My son knew about Parts & Labor before I did. He is 16, so this discovery felt like a precursor of his adult life — he will be super hip while I will still be listening to “Marketplace” podcasts and wearing the silver penguin earrings that he and his sister gave me.
He thinks he was 12 the first time he went. It was with my dad, just the two of them, two guys out for a sandwich. He got to sit at the bar, something kids don’t ordinarily do, but they were there early enough and the place was cool enough to give a middle schooler a front row seat to the action.
Over the years, Parts & Labor has been a go-to for them, something of a carnivore’s getaway in a world that is slowly going green. My daughter has been a vegetarian for about five years and their dad and his wife became vegans a few years back. Consider how popular bacon has become over the past few years, at the same time that acai, avocado and plant-based cuisines have taken root; my son is the carnitas tacos to everyone else’s quinoa bowl.
When my dad was my son’s confirmation sponsor, they went there to discuss this important details of this religious sacrament over dinner.
“We didn’t really talk about that at all,” Doyle says to me today, confirming what I had suspected.
“What did you talk about,” I ask, picturing their elbows on the bar and meat-heavy Dad Bod sandwiches in front of them. My father would be drinking a craft beer, my son a beer of the root variety.
“Anything,” he says and shrugs. “But not confirmation.”
Today he and I discuss the MLB trade deadline, the Yankees lineup and whether it has enough manpower to overtake the Red Sox at this point (that’s a negative), and the beautiful karma of Zach Britton’s poor showing in New York pin stripes the other night.
We order cheeseburgers, fried potatoes and root beers. Around us, tables are full with the office lunch crowd, grad students from Hopkins, a couple with a baby, a woman with a paper-wrapped bouquet of flowers. There are no seats at the bar either, and metal tray after metal tray of cheese steaks or cheeseburgers make their way to hungry diners.
I have long given up on getting emotional over restaurant closings in this town. Often, it feels as if the only thing that opens in this city are eateries, so it is inevitable that some will close. Nearly a decade ago, I watched my neighbor plan and open Restaurant Sabor, a cozy place in Mays Chapel with a Latino flair that was way ahead of its time with the crab cake crowd. That didn’t last either and it was heart wrenching, but this is a hard business.
At the same time, I liked the industrial feel of Parts & Labor, its soups and chili, the cocktail menu, their whiskey milk and cookies in the winter, its location in the city and the fact that its owners embraced Remington before everybody else did. I’d like to see something else in that space soon.
So, no, I don’t cry over closings. But I am glad I got one last meal at a favorite place, and that tomorrow, my father and my son will go for one last dinner.