The Tap: Service Culture Meets Millennial Culture

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This week in the Tap: The meaning of “good service” may be evolving.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Good Service and Millennial Culture

Two recent visits to two excellent restaurants got me thinking about the nuances of “good service.” Both places — Estrellón in Madison and Heirloom in St. Paul — have talented young chefs on the make, and both boasted staffs whose average age seemed parked around 23.

Commonalities between the places, beyond the uniformly delicious food and drinks: All of the restaurants’ young servers, impeccably dressed and coifed, seemed … busy. Questions and requests, which they politely humored, generally seemed to be impositions on their time. Specials had to be extracted, and when they were provided, they were summarized briefly.

At Estrellón, I watched a server engage with another diner about whether a particular tapa was gluten-free. While it’s hard not to feel the server’s pain, it was also unpleasant listening. It was a prickly exchange, with the server defending what he’d written down and how the menu was phrased against the guest’s increasingly peevish accusations. Lost completely was the idea that diners should be welcome and comfortable, and that the service interaction is meant to facilitate that feeling. In a word: hospitality, a concept at the very core of dining out anywhere (and, certainly, at any place where the average check total approaches $75 a diner).

At Heirloom, the most meaningful interaction we had with our chronically rushed waiter was at the end of the meal, when he explained that the 18-percent service charge tacked onto our bill would be divided amongst the staff … and that if we wanted to tip him personally beyond that, we could write in that additional number on the conveniently provided line on the tab.

Here’s a theory: When you’re used to splitting your day between five social media channels, it’s easy to see any given customer as a task to be accomplished and then rotated away from, rather than a guest to be welcomed. It’s totally understandable, it’s a natural evolution, and it’s a shame. One of the great appeals of restaurants is feeling as though everything is taken care of, and you need only enjoy your food, wine, and conversation.

Age isn’t the only factor here. I’ve been waited on by young servers at places like Brasa, Meritage, Saint Genevieve, and others and had reliable, repeatably great service, where hospitality was the watchword. But those three places (in particular) are helmed by veteran chefs with old-school ideas about how to make guests feel comfortable. It will be a great thing for diners if newer restaurants retain some of the best traditions of their predecessors even as they evolve and innovate. — James Norton

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Join us at Baristas Gone Wild this weekend at Spyhouse Coffee Northeast

Are you the sort of person who brings a (shatter-proof) French press into the wilderness? Do you demand decent coffee no matter how wild the setting? Then you’ll want to head to Northeast Minneapolis on Saturday, May 14 to attend Baristas Gone Wild. You’ll join the award-winning roasters of Spyhouse Coffee as they prepare you for a wild summer of camping, canoeing, and coffee brewing.

And you’ll also learn more about Chef Camp, the Sept. 2-4 camp retreat featuring some of Minnesota’s best chefs teaching open-fire cooking.

Baristas Gone Wild will feature demonstrations on coffee roasting and various styles of brewing (with tastings!), and a coffee mixology tutorial with an emphasis on coffee drinks that would be ideal when made and enjoyed in the great outdoors.

We’re down to our last handful of tickets, so please sign up today if you’re interested.

When:
Where: Spyhouse Coffee — 945 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis 55413
Tickets: $10 + fees via Eventbrite

NOW OPEN

Dogwood Coffee Pour Over

Kate N.G. Sommers/Heavy Table

  • Lou Nanne’s, 7651 France Ave S, Edina | Steakcentric menu with a Manny’s vet (Josh Hill) as chef. Our brief review is here.
  • Encore Karaoke and Sushi Lounge, 2111 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | The former Verdant Tea space on Franklin now boasts private karaoke rooms that’ll set you back $60 (for two hours in the Silver Room) to $800 (for four hours in the Penthouse, which houses 20-30 guests).

CLOSED / CLOSING:

  • Bonnie’s Cafe
  • Scena
  • Foreign Legion | The last element of the glorious but short-lived Brasserie Zentral.
  • Lee’s and Dee’s Bar-B-Que Express (Some hope remains that it will reopen)
  • Scusi | New restaurant concept to be announced this month.

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

Screenshot from Wild Mind Ales website

Screenshot from Wild Mind Artisan Ales website

  • Wild Mind Artisan Ales Taproom, 6031 Pillsbury Ave S, Minneapolis | As per the press release: “Wild Mind will predominantly produce wild, sour, farmhouse, saison, and rustic ales in the traditional European method: through barrel aging and blending, which produces beers with rich, deep, complex flavors.
  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave, Minneapolis | August | Former Uptown Imports location.
  • Kata Organic, 4279 Sheridan Ave S, Minneapolis | Late spring | Organic cafe, smoothies, and fitness classes.
  • Clockwerks Brewing Company, 25 4th St N, Minneapolis | Late spring.
  • Trapeze, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Early Summer 2016 | A new Kim Bartmann “bubbles and toasts” bar opening next door to Barbette.
  • Lu’s Sandwich, 20 6th Street NE, Minneapolis
  • Blackeye Roasting Company, 330 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis (Skyway level) | Spring | An 18-seat cafe located in the skyway with 10 tap lines of non-alcoholic beverages that include nitro cold brew coffee, nitro iced tea, kombucha and draft cocktails
  • Erik the Red, 600 N 1st Ave, Minneapolis | Summer | Nordic-influenced barbecue from the owner of Devil’s Advocate.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 30 N 1st St, Minneapolis | October | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining.
  • Costa Blanca, 2416 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | The latest spot from the opening-restaurants-like-crazy Hector Ruiz.
  • Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Summer 2016 | Anticipation is high for this new wood-fired pizza and Korean spot by Pizzeria Lola / Hello Pizza boss Ann Kim.
  • PinKU, 20 University Ave NE, Minneapolis | June 1 | Ramen, dumplings, other Japanese street food.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Bakers’ Field, The Food Building | 2016 | Bread made from grain milled on site at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis. The bakery’s owner is Steve Horton, formerly of Rustica.
  • Shake Shack | 2016 | A local outpost of the cult favorite better-burger chain will open at the Mall of America.
  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | Summer 2016 | A second location for the popular fried chicken spin-off of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering take-out.
  • Project TBD at old Walker Library in Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Architectural details available here.
  • Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2016 | Slated to be an all-day cafe with a liquor license and a six-room hotel upstairs, as Alex Roberts explains in this Q and A with Rick Nelson.
  • The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis | May 25 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is now hiring.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Brut, 428 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | 2016 | With all the culinary firepower of Erik Anderson (above) and Jamie Malone, Brut promises exciting things. It’s going into the old Sapor space on Washington Avenue.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | “Soon-ish,” according to their website.
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | July 1 | Opening in the former Razaaq space on Central Avenue.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Early 2016
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Delayed | DiNoko’s is a local place that can do deep dish pizza seriously well. Their move from Nokomis to downtown Minneapolis didn’t work out; here’s hoping that their return foray to South Minneapolis does.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Late summer 2016

