Upfront With Nicole Weiler and Tim Mulhair

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Upfront is the Heavy Table’s effort to bring attention to the “front of the house,” and to generate discussion and debate about service in the Upper Midwest and beyond. Consisting of in-depth interviews, this series focuses on the experience of those who say, “Yes, Chef.” What, to them, constitutes “good service”? How do hosts, servers, bartenders, sommeliers, and managers navigate the dining environment as more and more self-identified “foodies” and self-appointed mixologists take to social media and dash off reviews on Yelp even before closing out their checks? How does front-of-the-house staff deal with the social, emotional, and physical demands of service? We really don’t know — so we decided to ask. (See the first installment of this series: Tim Niver of Strip Club Meat and Fish.)


A few months ago, we met Nicole Weiler, a razor sharp, vivacious woman who splits her time waiting tables between Barrio in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport (Terminal 2) and The Craftsman in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, all while studying at the University of Minnesota. Because Weiler could compare food service in the airport and “streetside” (server lingo for restaurants outside the airport), we knew we had to interview her for this series. She brought along Tim Mulhair, an insightful, charismatic bartender who also does double-duty at the airport (Barrio) and streetside (Jet Set in downtown Minneapolis). Weiler and Mulhair previously worked together in the G-concourse in Terminal 1, but left for Barrio just before G-Concourse implemented iPad service — both feared the new technology would reduce service to food delivery. Over an epic dinner at Corner Table, we had a lively conversation about the peculiarities, challenges, and opportunities of serving crowds who always have a flight to catch.

Job Security

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

HEAVY TABLE: What are some of the biggest differences between serving in the airport and outside the airport?

NICOLE WEILER: Well, it takes a long time to get to work, for one! And you still have to go through security every day and pay for parking. You get a staff rate, but … And making sure that you keep track of your badge, ’cause … if you lose that badge, it’s a hundred dollars to replace it. … And you can only lose it twice. The third time, it will be surrendered, and you can’t work in the airport for two years.

… You have to pack your bag correctly. You can’t bring your favorite drink into work. … If you want to have kombucha or something while you’re working, you have to go buy it at that inflated, five-dollars-a-bottle price.

TIM MULHAIR: And I think not having regulars, not having your friends come by to see you. It’s a weird thing. … People are like, “I can’t even go look at your restaurant, because it’s behind security.”

HEAVY TABLE: How often do you have to have trainings about security, regulations … ?

WEILER: We don’t?

HEAVY TABLE: You don’t?

MULHAIR: Not once you’re badged. … Which is an interesting process.

WEILER: You have to be fingerprinted and have an FBI background check to work at the airport.

Rock the Garden 2012 at the Walker Art Center

Rock the Garden 2012 at the Walker Art Center
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Lines at Rock the Garden 2012 snaked through the Sculpture Garden, as anxious festival goers waited to get inside to see the feature acts: Howler, tUnE-yArDs, Doomtree, Trampled by Turtles, and The Hold Steady.

We were there to check out the music and — of course — the food scene, which ranged from cupcakes to falafel and lemonade to beer.

Razz-Ma-Tazz and Betty Crocker cupcakes from Cupcake, Bacon Beer Brat from Chef Shack, and Ratatouille and Chevre and Pulled Pork and Coleslaw baguettes from Joe’s Garage.

Rock the Garden 2012 Food
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Jerry’s Fresh Cherry Lemonade, Chicken Taco from Barrio, Lamb Gyro from Best Way Gyros and the Mexican Falafel Sandwich from World Street Kitchen.
Rock the Garden 2012 Food
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Rock the Garden 2012 attendees cool off with Summit beer.

Summit Beer at Rock the Garden 2012
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Musical acts Howler and Doomtree.

Rock the Garden 2012 musical acts Howler and Doomtree
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

More music by Trampled by Turtles and tUnE-yArDs.

Rock the Garden 2012 music Trampled by Turtles and tUnE-yArDs
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Festival goers line up to enter the Rock the Garden grounds.

Rock the Garden 2012
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Click here for a full set of Rock the Garden 2012 photos.


Why Rachel Bought Barrio a Toilet Seat and Morning Roundup Part Two

The Pedal Pub makes its Uptown debut (featuring the Pub’s house rules), why Rachel Hutton bought Barrio a toilet seat, U of M History Professor Jeffrey M. Pilcher explains the origins of the taco on Smithsonian.com [via Chris Eats], a taste of this year’s Spargelfest (here’s our recap of 2011), and label art for a couple new Surly beers.

MSP Mag’s New Restaurant Quiz and December 23 Tweet Rodeo

@AndrewZimmern and Jason DeRusha (@DeRushaEats, @DeRushaJ) debate the snark level of MSP Mag’s “foodie” quiz, horseradish root makes @FreshTartSteph blush, @BurgerJones buys you a Surly when you purchase a $10 gift card, @PizzeriaLola gets a photo booth, and @CocinaBarrio opens in Edina.

