In response to several of the comments I received on last week‚Äôs article, I thought a look at the perspectives of a diner vs. a server would be a worthy exercise. Last fall, Bruce Buschel wrote One Hundred Things Restaurant Statters Should Never Do, and the restaurant world was set a-buzzin‚Äô about whether or not we agreed with all of the points made. The response was quick and furious, with a litany of snarky servers airing their grievances about the table last night who tipped them poorly. (I myself have never said a bad thing about a customer EVER!) In writing this I hope to bring exactly what I try to provide my guests with nightly ‚Äì a better experience. I may not agree with every single one of the 100 things, generally, I do. It is with that in mind that I would like to present a brief‚Ä¶
10 Things Diners Should Never Do (Part 1)
1) Don‚Äôt be late for your reservation. Remember the last time you were frustrated that you were unable to sit down at the time of your reservation? It‚Äôs because the four parties in front of you were late for theirs. Running the door of a restaurant is a delicate art ‚Äì judging the ebb and flow of diners and accommodating special requests requires patience and skill. Additionally, if you do not have a reservation, it is never beneficial to point out, ‚ÄúBut that table‚Äôs open, and we‚Äôll be quick!‚Äù Just because a table appears to be empty doesn‚Äôt mean it isn‚Äôt reserved, or being held to form a larger table for a group coming in. If there is a possibility of seating you at a table believe me, they will. It‚Äôs their job to get you in! If you are unavoidably running late, simply call and let them know, it will normally not be a problem to accommodate you. Knowing your arrival time is valuable, and makes getting you sat in a timely manner possible.
2) Don‚Äôt ignore your server. This may sound like a silly request, but I can‚Äôt tell you how many times I‚Äôve said, ‚ÄúDo you prefer your martini up or on the rocks?‚Äù only to receive the response, ‚ÄúYes.‚Äù Chances are, the reason your server is talking to you is to help guide your experience, so you‚Äôll enjoy the restaurant to its fullest potential. It will only be a minute and we‚Äôll get out of your way to let you enjoy each other and the food. A server‚Äôs ‚Äúspiel‚Äù as we call it, will normally guide you through the menu, tell you about things that are not on the menu (specials, flights, etc.), and will provide you with a little insight as to best utilize the unique characteristics of the restaurant. And ultimately, your server is a professional who knows the menu, and can help you with your decisions. Which brings us to‚Ä¶
3) Don‚Äôt be afraid to ask questions. Don‚Äôt know what ramps are? Ask! No idea which Italian wine to choose because you normally drink Merlot? Ask! No matter who you are, you are not as knowledgeable about the restaurant‚Äôs food as your server is. They are not trying to be ‚Äúbetter than you‚Äù, it is very simply their job to know these things, and to communicate them to you. And realistically, you have a far less chance of getting something you don‚Äôt want if you ask for menu clarification when ordering. No vegetarian wants to inadvertently get the pasta with pancetta and the squeamish may be unprepared to receive sweetbreads (although you really should try them). A simple question or two easily prevents sending back inappropriate dishes.
4) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON‚ÄôT FORGET TO TELL US ABOUT YOUR ALLERGIES! I recently waited on a couple whose birthday celebration evening was ruined because they forgot to mention the husband‚Äôs severe nut allergy. It was perhaps the single scariest thing that‚Äôs ever happened to me at a table. Although the ingredient you‚Äôre allergic to may not be listed on the menu, it could be in the dish you‚Äôve ordered. Or (worse) your dish could be prepared next to a dish that contains your allergen, and cross contamination can occur. The very last thing we EVER want is for you to have to go to the hospital because of something we served you. I‚Äôm begging you. Just tell us. (On the same note, not liking something and being allergic to something are completely different. Hating mushrooms and possibly being killed by them are not in the same hemisphere. Please, tell us your aversions so that accommodations can be made, but don‚Äôt lie about allergies ‚Äì they are serious business.)
5) Don‚Äôt say you‚Äôre ready to order if you‚Äôre not. A server has a sequence of service in their head before you sit down. Timing is everything, and that frankly is why there is such great potential for things to go wrong. Your server has come to your table because they want to take your order accurately, send it to the kitchen correctly, have it delivered swiftly, thereby providing you the perfect experience. If you‚Äôre not ready, it throws off the entire system. If you have a few questions, that is of course never a problem (as referenced in ‚ÄòDon‚Äôt‚Äô #3), and will likely help you reach your decision. However, if you simply haven‚Äôt looked yet, or need a few minutes to reach your decision, even if everyone else at the table is ready ask your server to return in a few minutes ‚Äì really, we don‚Äôt mind. Any server who disagrees with this is unprofessional, and doesn‚Äôt truly care about giving you what you want.
Next Week: We‚Äôll finish the list of 10, and highlight a few restaurants with truly exemplary service.
I‚Äôll start off by quickly mentioning that we in the service industry love you. Yes we do! Without the dining public, there would be no us. There would be no variety, no celebrity chefs, no James Beard awards, nothin‚Äô. We do sincerely appreciate you every time you decide to spend your hard earned dollar eating and chatting with us. I mean it ‚Äì thank you.
