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

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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

Meet Your New MisManager

Today’s rant is brought to you by poor management!

 

But, seriously. We’ve all dealt with it, service industry or otherwise. We’ve all had that manager that just completely ruined a job for us. Personally, I’ve had more than my fair share and I’m about tired of it. Is it really that difficult to hire a manager that doesn’t just generally suck?

 

I didn’t encounter my first awful management experience until I had my first serving job. The restaurant was owned by a local dude, and he did most of the managing himself. He had a couple of lackeys, but they served the sole purpose of dealing with floor problems (discounting, taking complaints, closing shifts, etc.). This particular owner/manager liked to attach emails to our schedules that listed the many, many things he disapproved of over the previous week. Sure, I understand trying to let everyone know what they need to work on. Is it impossible to add some reaffirmation and back-patting amidst the blatantly rude, negative commentary? As an employee that directly handles the people paying your bills, you probably shouldn’t piss me off too much.

 

“Oh, wow, all of these servers look so miserable!”

“Hi, I’m not telling you my name and I’ll be handling your business today……Do you want something to drink? By the way, I hate my job.”

“Goodness, I won’t be returning to this establishment, everyone was so disgruntled!”

 

Like, why would you make it your personal goal to make sure the faces of your company were consistently painted with disdain?

 

After about a year of this, the restaurant was sold to another family. Hip-hip-hooray! Oh, wait, here comes THEIR version of bad management. Get this. The manager they bring in has never worked in a restaurant. Ever. Not as a server, cook, busboy, nothing. At least the last guy used to work in a kitchen.

 

So, new guy, never been in an eatery except to eat, promotes someone under me to manager. Great first impression. Next comes the overall disregard for the fact that I’ve been there longer than anyone, combined with the piling of meaningless tasks to quell my anger. No, running the Facebook and creating the specials menus because you’re a.)lazy and b.)unable to use proper grammar or even spelling (PEOPLE SEE THIS PAGE!!!!!!!!!) are not promotions, and sure, I’ll do it for free to make myself feel important. Meanwhile, said manager is standing in the kitchen eating a quesadilla and distracting the workers from the fourteen tickets waiting in the window. Oh the tacos for table twenty-three? They can wait another half hour, whatever. Keep joking with the line cooks. And the table that had to wait an hour for cold tacos (because instead of running food like a decent human you decide ringing the bell incessantly will get the job done) doesn’t need their meal comp’ed. Good thing I have to wait for you to finish your meal to void it out.

 

And, like the rest of us on the floor, you’re wondering why this other manager he promoted isn’t helping. Wanna know why? Because she is also the acting bartender and her rail is full. Not to mention I’m also waiting for her to muddle my lime and mint for that mojito I put in twenty-five minutes ago. Why, why, why would you make literally the only person not able to leave their post the floor manager? What the hell is wrong with you?

 

Moving on to the next restaurant. Three managers, plus the owner’s over-involvement. Wow that sounds so efficient I can’t wait for this! Wait, I have to wait until Sunday to find out if I work Monday morning? Oh my.

 

Finally quit the first restaurant due to the manager forcing us to serve people that had been kicked out (for good reason) and went for broke(r) at the second place. At least I like the managers on a personal level. And they treat the staff like family. But, wait, families don’t run businesses. Again, for good reason! Cue dysfunction, constant spats and still no schedule until Sunday! What is going on, seriously?

 

Now it’s time for the new general manager to take over. We imported him (from Chicago!). He used to work in restaurants, works in advertising or something of that nature. Actually has good ideas and a relatively high level of motivation. So, why did nothing change? Let’s revisit the owner’s overinvolvement. Did you not hire people to run this business for you? So why are you not letting them run it? Sit back and collect the cash like a real business owner! Ugh. Oh, wait, you’re gonna fire our promising new GM and replace him with the manager I quit my last job because of? Bye!

 

In short, the last two years of my life have been managed very poorly, and if that doesn’t taste like soy sauce I don’t know what does. It’s a ‘salty’ reference, laugh. I need it.

 

I Quit,

Tucker

A Bit Behind

Hey, guys, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t think we’d abandoned you.

My birthday was Monday, so I’ve been taking a break from…well, doing anything at all. Besides discovering that I do, in fact, want to pay a monthly fee to play WoW.

