Served: A Colorful Cast of Customers

I blog by day and wait tables by night. I'm excited to bring you Served, dispatches from the front of the house. Enjoy!

20080616-servedbug.jpgA couple came from Chicago to visit New York City for the weekend. Their plans included two Broadway shows and a trip to my restaurant. They showed up to eat after the first of their theater engagements, glowing. They had a blast; they adored the show.

The place was bustling with our usual late night rush. The couple, two guys, squeezed into the end of the bar and ordered some wine. Then, one of them saw something. He turned to the other, “was that the woman in the play we just saw?” he asked, checking out a lady across our little restaurant.

Upon closer examination, it turned out a sizable part of the cast was hanging out at a table in the corner, eating cheeses and meats and drinking bubbly. They come by often after their show. In fact, they’re friends.

The guys were a little star struck. They needed encouragement from A., a fellow server, to say hi to the musical table. But say hi they did.

They ended hitting it off with the cast. There was a bit of room at their table, so the two men wedged in and shared a bottle of wine.

The couple told the actors about the show they were going to see the following night. Turns out, the cast of that show was hanging out a few tables away, also devouring a plate of cheese.

I wasn’t working that night, but I heard the story the next evening, when the couple returned. They wanted to spend their last night in town at our restaurant. They were so sweet, genuine, and funny that I was sad they had to return to Chicago.

I’ve met a lot of awesome tourists. There are some “types” of people who I have come to expect. I’m not eager to typecast, but it’s amazing how people so often behave, at least during our brief interactions, in some very predictable ways.

An incomplete cast of characters:

The Clueless

When we first opened, our menu was an undifferentiated mass of items. With a little bit of consideration, we hoped our diners would intuit that a three dollar plate of green cerignola olives would not be enough for dinner. Or that a thirteen dollar duck confit salad might be more substantial than the three dollar mustard miso pickles.

Most of them did. But many were confused. “How does this work?” was (and still is) a familiar refrain.

So we divided the menu up into “small,” “medium” and “large” sections. The pickles and olives occupy the first category. The intention was to help out our customers by explaining ourselves a little better.

Strangely enough, the size categories seem to confound more than clarify.

About twice a night, people ask me: “What does it mean: small, medium, and large?” Seriously? It means small, medium, and large!

“Well,” I am tempted to retort, “The small plates are really, really, really big. The large plates are teeny.” But I have so far resisted the urge.

The Vegan

My place is a cheese bar! There are many places for vegans to dine in New York City, but ours is not one of them. Besides the aforementioned olives and pickles, we have nothing for them to eat. Our advice: have some wine. Or go somewhere else. Or go home.

The Professional

They know what they’re doing. They may or may not work in the restaurant biz, but they know their way around a menu and a wine list. They tend to order a bunch of stuff. They also tend to have a good time, tip well, and be a pleasure to wait on.

The Attention Whore

It is a rare but extant type who needs to be attended to unceasingly. These people ask to try five wines. They want you to entertain them. They want you to tell them about every item on our menu, and the restaurant's name, and everyone who works there, and your life story, and the art on the wall. Actually, they want to try six wines. Is that ok?

The Mom

I am young and just starting out my career. Certain people see me as a perfect target for their maternal urges. Some are wise and insightful and I truly value their advice.

Others, not so much. Sorry, lady, but we just met. I don’t want your counsel, especially when you instruct me that I need to go law school straight away if I want to amount to anything, advise that I should work for my anthropology professor in New Guinea for at least a summer, and/or dispel dating tips. Thanks but no thanks.

The Pursuer

The people who hit on me are not just lecherous old men. They come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and genders.

A first: a (gorgeous!) couple who sought persistently to woo me. I thought they were just particularly flirtatious. Then, she tried to kiss me goodbye one night. With tongue.

The Newbie: Excited

Oh my lord! This is new to me! And fabulous! The buffalo milk blue! The truffled bloomy-rind cheese! The sweet grass that tastes like butter, only so much better! The awesome condiments: wasabi pickles, cardamom spiced almonds, basil marshmallows, brown sugar fudge! The waitstaff is so nice! The wine is so delicious!

It's cool when people are super excited about what we are doing. After all, we're excited too.

The Newbie: Nervous

What is this stuff? What does it mean that the cheese is "meaty?" What does it mean that the wine is "earthy?" This is weird.

"I get it," J. said, about a group clearly uncomfortable with being at our place. "They're nervous so they're making jokes."

The Bros

For some dudes, the cheese/wine bar is an irrevocably girlie concept that can’t be remedied by our beers or bacon. To preserve their manliness, they must sit with their legs sprawled out as far as they can possible sprawl, and make lots of fun of wine.

Your loss, guys. I promise that your man parts are not going to fall off if you have some malbec and a sandwich.