Farewell to Sinclair’s

By on 9 April, 2017 in Bars, Food, Kate and Stephen, Restaurant Reviews with 2 Comments

The rumors finally were confirmed when it was announced (by essentially every media outlet in town) that Sinclair’s would be closing. That sturdy cornerstone of the Cloverdale Five Points neighborhood, that trusty staple of the restaurant scene.

There were some people that described Sinclair’s as their favorite place for food, but many more described it in terms of reliability — a place where a dinner could be quick or leisurely, a place where lunch was predictable and comprised of “the basics.” They had burgers, good service, and will be sorely missed by people around the state. The loss will be even more acutely felt if the location becomes a restaurant that doesn’t capture the individualism and charm of the neighborhood.

As a farewell, we thought we’d list ten things that we loved about Sinclair’s. It wasn’t the best restaurant in the city, but it was one of our very favorites.

1. The atmosphere. The booths were the best – a little spongy, so you could sink right into them. The lighting got low during the evenings, while during the day huge windows allowed lots of natural light. Even the bathrooms had some charm. The urinals in the men’s room had a bulletin board at eye level where a physical copy of the sports page would often be thumbtacked. This was not the restaurant’s only element of “old school” charm, but it was a memorable one.

2. The patio. One of the perks of living in Montgomery is that there’s so much good time for porch sitting. Sinclair’s had big umbrellas partially shading nice tables in a secluded environment, perfect for drinks with friends or a nice lunch with a colleague. It wasn’t unusual for people sitting outside to recognize and call out to friends walking by or going into the Capri. We hope that the next restaurant in this space will keep the social element of the patio.

3. The service. Some of the folks serving at Sinclair’s had clearly been doing it for a very long time. They were experts who could nail a twelve-top in a busy lunch rush without breaking a sweat. Some folks were new, or rotated through, but it was always clear that management went out of its way to identify and retain good help. They were quick with a refill and a check, once you asked for it. Good service is always hard to find, and we’ll miss it.

4. The appetizers. Some were hit and miss, but the hits were solid. The trout with capers was one of the best things on any menu in the city, though the dish didn’t need the white mayo sauce that came with it. The onion rings were, by far, the best in town. The batter actually stuck to the generously cut slices of onion. And they’d let you do half rings, half fries if you wanted to – you could show that you were in the know by ordering “half and half.” And the artichoke hearts were always good, steamed or fried.

5. The salads. There was a certain type of Sinclair’s diner who would only order salads. The restaurant had the best ones in the city, bar none. They were generous with diverse toppings like almonds, hearts of palm and artichoke hearts. The dressings were good, with enough choices to please anybody. And they’d add extras, like blackened salmon or the ridiculously decadent fried brie wedges. Where will our deep fried cheese needs be met now?

6. The veggie burger. We actually ordered one of these to go the day before the closing was announced. It was sturdy and well-composed, and you could customize it in the style of any of their other burgers. The best was getting it with mushrooms and Swiss cheese. We wish that other places would be considerate enough to offer a veggie burger – they could easily follow Sinclair’s example by letting you design your own.

7. The bar. Gosh, that was a nice place to go and have a drink. The bar itself was very nice, with kind of an old world appeal. At night it was especially dark, and you could slide into one of those little tables and gossip, or fall in love, or just watch the people. The crowd of regulars there was kind of a hoot. They seemed to know each other, and even when they were surly, they were almost always having a good time. They were also welcoming to strangers. We liked that they ran computerized trivia on the bar televisions and decorated well for holidays like Halloween. Plus, their Kentucky Derby parties were legendary. We’re sorry to have missed those.

8. The history. It used to be a gas station, and there were old pictures of the spot inside, along with some Sinclair Oil related signage. Looking from the outside, you could clearly see the bones of the old station in the restaurant, and it was inspiring to think of the many ways other parts of our city could be repurposed for some other beautiful use. There will be a new restaurant in there some day soon, but it won’t be the same. It won’t reflect the genius of folks who turned a filling station into, well, a different kind of filling station.

9. The flowerbed. The bed outside the restaurant was just impeccably decorated and maintained. There would be decorative kale in the winter, fall marigolds, towering sunflowers well into the start of football season, always lined with bright flowers and other plants. It was a joy that brightened up the whole Five Points neighborhood. We hope the next owners will keep up this feature, and we can only wish that they’ve got the same love of color as the previous owners.

10. The drinks. Gosh, but they were strong. It wasn’t a fussy place, even though they would sometimes indulge you by serving you fussy drinks (we ordered Grasshoppers there once, if you can believe it). They’d also let you get your drink in a tall glass, which was a nice way to go if you wanted a more leisurely approach to your drinking. And they were well-priced. You could go get a couple of drinks with a friend and get out for a reasonable price – something that seems increasingly hard to do these days unless you’re drinking cheap beer.

We’ll miss Sinclair’s. We never once ate at the east side location. Why would you?

Sinclair’s was a key part of the neighborhood – the kind of place where you could take your parents or have a nice, affordable business lunch. Sure, there were some sketchy items on the offer (we ourselves were always a little concerned by the “Spaghetti Pie”) but the menu could have been updated without the whole place closing up. And there’s part of us that especially hates that it’ll be replaced by a chain restaurant, even one that’s locally owned. Our neighborhood is special, and Sinclair’s was one of the things that made it this way. Even though they wouldn’t sweeten your tea for you.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, 18 fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. The sign came down yesterday. Will surely miss them!

  2. Paul Brantley says:

    8. The History – I remember regularly stopping at the gas station, on the way home from elementary school, to put air in my bike tires, while drinking a small bottled coke and looking across the street at all the stores, where only the shoe shop remains.

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