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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: November 20 18, 3:12 pm 
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I’m on your side, 33.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: November 20 18, 10:30 pm 
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We've talked about this before, but I have 16 seats and it's hard to overstate the difference between 7-8 people and a bunch of bags on those chairs and every seat being full in terms of what it means to me personally and the restaurant's bottom line. Just one or two wrong moves and it's substantial amounts of money.

I've always been pretty aggressive about controlling where people sit, especially on busy nights, but we've been extremely busy lately and I've become completely preoccupied by how people are sitting down to the point that it's feeding into my sober hypervigilance and anxiety issues and I'm thinking too many moves ahead. The is the same part of me that very seriously wants to wait around to confront the person that's slightly double-parked at the grocery store - so I've been trying to relax about it lately.

That said, on Sunday night I basically lectured someone in the most inhospitable way possible for shifting the linens I put down into the middle two of the only four open seats at the bar. Not my finest restaurant moment.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: November 21 18, 8:25 am 
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haltz wrote:
I've always been pretty aggressive about controlling where people sit, especially on busy nights, but we've been extremely busy lately and I've become completely preoccupied by how people are sitting down to the point that it's feeding into my sober hypervigilance and anxiety issues and I'm thinking too many moves ahead. The is the same part of me that very seriously wants to wait around to confront the person that's slightly double-parked at the grocery store - so I've been trying to relax about it lately.


Where I got to when I was still behind the stick was watching the door and getting to the seats before the guests, putting menus down at the two seats I wanted them to occupy. If they'd go to take the center 2 out of an empty 4, I'd politely ask "May I ask that you take these two so the next couple in has space?" and about 95% of the time they'd have no problem with it. I have that thing that wants to lecture the supermarket parker as well, so it was kind of a proactive remedy.

Billy Sunday here has it figured out. I used to work a night or two a week there to help Alex out. Fancy cocktail bar, maybe 30 seats at tables and 18 bar seats. All the drinks are 6-9 touch* cocktails, save the draft and bottled cocktails. On Friday and Saturday, Patrick is the host/greeter/doorman. Patrick seats guests, full stop. No one comes in and picks their seat on Friday-Saturday. Patrick greets you, walks you to the bar, seats you. Standing at the bar is limited to regulars and friends of the bar, because three bartenders making 6-9 touch cocktails for 48 seats is busy enough, and if they doubled up the bar service would grind to a halt. If there are four seats open at the bar Patrick puts menus down at XX-- or --XX and if you try to slide Patrick lets you know that won't work for us, there needs to be room for the next couple. It's not a choice, but he puts it nicely. You can't have the middle two and we're happy to check any coats and bags that won't fit on the hooks under the bartop. Guest says "oh but we will move down if someone comes in", Patrick says "It's Friday, someone will be in, and as a courtesy to us and them we need you to take XX-- or --XX." Patrick refused service to a couple once, like if you sit there we will not serve you. They sat there. I ignored them. They left. The Yelp review was awesome.

*"touch is bar lingo for ingredients. How many bottles you have to "touch" to make a cocktail. An Old fashioned has bitters, sugar syrup, whiskey--it's a 3-touch cocktail. Usually over 5 touches you're getting into too-precious, too-busy territory.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: November 28 18, 8:50 am 
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33anda3rd wrote:
I'm an eat-at-the-bar guy. I often get better service because the bartender is somewhat captive behind the bar and in front of me during my meal. Especially if I'm sitting in front of one of the stations where the bartender is making drinks. We also generally end up chatting with people next to us, which is nice. It's great also if I'm solo and want to grab a bite to eat and just stare at my phone or the television.

We'll sit at the bar if no tables are available. I prefer sitting at the bar if by myself. As you said, better service and some good conversations with bartenders and fellow bar patrons. Spent a lot of time in Boston since the kid lives there and have had some great chats killing time when she had plans for the evening. That's where I learned not to hate on Saux fans.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: March 4 19, 8:11 pm 
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Tribune writer recently does a thing where he eats like all the burgers in town, reviews them. Gives top spot to Table, Donkey and Stick, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant and a lot of restaurant industry people's favorite Chicago restaurant. Tiny kitchen, they make everything--charcuterie, bread, burger buns, you name it--in house. They make a dozen or so burger buns a night--pretzel buns, lye-dipped old school, delicious, but they're not a burger place. But it really is that good. It's also a tiny restaurant, like 36 seats plus another 10 at the bar. A little neighborhood joint that happens to be freaking awesome. So this thing comes out in the Trib and for 5 days they are crushed. They start baking 30 buns/night, then 40 buns/night, then 70 buns for service on Saturday night. They run out, nightly. The grill is getting annihilated while the other stations in the kitchen are underutilized because the people who have to have the [expletive] burger now are booking reservations like crazy and there's just not tables for the people who want the rest of the menu. I was in there today talking to the GM, he's going crazy. He's like yeah they're coming in and having a burger then writing these [expletive] reviews on OpenTable. I get home and I look. It's awful. This guy:

Quote:
The exterior is unassuming. You wouldn't think that there would be a restaurant by just looking outside. I originally went to try their burger which the Chicago Tribune claimed they had they Best Burger in Chicago. Unfortunately, they "ran out" for the night. Not sure if it was just poor planning on the kitchen's side that they ran out of ingredients or it really is that good that they did sell out (and quite frankly, I believe already found the Best Burger in Chicago so I was looking for them to change my mind). But I didn't want to leave hungry so I tried their other items. I will give them this, they did have some rare whiskies I've been meaning to try on their menu. But the actual menu items, the server didn't provide much of a description (neither did he give much of a recommendation, but rather a "everthing's edible" response). The foie gras was typical along with the pomegranate jam it comes with, but kinda tough to cut into. By the way, bread is extra and I don't recommend eating this on its own. The pinkelwurst tasted like an andouille sausage with creamed kale, nothing more. For the prices I paid for these items, I would not recommend them. It's a shame they didn't have what I originally wanted to try. If they did it might have saved them from a low score from me.


I text my buddy. Him: "This burger thing sucks." That's what mid- to upscale dining has become. You get a nice piece of press and it kills you because the internet and [expletive] people.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: March 4 19, 9:53 pm 
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We don't have such problems at The Feedlot™


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: March 5 19, 8:46 pm 
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Just looked up that restaurant 33 and had an odd case of deja vu. It seems like someone on here a while ago posted about a restaurant that won an award like that and then relatively quickly went out of business. Okay, just found it.

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/portland/ ... rger-quest

Anyway, after looking at table donkey stick, that's unfortunate they're having problems with the lo-brow crowd which I would consider myself firmly in. I wonder if they've thought about advertising that the burger will be unavailable for the next year or so. Tell people when they call for reservations and advertise it on opentable or whatever they use to book reservations. Seems like that is one of the cheaper items on the menu anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: March 5 19, 9:03 pm 
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Almost need to have a strategy for surviving that kind of thing. Small place cursed with a favorable review. I feel like it has happened in St louis a few times, but can't place it off the top of my head. Iron Barley maybe?

it has to be nice to get the short term attention, but if you expand you have too much OH for when the foodie tide goes off to next great place. if you stay small, get crushed and have poor service and lose regular people.

I say this realizing restaurants have a finite life. I imagine youn need exit plan where you don't come up broke when that time comes.

any good industry articles to share on how this works. ?


Last edited by Freed Roger on March 5 19, 9:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: March 5 19, 9:20 pm 
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AWvsCBsteeeerike3 wrote:
Just looked up that restaurant 33 and had an odd case of deja vu. It seems like someone on here a while ago posted about a restaurant that won an award like that and then relatively quickly went out of business. Okay, just found it.

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/portland/ ... rger-quest

Anyway, after looking at table donkey stick, that's unfortunate they're having problems with the lo-brow crowd which I would consider myself firmly in. I wonder if they've thought about advertising that the burger will be unavailable for the next year or so. Tell people when they call for reservations and advertise it on opentable or whatever they use to book reservations. Seems like that is one of the cheaper items on the menu anyway.


If they only had time to spin that hamburger off (the one from 33rds friends) to some place nearby, like a pop-up food truck thing. They can still have the burger at times at the original place, but people that just want the burger go some place else.

I sort of saw this out on Oregon Coast, fancy restaurant but nearby it had a food truck for some of the lower end but fan favorites.

Maybe there is a business opportunity for this. a kitchen and popup restaurant (would have to be in a rest/ent district or mobile) that can function as on demand Annex for other restaurants to help with fleeting popularity.


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 Post subject: Re: rant: fine dining
PostPosted: March 6 19, 8:43 am 
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AWvsCBsteeeerike3 wrote:
...they're having problems with the lo-brow crowd which I would consider myself firmly in.


