Good Night to a Great Bar
Gone but not forgotten, Clarendon Grill was a place where life happened.
In November, Arlington’s Clarendon Grill closed after 22 years. Even locally, this was not major news — bars close all the time. For many of us who were a part of the Grill, however, it was a significant event. For me, it opened a floodgate of memories.
I first walked into the Grill off the street in the summer of 1998. Fresh out of college with a creative writing degree and consequently no viable job prospects, my only goal of the summer was to get a job that would allow me to move out of my mom’s basement.
I knew I loved the restaurant business, but had barely any experience. Naturally, I thought I should be a bartender. After a day in the city getting turned down left and right, I hopped off the Metro in Clarendon to head home and decided to make one last stop. I thought it was cool that this bar had local art on the walls, and things on the menu like a lamb shank. What the hell, I thought. Maybe they will hire me.
Suddenly there I was, sitting for an interview with Dave Pressley, a culinary school grad who was running the front of the house. Dave said I could never get hired as a bartender, but they needed a server. His honesty was refreshing, and I took the job. In many ways, that interview started my career. I remain grateful that he gave me the time after so many that day had not.
And I was in.
I quickly took on whatever work I could get, other than serving—bar back, host, the occasional bar shift, even security. (Yes, I was a bouncer.) The key in that case was to stay—hide?—behind the head of security, Jeff Mozingo, and just do whatever he said. I managed to remain largely unscathed.
Months later, I was a manager — No. 2 in charge with absolutely no qualifications to be in that role. I had the keys to the bar and the trust of general manager Danny Garcia. It is safe to say that Danny took a big chance giving a 22-year-old kid that kind of responsibility. I tried as hard as I could to not screw it up.