Eating a bowl of Teriyaki Stix at Lagoon earlier this week was, if you’ll forgive the pretentious literary reference, a wholly Proustian moment. With that first bite of chicken coated in the iconic sweet teriyaki sauce of my youth, I wasn’t flooded with memories so much as I was flooded with the feelings those memories evoked.

Lagoon — a family-owned amusement park in Davis County — was a pillar of my Utah childhood, as were the Hogi Yogi/Teriyaki Stix franchises which sold hoagie sandwiches, frozen yogurt and teriyaki chicken and rice bowls.

Deseret News feature writer Meg Walter eats at Teriyaki Stix at the Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington on Monday, June 12, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News

My family visited Lagoon for my brother’s birthday every year, not because he was the favorite child (debatable), but because he had a summer birthday during the 145-day span when Lagoon is open. His birthday was the highlight of my year, every year. This annual Lagoon pilgrimage was far better than anything I could hope to do on my birthday which is in February, the stupidest month.

One year, a few days before my brother’s birthday, I dreamed that Lagoon shut down all the roller coasters, and it is, to this day, the most vivid nightmare I’ve ever had.

We also occasionally took advantage of ward Lagoon Day, when all the members of our Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation bought admission tickets at a discounted price and gathered for sliced watermelon and potluck salads under the Lagoon pavilions. The day a group of Beehives — the 12- and 13-year-old girls — invited me, a mere 11-year-old, to ride the Ferris wheel with them was the day I proudly crossed over from child to pre-teen.

But eventually, my brother wanted to do something other than Lagoon for his birthday and ward Lagoon Day either stopped or we just stopped going so my Lagoon trips became infrequent.

Yogi, not Bear or Berra

Around this time, a new shopping center opened a mile from our Provo home and within that shopping center lived a Hogi Yogi/Teriyaki Stix. I’d had the occasional titular hogis, yogis and teriyaki bowls a few times before, but the summer that particular Hogi Yogi opened is when I’m sure I became their most frequent customer. It’s not an official title I was given and I don’t have exact numbers, but my friend and I rode our bikes to The Yog every day and spent our babysitting money, which we kept in shoeboxes under our beds, on turkey sandwiches, blackberry frozen yogurt, and, when we were feeling exotic, a chicken teriyaki bowl.

But then school started again and the bike rides to Hogi Yogi stopped.

Teriyaki Stix became part of my life again in the Missionary Training Center, where I ate a chicken bowl every Friday for the nine Fridays I was there, a welcome reprieve from the cafeteria food served the other days of the week, and second only to the infamous cordon bleu served on Sundays which, yes, look like decapitated hamster corpses, but are delicious.

Then, besides the occasional chicken bowl in the Cougareat — Brigham Young University’s food court — Teriyaki Stix faded from my life, and as it would seem, the lives of many others after the company was sold in 2009.

Hogi Yogis and Teriyaki Stix disappeared from the Wasatch Front like some sort of fast-casual rapture.

The one near my childhood home was replaced with a Kneaders. There are rumors of a Redlands, California, location, and another in South Jordan, but when I called the numbers listed on archived Yelp pages, both were disconnected.

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered one Teriyaki Stix still holds strong.

Eat your heart out, Marcel

Eating a bowl of Teriyaki Stix in Lagoon instantly became a primal need. I was a salmon that needed to swim upstream. A sea turtle that needed to get from sand to water. A monarch that needed to flutter to Mexico. Apparently, I was evolutionarily programmed to crave a chicken bowl and the sounds of roller coaster screams and midway-game buzzers.

My moment arrived on Monday, and I felt as though I was walking through a blissful, nostalgic dream as I made my way past Dracula’s Castle, where once, a Lagoon employee, holding a flashlight beneath his chin to illuminate his face, jumped out from a hidden corner of the ride, making me scream at a decibel I previously thought was outside the human range.

Past the Samurai, where my husband lost his glasses after they whipped off his face during a particularly violent whirl. Past the Sky Coaster, on which I spent my last babysitting dollars from the shoebox under my bed during the eighth grade end-of-school-year trip.

And then, there it was, the Teriyaki Stix shack, across from the Whac-A-Mole, and next to the Hoops Shoot game.

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I approached slowly and introduced myself to the team of not-children-but-definitely-not-adults behind the cash register who looked puzzled by the presence of this mom without children accompanied by a photographer in Lagoon at 11:30 a.m. on a weekday. I asked as nicely as I could where the food came from if all other Teriyaki Stix are no longer in operation. They assured me that they were not reheating meat that had been sitting in the freezer since 2009 and that instead they source their ingredients through a distribution service. That answer was food-poisoning proof enough for me, so I ordered the chicken-and-vegetable combo for me, the spicy chicken bowl for Ryan the photographer, and a large Diet Coke.

Teriyaki Stix is seen at the Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington on Monday, June 12, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News

It tasted just as I remembered it. I don’t know if it was good or bad. It was just a warm bowl of memories that I enjoyed while listening to the sounds of screams from Colossus, which I rode back when it was Lagoon’s newest, fastest and best roller coaster. It was my first real scary ride, and when the hydraulics hissed their final hiss as our car slowed to a stop, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment I’m still chasing to this day.

While I ate the soft zucchini and carrots, I could faintly see the Tidal Wave in the distance, a ride which, legend has it, experienced a technical glitch in the ’90s and operated for eight hours nonstop before technicians could safely stop it and allow the vomit-covered patrons to disembark. (I cannot independently confirm this story since it’s always been told to me by a friend of a friend whose brother’s piano teacher’s son was there that day.)

As I neared the bottom of the bowl I watched teens line up to ride Terroride, the spooky tunnel that smells of damp sheetrock where more than one of my friends experienced their first kiss.

The chicken-and-vegetable combo bowl is more filling than I remembered. Or maybe I can’t put away teriyaki sauce like I once could. But I was bursting, in stomach and in spirit.

As I exited the gates, regretting my final bite and sipping the last dregs of soda from my cup, screams from Rocket, the ride where an adult sitting next to me begged and pleaded for his life mid-drop, echoed through the parking lot.

Proust may have his tea and madeleines, but I have bumper cars and sticky teriyaki fingers. And I’ll take that any day.