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  • The Professional

    Post #1 - April 2nd, 2009, 9:33 am
    Post #1 - April 2nd, 2009, 9:33 am Post #1 - April 2nd, 2009, 9:33 am
    Over the years, we have had the fortune of being served by what I like to affectionately refer to as professional waiters or bartenders; people that take their jobs so seriously and exude such sincerity, that I can only view these people as artists of their trade. The positive experience may start with a sincere smile the first moment they spot you. This isn’t about some tip-sniffing schmoozer who knows how to butter his own bread from his regulars and tourists. No. I’m talking about the true professional who regardless of whether he’s serving a first-timer or a 20-year veteran their ultimate objective is the optimum experience for you, the customer,

    My first encounter into this world came via a well-crafted martini executed by Peter Karolis, a professional bartender at EJ’s Place in Skokie. Peter wasn’t shmoozy, and didn’t pretend to be your best friend, but he left no doubt that all the details that need paying attention to from behind the bar are being taken care of. A little banter here and there, that’s all. Peter never created the illusion that anything was more important to him than you’re happiness with your cocktail and being warm and fuzzy in his professional work space. He has since moved back to his native Greece. I’ll always miss his care and expertise whenever I hit the bar over at EJ’s.

    If you’re looking to go home, there’s no use searching further than Birrieria Zaragoza. Go into this very small family-run Mexican diner where Norma, the family’s matriarch, will give you a warm greeting upon your arrival, and usually talk to you while making sure you get piping hot, homemade tortillas, the best available parts of the goat, and maybe if you are there at the right time, she’ll have you sample something she’s been cooking in the back kitchen. This is my home away from home thanks largely to her warmth and professionalism.

    Even before the recent cocktail boom took hold, finding the ultimate professional bartender was a true mission for me; a person who not only knew and truly loved everything about the world of the cocktail but understood the importance of the sacred interaction between bartender and customer. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say (with the exception of Peter at EJs) that I never really found that over the years in Chicago…until I met Brad Bolt from Bar Deville. Show any interest in what’s truly happening behind the bar and a whole new world will be shared with explanations of mostly-unknown spirits they carry, cocktail-making techniques, or if you’re lucky, maybe sample some of the largely unknown spirits hitting the marketplace that he enthusiastically carries. Brad’s passion for cocktails is infectious and his ability to create an unpretentious environment to enjoy those drinks is unmatched anywhere in town.

    There’s no question in my mind that the absolute best waiter in Chicago is in the oyster bar at Shaw’s Crab House. Watch William work the room and you’ll see what I mean on that front alone. He’s total grace whether under pressure or waiting solely on your table. Impeccably dressed and manicured, perfect posture…you get the idea. His sincere smile the minute he notices your presence is similar to what one hopes to get when traveling home for Thanksgiving. And importantly, his knowledge of which specific raw oysters are mandatory eats that day is always dead-on treasured advice. Even his simple descriptions of their characteristics don’t convey a sense of canned bullshit and needed self-stroking/credibility because he knows within himself that he’s highly credible when it comes to the world of oysters.

    The man’s a master— plain and simple.

    We certainly have shown a serious desire over the years to recognize restaurants for their excellence by awarding them with GNR awards. I see no reason why we shouldn’t do the same for the upper echelons of professional servers who have the ability to make even an ordinary experience something special.



    Birrieria Zaragoza (Norma Zaragoza)
    4852 S Pulaski Rd.
    Chicago, IL 60632
    (773) 523-3700

    Bar Deville (Bradley Bolt)
    701 N. Damen Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60622
    (312) 929-2349

    Shaw's Oyster Bar (William)
    21 E. Hubbard St.
    Chicago, IL 60611
    (312) 527-2722

    EJs Place
    10027 Skokie Blvd
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (847) 933-9800
    Last edited by PIGMON on April 4th, 2009, 11:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #2 - April 2nd, 2009, 9:49 am
    Post #2 - April 2nd, 2009, 9:49 am Post #2 - April 2nd, 2009, 9:49 am
    It's not just a tired cliche'. Good help IS hard to find and should be rewarded and appreciated whenever you do. Not only from the customers point of view, but from the house's as well.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #3 - April 2nd, 2009, 7:57 pm
    Post #3 - April 2nd, 2009, 7:57 pm Post #3 - April 2nd, 2009, 7:57 pm
    Great idea for a topic and an award.

    There's a server at Prairie Grass Cafe that fits this description. I don't know her name, but she's in her 40's. Someone else here probably knows who I'm talking about.
    http://edzos.com/
    Edzo's Evanston on Facebook or Twitter.

    Edzo's Lincoln Park on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Post #4 - April 3rd, 2009, 5:23 pm
    Post #4 - April 3rd, 2009, 5:23 pm Post #4 - April 3rd, 2009, 5:23 pm
    Funny...when I started reading the post, another person at Shaw's popped into my head.

    Arturo at the Oyster Bar. He might not be into cocktail alchemy, but he's a classic bartender in every other sense of the word. Genuinely warm, the picture of good service, and dead-on with oyster or wine recommendations.

    Excellent topic, Pigmon.
  • Post #5 - January 26th, 2010, 8:20 pm
    Post #5 - January 26th, 2010, 8:20 pm Post #5 - January 26th, 2010, 8:20 pm
    Prompted by some discussion in The Purple Pig thread, I thought I'd recount a memorable recent service experience. At The Violet Hour, I was enjoying a cocktail and talking to the bartender about Mado, where I would be meeting friends for dinner about an hour later. Halfway through dinner at Mado, in walks the bartender with my credit card in hand! I had left it in the folder with the bill. The Violet Hour - talk about professionalism!
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #6 - January 26th, 2010, 8:41 pm
    Post #6 - January 26th, 2010, 8:41 pm Post #6 - January 26th, 2010, 8:41 pm
    Two examples of excellent service that I experienced in the same evening (should've bought a lottery ticket!!)

