Served: New York Is Not the Only Place for a Restaurant
I blog by day and wait tables in a New York City restaurant by night. I'm excited to bring you Served, dispatches from the front of the house. Enjoy!
On Friday, I got up early, sat in front of my computer, and banged out the conclusion to my last college paper ever. I handed it in with a big smile on my face.
Feeling triumphant, I took a shower and went to work. “Are you going out to celebrate tonight?’ a customer asked when I shared the news: I was officially finished with college.
“Maybe,” I said, stifling a yawn.
After my shift, I hailed a cab, dragged myself up four flights of stairs to my place, and crawled right into bed. I did not pass go. I slept blissfully.
Paradise on the Delaware
Almost two years ago, my parents bought a house on the Delaware River in Frenchtown, New Jersey. It looks a little like Noah’s Ark, a neighbor joked, and they’re right. It sits on high stilts so that a flood won’t disturb the big wood house. The front is all glass, so from the inside it looks like the walls are made of river. The draws: a hot tub, a pool, the canal path which stretches for many miles in either direction, a town that is ridiculously charming, and, well, the river. So much green and quiet is totally exotic for any city girl.
In the morning, I sat on the fire escape with friends from school. Our view was an ugly/beautiful mélange of garbage, barbed wire, broken glass, and other fire escapes. I loved it. After chatting and sharing a pineapple, I ventured back to my room to start packing up books.
My dad arrived to do a preliminary move-out load. We filled his car with three years of books. Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Saint Augustine, Brecht, Camus, McCluhan, Friedan, Marx.
My friend and neighbor Matt walked into my room and saw an empty bookshelf. “What is going on?” he asked, alarmed. “This is so unsettling.”
I, too, was deeply unsettled. Unsettled as the books went one by one into bags, and again as I unpacked them onto empty Frenchtown bookshelves.
Who’s Who in Frenchtown
I got up in Frenchtown on Sunday, Mother’s Day, and went for a run on the path outside. “There’s some people who want to meet you,” my mom said upon my return.
Our first stop was The Frenchtown Inn. It’s not an inn at all, but a restaurant. The bar is the most hopping place in the tiny town. My parents can be found there on Friday nights drinking martinis and chatting with the regulars.
Coleen owns the place with her husband, who runs the kitchen. They live upstairs, above the restaurant. Coleen’s sister tends bar; her two kids pitch in, too. “We’ve heard so much about you!” Coleen said, and shook my hand. They had two hundred on the books for Mother’s Day and the place would open any minute, and yet she took some time to show me around and tell me her story.
“I’m lucky,” she said, “I found a cook who wanted to have a family. Most chefs—well, you know.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “I know very well.”
“It’s hard work,” she went on, “but don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or shouldn’t do it. We don’t have off for holidays or weddings, but everyone ends up here anyway. It’s so rewarding.”
And then she showed me another room, and handed one of her employees a reservation list, and yelled something about bringing more chairs down from the attic. She seemed enormously happy.
“I have to go,” she said, “But call me.” She handed me a card. Maybe I will.
At the Bridge Café, my mom introduced me to Ken, the owner. I looked at the beautiful pastries in the case by the door. There were donuts with wrinkly skins and big muffins that glistened with sugar.
“Ken’s wife makes those,” my mom explained.
Ken was understaffed for Mother’s Day, he explained, but he came to say hi anyway. “You’re the foodie!” he exclaimed as we shook hands. That’s me.
Ken went to the CIA, and then to cook in a resort in Bermuda where he made a lot of money and met his wife, Lisa. They came to Frenchtown, where they’ve run the Bridge Café since 1987 (the year I was born). Twenty-one years later, they still love doing it.
I can’t wait to go home to New York. I need traffic noise to sleep properly. But meeting these people who have done their own thing and followed their hearts is pretty damn inspiring.