Regardless, I will be back with a post tomorrow that will (hopefully, but probably not) be worth the wait! Arina has, of course, been being the amazing roommate/best friend/co-blogger we all know and love, so my couch surfing and much-deserved relaxation was in good company. She, too, will be back very soon with another great addition to our blog.

In the meantime, prepare yourselves for some exciting new developments on our side, including a potential guest piece or two(!!!!!). And since none of you got me a birthday present (no, Aunt Katie, you don’t have to do this since you got me something) I’d really appreciate some extra sharing! You know we’d do it for you!

Alright, sorry again for the lack of posting this last week/end.
Your FAVORITE Server,
Tucker

A Lesson in Virtue

This isn’t a majorly salty rant. It’s more of a quiet “ugh.”  But this week’s griping is brought to you by the people who just can’t wait. I understand that when you go out to a restaurant, you expect to be served and greeted promptly. And Lord knows, in our reviews we focus on greeting times and serving times to an excess. But sometimes, and this is something Tucker and I both understand, it’s just not possible for a server to get to a table in a timely fashion.

When you go out to eat on a weekday, there’s a good chance that there will be only one server on the floor. This is just a fact of the industry. Weekdays are not generally a busy time and having more than one server on is just a waste of money for the restaurant and cuts down on tips for the servers. Generally, this works out okay for everyone.

Sometimes, however, the gods look down upon us and feel like having a little fun. Those are the days when several tables come in at once, and somehow they’re made up entirely of the most impatient human beings ever to walk this Earth. They all have to get to the airport (which, by the way, is ridiculous. If you have somewhere to be please do not go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, you’re setting yourself up for failure) or are on a lunch break or are the VIPs of their own minds.

In cases like this, do not doubt that your server has seen you and acknowledged your presence and is trying their damnedest to scoot their poot over to you. But if you take a look around you’ll notice that there are several tables already sitting down, there’s food in the window, and your server is running to the computer with eight books under their arm. Once your server does get over to you, snide comments about how you’ve been waiting for someone to get around to you are only gonna piss them off and the chances of you getting top notch service will drop. Just keep that in mind.

The thing is, even with fantastic supporting staff like hosts and bussers, a server is one human being. Being a server does not give you three extra arms and the ability to move faster than the speed of lighting (roar of thunder). Just as I’m sure you’ve felt overwhelmed when you have three projects dropped in your lap at once, or when all four of your kids need to be taken to separate soccer practices in different parts of town, our brains get overloaded when it’s busy.

Personally, I get really stressed out when I can’t attend to a table on time. I want my customers to have a really good experience no matter the circumstances. And when I apologize profusely for making you wait, I mean it. I take pride in my work and doing it well. But sometimes it’s out of my control, the only way I can make up your wait to you is by saying “I’m sorry”. Please don’t attack me and make me feel like shit about holding you up. I already feel like shit about it.

Quick shout out to the people that understand though. You don’t understand how much of a relief it is when you trot over to a table breathlessly excusing yourself and receive a smile and a quiet “don’t worry, you’re busy, I understand.” Props to those human beings. Karma has your back.

In conclusion, I guess I just want to say patience really is a virtue. When it’s busy I want to be at your table but I just can’t be. Please understand that and don’t take it out on me. I’m a mushy little human with feelings and you’re hurting them and that sucks.

Much love,

Arina

Old Town

For our most recent review we decided to visit Old Town on Liberty. We were glad to finally receive service worthy of the awesome feedback we’ve been waiting to give. So, without further ado, let’s see what it takes to impress a sassy server(Arina insists I take full claim for this term – Tucker).

The sign inside the door said ‘seat yourself,’ which tends to make us cringe. Luckily for us, the server greeted us not only quickly, but casually and cheerfully. Waters weren’t presented right away, but she made sure to ask us what we’d like to drink right off the bat. Information about the soup of the day was delivered with a side of playful banter, and our server made sure to let us know that one of the soups was only available for a limited time. Of course, that piqued Tucker’s interest and he just had to order it.

