by David Mendez
Yesterday, we published a short item about Gio Taco, the latest venture to come from the folks at Metzger Family Restaurants, who are also responsible for Jax Kitchen and The Abbey.
The plan, according to the release announcing the forthcoming restaurant, is to move into east end of Congress St., in Downtown Tucson, where Gio will be producing their own spin on tacos — apparently, tacos "without rules." I mean, why not? Seis, for an example, ventures away from the traditional Sonoran-style taco, working hard to create something that's fun and tasty as hell. I say that there's room for more than one place that doesn't want to serve simple chicken or carne asada tacos in this town.
But it seems that some of you would disagree. From the Tucson Weekly Facebook page:
Great, one more place trying to reinvent something that doesn't need to be reinvented and one more place I shant be setting foot in, ever, along with everything else in the shiny, new downtown. Now get off my lawn. xoxox - Dave, part of the "Keep Tucson Shitty" crowd...
This is exactly what downtown Tucson does not need. Seems like besides another "foodie" place on east Congress, someone would open a damn diner downtown, especially on west congress, near The Fox Theatre, and fill a much needed niche left by the closure of The Grill.
Those are definitely
very good points opinions.
But here's the thing about downtown's dearly-departed Grill, and all of its similarly departed, scruffy, "character"-filled places: they closed for a reason — and many reasons, in some cases.
Let's focus on Grill: As great a place as it was, as much character as it had, and as good as the food was (particularly for being one of the few options that was open at three in the morning) is that it was, in fact, a shithole.
The food was, putting it nicely, inconsistent (a hamburger cooked to medium probably should not be dripping with blood). One of the things that people seemingly loved the most about the place, the tater tots, could easily be found in the freezer section of your nearby Fry's or Safeway. The bathrooms didn't lock. Spotting a giant cockroach crawling around wasn't an uncommon occurrence. At one point in time, the sewer lines under the restaurant broke, filling the kitchen with sewer water.
And you people who supposedly loved this place, who wish it was still around, who wanted it kept shitty, so you can continue living your artsy, bohemian, arrested adolescence? You're the reason it closed:
If we had more nights like last night, maybe we wouldn't be closing. Keep it coming, the countdown continues.
— Grill Tucson, Nov. 21, 2011
That was from the first night after Grill announced its impending closure. (A personal note: My then-girlfriend and I were among the last people to be served before the place finally shut down, because I just had to spend a little more time at the first part of this city that I fell in love with. I stole one of the newer paper menus that replaced the amazing laminated turquoise menus. It still sits on my desk at home.)
Grill, and its ilk, are and were great places. They were accepting, they were comfortable and, most importantly, they were convenient.
But they failed, because they treated customers terribly. Because nostalgia has a shelf life. Because "shitty" should be an ambiance, not the reality of the place.
Tucson should not be burnt out, filled with cracks, crawling with roaches, covered in drunken, paint-marker-and-chalk scrawls, just because that's what we remember.
Tucson is a vibrant, passionate, scrappy community. We shouldn't be tearing down the local people who love the soul of this city, who are trying to build up new, interesting projects to tie into the hardworking, local feel that we love. The heart of this city, the grit, will always be here — partially because you can never completely get rid of sand and dirt — but the shittiness doesn't have to be.
Y'know, that might just be it. It's not that Tucson is shitty, and that we should keep it that way. It's that the crowd that wants Tucson to remain shitty is, in fact, shitty in and of themselves.
Well, you might want to get out of the way, guys. Whether you like it or not, Tucson is changing — the skeletons of developments rising around town are proof of that. So you've got a few options: work to maintain the grit in Tucson's soul as the changes happen, or stay shitty.
You might want to be careful though if you take the latter path, because shit tends to get stepped on, scraped off, thrown away, and crumble into dust.