Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favorite establishments.
It’s pretty amazing how often this will happen, but you know it’s an online date when someone will come in and pull this thing like, “Oh … I’m … waiting for someone.” Usually, if you’re waiting for a friend or someone you know well, you’ll get a drink and relax. But when it’s obvious that you’re “waiting for someone” in that way, you kind of cryptically give me this eye, and I’m thinking, I don’t know or care what the fuck you’re up to, but sure, you can wait for somebody.
And then the dude—or woman—will walk in the door, and they’ll always walk past who they’re supposed to meet. But when they notice the person at the bar first, before the approach, you can often see their face being like, “Oh shit, am I really going to go through with this?”
Or you’ll see a lot of 24-year-olds or younger people who have never learned how to talk to someone except through a cell phone, and they’re struggling. It’s fucking weird, man. You can really tell. I end up overhearing people as they drink, and they’re like, “I just really didn’t like the second season of that!” On first dates, I also see a lot of the cocktail I call “The White Girl,” which is vodka, soda, and a splash of cran.
I actually refer to Tuesdays as “Tinder Tuesdays” now. It’s me standing there behind the bar, with various awkward couples at the bar talking to each other or both staring into their phones, or a loud guy obviously trying really hard to be cool.
Actually, there’s this one guy who literally goes on a date every single night at one of my bars, and I know his drink progression order. They get stronger if the date’s going well, and weaker if it’s not. He starts with a beer, and tells his date, “Oh this place is great!” He has almost the exact same conversation every night. It’s kind of eerie. Then he’ll get a shot and she’ll be like, “Oh my God, doing shots, you’re so crazy!” and he’ll say, “You should do one too!” If she’s into it, then the drinks will get stronger, and he’ll be like, “You should get a crazy cocktail!” But if she doesn’t want a shot, he’ll go back to beer. Then he’ll have a seltzer with lime. Then she leaves, and he’ll take like four shots in a row and just wallow.
There’s client confidentiality, for sure, even though I could write a War and Peace-sized novel about the shit I’ve heard.
I’ll get people who repeatedly bring new dates in. They have this weird unspoken thing with me, this eye contact thing, where obviously I see what they’re doing and they know I was working the night before, but they’ll never verbally admit it to me, which is fine. You’ll see a guy bringing in four different women a week, or a girl bringing in four different guys. I’ll chuckle, I don’t give a shit, but I won’t blow their cover. There’s client confidentiality, for sure, even though I could write a War and Peace-sized novel about the shit I’ve heard.
Recently, these two people were on a date, and from what I’d overheard, they’d maybe hung out before but it didn’t work out, so they were trying to hang out again. And she was sort of like, “Oh hey, it’s good to see you.” That kind of thing.
I try not to listen too much, because then I get really into it and I feel like a creep. I want to know the whole backstory. I’m like, Wait, what’s his mother like? What does he do for a living? So they’re at the corner of the bar, where there’s a little nook with a couch—an area which is wildly unsanitary, but that’s a whole other story. He goes to the bathroom, and I think she may have picked up and looked at his cell phone or something. They were clearly not a couple, mind you. But I saw it and I was thinking, That’s fucking dark, young lady. God, don’t do that. He comes back and she’s losing it, “You messaged her??? You’ve been messaging her?” And he’s saying, “What are you talking about?” And it’s that voice I do when I’m totally fucking caught in a lie. He’s like, “What? Who? Oh, that message? I can’t just message her? It’s nothing!” And I was like, Oh God dude, you’re digging your hole so deep right now.
At this point, I walked over to their side of the bar and pretended to do something because I wanted to keep listening. They’re sort of screaming, and he’s like, “I just wanted to know if she still cared!” Yelling at the bar at the top of his lungs. Meanwhile, my bar serves pizza, so he’s got pizza all over his shirt, he’s almost crying, it’s so fucking dark. It was loud, too. My door dude was like, “I just can’t do this right now. I can’t handle this right now.” He was about to walk out himself. It was pretty fucking awkward.
He went and got another pizza. Like, now you’re stuffing your face on the verge of crying? This is gonna get awesome. So then, she’s like, “Look, we need to talk about this,” and he’s yelling back at her, “GO AWAY! GO AWAY!” like a deranged eight-year-old at a birthday party. I sort of wanted to tell them to shut up, but it was too hilarious. Cringe-worthy. I don’t even really smoke anymore, but I went outside and had a cigarette after that.
At this point they’re sort of screaming, and he’s like, “I just wanted to know if she still cared!” Meanwhile, he’s got pizza all over his shirt, he’s almost crying, it’s so fucking dark.
The unsanitary couch corner is the nook where two people will go when the guy is like, “Hey, you wanna go sit over there and talk?” I’ve seen some hookups there where I wonder, Are they fucking? Is that fucking, over there? I just turn around and start closing the bar because I don’t want to get involved. I’m better off that way. I’ve had to intervene on almost-blowjobs before. In my head, I’m like, Guys, come on. You can’t go to your place? I’m sitting here thinking about going home and eating a sandwich in bed. This is my life. I’m at work right now.
I see people get drunk and take their friends with them to just “hang out” while they’re on their dates. Then the friend gets wasted.
This one time, this woman obviously brought her friend on a date to make sure everything was cool. Which I totally get because hey, I don’t blame you, guys are animals, we’re disgusting. But her friend was clearly like, This fucking sucks. So she got completely wasted and kept falling asleep on the bar. I would put a water in front of her and she would just swat and spill it, like three times in a row. I’m talking eyes in the back of her head, Ghostbusters, “Are you the Keymaster?” drunk. I didn’t want to kick her out because her friend was on a date, so I was in a dilemma. The date seemed to be going well. The guy was tall and handsome, and even as a straight man, I was like, you look good. So I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I had to go over to this woman and tell her to take her friend home. And from the look on this dude’s face, he wanted to fucking murder me.
I’m not there seven days a week, but I’m sure there’s an awkward date here every night. I can always pinpoint one. I’m there to run a bar—that’s what I do. If a date looks particularly interesting, hell yeah, I’m fucking into it. But, if it’s their last stop of the evening, it’s 3:20 in the morning, and I’m getting ready to go, then I hate it. It all kind of depends on the circumstances. If I can tell it’s going well and the people are at the bar, sometimes I’ll sneak over some shots. I’ve totally wingmanned people just because I feel like it’s a nice thing to do.
Maybe I am a drunk matchmaker. Who knows?
As told to Hilary Pollack