EVERETT – If you’re looking for the perfect Everett restaurant, Sylvia Field-Bahl’s your gal.
“I like Thai on Broadway,” she said, her eyes half-closed with the memory of the restaurant’s spicy specialties. “It really makes you feel like you’re in Thailand, and I should know. I’ve been there three times.”
For fajitas, it’s El Paraiso Mexican Grill.
She knows them all, from A to Z – as in Z’s Burgers, on Colby Avenue.
“They’re good, too,” she said.
When Field-Bahl began volunteering at the Everett City Concierge at the Everett Events Center in March, she and her husband declared themselves the city’s unofficial restaurant critics.
So many people come into the Event Center’s concierge office asking about local restaurants that Field-Bahl wanted to be prepared.
So far, the couple has hit more than a dozen downtown eateries. She plans to eat at every one.
Field-Bahl’s restaurant knowledge and quick smile are available at the concierge office.
What’s the cost for the insider’s scoop?
A visit to the Everett City Concierge office on Hewitt Avenue means a chat with one of the office’s more than a dozen volunteers who spend hours each week offering advice and suggestions simply for the joy of it.
“I like talking to people, dealing with people,” Field-Bahl said. “It’s fun.”
The office walls are lined with hundreds of brochures for events, restaurants, hotels and other attractions in and around Everett. The volunteers make it their personal business to know everything about, well, everything.
“People are amazed that we have this little corner of heaven here with all this information,” Field-Bahl said.
The Everett City Concierge opened in July 2004. Concierge Director Kevand Topping, the services’ only paid concierge, started a year and a half later to breathe life into a program city officials hoped would be a major tourism arm.
Now, Topping said, the service is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to the volunteers.
“All of our people are extremely pleasant and care about our community and want to give something back,” Topping said.
Most of the volunteers take weekly shifts of five or six hours each, Topping said. Others float between shifts, and fill in whenever they are needed. The volunteers range from high school students to senior citizens. Between them, they make up to 300 contacts with visitors and local residents each month, via e-mail, telephone or in person.
“People come by and ask all sorts of things,” said Mary Sherman, 79.
Sherman, who is wheelchair-bound, said she uses free moments to call local restaurants and venues to see if they are wheelchair-accessible.
“I don’t have time for depression,” she said. “I’m too busy!”
Everett has moved a long way from its Mill Town past, volunteer Gretchen Jamieson, 56, said. As businesses and restaurants continue to pop up around the Events Center, the concierge office has more visitors.
“With this Events Center, we’re really onto something,” Jamieson said. “This town is going to be something big.”