Sunday, December 14, 2008
In the past 48 hours, I have had the pleasure of eating out at two restaurants. I mean REAL restaurants where the food was ordered from a menu I actually held in my hands, instead of one that is backlit and hung above the milkshake machine. And when I relayed my order, no one asked me if I wanted to supersize that. And I began think about how much a server can make or break a meal.
On Friday morning, I met my friends Beth and Denise for our weekly "therapy session." Rather than our standard Panera meet-up, we decided to go to Le Peep and treat ourselves to a sit-down meal. When I arrived, the other two had already been seated at a table by the window. I sat down with my back to the window. Our server, Cheri, came right over, took my order for Diet Coke and re-arranged the condiments on the center of the table, apparently based on where I'd chosen to sit.
After she left, I decided to switch seats to get away from the cold of the large glass window. When Cheri returned with my Diet Coke, she jokingly chastised me for moving to the new chair and then proceeded to re-arrange the condiments again. We told her we needed a little time to decide what we wanted. No problem.
When she came back to take our order, she'll plopped down into the empty chair (by the cold window) at the table. Beth ordered oatmeal and Cheri said, "Seriously?! Don't you want to be a little more exciting than that?" We all laughed. Cheri wasn't being rude, just playful. When I asked if it would be possible to get a hamburger, she said "No problem!" And when I changed my mind 2 minutes later after she'd written down all our requests, she appropriately gave me a pseudo hard time for being difficult.
Over the course of the breakfast, we learned that Cheri gives cool red and green bottles of wine to her friends for Christmas, except those guy friends who get the Budweiser Holiday beer in the special packaging. But she is stumped as to what to get her mother, who just buys whatever she wants or needs. So we threw out a few ideas, none of which passed muster with Cheri.
That's when Denise said that I should blog about it and see if any of the 4th Frog readers had any good ideas. Cheri thought that sounded cool, so I gave her the URL and told her I'd get on it. So, if you have any good ideas, leave them in the comments section for Cheri to check out.
When we left, I gave Cheri a Christmas bonus tip and thought how her friendly demeanor guaranteed that we'll be back to Le Peep for breakfast.
Then last night, Mike and I had an actual date that didn't involve using a coupon. Keltie's is the nicest restaurant we've been to in a while. I could tell this place was special because of the white tablecloths. Usually if there's white on a table at restaurant we're eating at, it's of the paper variety and comes with crayons for doodling.
Our server was Robert. (How can you go wrong with a guy named Robert?) It didn't hurt that he was handsome. Not hot in a youthful way, but handsome in a seasoned, I've lived a little way.
When we ordered soup and salad -- navy bean soup for mean and Caesar salad for Mike -- and said we'd wait until after we got that to order an entree, Robert didn't rush us. When he brought our starters, and we told him that we decided to split the crab cake appetizer and the horseradish crusted NY strip entree, he didn't act irritated.
Robert was attentive without hovering, making sure we had adequate water (me) and Diet Coke (Mike). Finally, when it was time for dessert, he brought the tray and convincingly told us that while he is a chocoholic, he highly recommended the mini cheesecake trio. He was right!
Mike and I both agreed it was one of the best meals -- and dates -- we've had in a long time. The food was delicious and the pace was perfect. And the one person that brought it all together was Robert.
Where Cheri made breakfast a great experience by her approachable style, Robert sealed the deal at dinner with his cordial yet professional demeanor. And since it will likely be a while before I am somewhere that my dinner doesn't have a number (as in, "I'll take a #3 with no onions and a large Diet Coke), I'm thankful to have run into Cheri and Robert when and where I did.