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!
I picked up a shift for a coworker yesterday, and was running early to work. Or so I thought. My phone beeped on my way out of the subway. I had a text and a voicemail from my boss: where are you?
Oops. I had thought I was working at five. On most days, three servers with staggered shifts start working at four, five, and six. The first sets up the dining room for service, cuts bread, and lights candles. The last one closes up at the wee hours of the night. On Sundays, there are only two servers. I was supposed to cover the early shift. When I got to work, nearly an hour late, I found my boss unhappily cutting bread.
Thirty minutes later the place has hopping. One less server meant I was both waiting tables and working behind the bar. This always proves a logistical challenge: the space behind the bar is tight, and slipping in and out is a dance best left to someone infinitely more graceful than myself. On the floor, it’s hard to see if someone at the bar might need something. And vice versa. I do my best.
“Why is my brain not working?” I asked, sort of rhetorically, to S., the fromager that night. I had brought a bottle of wine to one of my tables, but forgotten their wine glasses. I had almost ran white anchovies to Bar 4 instead of Table 4.
“When I get to work late,” she said, “everything is kind of thrown off.” She was right, and I didn’t want to be doomed to an irredeemably off night. “Hannah,“ S. told me, “you have a guest at the Bar 6.“ I rushed off to say hi and give him menus.
“What‘s shaking? How’s it going? I'm P.,” he put out his hand for me to shake it across the bar.
“I'm Hannah,” I told him. I like the occasional exceedingly friendly customer. “How are you?”
“I’m great.” He wanted to say hi to the owner, so I went and got my boss. “Hannah,” he said when I was back behind the bar, “I’m meeting my friend in a minute. He’s the GM of Cool Tribeca Restaurant. He’s going to like you. He‘s going to want to take a picture with you.”
“Cool,” I said. Weird, I thought.
The place was getting busy, as was I. I went to talk to a new table, and set up two women at the bar for their coconut cream pie with lemon cardamom curd (yum). I opened up another bottle of Aglianico and gave a regular a hug.
When I got back, P.’s friend had arrived. He was amply tattooed and cute. “We just came from the tattoo show,” he said by way of hello, “look at the t-shirt I bought.” And then, “You’re so pretty!”
“Thanks,” I’m not the best at compliments. “What would you guys like to drink?”
They asked to try Lambrusco. I poured them a taste; they laughed. I hate when people make fun of Lambroso, especially after ordering it. They ordered it! Plus, I’m a Lambrusco fan. They ended up with a glass of Piedmont rose and one of Torrontes.
On their way out, Mr. Tattoo asked for a picture with me. I was ambivalent, skeptical of his intentions and phobic about pictures. “No pressure,“ he said. Why not? I looked at the camera and smiled, determined to take on my fear of the camera.
And told me to visit him at Cool Tribeca Restaurant. “He has a sweet pad above the restaurant,” P. said of his friend. “It's amazing.”
Friends, Old and New
I hit it off with a woman at the other end of the bar. She wants to open up a wine bar of her own, maybe in my neighborhood, and we talked about her vision. “Go for it!” I told her. My neighborhood could use a great wine bar.
I recounted the story of the picture and the GM job after she asked me what was up with those guys. “I want to check out Cool Tribeca Restaurant with you!” she said, “Even if he’s a creep, it’ll be fun and we can get some free drinks out of it. And new girlfriends.”
“Right on,” we exchanged emails. I sent her some truffles and said goodbye.
The night mellowed out. On his way out, my boss said he had created a new schedule for the summer. As soon as I got a moment to breathe, I ran downstairs to check it out. From now on, I’ll be working on Sundays. Sundays are good money nights, because the pool is split two ways rather than three. You have to work your ass off for several hours, and then the night mellows out. It’s a nice rhythm. I’ll probably finish working just after midnight. On Friday, it’s rare for me to leave before 2 a.m.
My friend Matt had just finished up dinner nearby with his parents, so he came by to say hi. He had a glass of wine, and after I restocked wine and did my paperwork, I joined him. I opted for a glass of Lambrusco. After all, it would be flat by the next day. K., my cook friend, poured fresh cream over the best chocolate cake in the world and set it in front of us.
“This is so great,” Matt said, not just of the cake but of the night. It was completely great, bad start and all. I can’t wait for my summer of Sunday nights.