Thursday, December 27, 2018

The End of an Era, Indeed


           
                                                                          (photo courtesy of epagaFOTO)

            April will mark 19 years that I have been back in Kansas City, and to be fair, use of the word “back” there is not geographically honest.

            I bounced around a bit in my youth and any previous area dwellings were all on the Kansas side, but the far reaches of the city that go north, span east, trickle west, and run south are all rooted in this great, great city of ours. It’s not better. It’s not the best. It is not bad and it is certainly not good. Kansas City is a great city for more reasons than I care to list and you care to read. It’s home to many, a lot of whom don’t live here anymore.

            I was once one of those and just as I was gone long enough to start feeling like my new home was home, I was called back to the City of Fountains, the Paris of the Plains.


            After spending a few days getting settled in to the house my girlfriend at the time had selected (with the help of my father) to rent, the two of us flew to Atlanta to participate in her sister’s wedding, and upon our return it was past time to find a job.

            One of my first walk-in stops was The 75th Street Brewery, where I got an immediate interview with a fella by the name of Steve Kerner. These were of course the good old days wherein a person could walk in to a place, fill out an application, and maybe even get to talk to a person. I could be wrong, but I feel like a lot of places of employment went away from having printed applications available so that those on-the-spot conversations could all but be eliminated. Anyway…at the conclusion of our sit-down he said he’d love to hire me but didn’t have the room; I should talk to Jeremy down at McCoy’s.

            Executive Chef Jeremy Lane joined me at one of the high tops to the west of the bar (I’ve been gone too long to remember most table numbers), gave my application a once-over, and said, “Shit, man. Can you start tomorrow?”

            That was a Wednesday. The following evening I clocked in for my first shift on Saute.

            And I loved it.

            The crew immediately welcomed me (a guero that spoke Spanish). I met Gerardo, who basically ran the dinner-service crew, and Willem (the diminutive, gay Guatemalteco who owned Pantry, Everardo on dish, Sous Chef Steve Woods, General Manager Terry Trombetti, and manager Kathi Rohlfing (who once drove me to the emergency room after I sliced my hand open). Funny story about Gerardo: He was one of the most polite people I have ever known. He could take the heat of most any rush. He let stress and grief from servers roll off of his shoulders, and would take on any task put on his plate during any shift. The one thing that always irked him, though, was Bread Service, or as they later came to be known, Public House Dinner Rolls.

            “I tell ‘ou what,” he said to me in the middle of a Sunday-evening dinner service. “I no think I ever gone quit, but if I do it probably be for that.”

            Rolls went for a buck, I think, and you’d have to stop what you’re doing all of the time, get the pie-tinned product out of its plastic bag, brush it with liquid butter, and toss it in the convection oven for three or four minutes. They were a perpetual pain while trying to run the broiler station, which meant you called out tickets to Saute, grilled meats, assembled most entrees, ladled soups, and managed the live-wood fire. I think servers thought they could be heated and served in 30 seconds, so inevitably there was almost always someone standing on Expo asking for their rolls, and if they were busy and so were you, it wasn’t difficult to forget about them and have them burn.

            The next 10 days or so flew by. I got to know Carly Hubbell, Niccole Bauer, and Shannon Bonner on the floor, not to mention Walter, Ken, and Jacob. I met Todd Laddish behind the bar, and Jason Gerken, who, the first time he poured me a post-shift pint went to charge me. When I asked him about the obligatory shift beer, he said, “Oh, shit, man. You work here?”

            A week or so in Jeremy penciled me in for Expo on Saturday and Sunday morning, having recalled that I had experience doing it at my previous post. Saturday, having been fairly uneventful left me with my guard down for Sunday, which featured a 24-plus item brunch menu in addition to full-menu service. To call that shift a nightmare would’ve been an understatement. I tried to keep myself out of the weeds and kept having to run circles around Terry, who couldn’t contain his own sense of fluster as the kitchen struggled to stay afloat.

            He recognized the situation and told me to tell him to stay out of my way and vanished just long enough to return to the line to say, “Jeremy, Mr. Westhphal’s Huevos are cold.”

            Oh, the Paul Rudd irony.

            Anyway…by early/mid summer, Jeremy was relieved of his duties, for reasons that still remain a mystery (beyond temper-related speculations) to me. Steve kind of held the ship afloat for the time being and the decision to bring in Terry Barkley was made. The details that transpired beyond said decision are a tale for another time, and after a hot, sweaty, sockless-moccasin moment, Steve was promoted to Executive Chef, and one of their first moves was to offer me Steve’s Sous Chef position.

