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Five Tips For Enjoying Any Restaurant Experience

We welcome back guest blogger, Nick Blakeslee, for a follow-up to his previous post, Year One at Standing Stone. Nick has now been with us for over two years and he’s ready to share a bit more about what he’s learned in the food industry…with a dash of humor, of course. 

It’s hard to believe I’ve been at Standing Stone for two years. It seems like yesterday I was writing my year one blog post about receiving my Standing Stone Commuter bike.  We have a lot to catch up on, you and I, as some things have changed since then.

Rest assured, I still have my bike.  I’ve only crashed it a handful of times, most of which happened because I was trying to be cool and ride with no hands.  Once I went up on a curb and tried to balance on the edge of the sidewalk. Easy enough, right? It ended with my tire sliding off, and me face first on the ground in front of a family of four.  They were nice enough to stifle their laughter and seemed genuine when they asked if I was OK.

“I’m good,” I labored to say, readjusting my helmet and desperately trying to get the breath back into my lungs.  My only hope is they were nice enough to forget my face.  Moral of the story: bike tricks are cool, but helmets are cooler.

nick bartending

photo courtesy of Dave Blakeslee

I also picked up bartending. In the time I’ve spent talking to patrons, mixing drinks and serving beer, I’ve learned I can make a mean Bloody Mary.  Some servers and customers say they appreciate my attention to detail, others wonder why I take so long to make a pretty simple drink.  They tap their feet and check their watch, wondering what the heck is taking so long.  Chaos can ensue around me; drink orders may pile up as my work flow increases, but when that Bloody Mary gets ordered it’s like time stands still.  For the briefest of moments, it’s just me and the Bloody Mary.

Most of all, I’ve learned to be a more capable server.  Two years have given me plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and ample time to hone my skills.  I think I’ve finally hit my stride.  Malcolm Gladwell once said that it took ten thousand hours to achieve true expertise.  I’m about eight thousand short, but I think I have at least a tinge of server savvy.

And what better way to use that dash of expertise than to share it with all you beloved readers?  I’ve compiled a quick how-to when dining out at a brewpub.  Recently we shared some tips and hints for enjoying beer entitled, What Can You Do with a Sample Tray? 

I’ve come up with my own, and the title is a work in progress.  I’ve been told, Tips and Tricks for Enjoying a Restaurant works well as a title, but I don’t want my creativity stifled.

I think my title is much more descriptive, it leaves the reader wanting more, all while being succinct and far from wordy.  Without further ado, here goes:

Nick’s Five Tips and Hints for Enjoying Food and Experiencing Restaurant Atmosphere While Having a Memorable Time and Positive Relationship with Your Server. 

Tip 1:  Allow plenty of time to relax.

While many restaurants are perfectly capable of accommodating time constraints patrons may have, it’s more fun to not be in a hurry.  The dining experience should be far from fast food and no one enjoys feeling rushed when they’re eating.  It’s hard to fully enjoy your food or your beer if you are constantly checking your watch.  So come early and have a beer, a glass of wine or simply sit and relax. You can always try a sample tray (lots of breweries have them) before a meal so you can choose a beer you like most.

Tip 2: Try something different.

I’m guilty of ignoring this rule.  I’m the type of person who finds what they love and sticks with it.  I have my ‘regular’ item wherever I go.  Cashiers give me a worried and surprised look when I order something different, their faces saying, “Who are you, and what have you done with Nick?”

That said, you’ll never find something new if you don’t try something different.  Standing Stone’s menu has a broad range of items ranging from Thai to Mexican to Italian.  Look for ingredients in items that you enjoy.  If you’re a chicken and vegetable person, why not try a Chicken Curry?  Are you a fan of greens and cheese?  Try a Pea Shoot Pizza.  Get a little weird, and look for menu items you can’t get anywhere else.

Tip 3: Ask questions.

Your server knows what’s most popular in a restaurant and has probably tried most everything on the menu.  Ask them what they like.  Tell them things you prefer or things you don’t.  Look to your server as a guide; they’re a sort of food Sherpa to culinary contentedness.  Ask them which beers or wines go best with which foods.  Inquire on which dishes are popular and which are not.  Take advantage of the knowledge they have.  They want you to have a positive experience just as much as you do.

Tip 4: Get to know your server.                   

I know for me personally, the tables I enjoy most are the ones who get to know me as much as I get to know them. And, of course, there are perks. I know a server who would personally tour out-of-towners around local mountain biking trails if they inquired. We even invite a few regulars to our annual Thanksgiving morning football game in the park. We’re actually a lot of fun, I promise. However, if you’re into having an intimate meal and catching up with friends or family, we totally understand that, too. Just know I’m here if you need me.

Thanksgiving Football 2013

photo by Nick Blakeslee (with Standing Stone’s very own GoPro!)

 

Tip 5: Have a good time.

Most of us don’t go out to eat just because we’re hungry; we do it because it’s fun.  It’s nice to go somewhere, eat good food and not have to worry about the dishes afterwards.  Bring friends and family, or make new ones when you go out. You’ll have a much better time if your mentality is to have a positive experience rather than just to fill a hungry stomach.  It’s possible to have both.

 

And there you have it.  That’s what I’ve been able to come up with in the two years I’ve worked here.  If you look at the time invested, it’s about five months per tip.  Which is either really impressive or not at all, depending on how you look at it.  Make sure to let me know if you think it’s the former.  If it’s the latter, it’d probably be best to keep it to yourself (I’m sensitive).

A friend of mine once said there’s no substitution for time invested.  Regardless of how well I’ve used it, the time I’ve invested has paid off so far, hopefully for both you and me!

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