I've got a friend who used to be front of the house manager at a local restaurant and after being unceremoniously dumped by her employer last year, took a job that requires being out of town for days at a time. It makes getting together tougher, so our plans tend to be last minute. As of last night, we were getting together today for lunch and she suggested the Grill at Patterson and Libbie, mentioning that she knew someone there.
Continuing the Freckles' tradition of a blue plate special, today's was liver and onions with mashed potatoes and string beans ($6.95). My grandmother would have ordered that in a heartbeat, but after the overindulgence of the past few days, I had to pass on that classic. Their other special today was chicken pot pie with a salad. It was a good day at the Grill for old-school food.
It turned out that my friend was too modest about "knowing" someone there. I arrived first and took a seat on the enclosed patio (the shade was partially up since it was sprinkling), surprised at how light the lunch crowd was. When the server saw my friend come in, there was much exclaiming. The two guys eating at the table next to us knew her and leaned over to chat; she later mentioned how attractive they both were, but in very different ways (something for everyone!). Three different servers from inside the restaurant proper came out to greet her. A customer walked in and recognized her at once from a former restaurant life.
It was fascinating, like being out with a celebrity. We've been out many times together, but some alignment of planets put a surprising number of long-time restaurant types in one place today. I just sat back and watched and listened. The anecdotes from rva restaurants past was positively fascinating; that's an incestuous world, for sure.
As I ate my spinach salad with pancetta, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and grape tomatoes dressed in balsamic, I imagined eating liver and onions...or even chicken pot pie. The kind of food that was showing up on diner menus with far more frequency, back in the days when all these people reminiscing first got into the restaurant business.
You know, back before balsamic ruled the restaurant world.