            I was flattered for one reason: I was really, really good at running crews and cooking shit the way I’d been shown to cook it, but I knew very little about cooking shit from a blank canvas. Over the course of the next few years I would splatter that paint everywhere, but at the time I was pleased as punch. Mr. Trombetti made me the offer, and not long after he, too, was gone, and replacing him was the infamous Kevin Kimm.

            Enough for the moment, though, about those still-2000 details. I’d been either unofficially or officially running lines in sundry Colorado pubs for the previous five years, and I was now in a big city, quasi-responsible for the success of a big kitchen’s output in said city’s primary entertainment district.

            It was pretty comforting and pretty overwhelming at the same time.

            I was also trying to manage my first go at cohabitation in the very few non-sleeping hours I was spending at home. It was tough to participate in home-related things as I attempted to juggle my new responsibility, some of which was successful, some of which was not.

Mr. Westphal turned out to be a guy named James that used to G.M. for a company by the name of KC Hopps. His partner in crime, a guy by the name of Mark Kelpe, had Corporate Chef’d the Hopps operation. With the silent partnership of a Minneapolis cat by the name of Marty Collins, they broke off from the organization and made McCoy’s their own thing. Someone (probably Mark) hired a Sous Chef named Brian to join me and Steve. He was a Johnson County Community College graduate that presented well, but really just wanted to do his own thing. Perhaps he sensed my lack of confidence and decided that he should be over me. One day he stuck me on the omelet bar for Sunday brunch. I’d never made an omelet in my life.

“Just go do it, man,” he said, which resulted in me standing there on the stage panicking until the first customer rolled up, at which point I fled to retrieve him.

“Aw, Jesus, man,” he said.

Brian’s McCoy’s stay lasted about as long as it takes to smoke an American Spirit cigarette as he, during the interview process, failed to mention that he was an epileptic. He had a couple seizures on shift, the third of which was allegedly on Saute while holding a chef knife. Ambulances, fire trucks, etc. came -- I was told -- and he was never heard from again.

Eventually a cat by the name of Josh Linn was hired.

Josh was one of my favorite people I’ve ever known in the restaurant business. He liked to cook, he liked to drink, he liked to burn some cheeba, and he liked girls. His favorite ingredient was fresh basil, and he used to always say, “It’s got the perfect amount of fresh basil.”

He is, to this day, saved in my phone as “fresh basil.”

The two of us worked with Steve for a minute until Steve left to open Kona Grill on The Plaza. After a number of months, I was approached with the opportunity to take the Executive Chef position.

I was just about as floored as I’d been when approached with the Sous Chef position.

In fairness to myself, two years had passed by this point, and I’d grown quite a bit.

Regardless, I declined.

“I need a guy,” I said in the interview, “that can take me to the next level. I’ve plateaued again. I’m tired of plateauing. I want to get to the point where I know a ton of stuff and can comfortably experiment. Teach myself.”

I won’t speak for anyone, but I think my answer surprised everyone, myself included.

In, though, came Lon Froneberger.

And things were good. Really good. For some time.

Dude taught me about mother sauces, how to finish soups, create unique specials, hold the staff to higher standards, etc. Ultimately, he led me to that horse’s water and armed me with the necessary tools and knowledge to splatter that blank canvas, were I ever so inclined to do so.

Beyond that, though, life had transpired in a number of ways.

My relationship had ended, I’d moved in with a buddy, endured a totally bananas 10 days without power after a crazy ice storm, walked in to a full bar at 11:00 on a Truck Stop Tuesday and asked Dave Avitable what the hell was going on on September, 11, 2001.

“Dude,” he said. “You don’t know? They just crashed a plane in to one of the twin towers.”

And that was only the beginning.

I, unbeknownst to me over the years to come, earned myself the reputation of Line Nazi, after many, many months of witnessing food being given away.

One night, during an Open Mic, former server Matt Brunner, doing a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” saw me exit the kitchen and approach the bar for a shift beer, and instead of the chorus’ “Hoo Hoo!” he sang “Upcharge!”

There was the Jimmy Sullivan era, which is really a whole volume in and of itself.

Not in a bad way. Not at all. Great guy.