You're probably not in this crowd. It's a confluence of several things.

1. The de-professionalizing of food media and the reduction of it to lists. Eater, Thrillist, TimeOut have swallowed up real food reviews in which the paid professional reviewer eats at a place anonymously 5-8X then writes an objective review. That traditional media is dead. Eater on a local level doesn't have people who go out to eat and write reviews, they have people who sit in offices and who aggregate press releases they receive into lists of "hot" or "essential." I've opened a few places that have made their "Hottest (Bars/Restaurants) To (Eat/Drink) At Right Now" lists and those lists often include places that have been open for under a couple weeks. They haven't eaten there, it's just new. It's just basically saying "yo, this is open now and high-profie." If Eater archived those lists--they do not, they disappear each month when a new one is posted--we could go look at the list for 16 months ago and probably find half the places closed. The burger list we're discussing was in the Tribune, but written not by Phil Vettel, their reviewer for decades, but but Nick Kindelsperger, the kid the Trib hired to write lists to attract younger readers. This is our food media, 80% of it. 2% of it is professional food reviewers. The other 18% is...

2. Social media/Yelp and the foodies. First let's define foodies. Young, urban, lots of disposable income to go out and eat a lot, probably use their social media for a lot of check-ins, tweets and photos about restaurants. Almost certainly not packing a culinary degree or experience in a pro kitchen. The kind of people who want to talk to chef, then ask chef what temp he sous vides the shortrib and when chef says "145" they look at the ceiling and go "....sorry, just converting, I run my on celsius at home...." That kind of person. This guy fits that bill. The way my buddy described him was: "1015 one top reso. Total INCEL." ie he booked a table for one at 10:15. Someone who either can't get a date or can't get someone to eat at 10:15PM with him but he's just got to get in ASAP to eat that burger which, by his own admission, he's ready to compare to the burger that he already know is the best burger in town. When the burger was out, he gave them 2 stars. If the burger was still avail, he'd probably have given them 2-3 stars, because he already knows where the best burger is. He also took his case to social media. He's a poon. Screw that guy. He's not a low-brow guy who eats all his meals at Roger's Feedlot, he's a snobby urban prick.

3. The need to make matters of taste objective. Jesus this has just gone completely off the rails and I'm frankly not surprised that it comes at a time when real objectivity in the world is dying in favor of "yeah but how do we feel about the issue?" TDS probably does not have the best burger in town, they have the burger in town that Nick Kindelsperger, listmaker for the Chicago Tribune, liked the best when he last had it. The dude who booked at 10:15 resy for himself's favorite burger is his favorite burger, he does not in fact know where the best burger in Chicago is. Au Cheval is not the best burger in America. In N Out is not the best burger in America. Some whiskey that won double gold at the San Francisco Spirits Whatever 2018 is not the best whiskey in the world. They're popular, and a lot of people's favorites, or won the taste of the judges at a particular show, but they are not the best because that's a matter of taste and totally subjective.

#1 and #3, totally go together. All these lists, all this writing in which subjective taste is made objective. Type best burger in America into google and you'll probably get a hundred million results +. From people who need to write that the thing that they like best is best. To get clicks, and ad revenue.

-----

To your other point, TDS sits in a 120 year old building surrounded by new condo construction and the moment their lease is up, they're gonna be out of there. They're already looking for new space and they've got 2.5 years. The owner, Matt, was in his late 20s when he opened it. He runs on VERY thin margins, as most restaurateurs do. On Tuesday's (he's a somm and wine nerd) he brings in some wine, usually special rare stuff, opens it by the glass and pours it at cost. If the bottle cost $100 and he can get 8 half-pours, each half pour is $12.50. He does this as a gesture of hospitality to wine lovers in the neighborhood and his professional peers and it's incredibly generous. On Mondays they sell a smaller burger for $5 along with a $1 beer and a $3 shot of bourbon. He's been doing that for years as a gesture of hospitality to the broke kids in his neighborhood and cooks and other industry people. He does that despite having a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating and a sterling reputation for quality in his restaurant. So for him to go "ok, big influx of business, but we're only going to make 20 burgers tonight and if they don't get here in time, then screw 'em" would be to turn away another 20 guests/night or so that help him make a living. This will drive him and his staff crazy, the complaints about the burger as the foodies who want to swing their dicks around about what burger is "best" descend like locusts on his restaurant, but it's money he can't say no to.


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