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Fond farewell to Manny Romero of Rod’s Grill

I was so sorry to hear of the recent passing of Manny Romero (Jan. 27 – from covid-19 and related complications) – 25-year owner of Rod’s Grill. And saddened to learn from a nice tribute by City Clerk Gene Glasco in Arcadia Weekly that his wife died four years earlier in 2017. Manny was a truly kind and generous soul (he was also very shy and didn’t like to get his photo taken, thus this poor-quality image here).

Manny Romero

We met under rather mildly acrimonious circumstances involving the potential expansion of the Rusnak Mercedes dealership next-door to Rod’s when I was on the board of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce from 2006-2010. The city was offering to pay Manny more than the value of his property and the Chamber supported the expansion as long as Manny was compensated. But Manny wasn’t interested. I met with him and instantly saw that he had a good heart and a gentle spirit and quickly got to know him and learned how committed he was to his family and to preserving the iconic Arcadia eatery, which he owned and managed extremely well, making a long daily commute and working long hours. We became good business friends and helped and supported each other many times — we ordered lunch for staff there almost every week as I became CEO of the Chamber from 2011-2016, and we held meetings there and I introduced many outsiders and locals to the wonderful throwback to yesteryear that is Rod’s Grill, and to its owner Manny. Even though he never became an active member of the Chamber, he called to offer something he came up with — a water-conserving system — that he thought could benefit other Chamber business members; collecting the water from the melting ice that typically flows from ice-making machine through a hose into a floor drain. He found that he could collect 50-gallons of clean water every day this way that he used for washing pots and mopping floors.

When location scouts came around to film an episode of Mad Men in 2011 – they asked me for advice on the best local diner that would look like the 1960s era – though there are several in town and nearby, including Chef’s on Live Oak, I steered them immediately to Rod’s and wrote a couple articles about the production here at Arcadia’s Best:

Rod’s was also used for an episode of the HBO series Luck, which staged a fake earthquake there.

Production at Rod’s Grill in 2010 for the HBO series Luck.

The exterior was used multiple times as the diner in Last Man Standing where Tim Allen’s character’s daughters were waitresses.

Rod’s Grill standing in for diner in Last Man Standing TV show — notice Arcadia Park across the street

What always impressed me was that despite the publicity and money Manny could generate from these Hollywood productions, he was always concerned about not being open for his regular customers during shooting days, and he never agreed unless the studios paid him enough to pay his staff even during times the diner had to close for production. Arcadia has lost one of its best. Long live Rod’s Grill!

— By Scott Hettrick

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