That said, I can now acknowledge to you there are a few days all of us in ‚Äòthe industry‚Äô dread. New Year’s is crazy ‚Äî everyone is drinking too much and frankly, your server wants to be out celebrating too. Valentine’s Day is a nightmare of couples fighting, couples so involved with each other that the server is less an asset and more of an annoyance, and then there’s the fight to turn tables in time to accommodate all of the reservations. (This means if you are seated at 7 p.m. there is most likely another reservation for your table at 9 p.m. Hence, the table must turn.) These days are special occasions for every guest in the room, making it a high pressure situation for the entire restaurant staff. The evening must be perfect for every guest ‚Äî daunting for even the most experienced and polished server. And inevitably, these are the days when your average Joe who doesn‚Äôt go out very often, goes out. (We refer lovingly to these guests as ‚Äòamateurs‚Äô.) However both of these are good money shifts, so all of us put our heads down and plow through; after all, it’s just one shift out of dozens, right?
It has been a while since we’ve seen any major changes to First Avenue, and with the Twins season opener just around the corner, what better time to open their new restaurant? According to Switchblade Comb, The Depot Tavern, set to open in May, will serve up your classic bar-food fare, only supposedly much better: burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, french fries, cheese curds ‚Äî even ‚ÄúThe Diamond Dog‚Äù, a ¬º pound all-beef hot dog, wrapped with pepper bacon and deep-fried on a pretzel bun.
And as if that weren’t enough, they’re changing their VIP Room into the Record Room, which, frankly, makes a lot more sense considering its used mainly for spinning. Local Artist¬†Greg Gossel will help transform the space with a massive mural. And it looks like April 4th (10pm) is the unveiling day with a Passion Pit after party featuring DJ sets from Passion Pit, The Moon Goons, Famuel, Ricky Biggs and Upgrayde.
When you see a tweet like this you just have to click the link, right?
‚ÄúFuck you,‚Äù says the guy behind the counter. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not talking to you. Fuckin‚Äô middle of lunch.‚Äù Behind him a grill covered wall-to-wall with charred hot dogs and buttered buns sizzles and spews a cloud of smoke so thick it‚Äôs audibly choking the overhead exhaust fan. The guy takes a swig from a bottle of Bud, sets it back down next to a pack of Marlboro Reds, and squints at us like we‚Äôre wearing panties on our heads. ‚ÄúTalk to my wife.‚Äù
The guy is the owner of The Gopher Bar, where ‚Äî according to the sign taped to the back wall of the bar over half-empty bottles of J&B and Black Label ‚Äî you‚Äôll find ‚ÄúThe best fuckin‚Äô Coney Islands in town.‚Äù This is why we‚Äôre here.
It‚Äôs hard to know what makes the Coneys at The Gopher Bar so damn good. Is it the soft, lightly grilled, buttery bun? The snap of the hot dog? The spicy meat sauce? The sharp bite of the cheddar? The crunch of onions? Or is it a result of the orchestration of all these things? So many textures and flavors come together that you almost forget you‚Äôre sitting under a Confederate flag.
The Gopher Bar isn‚Äôt a bar, it‚Äôs a moral dilemma. One that goes right to the heart of the economic climate we live in. At a time when every dollar is harder to make, and even harder to make last, are you willing to support a business that has no problem asking, ‚ÄúHow about an ice cold bottle of SHUT THE FUCK UP!?‚Äù
Uhh… favorite breakfast spots?
Jason DeRusha says:¬† Hell’s Kitchen, Fat Nat’s Eggs, Grand Cafe, Day by Day Cafe, Good Day Cafe, Maggie’s Restaurant, Junior’s Cafe and Grill, Three Squares Restaurant, Bon Vie, and Hot Plate.
East-Lake Tumblr says: Hot Plate, La Chaya Bistro, Longfellow Grill, Stabby‚Äôs, Bad Waitress, and a bonus A Baker‚Äôs Wife‚Äôs Pastry Shop.
And Alexis (on the Sexes) just doesn’t understand going out for breakfast. Boo…
Anyone been to Subo yet? We had a Secrets of the City happy hour there a few weeks back, and that was quite lovely. We tried several of the apps, and while they could have used a drop more salt to bring out the flavors, they were actually quite good. But Girl Friday is not impressed. “I’ve given Subo two tries now,” she writes, “and I’m not sure I can be coerced to ‘experience’ it again. I’m not gonna lie; not having cranberry juice behind the bar was strike one.”
The adobo greens beans were full of onion, chili and soy sauce flavor but I couldn’t detect any of the promised madras curry or sesame oil. Also, onions nearly outnumbered beans in the bowl. The menu neglected to mention the steamed edamame would be dripping with butter, but that’s how it came out. I still can’t decide whether I loved it or hated it. On the one hand, the pods were so soft they nearly disintegrated in your mouth; but that also means they were soggy, void of that gratifying, nearly crisp texture. The steamed mushroom rolls were a big swing and a miss, starting with their puzzlingly heavy sweetness. Using a duxelles is an excellent concept here, but the filling’s texture is ruined by the tough tofu sheet wrapper; difficult to bite through and impossible to cut with a fork, not to mention messy.
Maybe they’re just better at meat. Anyone?