A Plea: Bring Back the Bartender
I was at Cafe Des Amis in Cow Hollow the other night. As usual, I sat at my preferred spot to eat dinner: The bar. I was pleasantly surprised to see a bartender there that has served me in the past when he worked at Perbacco. His name is Scott Wolf and he's my kind of guy: friendly, a little saucy, always professional and on his game.
I'm taking a leap here to say that Scott probably doesn't consider himself a mixologist. For one, the restaurants he's worked at to my knowledge (Chaya, Perbacco, Betelnut) don't have those kind of bars, dominated by bartenders in the telltale vest/cap/mustache/tattoo getup. For another, he's always watching to make sure everyone's happy, rather than losing himself, head down, as he crafts an "artisinal" cocktail. I watched him that night and he was constantly on the move.
The cocktail movement has definitely raised the bar in this town (overused pun intended)—and for this I'm grateful—but it's also created a backlog of frustrated bar goers like myself, who often find themselves waiting in line to put in their order, and once they do, having to stand aside to wait some more as the bartender painstakingly takes his or her time making a heady cocktail into a 15 minute art project: peeling the perfect twist, rubbing the essential oils onto the rim, snipping fresh Thai basil from an herb garden, cracking pepper in a mortar and pestle, picking ice from a glacier-sized chunk flown in from Alaska, lighting it all on fire, or whatever is required to prove their muster. So often it's a drink that's about the bartender's ego before the customer's satisfaction.
And then you pay a lot for it.
Now, I know I sound cranky—and maybe I am. But I've been hearing rumblings about this phenomenon from both restaurant owners and customers alike. Barring the supreme cocktail geeks who will wait as long as it takes, I think the natives are getting restless.
From my perspective, we've reached the tipping point. It's time for the bar scene to come back to being about customer service. With all the knowledge that's been acquired about the cocktails themselves in the past couple years, I'm sure there's a way to have a fancy cocktail and enjoy it too. Onward!