He just entered the McCoy’s scene as a long-haired Texas liberal that would occasionally pass out on the sidewalk or in the Brew House mash tun. He liked the tweeds. A lot. In the end, he married a hostess named Lindsay, had a couple of babies with her, cut his hair, and became a right-wing puppet of sorts. He now (last I saw him) manages at Grunauer and is still a great guy, regardless of the political affiliations he now embraces.

There’s his 30-Minute Recess era, which was a band he and fellow servers Adam Boyd and Dan Talmadge formed. They were -- at least in one of their minds -- bigger than life, itself.

There was Raunda Revonna (or Revonna Nutt, or whatever her real name is/was) prior to marriage, and the prolonged whisperings surrounding a personal-life scenario that, for a hot minute, seemed insane. There was Skip Flynn and his coffee-mug situation. There was Ken’s boyfriend Matt Heapes. Big, tall, afro’d Steven, all of the Coyote Grill transplants that included a kid named Nick that later killed himself. A kid named Adam Carollo (I think, that maybe also killed himself). There was Ron Thompson, his lip curl and his hair ruffling. There was Justin Warring and his hilariously bizarre tagging situation.

Megan Brockman O’Hara and her (one-time) husband Tatten. Tatten’s brother Wesley. Lisa Wilkinson and her Joe Randa obsession, Ilisa Whitten and her Jason Gerken story, April Lemon and her challenges participation, Scott Phelan (rest in peace) and his temper, for lack of a better word.

There was Matt McClain, Rich McKenney, Tristan Blackann, Jim Liggon, Erika Wilson, Jamie Zerr, and probably a few other Front-of-the-House managers whose names escape me right now.

There is/was longtime staple Ricardo Rizo, Aaron Corsiglia, Jasin McVicker, and so many others.

To say that listing names does zero to account for the awesomeness that each of these people are as individuals and elements to the McCoy’s story fabric is the understatement of the establishment’s storied history.

There was Dylan Brown, who has always been a legend in his own mind. There was the intelligent John Ingle, his Force-like influence, and his occasional tantrums. There was James “Tad” Borgman, Spencer “Billy Ray” Valentine, Alex Eriksen, Lisa Moran, Rich Kasyjanski, and of course the dozens and dozens of amazing people that came after my/our time.

In the kitchen there was Andres Escobar on Pantry, Hector Orozco on Broiler, Juan “Canica” Lopez, Luis Fierro, Mario and Martin (dish/prep, respectively), and of course, the Cuevas brothers, Alfredo “Freddy”, Jorge, and ‘Lupe. There was Angel (back in the day), Daniel Breedlove (who Sous Chef’d with us for a minute), Kelli “Fruit Loops” Daniels, Tony Moore, Isidro Mondragon, and a massive handful of other awesome guys and girls that made that kitchen run for years.

There was the review I had with Mark Kelpe who presented me with one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever been given: a copy of the late Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential in which Mark so thoughtfully inscribed wishes for my writing dreams. There was a post-employment moment I had with James Westphal who’d stopped in to pick up his carryout order. I’d been sharing some tidbits about my current job, how I’d been thinking of returning to restaurants, and James, who can very much appear to be in a hurry when he either a) is, or b) wants you to think he is, paused, and looked at me.

“Don’t ever get back in,” he said.

There was the cocaine crowd versus the weed crowd. One was very cliquey and secretive; the other much more obvious. And “versus” isn’t a fair word there. There wasn’t a rival of any type. I just used to live on one side of that block and never even knew the other existed. It’s a funny thing to learn, especially in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.

There was sexual harassment. I mean there has always been sexual harassment and probably always will be, but for many years it almost seemed accepted in the restaurant industry. Or at least it had a perpetual cheek turned from it. My time with the McCoy’s group included an incident in which a scenario happened, the victim reported it, and the offender was immediately shown the door. It was a very big, very bold, somewhat silent statement that was made within an organization and long before the world became as H.R.-y as it is today.

There was Jim Griffin, Jillian Taggart, Katie Dugan, Katie Flynn, Courtney “C-Mac” McCoy, Nancy Anne and her short-time noodle-shop colleague, Joel-Pete, Paul Janasz, Sous Chef Nate, La Burra y el Mono, ‘Temo’, Don P, el Cantante, Rogelio Sagrero, Salvador (who once threw a knife at me) who married red-head Mary the prep cook (or at least had a baby with her), Johnnie, the old-school prep cook who would come in on weekends just to make the old version of the ice-cream sandwich.

There was the Muffaletta, the Beer-a-Misu, the Big Easy, the Pasta La Med, and so many other unique dishes. There were clipboard specials and the infamous Cajun Boil.

