I have never stated on this blog where I work, but since the restaurant is closing in two weeks, it’s time. If you happen to be in Queens on a Thursday night, come see me before it’s too late. Quaint closes on June 23rd.–BW
If you have eaten at Quaint restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens on a Thursday night over the last eight years, I was probably your server. I started there on February 27, 2011, just a week after my grandmother died. On my first day at work, it seemed odd to not tell any of my new co-workers why I was so sad and distant, but as a new employee, I focused on table numbers and menu items instead of my emotions. In the beginning, no one at the restaurant knew I was a blogger called The Bitchy Waiter who was taking mental notes on what I may or may not blog about. Eventually, my alter ego became common knowledge and my boss recognized that the online personae was vastly different from the person who clocked in to work each week.
On June 23, Quaint will be closing its doors for good. The restaurant holds the distinction of being the longest I have ever worked at one place, but it’s much more than that. It’s where so many of my stories came from, inspired by customers and co-workers and then heightened into a more entertaining version as I blogged about them. Those stories even turned into a book. I was at Quaint when I got the news that my manuscript had finally fallen into the right hands. Having ignored the “no cell phones on the floor” sign that hung in our locker area, my phone vibrated in my apron pocket. I recognized the number as being that of my agent so I ran outside to answer it.
“Congratulations, Darron,” he said. “I think I found you a publisher. You’re going to be a published author!”
I was on Skillman Avenue right in front of the dry cleaner next door, crying with excitement. When I hung up, I wanted to call my husband, my mom and everyone else I cared about, but instead I went back inside the restaurant to check on Table 9.
Quaint is three blocks from my apartment and working there for so long has made me feel like part of the fabric of my neighborhood. I see my customers at the grocery store, on the train, walking their dogs, and at the gym. I’ve gotten to know them and some of them have become close friends who are now a part of my life far beyond the restaurant. I’ve watched kids grow up there and even though I may have blogged about some of them in a less than positive light, I’ll never forget them. Charley, who was maybe four years old when I first met her and insisted on getting her own booster seat, is now almost a teenager. I saw her on the street a few months ago with some of her friends and a wave of nostalgia washed over me that parents must feel all the time when they see their children growing up. Another family with three daughters have been coming regularly for eight years. I don’t know all of their names, but I remember once how the girls had learned a bunch of knock-knock jokes and insisted on telling me every single one of them. When I saw the oldest daughter driving a car down Skillman Avenue earlier this year, the realization that so much time had passed almost knocked me over. Another couple comes in every Thursday at 5:00 and when I told them last week that we were closing, the sadness on their faces made me understand how much a restaurant can mean to some people. I hope Anne and Jerry find another restaurant they can look forward to as much as they look forward to coming to Quaint. I also hope whoever serves them next appreciates their kindness, their willingness to share stories about their lives and their openness to hearing stories about their server’s life. I will miss all of these people.
I will miss our line cook Juan who always has a smile on his face and relishes every opportunity to ring that damn bell if I’m not at the window immediately ready to run a roasted chicken to Table 16. I will miss my boss, Tim, who has allowed me to live my dual life as a “bitchy waiter” and as a faithful employee who truly wants his customers to enjoy their meals.
When Quaint closes, it will leave a hole in our little neighborhood. Another restaurant will eventually take its place, but it will take years for it to truly become part of the community, filling that hole ever so slowly. The hole that will take much longer to heal will be the one in my heart. When I started working at Quaint, I never dreamed that I’d be there for so long. However, when your job is only three blocks away from home and the people you serve are as genuinely nice as the people of Sunnyside are, eight years passes by in a flash. I know I’ll never have it as good as I do at Quaint and I think once the restaurant is gone, our neighborhood will come to the same conclusion. I will miss you, Quaint. And the neighborhood will too.