A no-holds-barred reader pointed out that I spend an awful lot of time firing off zingers at restaurants about what they are doing wrong. Apparently, I also “rip apart” the behaviors of many deserving diners and focus only on the negative. This seriously caught my attention; I fear I am at risk of having a snarky-tongue resting face.
“You don’t highlight very many nice things these day,” Lisa, a friend from Portland said. “What happened to those fun columns with the good stories that made me want to figure out which restaurant you were talking about? People already know service is horrible in many places, and it is interesting to learn why. But can’t you back off on that a bit?”
Reading between the lines, I think Lisa was saying that I’ve become repetitive, which borders on boring. That is unacceptable, so here are some facts, that are random, yet useful.
• Monday used to be the most popular day for restaurant folks to close up shop for the day. But more places are shifting that precious 24-hour window to Tuesdays. Woodford F&B, The Honey Paw, Empire and Isa Bistro, to name a few, are in that category. The change gives area restaurants two nights to host industry appreciation happy hours, late-night deals, and such. Just plan accordingly when heading out early in the week.
• It’s fairly standard for a restaurant to issue one or two logo shirts, and provide laundered and pressed chef coats. Servers usually have to buy their own bistro aprons, and everyone has to pay out of pocket for shoes.
With that in mind, I was tickled to catch wind of a new place that’s opening in the fall that will be handing out two custom-made, knee-length aprons to all front-of-house people. The establishment will also be reimbursing all employees $25 when they present a recent receipt for work shoes. The catch? They have to work there three consecutive months, after buying the shoes, to get the cash. In a business where retention is key, I applaud that incentive.
• It’s still perfectly legal, and quite fun, to order a bottle of wine you have no intention of finishing on the spot. Enjoy a glass or two, and the house will re-cork it and put it in a bag to go. Once in the car, put the bag-o-wine in the trunk or well out of reach, as I have no idea how this would play out should you get pulled over for a bum headlight, or some other minor infraction.
• It’s no secret that in the near future, some of Portland’s best-known chefs and restaurateurs are opening third, fourth, and even fifth locations, off the peninsula. No matter the food genre or theme, consistency will be key as most of the flagship restaurants have great reputations, allowing the public to trust this expansion.
Restaurant migration is great news for those who live in the burbs. It’s also great news if you’re planning a function or event a year or two down the road.
It’s rarely my practice to name names, but I’m breaking that code of silence with a Memorial Day thanks to my core of regular customers, from whom I have learned so much.
Shout out to Wilber, who always insists on closing his tab and tipping the bartender when we switch shifts; to Peter and Chuckie, who wisely taught me to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll look into it and get back to you (not);” to Bobby C., who inspires me to observe quietly; to “The Smartees,” who make trivia night a pure joy; to Beau, who has picked up everyone’s tab at one time or another, and is greatly appreciated by the whole staff; to Leon, who is wrong that Southside Johnny is better than Bruce Springsteen; to Ryan, who hooked me up, literally, with a new-to-me washer and dryer; to Terry, for being Terry; to Betsy, who showers all of us with thoughtful gifts, and, because she cares, lots of constructive criticism. And this week, especially to Bob, a Vietnam vet, who in his quiet way is the unofficial group peacekeeper.
There are so many more of you, and I’ll update the list as the summer goes on and kooky things continue to happen. True bar and restaurant regulars (not always found in fine dining) make the job unique, colorful, fun, and never, ever boring. I’m happy to say I serve with some of the very best.
It’s going to be a great summer.
Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to email@example.com, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.