There was the mindless hours we all spent spraying the mats at the end of a close.

There was Kevin Beaver, long-time prep cook, who was brutally murdered one morning walking to work (R.I.P.), and there was Keith Hewitt, who deserves more time and space than he’s going to get here, but his story begins with a bit of irony in that, upon my move back to K.C., I’d interviewed for a kitchen gig at Charlie Hooper’s. With Keith. He didn’t hire me. A number of years later, I sat with him in the Plot Room at McCoy’s, and eventually, we hired him. He denies the Hooper’s-interview part to be true, but I’m pretty sure it happened.

One of our signature McCoy’s moments together, though, came at a time when we’d been getting our asses kicked on a Saturday. So many tickets we could hardly prep. At one point I knocked out a batch of Cole Slaw and took it to its appropriate place in the walk-in. It’d already been done, but had not been marked off of the prep list.

“Who’s the,” I said to Lon, “jackass that would prep a fucking item and not mark it off?”

It’d been Hewitt. He’d heard me. He’d not been pleased. We’ve laughed about it dozens of times since, though. Anyway, Keith put up with a lot of my shit, especially when I stepped down for graduate school and Expo’d Saturday lunch and dinner service. He tolerated my demands for excellence from the kitchen staff even though I no longer held an official leadership position. He tolerated my temporary return to the McCoy’s family after I briefly left it and he still considers himself part of the family even though things didn’t go exactly as he’d liked near the end of his time.

Regarding said detail, Keith once said to me, “McCoy’s is my baby and it’s been my baby for 10 years.” I remembered not liking the way those words had sounded because I’d viewed it as my baby for so many years. He’d been right, though. He ran that kitchen for much longer than I did and did so under numerous and varying flavors of transition.

Back out front there was Tobias Case, and of course the legendary Keith Thompson, who remains one of my favorite human beings in history. There was Kesa Swadley and her relatively long stand on Expo. There was Kevin Kimm’s replacement in Jay Fry, and his successor Cory Puckett, who remains as Director of Operations for Beer KC, that oversees McCoy’s, The Foundry (R.I.P.), Sailor Jack’s (R.I.P.), One80 (R.I.P.), Beer Kitchen, and Char Bar.

There were McCoy’s mornings versus McCoy’s nights. There were mids and the feeling of never going home. There was always the oddity of meeting people who knew a different, older version of McCoy’s than I’d known. There was the merch’ case, which was always full of some slick swag.

There were employee meals like Jasin McVicar’s Pot Roast (hold the mushrooms) and his “flavor country” comment he’d make if we had julienned veg available. There was Spencer Valentine and his Blackened Chickened Sandwich (no lettuce, no tomato, no mayo?) with a side Caesar, Justin Warring’s Fish ‘N’ Chips with a side of wilted spinach, Cynthia’s Mac/Broc but in a pasta bowl. There was Adam Boyd’s Southwest Burger followed by Milk & Cookies. There have been those that ordered their meals for in-house but then snuck it in to a to-go box to avoid the $0.50 charge and there were literally hundreds of server meal checks, wherein they’d approach Expo in search of their food even if they only rang it in three minutes ago and you were on the line by yourself.

And there was of course…Mom’s Mac & Cheese.

So many names, so many dishes, so many stories.

One name in particular has so many stories attached to it, and that name would be none other than the aforementioned Dave Avitabile.

I’m 99.9 percent certain that ol’ D.P.A. was the only employee to literally work there for the entire duration of McCoy’s’ existence. He opened it; he closed it.

Dave was a special breed of co-worker. He had about the biggest heart of any guy you’d ever know, but he didn’t necessarily prefer for the rules of the place to apply to him, which was whatever, as long as you could figure out your own way to not let that bother you. Dave used to like to show up nice and early for his shift, have his coffee, read the paper, and set up the bar. He’d perpetually sneak bacon out of the third-pan on the line, answer the telephone in his cheery, special fashion, and keep his half-burnt Red stuck in the thing on the wall outside the alley door.

For a stretch he’d come in on Sunday mornings and help me and Lon set up for Sunday brunch. He had a penchant for giving away shifts or getting someone to come in early to relieve him, and he probably worked every single St. Patrick’s Day McCoy’s hosted. He always knew the rumors and was occasionally selective regarding with whom he’d share what tidbits. Dave was a McCoy’s cornerstone. He and his bar towel slung over his shoulder, along with so many other admirable attributes of his time there will be missed.

