Arbor Brewing Company

Around the time we went into hiatus, I began work at Arbor Brewing Company. ABC just celebrated it’s 20-year anniversary in downtown Ann Arbor, and rightfully so.

For our first ‘endorsement’ post, I’m going to be shameless and promote my workplace.

The brewpub has been a huge deal in the Michigan beer scene, not just for it’s amazing beer (I didn’t even drink beer prior to working here) but for it’s amazing work being eco-friendly and locally supportive. The owners are probably the kindest, most dedicated people I’ve worked for in the restaurant industry. Their hearts are just as invested in the business as their finances, and I’ve found that to be a rare occurrence in this line of work. They are constantly looking for ways to innovate and expand their reach, and they do it all with their many workers at the forefront of their minds. Their most recent announcement to renovate the restaurant came with a full-staff meeting and an open door for ideas and opinions, which was met with a more positive response than I’ve seen from any staff I’ve worked with when such an announcement was made.

The management team that has been chosen to lead the staff is just as amazing. The group of women that run the day-to-day functioning of the brewpub are all huge-hearted and just as dedicated to the cause as the owners. Seeing a functioning management staff is just as surprising to me as the owners are, and I can’t express how refreshing it is to work with competent individuals that actually take the time to interact with their customers – whether it’s a complaint or just a curiosity, there is no doubt that a manager will take time out of their day to ensure your needs are met. And beyond the actual managing duties, they shine in their capacity for compassion. I’ve witnessed more hugs and one-on-one chats between managers and staffers than I can count, and the follow-ups that display the true depth of their love for their workers. I’m so used to taking care of myself – on the floor and off – that I’ve had a hard time accepting the managers for what they are, and have only recently opened up to their support, but it’s been an eye-opening experience. Is this what good management really looks like? Can’t say I’m disappointed.

As for the servers and hosts I work with, I don’t have a single negative thing to say. Though it’s a bit difficult to establish yourself among them, once they befriend you they take care of you. I’ve been shown so much support and kindness by my colleagues…it’s outrageous. And every single one of them takes their job seriously. So many beer experts in the ranks, it’s crazy. Everyone is so eager to learn more, too. I can’t even tell you how many questions are asked when a new beer comes up, or how many opinions are offered when we update menus. The way they handle customers is just as passionate – the beer savants can recommend a brew to a new guest that will almost always be exactly what they want, and they’ll have no problem explaining it to them in depth. And the pride everyone shows for Arbor Brewing is wonderful – everyone really does their best to represent it, from staying up to date on the goings on to making sure that everyone is recycling properly.

Honestly, before working here I had no idea just how wonderful of a place it was – I knew the food was good, I knew the servers seemed like ‘alternative’ people, but I just couldn’t know the depth of passion behind that. I really do recommend everyone give it a try, whether you’re a beer snob or just have weird dietary requirements (we accommodate vegan and gluten-free like no other) you’ll find something to make you smile, from a staff that strives for that smile. Employed or not, I support Arbor Brewing Company from their rooftop solar panels to their soon-to-be renovated basement bathrooms.

Shamelessly Yours,
Tucker

What Crepe, Je T’Aime

This past Sunday I lost one of the most important aspects of my life. The restaurant that I worked at closed without warning. The news came at the end of a soul-crushing shift and several months of non-stop work weeks liberally sprinkled with hive inducing stress. Three days later, I’m still in a state of shock and wandering through my days as if through a field of fog.

You’d think that the end of such a mentally and emotionally exhausting experience would come with a sense of relief, be a breath of fresh air, etcetera etcetera. What no one, besides my now ex-coworkers, seems to understand is that I have lost an incredible community, even a family.

There are no words to describe the connection that my coworkers and I had and hopefully continue to have. Back of house, front of house, management, even ownership; we all banded together in a safe, supportive haven. The love that I have for each and every person is monumental.

My manager was (is) my mentor, my role model, even one of my best friends. The number of times that he was there for me, the support he provided to me, the things he’s taught me, the books he’s introduced me to: I can never ever be grateful enough for these things. I have never met a more selfless, ridiculous, adorable person. This is a man who has seen and done so much, has experienced so much hardship in his life; yet continues to be full of cheer and a thirst for knowledge, continues to help everyone he meets, continues to give of himself so much that sometimes I’m concerned he’ll give himself away completely. I am forever thankful that I met him, and I hope against all hope that we will stay friends for the rest of our lives.

All of the servers, hosts and SAs I’ve worked with this past year: you’re all incredible as is the kindness and patience and humour that you’ve all shown me and the company. May you all find your calling, may you all be successful and happy: I wish you only the best for the rest of your lives. You all deserve it. I love you all so dearly and I already miss your daily company.

Although I respect all the owners, I can truly say I love only one. I shan’t name names, but if you see this post you know who you are. You took in so many broken people and gave so much for our comfort and security, I can never be resentful that you left shortly before we closed. Fingers crossed that we’ll work together again someday, and if not, that wherever you find yourself you will be prosperous and satisfied.

