Are you a regular?
There is a great story in this wednesday's NYT by Frank Bruni about being a regular at a restaurant. Its all about the comforts of knowing a place and the place knowing you. I wanted to find out how many of you are regulars and how many regular places you have.
Being a regular in my view means that the owners/staff know you, maybe not by name but you've been there enough so that they know who you are and treat you just a bit differently than someone who walks in off the street. There are two places that we go to where we have gotten to know the owners and every time we go, the owners come by to say hello. We often get comp'ed drinks or desserts there. Then there are 2 more places that the wait staff knows us and when we place an order for a particular dish, they know that there are certain modifications we like to various dishes and we don't even have to ask them to make them anymore. And finally, there is our favorite sushi place where they keep our individual chopsticks behind the bar each of which have the names of my family members engraved on them. I remember the day when we came in and were seated. The waiter removed the chopsticks that were on the table and presented us with the personalized version. Made us feel very special.
So do you have a regular place or places and how do they treat you as a regular?
Just one regular place. A small family-run americanized-Chinese restaurant that is in a quiet suburb, and not only do I like it for the food, but because it is quiet (not busy) in the evening so I can have converstations with friends, or just be alone in my thoughts when I dine alone. I don't feel as relaxed in any other restaurant.
The owners don't say much because english isn't their first language, but the daughter who is now in college is very friendly. When I quit going for awhile after moving out of the suburbs, the mother mentioned "where have you been, did you move ?". It was kind of comforting knowing that I was missed.
Foodwise, I never mention the restaurant on chowhound.com because it wouldn't wow anyone or come close to a "best"...but sometimes dining isnt just about the food.
The Lao woman who runs my regular canteen will come out and tell me about special ingredients she has on store and propose improvised dishes. Once she gets going with ideas, it's amazing what she can come up with. In some cases she will just surprise me.
We have a number of places that know/treat us as regulars.
In some my drink arrives without have to be ordered. In others the hostess will seat us in our favorite servers' section without us having to ask.
Even in a local branch of a fast food regional chain, the counter help knows that my wife's sandwich gets made with leaf lettuce, not shredded, she doesn't have to ask.
And of course my in-city club, where my drink is waiting at my usual seat at 1:05PM on Thrusdays right after the lunch break starts in family court. Membership has its privileges.
We are regulars at three places. Our son has gone with us since an infant and the staff spoils him at all three. He thinks a club soda in a rocks glass with extra lemons and limes is the greatest drink ever. Add a sword and he is over the moon.
At one place, we know the owner well and often he will join us to eat.
At another, the hostess orders our son's favorite soup as soon as she seats us and it comes out with extra crisps. He is 8yo and still is delighted when it arrives without ordering it, like it is magic.
The third is a club and the servers bring our drinks to the table as we are sitting down.