And of course, on a personal level, there was my wife.

The silly story that so few probably know involves me clacking my tongs at her through the Expo window.

“Saviano,” I said. “Get your fuckin’ bike outta my dry storage!”

Apparently she decided she would marry me.

And marry me she did.

I mean, marry me she did a few years after we’d met, which came after a brief stint with a Jameson-soaked tatted-up server named Samantha Vigliaturo, an excursion with a hostess that may or may not’ve been the sibling of a former manager, and so on and so forth.

We got together, though, and we dated. We closed down Tanner’s many a night over Parliament Lights and Miller Lite bottles, Kevin always taking care of us.

I moved out of my buddy’s place and stepped down from my Sous Chef position upon acceptance to graduate school. Her McCoy’s tenure ended and I continued as a line cook and an expediter. We had our rehearsal dinner in front of the stage (section five?) under the culinary expertise of Jack August.

We got married and stopped at McCoy’s en route to our reception for a wedding-party shot. We honeymooned and at the end of that summer we stopped in for lunch at 810 Zone on The Plaza. Former McCoy’s server Jen Tucker was training a hostess that day. She’d become the Director of Restaurant Operations for KC Hopps.

“Dude,” she said. “What’re you doin’?”

I caught her up and explained that Chef August had just fired a kid named Vito (who’d been his Sous Chef) and offered the position to me (I’d graduated one week prior to our wedding) and needed full-time employment once again.

“I got a job for you,” she said.

Against the warnings of many, I left McCoy’s to become the executive chef of Hopps’ 75th Street Brewery, the place I’d applied seven years prior, the place that’d landed me employment at McCoy’s.

I think I left the McCoy’s family for the Hopps gig because my time at McCoy’s had given me a significant dose of perspective. No longer was I a high-school kid collecting a check for washing dishes or slinging pizzas. No longer was I a college student supporting myself by helping run a kitchen full-time, and no longer was I a kitchen guy in my 20s with a ton of experience trying to find his niche in the industry. I’d found it. I’d developed a high level of awareness regarding my strengths, my weaknesses, what teamwork, leadership, and customer service looked like, and McCoy’s had helped me connect all of those dots.

I took the Hopps gig, and to this day it amazes me that that position didn’t end our marriage before it was a year old. Tucker fired me for moonlighting at McCoy’s on St. Patrick’s Day, which, as the saying goes, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

A Hopps higher-up phoned a McCoy’s higher-up immediately after my termination, gently threatening them to not hire me, which immediately resulted in a McCoy’s higher-up phoning me to ask me to be their opening chef of their new concept, The Foundry.

“(Hopps higher-up) has a special place in hell,” my wife would later say.

The Foundry was amazing. I met Ethan Brown, a cute girl named Rebecca, a slew of interesting back-of-the-house characters, some wacky front-of-the-house folks, and it was during the unfolding of that concept that I really developed an appreciation for the Westphal/Kelpe/Dan Salazar team of restaurant vision. We hired Jeff Radloff to help us run the back of the house, as well as a lead line cook named Morgan.

The Foundry experience was nothing shy of fantastic, but the offer to me had been pre-labeled as temporary and by October (we started in May), my time had come to an end.

After The Foundry I left the restaurant industry to do social work.

I mean, it wasn’t that deliberate; I was out of work for two months and then found a job doing social work. That lasted three years and during that span my wife and I had a baby girl, who -- on the day McCoy’s closed its doors for good turned eight years old. When the heavy-on-the-P.T.O. appeal of social-work life eventually translated to too broke to pay the bills, I was considering a change. The former Assistant General Manager of The 75h Street Brewery happened to reach out to me and happened to’ve bought a restaurant. I went and opened that thing then opted for a more neighborly locale in Lew’s Grill & Bar. I did that until we decided to try and have a second baby.

We bought a house and didn’t take long to get pregnant. Almost three years after the birth of our daughter we had a son. If you’re not doing the math at home, he’s five now.

During my tenure there I used to go to McCoy’s on my days off to dine with many members of my family. When my family was only available on days I worked, I’d step out of the kitchen and go sit with them. When I’d have to go in and run the show mostly alone on Thanksgiving Night or Christmas Night, my friends and family would come down to McCoy’s. McCoy’s used to give (and maybe still does) awesome anniversary gifts. They offered excellent benefits up until the time the state of our country made that virtually unaffordable to small operations. Perhaps they still did offer excellent benefits until the bitter end. They offered them to me for the duration of both of my employments with them.