All of my kitchen staff. God. I will never have that much fun working with a back of house staff again. Never again will I wander into a kitchen and feel so comfortable. I regret deeply that you seemed to get the short end of the stick so often, the amount of work and effort you put into taking care of us and our customers didn’t ever deserve to be repaid with such disrespect and disregard. We may have had our differences, but at the end of the day you were the engine in the car that we all loved and couldn’t bear to give up. I love you all, thank you for putting up with everything. I’ll miss the group smoke breaks.

The fact that I met my boyfriend at work deserves special mention. The fact that everyone from the top tier to the bottom was so supportive and accepting of our relationship deserves special mention. I don’t recommend shitting where you eat (my father’s wise words) but it worked out pretty well for us, I think. There were some awful times, there were some awkward times, but nothing beats having someone at work who will comfort you in times of stress with a hug and a kiss and a stupid joke.

Despite everything, despite all of the complaining that we did, and all the times we hated each other and hated our job, the people that I’ve met at What Crepe will always hold a special place in my heart. I can’t imagine finding a new job and not working with any of my wonderful staff again. But everything ends. It’s time to move on. Let’s stay in touch kids.

I love you.
Arina.

Hiatus

Hello, all!

A quick update for those that are curious about the status of AutoGrat.

Currently, Arina, myself and our roommate Lexi are in the process of finding a new home! With that being our top priority, not a whole lot of dining out has been happening. We’re all trying to save as much as we can in as little time as possible. That also means that we’ve been working our little bums off. Six days a week at work does not leave a lot of time for anything but necessary home upkeep (which we’re also slacking on, admittedly).

In addition to the moving process, I have recently quit my job at Heidelberg and started two new jobs. Being a new employee in the service industry is not an ideal thing – I have very few regulars, I don’t get the best shifts and I’m exerting as much energy as humanly possible to impress and prove myself to my new bosses. Not to mention the new POS systems, menus, policies, etc. that I’m having to learn…it’s not the best time to be Tucker.

And to top off this delicious stress cake, we have a locally made no-wifi frosting!

So, for the time being I regret to say that the AutoGrat Blog will be on hiatus until things calm down for us and we have more reliable wifi access.

We sincerely thank everyone for supporting us thus far, and we will be back as soon as we can! Please stay tuned for our next review and subsequent posts.

Thanks for Dining with Us,
Tucker

We’ve Got That Summertime Sadness

Being in the service industry is a lot like being a gambler. Sometimes you walk away feeling wealthy and unstoppable, but the majority of the time you leave work with an encumbering sense of lost time and nothing to show for it.We’ve neglected (again) reviewing this week, and the reason is very simple. We’re broke. Summer is a great time for a lot of people, but when you serve in a college town and the population has decreased by almost half you learn to hate it a little. Sure, it’s nice out and you can actually enjoy being outdoors, but forget doing anything that costs money. That includes going out to eat for your blog.

So, while we attempt to pay rent and utilities (and our phone bills and co-pays at the doctor and blahblahblah adult life) and provide nourishment for ourselves, please excuse our lack of reviews. However, if you DO have the urge to engross yourself in our reviews, feel free to write us a check! We’re always accepting donations. (We’re only mostly kidding)

Anyway, we just felt it prudent to inform you of our situation and explain our lack of restaurant excursions. Please forgive us, and even without the reviews continue to check up on our blog.

With all that being said, we’ve decided we’d like to begin accepting ideas for non-review postings. If you’ve ever been curious about the restaurant industry, or just would like to hear our (sometimes) snarky opinions on things, send us an email! It’s listed under the ‘[contact us]’ label, but we’ll add it on at the end of this for anyone that isn’t quite so tech-savvy. Also, feel free to let us know if you’d like us to explore any restaurants in our area for future reviews.

Thanks so much for your time and viewership!

Your Servers,
Arina and Tucker

autogratblog@gmail.com

Just Sick About The Whole Thing

I’ve recently been sick, hence the lack of posts by yours truly. My illness, while exhausting and completely gross, did however make nice subject matter for this post. One of the most frustrating things about working in the service industry is that you have to be physically present to make money. There’s nothing I’m more jealous of than paid sick days and paid vacation time.

When your income relies on daily take-home cash, more than one day out of commission can be incredibly crippling. This is why you’ll often find your server with a case of the sniffles or surreptitiously coughing into their elbow as they bring you your coffee. We don’t like being there when we’re sick, only in very special cases is it rewarding to sneeze in the general vicinity of a customer’s food. Not to mention trying to keep yourself bouncing around from table to table with a smile on your face is a million times more difficult when you feel like your brain is wrapped up in cotton. Unfortunately, your measly 10% tips make up a vast portion of our rent so in we trudge, armed with painkillers and Mu***ex.

I’m lucky enough to work for and with people that are very understanding and would much rather you felt better than showed up to work dripping with snot. But we’ve all heard horror stories of people getting fired for being sick for a couple of days. There’s a surplus of people wanting your job, if you’re not there to perform it why bother keeping you around? And there’s always environments where your coworkers cherish their days off far too much to cover for you.

