Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I’m a big fan of serendipity. You know, those “happy accidents” that can turn an expected experience into something else altogether.

That’s exactly what happened to me yesterday in downtown Tucson. I had planned on checking out an evening of performance art at the Arts Incubator Gallery. The first Monday of every month is supposed to be “7Up” night. This is where the gallery gives seven local performers 10 minutes each on stage for their art.

I had even called the gallery earlier in the week to confirm the time and was told 7:00 p.m. Seven at seven. That should be easy enough to remember. On the appointed Monday I arrived downtown and found a street side parking space near the gallery. But as I approached the galley’s address I was surprised to find a big iron gate guarding the entrance to the front door. Locked, dark and foreboding, there was obviously not going to be any art here tonight, performance or otherwise.

Bummer. Now what? Well, I hadn’t had my dinner yet. Maybe I could cruise back to central Tucson and grab a bite to eat at a restaurant I hadn’t tried yet. Just then a window full of 8x10 flyers caught my eye. I looked up and saw a huge lighted sign. GRILL was all it said.

As I wandered inside it was immediately apparent that this wasn’t going to be your typical homogeneous Applebee’s or Olive Garden dining experience. I was reminded of the diners my father took me to when I was a kid. Chrome rimmed, red vinyl stools lined the central seating area. Booths were available against both side walls.

It wasn’t like I was suddenly transported back in time to when the restaurant was new. No, this place has seen thousands of diners meeting up with friends, reading a newspaper, chatting, getting some relief from the summer heat, and maybe even grabbing a bite to eat. The place has character, like an old friend.

As I sat down at one of the booths I was handed a glass of water and a menu by a very busy but friendly person. The cover of the menu announced I was at GRILL, offering fine dining, full bar, live music, catering, world domination. 100 East Congress Street. Located next to Wig-O-Rama.

I won’t bother listing the types of meals offered. If you’ve ever eaten in a real diner you’ll know the kind of down home, tasty food available at GRILL. Instead, I’ll provide an abridged version of page five of the menu:

Welcome to the Grill! A few things you should know:
THIS IS NOT YOUR HOUSE This is our house. We like it; Grill is a nice place to go, and we are determined to keep it that way. We’re fanatical about it, plum crazy. Please do not move our furniture around, stand on our chairs, mess with our lights, or plug your laptops into our outlets without discussing it with us first. We’ll work with you. Just let us know what you need... well, we might work with you. You can’t sleep here; there are all these motels and hotels nearby, and those nice bus stops we’ve got all over downtown, they’re there for you. We’re more than happy to help you out the door and point you in the right direction if that’s what you need. THE GOLDEN RULE This should be first, or have its own page or something, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. We have so many people here, all the time, lots of different people that are nothing like you, nothing like us. We are really into that. We do not tolerate racism, sexism, ageism… there are so many bad –isms that piss everyone off, but there are lots of good ones too. If you subscribe to a good –ism, that’s great, and we support you in your efforts, but we will frown heavily upon preaching or proselytizing in our restaurant, or even right out front of it. Just treat everyone here with the respect we say they deserve. CHEESE TOTS This doesn’t make sense, but we’re serious about this. We don’t put cheese on potatoes. Not on your tots, nor your fries or mashed potatoes (knishes are a special exception, but don’t ask us to explain why). The rule’s been in place so long that no one here remembers how it started. But tradition is tradition, and we are slaves to tradition. Well, we do adhere to that one thing. AND FURTHERMORE: MIRACLE DIETS, SELF-INFLICTED EATING DISORDERS, ETC. (Atkins, Vegan/Vegetarian, et al) So, you want no carbs, you want only non-stolen, non-animal product, that’s fine. But remember, this is Grill; the grill is the part of the car that killed Bambi, as in Fresh from the, and Hot off the… You do what you want to yourself, we don’t care, but it’s your decision. We serve meat, lots of meat. Here’s how you make plain white rice at home: One part rice, two parts water. Cook for 20 minutes. If you have food allergies, or religious reasons (pigs feet make you think of Satan?), then we’re sympathetic, we’ll do what we can. But hey, we’re not always sure if the soup is vegetarian or not. If there’s the word “VEGETARIAN” in the name, then it’s probably vegetarian. Maybe not. Bacon adds flavor. TATER TOT OR FRENCH FRY IN NOSE MAY COMPLICATE BREATHING (and other food warnings) Grill serves eggs and meat any way you want, but if you order your meat rare or your eggs undercooked, you must recognize you’re taking a risk. You are hereby warned and we are absolved of responsibility. Shellfish is also problematic. But you know that already. Be aware that any food may contain harmful bacteria, and the way to get rid of it is to cook it to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. And forks are dangerous. Don’t put them in or near you eyes. Hot coffee can burn you. Chew your food before swallowing. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Don’t talk to a big man’s girlfriend. Don’t eat off the floor. Put the lid down and lavese las manos. People on cell phones will be assiduously ignored. Do it outside.

As I sat there waiting for my order, I thought of how grateful I am for the Grills out there. Individualistic. Creative. Honest and unpretentious.

Oh, the food’s good too.


Heidi R. said...

The copy from the menu had me LOL!! Add this place to the list of places we have to visit when I come out there too. :) Thanks for the giggles.

d said...


Apologies on the miscommunication regarding 7 UP Performance Art Night for July. 7 UP will return with a vengeance on September 1st, 7pm, at Dinnerware Artspace, 264 E. Congress. Before then, you might be interested in IGNITE TUCSON on July 31st, 7pm, The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress. 15 presenters get 5 minutes, 20 slides at 15 seconds per slide to do a presentation on a topic that they are in awe about. Beer drinking is a must. $5 donation. Then August 2nd, 7pm at Dinnerware Artspace is Lightning and Thunder Fashion Benefit which will be fabulous, just fabulous!
-David Aguirre, Director, Dinnerware Artspace

Robert said...

Thanks for the update David, that's great news! I'll be sure to add these events to my calendar. Thanks also for helping to bring events like these to Tucson.
- Robert