St. Paul

  • Black Coffee and Waffle Bar, Marshall and Cretin Aves, St. Paul | Second location.
  • Parco 400, 400 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Late spring 2016 | A new Italian restaurant opening in the old Trattoria Da Vinci spot in Lowertown, the culinary side to be headed up by Troy Unruh, formerly of New York City’s well-known Del Posto.
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2016 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
  • The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | Spring 2016 | It’ll be interesting to see how the ambitious team behind this revamp and relaunch tackles the task. Between its facade, its location, and its glorious but stuffy, old-school feel, we’ll find it tough to sort the baby from the bathwater on this one. Their Facebook page says, “Keep calm. We are opening soon.”

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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10 Comments

  1. Lindsay 05/10/2016

    There doesn’t seem to be much connection between age and service in the examples you gave from the two restaurants. It strikes me that blaming young servers and social media is an easy-out when really it’s more about hospitality at any particular location. Just because two things occur in sequence – you have a young server and then you receive bad service – doesn’t mean they’re related. If a server is chronically rushed, maybe it’s a staffing issue and not an age issue. The particular complaint seems like a foodie’s version of “get off of my lawn!”

    • Author

      Lindsay, I think you’re missing some of my point – it’s not merely a question of individual server on a visit, but rather the entire restaurant and food culture at both the places I cited feeling young (see also: my final paragraph where I talk about and praise young servers at restaurants with older staff / management). I should also clarify that I don’t think my service at either Estrellon or Heirloom was textbook “bad,” either – orders arrived correctly in a timely fashion, and no one was rude. But they lacked warmth and hospitality. These are pretty fine points, I know – but that’s the territory you wander into at fine (or at least “finer,” let’s not open another can of worms here) dining establishments.

  2. Danny 05/10/2016

    I can appreciate your frustration over service. I believe it all comes down to how the waitstaff is trained and prepared at their respective restaurants. Locally, Steven Brown does a great job with his staff. On a recent visit to Chicago, the staff at each of the Paul Kahan restaurants are always very well trained – how they greet/interact with you, how they pace your meal, and how they handle the bill – you always feel welcomed and relaxed. Same with Rick Bayless’ places and I also experienced it with the BOKA group restaurants. Many members of these staffs were in their 20’s and did great jobs. “Hospitality” is a good reminder as some restaurant managers/chefs have an us/them philosophy that gets reflected to their staff.

  3. annmartina 05/10/2016

    Always love a server who can’t be bothered with you until it’s tip-time and suddenly they’re your best buddy. And if I’m prompted by the server to tip them, then I know that they know it wasn’t a good effort on their part.

  4. Dani 05/10/2016

    While your examples are excellent, I also can’t help wondering if we’ve become more difficult diners.

    I have watched others in a restaurant demand a level of accommodation that would only make sense if they were preparing their own meal. At home.

    And I’ve stood behind other patrons – at a Sprouts salad place – demanding to know both the ingredients as well as the provenance of the ingredients.

    You can’t help but wonder whether the servers are modeling the behavior they receive from us – a version of a social contract. I’m not saying it’s right, but it may just be a symptom.

    • Author

      That’s a really interesting observation, and you may be right – some of that skittishness or defensiveness may come from one too many overly picky / insistent diners. I think that reaction can be overcome with training and the right attitude, but only with difficulty for some folks.

  5. Patrick 05/11/2016

    Just wanted to mention that we recently went to Heirloom. While we did notice a large collection of man-buns, the service was wonderful and attentive. Our waiter was first-rate. We had to wait a couple minute for our table so the host comped our first round of drinks. We really enjoyed the experience. We’ve also had similar great experiences at Heyday and other places where staff tends to be young. In fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of any of the new restaurants (St. Genevieve, Handsome Hog etc) where the staff hasn’t been wonderful.

  6. ROBERTO 05/11/2016

    I’ve noticed a similar trend at 112 Eatery of late. 112 may not be strictly “fine” dining, but they do quality food at commensurate prices. The last two times we visited, service was well-meaning but confused. There was no regard to courses; a wave of food came to our table all at once, far beyond the available space on the table. Salads and mains arrived together, which meant letting dishes go cold. I wonder if the Beckers are neglecting the need for training, and the importance of fire sequence, at 112 while focusing on Burch and BLG; if so, it’s going to mean the loss of regulars.
    I absolutely concur with your remarks on St. Genevieve. They consistently impress.
    Thanks!