When I went from being a full-time student to being a full-time server this change in attitude toward being sick was a little disorienting. Never before in my life did I dread getting sick. And of course, as a nice little taunt from fate, never before in my life have I gotten sick so often (although that may have something to do with the fact that I’m young, dumb and full of…well…point is I don’t take care of myself very well yet.) When you’re working on a final project and you need a work day, you can fake being sick. When you’re on the verge of giving up the ghost, you need to go into work because you have to pay the water bill this month.

The other problem is that if you’re a server, your work probably doesn’t offer health insurance. Unless you’re a young ‘un like me and your parents still have you on their plan, chances are you’ll have to pay exorbitant fees for medical services (there’s a can of worms Arina doesn’t need to get into, health insurance and attitudes toward illness in this country.) Which sets you back on your money situation even further.

This is getting a bit repetitive. Suffice to say that illness and working in a restaurant are not the world’s best couple. If you’re a new server and haven’t had to deal with this yet here’s a few quick tips:

  • If you feel yourself getting sick, immediately shut down your social life and go to bed early
  • Fluids are your best friend
  • Make sure you have the phone number of everyone you work with, get your shift covered as far in advance as you can
  • Don’t take pain killers on an empty stomach and switch out your coffee for tea
  • Don’t get sick if possible

Very basic stuff, probably not very helpful, but there it is. Essentially, the job where you’re exposed to a million germs a day is the same one you can’t not go to if those germs start taking over your weak little body. If you have awesome coworkers like I do, they’ll bring you soup and send you nice texts with kissy face emojis. That’s pretty much the only upside to being a sick server.

Thanks for bearing with me,
Arina

Brown Jug

The scene: Memorial Day in Ann Arbor. Two renegade bloggers wander the eerily deserted streets in search of an unsuspecting restaurant to review. Their quest leads them to the corner of South University and Church Street. The sky darkens above them and unleashes a relentless downpour, urging them to make a dash for the nearest enclosure. As if the weather itself was on their side, they find themselves in the Brown Jug, a staple among the University students.

Although we had not planned on critiquing Brown Jug, we slipped into review mode effortlessly and automatically. There was no sign indicating a seating policy, but an informal holler from the bar maiden hinted that we were to seat ourselves. Squelching our way over to a booth by the window, we waited patiently for someone to tend to us.

A server popped up and dropped off menus, but scurried off to take care of tables that had entered before us. We took the opportunity to escape to the paper towel dispenser, attempting to dry off from the sudden rain. Upon returning to the table, however, we remained untended. A second server was visible on the floor, but they moved at incomparable speeds. The Tortoise and the Hare racing before our very eyes.

Eventually the Tortoise arrived at our table, slow and steady and losing the race. Tucker, hungover and in desperate need of water and coffee (also an orange juice, he was feeling needy) had to wait for what seemed an eternity to re-hydrate. The orange juice lagged behind the coffee and waters, along with a prompt for food orders. Moderately unfocused and not at all ready, we requested another minute. He gave us five. A quick glance over the restaurant gave us no indication as to when he would return, as he was nowhere to be found. Once he did reemerge, we burdened him with any and everything we felt we may need in case of another prolonged absence. Our forethought proved necessary when he vanished until the pre-meal soup was delivered.

Tucker’s coffee running low, a cloud of impatience engulfed our heroes (or villains, depending on which side of the story you’re on). The kindly bar maiden seemed to sense the toe tapping, as she appeared to check on us in place of our Tortoise. The obviously more adept Hare swiftly rectified our worrying lack of caffeine and hopped off with the empty soup bowl. The Tortoise ambled along with our entrees, dropping them off with a smile and politely accepting our request for a box and silverware. The silverware appeared in a flash, but the box arrived fashionably late.

As seems to be the unfortunate trend, the food was good but our server had no idea. Our penultimate meeting with him featured the disappearance of our empty plates and our check. The check was presented together and to Tucker, the “man” of the pair who should obviously be paying. Obviously. The rest of the experience was short and sweet. A quick parting with the Tortoise, a pleasant exchange with the bar maiden (the Hare was busy stirring up wind as she sped through the restaurant), and we were on our way.

All in all, our time at Brown Jug was not harrowing, but it certainly wasn’t mind-blowing. Our server was kind and of good intent (he even let Tucker charge his phone at the POS station!), but obviously serving in between semesters or while searching for a job in his chosen field. Everyone was pleasant, and we’d recommend stopping in for some good food and the chance to interact with the more impressive staff.

Your Humble Servants,
Arina and Tucker

Our Retraction Policy

We would like to make it known that we will not accept free food, or any other form of bribery, to remove or alter a review. As we’ve stated before, we intend to be fully honest in all reviews to give the costumers of Ann Arbor actual insight into where their money would be best spent in town.

However, we will return (of our own volition and without informing said restaurant) to give a second chance. The restaurant industry is known for heavy turn over rates and notoriously bad management, so we understand that perhaps a restaurant was understaffed or just poorly scheduled.

If you own or work in a restaurant we’ve reviewed, please feel free to let us know when things have improved and we will be more than happy to give you another chance to impress us.

We would like to stress, however, that when/if we decide to re-review, we will NOT be informing prior to our return visit. Giving any sort of heads up will only taint the experience and result in a biased review.

Thank You for Your Time,
Arina & Tucker