Originally published in the Manchester Journal Nov. 20, 2017.
ARLINGTON — For the new owners of Arlington’s Jonathon’s Table, embracing versatility in the interest of customer satisfaction is a top priority.
Locals Chriss and Lori Parker, alongside their daughter Sarah Parker-Maiori and chef Michael Mason, began operating the Arlington restaurant in the bustle of Columbus Day Weekend. Though fall-foliage crowds made for an inundating inauguration, the group’s collective history in the restaurant industry made for a smooth transition.
“I worked with [previous owners] Jon and Val at Johhny Seesaw’s 20 years ago, and I actually worked [at Jonathon’s Table] for a little while,” said Lori Parker. “We stayed friends, and as time went on we decided to take over when they were ready to retire.”
“When you work in a restaurant for so long, eventually your goal becomes to own your own restaurant,” added Parker-Maiori, who bar-tended at Manchester’s Gringo Jack’s for six years, serving as bar manager for the past two.
Mason and Chriss Parker may be the two most recognizable faces, however, having led the well-known Sirloin Saloon in Manchester for a number of years.
“I joined the Sirloin back in `89 down in Pittsfield Mass.; that’s where Mike and I first met,” said Parker, who also gained experience at the Harvest Inn and Restaurant and the Nordic Inn. “When they moved me down to Manchester that location was doing about $1.5 million [per year], and by the time Mike and I left we were doing $2.5 million.”
“I didn’t go to a culinary institute or anything, I just learned from hard-knocks really,” Mason said. “I started as a fry-cook when I was around 17, and kind of did things the old fashioned way.”
As they adjust to the Arlington culinary scene, the group hopes to make some key changes while preserving the warm and cozy aesthetic that Jonathon’s table is known for. The restaurant will be open year round under the new ownership, with additions like weekend breakfasts already in place. Favorites from the Sirloin Saloon — including the teriyaki sirloin, mud pie, and house dressing — will also be available.
While the group hopes to pursue outdoor dining options, catering, and even events at the restaurant, providing more versatility in their menu is the first step.
“We’re moving to seasonal menus, and as we learn what’s available we hope to tie in those locally grown ingredients,” Parker said. “Mike and I have watched the farm-to-table movement just explode over the past 15 or so years, and Vermont is such a great name when it comes to local ingredients.”
“We’re local business owners, and we’re local people,” Parker-Maiori said. “We want to support other local businesses because we want locals to support us as well.”
Beyond their menu, the new owners of Jonathon’s Table hope to embrace their homey feel by making their relationships with customers a large focus of their business.
“Mike and I come from high volume restaurants where we would do anywhere from 500 to 1,000 dinners on a Saturday night,” Parker said. “Here, we’ll max out at 70 or 80 dinners. It’s nice, because everything is kind of slowed down.”
That smaller size will allow for much more direct interaction with patrons, according to Mason.
“Because we’re small we’re able to be flexible, and all of us take pride in getting that immediate feedback,” he said. “We’re people people. We’re putting a larger emphasis on the dining experience.”
“At this size restaurant you can really build a relationship with your clients,” Parker-Maiori said.
You get to know them, which is harder to do in a high-volume restaurant.”
Following in the footsteps of Sirloin Saloon owner Tony Perry, Parker plans to play an active role in the local community. After Perry’s retirement, Parker filled the void left by the restaurateur by playing in active role in the local Chamber of Commerce, planning community fundraisers, and even hosting a free buffet after the community tree-lighting ceremonies that used to take place near the Sirloin Saloon.
“You always get that kindness back,” Parker said. “Those things help us to blend with the community, and it helps the community get to know us.”
Though the owners of Jonathon’s Table are still settling into their new business, Parker says they’re committed to learning along the way.
“`No’ isn’t in our vocabulary,” he said. “We’re going to make mistakes, but we’ll own them, we’ll fix them, and we’ll move on. It’s part of the growth process.”
Reach Cherise Madigan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 802-490-6471.