Great food can be greatly diminished if great hospitality isn't in play. Union Square restauranteur Danny Meyer literally wrote the book on the topic. And, those who know me, know that hospitality is something I take quite seriously. A marvelous meal is just as much about the people interacting with you and serving - if not more so - than the food you're actually being served.
Joyful people make for a good time.
Sounds simple, but it's not easy to achieve a consistently happy and joyful staff when you're slogging through the mayhem that is the New York restaurant world. I get that. Which is why I'm incredibly appreciative when I find amazing front-of-the-house people.
For example, I recently was lucky enough to sit in Drew's station at Tom Colicchio's Craftbar. He was so genuinely exuberant and knowledgeable about the menu that both of us at the table wanted to take each and every one of his recommendations. (And, yes, he was right about going for the Riesling over the Port for the cheese course!) But, moreover, I want to go back to Craftbar and see him again just to say "hello." Seriously.
I feel exactly the same way about several of the bartenders and waiters at one of my favorite neighborhood spots, Jack the Horse Tavern. Matt, Tristan, Sam, Taj, and Alex all come to mind - and former manager Mackenzie, one of the loveliest, most unflappable ladies I know, is going to be sorely missed.
These are people who might make me cocktail or hand me a burger, but who can also make the day (or evening) a touch brighter though a smile, a bit of conversation, or just a thoughtful - "How are you doing?"
In addition to bartender Tristan at JtH, I have another bartender Tristan who I think is a gem as well. He currently splits his time between Boudoir in Brooklyn Heights and one of my favorite Vietnamese hot spots, Bricolage. He takes such pleasure in his work that it's hard not to form a smile when you put a drink of his to your lips.
That said, I wasn't kidding about there being bumps in the hospitality road. Last night, Bricolage - sans Tristan, who was on Boudoir duty - offered up a major hospitality fail on my birthday. Not going to get into the details, but I don't think I'm going to return unless I'm sidling up to the bar with Tristan behind (or maybe his protege Tyler). But, all in all, the experience did remind me of the importance of front-of-the-house hospitality.
Don't take it for granted. I don't - and tip accordingly.