Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Denver restaurants. To finish this week's round-up of shout-outs, Eater readers have shared their favorite FOH personalities. To begin the final post, Eater contributor and Grace(full)Plate blogger Grace Boyle shares why Manal Jarrar of Arabesque defines hospitality.
When I think of a dining experience that is filled with incredible food, a comfortable and enjoyable ambiance and joy, I always gravitate to Arabesque on 1634 Walnut St., in Boulder. It is my staple/go-to (somewhat secret) spot. Only open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Mon-Sat., my favorite dish is the succulent, perfectly spiced chicken-schawarma plate with a pillowy, warm pita, creamy hummus and baba ghannush over fresh greens.
Whipping up home-style, Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean food is Israeli-born chef/owner Manal Jarrar . Jarrar is the epitome of warmth — the second you walk in the door she calls out from her spot in the tiny, open kitchen and grins, encouraging you to sit wherever you like. Along with her quippy sense of humor, it's obvious that she finds deep gratitude and joy in cooking her childhood dishes and sharing them with whoever walks in her door.
I'm so touched by Arabesque because it is family-owned, creating a cozy experience. The space itself is small, with no more than 10 tables, and working alongside Jarrar is her husband and three children who help her run the restaurant. You can always find Jarrar, who once was a ballerina, gracefully whisking through the restaurant hugging and chatting with customers, clearing tables, making jokes table side, ringing guests up at the end of their meal and singing to herself as she prepares the dishes from scratch. A true laborer of love, Jarrar is part of the entire dining process at Arabesque and while the food speaks for itself, I walk away from lunch grinning to myself, because Jarrar is such a character, who genuinely loves everyone who walks through the door and always ensures your experience is a joyful one.
-Grace Boyle, Eater Denver contributor and Grace(full) Plate blogger.
Diner Loryn Kezer shares why she continues to visit Coral Room:
I moved away from Denver seven years ago, to the foodie playground of Seattle, and I can't tell you how pleased I was upon returning to the Mile High City upon discovering that my favorite server/hostess/bartender/manager in the history of the restaurant industry still works at the Coral Room in the Highlands. Lauryn took great care of me back in the day, before I was officially a food snob and had to ask her what the hard-to-pronounce menu items were; she's a no-judgment, pure-sunshine, efficient, hilarious, and great looking bartender extraordinaire. She knows what I want before I do; often placing a perfect glass of sparkling rose in front of me, or a Trumer Pilsner, depending (I'm assuming) on the look on my face. I applaud her work ethic, her local fanclub, her unstinting customer service, and that stunning smile. If for no other reason than that I get to sit at Lauryn's bar at Coral Room again, I'm happy to be back in Denver.
And some props to another Coral Room employee from Lauryn Mangat:
Grant Williams has been a bartender/server/wine buyer at Coral Room for 10 years. His knowledge of wine, cocktails and cuisine, paired with his dry sense of humor and gracious hospitality, make him one of the best in the business.
Bar regular Chris Woldum on The Cruise Room inside The Oxford Hotel: "Cruise Room's regular bar tender. She's vinegar, piss... and sugar all rolled into one."
Jamie Jones writes-in about Stephan Geson, dining room manager at Charlie Palmer's District Tavern:
The restaurant is closing on Friday, August 31, 2012. Unfortunate situation, although Stephan is an incredible manager and understands all aspects of fine/unique dining - from customer service, to VIP, to guest recognition, to a refined food palate and wine knowledge (also taught his staff through weekly wine classes). 18 years experience at some of the worlds' most interesting and landmark restaurants/hotels! Denver should look forward to the next restaurant he manages - and keep an eye out for his expert service and attitude!
And Meghann Pullen agrees:
He [Geson] is so professional and has such a great way with the staff. You can tell they really respect him and enjoy working with him. He has also worked at Kevin Taylor. I was so sad to hear Charlie Palmer's was closing and especially for the awesome staff and team they have! Every single one of them has been loyal and believed in the restaurant. I know many of them will be moving on to serve, host and manage at other restaurants in Denver and those places are lucky to get them. Stephan is my personal nomination!
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