Waiter Confidential: Waterfront Woes

My food handler's Card reads "Food Service Worker," not "Industry Analyst." But on the flip side, those are credentials enough to see the kind of economic Love Canal the Scottsdale Waterfront's becoming for a number of its restaurant tenants. Second helpings of Scottsdale Galleria anyone?

Sniffing around SouthBridge just after seven in the evening, at the height of holiday shopping season, I find Canal in virtual dry dock. A cordial hostess puts on a brave face and accommodates me when I ask to take a look around the empty dining room. She suggests I at least stay for a drink, but the bartender looks too sullen and bored to be good company.

Next door neighbor Estate House is nearly vacant, too. Staffers welcome me with the same desperate enthusiasm one recognizes in realtors these days, and well they should. Counting the four-or-so of them and me, there are, perhaps, ten people in the place.

Even once-bustling Pink Taco seems but a shell of her former self. You'd think that sex, at least -- served pejoratively on tortillas here -- might still be selling well.

I think the real writing on the wall, though, comes in the form of a notice I find slapped on the door of one of the Waterfront's still-vacant spaces. Phoning a number it lists for updates on the Peter Kasperski projects Shell Shock and Mexican Standoff, a voice on the other end offers me little more than to say that those opening timelines would remain somewhat liquid for now.

And so it goes on the shoals, er, shores of Scottsdale's answer to the San Antonio Riverwalk. Not long ago, guys like Unger and Kasperski seemed the Willy Wonkas of the Waterfront. Now, you have to wonder if they aren't already firing-up their escape pods. -- Anonymous 

Anonymous has seen it all in 25 years of waiting tables and tending bar at some of the Valley's most beloved restaurants.

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