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A piece of The Stables lives on

This is a sweet column by Lisa Gray about what happened to some of the folks who were stranded by the demolition of The Stables restaurant.

How stable was The Stables? So stable that the staff didn’t leave for new jobs; they died or retired. So stable that a waitress didn’t take an order when one of her regulars appeared. She’d know that he wanted the same thing as always: prime rib, most likely, and one of the bar’s big, stiff martinis. If she was away on vacation, the customer might stumble, unsure how to order in her absence. What kind of salad dressing? How should he know? When his waitress was there, the iceberg lettuce simply appeared, unbidden, with the dressing whose name he’d forgotten years ago.

Late last year, word got out that The Stables’ old red-barn building on South Main would give way to some shiny new piece of the Medical Center. Both the customers and the staff were distraught. There was talk that maybe The Stables would reopen somewhere new; surely it couldn’t just die. Customers wrote down their phone numbers, telling waiters and waitresses to call when they landed new jobs.

The lot is still empty, in case you’re curious. The remaining palm trees are still standing, and I’ve seen no sign of any impending activity. I’m not even sure if the property has been flipped yet to whoever will do the eventual construction. These things take a lot of time, I guess.

Anyway, about the fancy-schmancy new restaurant where three former Stables waitstaff wound up:

At REEF, they’re called “the three D’s.” Like the younger waitstaff, David, Dianna and Debi dress all in black, but with their small-town haircuts and honeyed Southern accents, they seem like a different species.

Taken as a whole, REEF’s waitstaff echoes its retro-modern food, dishes such as “roasted grouper, pecan-shallot cracklins, braised collards, pot licker jus.” The sleek kids seem born to serve truffled polenta and seared triple tail to the stylish set that feeds on such things. But the three D’s stand for pecans and pot licker.

Dianna approves of the way the owners chat up the customers, just like at The Stables. She tells the young waiters not to blow their money, to save some for their rent. And she’s proud that she figured out the computer.

Now that the restaurant has been open three weeks, she and David think it’s time to start calling their old customers. They wanted to wait until they were sure they’d stick around, sure that the restaurant would be worthy of their people. But already they’re thinking long-term. On the first day of summer, David was imagining Christmas, and how beautiful downtown would look through the restaurant’s big front window.

Even without phone calls, some of the old Stables crowd has found the three D’s. David steers his long-timers toward the rib-eye, a comforting island of beef in an ocean of seafood. Dianna gets excited to see her people’s kids and grandkids.

After one Stables regular heard Dianna surfaced at REEF, he asked his college-aged granddaughter to take him there.

You figure the young woman probably looked more suited to the stylish restaurant, with its open kitchen and pearly tabletops, its of-the-moment Portuguese wines.

But her grandfather came back five nights in a row. Like the three D’s, he’d found a surprising new home.


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