As we were ordering our meal, our server proved that she knew the menu inside and out. She provided helpful recommendations, and Arina only got bacon on her sandwich because the server mentioned it. Now that’s salesmanship. After ordering, Arina left the table in favor of an attractive male outside, leaving Tucker to ponder the universe. Noticing that he was alone, the server spent a little extra time conversing and joking with him until the bell beckoned her to the kitchen. The food arrived before Arina even had the chance to charm the pants off her anonymous companion. The server made sure to ask if Tucker needed any kind of sauce with his sandwich before leaving him to wait for Arina. In a display of her prowess, the server dropped off another table’s order as she returned with the requested mayonnaise.

Arina returned victorious, and we dug into our food. It was absolutely divine, and although our server made no move to ask us about it she kept a watchful eye on our table. Halfway through our meal she came over, armed with a disarmingly funny comment about Tucker’s phone case. This set off another round of pleasant banter, further cementing our appreciation. As she left we asked for boxes, and it felt less like we were making a request of our server and more like we were confiding in a friend that we were just too full.

Although we hadn’t asked for the check, it arrived with the boxes. In a different situation, this preemptive strike would have disappointed us. Here though, the bill was split and in the company of an urge that there was no rush. Another nice touch was the “Thank you!” written at the top of our bills. Almost giddy with the prospect of writing a good review, we quickly handed her back our payment. She accepted our refusal for change with heartfelt gratitude, and left us with an encouraging ‘see you soon.’

Dining out is a luxury, and as such should be an experience worth the money you’re spending. While that can be filled by any run of the mill server, a great server can do more. Great service can lift your spirit so much, and that’s what we strive to provide as servers and expect to receive as customers. Our experience at Old Town did just that. Our server never once made us feel like a customer, but instead made us feel like a friend. She did her job efficiently and with talent, yet it never looked or felt like she was working. We have already paid them a second visit since our first investigation and we plan on returning. If you haven’t already, stop in and enjoy an amazing time.

Good Eggs

Although these posts are meant to be devoted to the people at our table, the customers that enlighten us or entertain us, this week I wanted to take a minute to talk about the people lurking behind the scenes with us. Coworkers can be a source of irritation, a fount of frustration and even anger sometimes. But they can also be the best support system, the best comedic relief, the best friends.

I’ve been lucky enough to encounter such good eggs at every one of the places I’ve worked. It seems to me that working in the service industry is a great bonding experience. No one will ever understand you breaking down in tears after some asshole yells at you in front of other customers like the people you serve with. We’ve all been there, and we’re all there for each other. Even rolling your eyes at each other after a brief encounter with an obviously ridiculous table gives a sense of belonging.

And it’s not just commiseration in the face of problematic customers or even your management. Spending almost every day of every week with the same group of people gives you no choice but to get to know them better.While that sounds a tad like Stockholm Syndrome, it’s far from it. More often than not, the people you work with end up being really cool. I’ve met some of my best friends through work. I met my roommates through work. I’ve laughed and bonded with so many of the people I’ve worked with, it’s hard to put the appreciation for that into words.

When I went to get my first (and as yet only but that’s inconsequential) tattoo, one of my coworkers at the time went with me to hold my hand and distract me with funny stories. Whenever I have something I need to get off my chest, I know there’s going to be at least one person at work I can confide in. If you’re looking for a place to live or someone to go to a concert with, there’s no one that will have the hookup quite like the people you work with. Smoke breaks wouldn’t be nearly as much fun if someone else (or four someones) didn’t come outside with you.

I’d like to mention that, especially in the industry, it’s important to become close not only to the people you share a workload with (in my case, front of house staff) but also to those that have entirely different duties (the back of house staff, for instance.) Too often there is a sense of hostility between the kitchen and the servers. Pointlessly so, as both parties can benefit from a good relationship with each other. You never know when it might come in handy, manipulative as that sounds, and in times of stress it’s always better to feel like you’re all in it together.

Whether it’s a quick hug when you come in looking bedraggled or an earnest word of praise when you do something right, coworkers provide bright pinpricks of light in what is ultimately a defeating and exhausting environment. Take a moment to think about the people you work with and let them know how much you appreciate them whenever you get a chance. And if you work or have worked with me and you’re reading this, you know who you are and I love you. Hit me up sometime, let’s hang out.

Mushily Yours,

Arina