and Chili’s founder…

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