The Spaghetti Warehouse celebrated its 37th birthday on Wednesday with an all-day draft special and a Beatles cover band -- and, if you were born in 1972, a slice of cake was on the house. Granted, 37 isn't exactly a round number. And Wednesday isn't exactly the most happening of nights in the West End (where, come to think of it, 2009 isn't exactly the most happening of years). Still, the restaurant made the effort: balloons out front, special events on the menu. Come one, come all.
"I'm here for the anniversary party," we said at the door last night.
"You're looking at it," said a waitress. Behind her, a few families ate peacefully, while waitresses moved calmly between the tables refilling glasses of soda from a pitcher.
Upstairs, Glass Apple, a Beatles cover band, played to a small audience of diners; most had no idea it was the restaurant's anniversary. But rest assured: The restaurant has maintained its campy flavor -- though now it's almost like Disney World's Haunted House, as though the dark corners and old casino-style carpeting possess an anachronistic, stylistic flair.
The general manager, 49-year-old Kevin Walker, a lifelong local, was on hand, moving from table to table. He's been working for Spaghetti Warehouse for 10 years, but at the West End location for two.
"The biggest thing that hurt us was when the West End Marketplace closed down," Walker said during a break as he shared a booth with Unfair Park. "People thought the West End closed too. But obviously we're all alive and well down here."
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The West End Association has tried to attact more people to that part of downtown in recent months -- not only with the Taste of Dallas, but events like a Mardi Gras celebration and Party Like a Pirate. In the past, West End businesses depended on big conventions coming to Dallas. But that's a thing of the past for now -- downturned economy and all.
"We can't just depend on conventions," Walker said. "Obviously, our goal is to get more and more of the locals back down to the West End."
To that end, Walker orchestrates a lot of "guerilla marketing," he said, which means passing out flyers. He's also counting on the new Bodies ... The Exhibition opening on Saturday to get locals back to the West End to discover it's not closed down.
"We still make our 15-layer lasagna the same way we did 37 years ago," Walker said. "We still make our own meatballs everyday. We still make our own tomato sauce."