    1) We stopped in to Eno (the lovely little wine bar in the Hotel Intercontinental) last Friday night while waiting for a table at the Purple Pig. Israel, our server, was knowledgeable about wine without being pushy or pretentious, gave us excellent recommendations, provided some low key banter and just generally demonstrated that he enjoys his work. Our group agreed--while we very much enjoyed the atmosphere, wine selection and reasonable pricing (especially for a Mag Mile high end hotel!!), it was the service that would bring us back. Bonus round: one of the gals left her credit card on the table and Israel called the Purple Pig to let her know! I don't think anyone actually told him that's where we were going --he must have overheard us talking about it...

    2) same evening: Purple Pig. Our server, whose name we unfortunately cannot remember now (after a wine flight at Eno and 2 bottles of wine among 4 of us at PP), was definitely on her game as well. Excellent wine service (we had a picky group who wanted somewhat disparate things--she brought over 2 bottles for us to taste before ordering!), absolute command of the menu (they've only been open a month so this isn't as much of a given as it would be for a more established place), great sense of humor and perfect timing under difficult conditions (packed house, we were a later seating, communal table, etc.) Made for a lovely evening (and there were a few glitches at PP so it just goes to show that great service can save the day!)
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #7 - January 26th, 2010, 8:44 pm
    Post #7 - January 26th, 2010, 8:44 pm Post #7 - January 26th, 2010, 8:44 pm
    still trying to figure out how to reference other threads (YES, I've read the instructions but I'm slow :shock:)
    Kennyz wrote:Prompted by some discussion in The Purple Pig thread, I thought I'd recount a memorable recent service experience. At The Violet Hour, I was enjoying a cocktail and talking to the bartender about Mado, where I would be meeting friends for dinner about an hour later. Halfway through dinner at Mado, in walks the bartender with my credit card in hand! I had left it in the folder with the bill. The Violet Hour - talk about professionalism!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #8 - January 26th, 2010, 8:50 pm
    Post #8 - January 26th, 2010, 8:50 pm Post #8 - January 26th, 2010, 8:50 pm
    boudreaulicious wrote:still trying to figure out how to reference other threads (YES, I've read the instructions but I'm slow :shock:)
    Kennyz wrote:Prompted by some discussion in The Purple Pig thread, I thought I'd recount a memorable recent service experience. At The Violet Hour, I was enjoying a cocktail and talking to the bartender about Mado, where I would be meeting friends for dinner about an hour later. Halfway through dinner at Mado, in walks the bartender with my credit card in hand! I had left it in the folder with the bill. The Violet Hour - talk about professionalism!


    See step 5 in the How To Crib Sheet in the References Forum, which is about how to link to another web page. Other threads are unique web pages with their own url, so I just open those threads and copy the url, then follow the instructions in Item 5.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #9 - January 26th, 2010, 8:59 pm
    Post #9 - January 26th, 2010, 8:59 pm Post #9 - January 26th, 2010, 8:59 pm
    Kennyz wrote:
    boudreaulicious wrote:still trying to figure out how to reference other threads (YES, I've read the instructions but I'm slow :shock:)
    Kennyz wrote:Prompted by some discussion in The Purple Pig thread, I thought I'd recount a memorable recent service experience. At The Violet Hour, I was enjoying a cocktail and talking to the bartender about Mado, where I would be meeting friends for dinner about an hour later. Halfway through dinner at Mado, in walks the bartender with my credit card in hand! I had left it in the folder with the bill. The Violet Hour - talk about professionalism!


    See step 5 in the How To Crib Sheet in the References Forum, which is about how to link to another web page. Other threads are unique web pages with their own url, so I just open those threads and copy the url, then follow the instructions in Item 5.


    Thanks for the shortcut! I think LTH should sell "tutoring" for the technically challenged. They could donate the proceeds to a food bank or something...I'd rack up a nice donation on posting pics alone...
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #10 - January 26th, 2010, 9:00 pm
    Post #10 - January 26th, 2010, 9:00 pm Post #10 - January 26th, 2010, 9:00 pm
    One of the reasons that I always loved lunching at Gibson's in Rosemont during my tenure in Chicago was the relationship I developed with Deb the lunchtime hostess.

    She was always friendly quick with a personal compliment that reminded you that she remembered you. She always knew my table preference and could always find a table for me even when the biggest conventions and shows were taking place at the Donald Stephens Center.

    Seeing her was like seeing an old friend every time I walked in the door.
  • Post #11 - January 26th, 2010, 11:33 pm
    Post #11 - January 26th, 2010, 11:33 pm Post #11 - January 26th, 2010, 11:33 pm
    elakin wrote:Great idea for a topic and an award.

    There's a server at Prairie Grass Cafe that fits this description. I don't know her name, but she's in her 40's. Someone else here probably knows who I'm talking about.

    This would be either Norma or Pearl. Both are outstanding professionals who are among the best servers I've ever had. But if honestly, you're not great at Prairie Grass Cafe, you don't last long there. While it's not nearly as formal, the ownership/management team developed and refined their style at The Ritz-Carlton and The Four Seasons. They are all about their guests in a way that too few places are. Here, it really does come from the top.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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