Whisky Park Sized Up and Morning Roundup

A great profile of Common Roots, WCCO visits the state lutefisk capital of Madison, Dara assesses Whisky Park (“I’m glad for any downtown venue offering good scotch at happy hour prices”), a new Barrio has opened in Edina, HauteDish is tapping a crazy amount of dark beers for the solstice, and a snowman cheeseball.

Rogue and Barrio Hiring and November 11 Tweet Rodeo

Want to be a part of the world’s smallest chocolate factory? @RogueChocolate’s looking for a part-time holiday worker, @Barrio_StPaul finishes up interviews — so if you’re interested, show up before 4pm, @France44Cheese offers discounted @SurlyBrewing Furious when you buy a sandwich, @CRAVEamerica honors troops with a Veteran’s Day discount, and @SurdyksLiquor takes 20% off wine for their “Heart Healthy Sale.”

The Inn: Tim Niver and Aaron Johnson’s Newest Project

Tim Niver at The Inn
Lars Swanson / Heavy Table

A little more than a week after Subo closed its doors, the bamboo is coming down off the walls. The Asian-inspired paintings are getting crated up and the satin throw pillows are finding a new home.

What’s left behind are brick walls, barnwood accents, a hefty wooden bar, and interior window sashes in a long, dim space that looks an awful lot like an old-school tavern.

And that’s exactly what Tim Niver (above) saw in his mind’s eye when Subo’s owner, New York­-based businessman Jim Hays, approached him about taking over the space when the one-year-old Filipino-fusion eatery in downtown Minneapolis wasn’t living up to expectations.

Nothing’s set in stone, but look for The Inn, the newest project from Niver and his Town Talk Diner and Strip Club business partner Aaron Johnson, to open sometime in mid-November.

“Envision, back in the day, you walk into an inn and there are other travelers there and you raise a glass and tap it in the air and there’s beer coming down — that’s what I want,” Niver says. “That’s what an inn is. You walk in after getting off your horse and pull open this heavy wooden door and are immediately welcomed.”

Lars Swanson / Heavy Table

Niver, who still tends bar at The Strip Club and plans to remain deeply involved there, knows more than a thing or two about elevating comfort food. This time he says he’s hoping to put a European edge on it, with crocks filled with hearty stews, fish and chips, and steamed English puddings for dessert. (Spotted dick? Maybe.)

Thoma and Becker Redux

Dara breaks it down vis-a-vis Josh Thoma and Isaac Becker, checking in on the fiscal health of the restaurants involved (looks like La Belle Vie and Solera will be fine; Smalley’s, well, maybe not), mulling the role of media in scandal situations such as this one, and getting some good quotes from Becker on the value — or lack thereof — of airing dirty laundry. Related: Is the service at Barrio slipping?

March 30 Morning Roundup

A wrap-up of the “Andrew Zimmern fails to credit Chuck Terhark” angst tornado (Zimmern’s original zesty post now includes some juicy comments from the likes of Heartland’s Chef Lenny Russo) [via urbanfoodie, who also offers a meta-wrapup], Sea Salt opens this weekend, Downtown Journal looks at the rebranding of Finnegans, the gastronomic whirlwind lifestyle of talented Bemidji-based food writer Sue Doeden (featuring a visit to Local D’Lish), South 12th has (an awful lot of highly entertaining) cocktail-related advice for you, Chowhound’s The Dairy Queen holds forth at length on where the good food’s at around here, and a tamer version of Barrio heads to the gritty streets of Edina.

March 5 Tweet Rodeo

@HotDishBlog advertises Bloomington’s Taste of Chocolate, @MNBeer announces discounted tickets to the Highland Fest Beer Dabbler are available, @Barrio_Truck plans to be out and about on St. Patrick’s Day, and @FoxyFalafel tells of the origin of falafel.

January 18 Tweet Rodeo

@SanctuaryRest announces remaining reservation availability for their Alexis Bailly Vineyard tasting, @BlackDogStPaul offers 10% off all orders with a St. Paul Winter Carnival button, @Barrio_Truck announces its next stop, @AnsarisGrill dubs today “Monday Funday” and provides MLK Jr. Day 2-for-1s, and @Sheelar enters her cupcakes in today’s beer-themed IronCupcake:Milwaukee competition.

November 13 Tweet Rodeo

@LeeZukor enjoys his meal at Sen Yai Sen Lek, @FlatEarthBrew is about ready to sell growlers, @MMXChris posts a video of Wednesday’s Barrio taco truck jaunt, @Spill_The_Wine offers a @Parasole-style gift card sale, and @BANKRestaurant has a new chef.