Anyway…after my tenure we used to take our daughter (with friends or family or both) to McCoy’s. A go-to for so many occasions. That didn’t change when our son was born. And on many Mondays this year, McCoy’s has been the post-piano-lesson dinner destination of choice for my children, mostly because they could get cheeseburgers and fries and their dad’s baby picture was on the wall, but still…

The closing of McCoy’s is insane, and I’ll tell you why.

It’s not insane in a way that differs from other restaurant-closing stories. Restaurants close all of the time.

It’s insane because it made a two-decade-plus run.

Yes. Companies do that and better all of the time.

The restaurant industry is different than companies, though. In more ways than you could imagine. Of course it has similarities, but the differences are, um, remarkable.

I mean, I’m one dude. I grew professionally in dozens of ways within the McCoy’s walls and an immeasurable amount of that growth followed me beyond them. I participated in an underground element of society for years, developed ire towards myself from a significant portion of an entire facet of my colleagues (and later overcame it to the fullest courtesy of Mark Kelpe), obtained a degree, and got married all at one job. And I did so working nearly double the hours of the traditional American work force.

I mean, these’re the highlights I share. There are plenty of others and plenty of scenarios in which I was probably not the most presentable version of a human being, but nevertheless…

I learned to be a person at McCoy’s. I learned what a Profit & Loss Statement is (Thank you, James Westphal), I learned about real, true customer service (Thank you, Mark Kelpe), and I learned about what it means to cook food in a way that you can almost taste the consumer’s satisfaction when doing so (Thank you, Lon Froneberger).

I learned a lot of other things to, like what it feels like to run a station and an entire kitchen being in the spotlight, knowing that an entire facet of your organization is depending upon you to do your job well and that an entire, perpetually-in-flux portion of the city is deciding whether or not they will return to your place of business based on whether or not you and all of your colleagues produce an above-par on-the-job performance.

I learned that the little things matter.

Sometimes the little things mean showing up to work. Sometimes they mean showing up on time, and sometimes they mean showing up sober. And all of the time they mean showing up caring.

The restaurant industry might be one of the most unique sectors of business in that you can -- like most gigs -- show up for an interview and kill it and immediately or eventually (and often obviously) not give two shits about your job once you have it. You can suffer zero consequences from that post-interview shift and immediately find employment within the industry for literally the entire duration of your career. Meaning, restaurants historically have always needed help, and always hired. Silly as it sounds, though, what sets the good ones apart from the rest is that the good ones do a better job than the rest of putting more value in their employees. And McCoy’s, to the best of my knowledge, always did that. Or at least they always intended to.

Anyway…the restaurant industry isn’t for everyone and it typically isn’t for those it is for forever. It’s a hard, demanding gig, and the gems you can pluck from it don’t necessarily end with rainbows and unicorns.

Mine don’t.

My marriage didn’t go the direction I imagined. I haven’t found the answers to life because I worked in restaurants. I did, however, learn a tremendous amount about being a person because of it, and I logged roughly a third of my entire work career in it. I don’t have any tips or secrets or words of wisdom because of my time, but I did learn a lot about myself, and I became a person that has a Master’s degree, a husband, and a father while doing it.

I won’t sit here and say I wouldn’t trade it because what I know is what I know, but I do think it was a great ride.

In truth, I should watch my past-tense use there because I could find myself unemployed at any second and need to fall back on it, but for now…it was a great ride.

I’m not the first to say this and I certainly won’t be the last, but the restaurant industry prepares you for life, be it in the moment, later on, or both. It just does. And I don’t think it’s often that a place is around long enough for this many waves of folks to float through it. I mean, three, if not four, generations have logged substantial time at McCoy’s. Its closing has been (rightfully so) recognized as the end of an era.

If you ever worked at McCoy’s and found it unpleasant then you either weren’t cut out for the industry and that was the job that keyed you in to that, or there was something going on in your life at the time that made you not a fit for, well, society.

McCoy’s was a fantastic place to work, to be a guest, and to just be. Live music on the stage (Note: Oh, the Prime-Rib Thursdays with Greg Meise!), cigars in the Plot Room, springtime lunch on the patio, or the parking lot on St. Patrick’s Day.

What a place. What an experience.

Sunday night I joined a few former colleagues and many more that came both before and after me and we toasted the end of a terrific establishment.

What a run, Forty Fifty-Seven.

What. A run.

Thank you to everyone that made my life at McCoy’s both possible and amazing.