We eat out a lot. Maybe not as much as we used to but still probably more than most people (and probably more than we should). When people see us at an establishment, be it a hipster-cocktail bar, a white-napkin snooty joint, or a farm-to-table family bistro, they will almost always find us at the bar if the place has one.
We’re not drunks, or at least that’s not why we almost always sit at the bar. We have many reasons for doing this:
Checking Out the Setup
You can tell a lot about a place by looking behind the bar. You can check out their beverage program up close, seeing what types of liquor, wine, and beer they serve.
This can tell you a lot about not only what they serve but also what they potentially serve really well. If they have over 20 types of rum, you can probably bet their rum game is pretty good.
Okay, you can probably already tell that by looking at their menu, checking Yelp, or even just asking people, but it’s more fun to be snoopy and try to case the joint before asking for that first drink.
You Get to Meet More People
It’s more social. We often meet people there we may or may not know. Even if you are not a social butterfly, a few good, stiff drinks can turn the most introverted person into the life of the party (don’t over do it though).
You also get to hang out with people who work at the establishment the entire time of your meal, namely the mixologists, bartenders, barbacks, waitstaff, GMs and at times even the BoH people coming up to the front to personally expo or to check to see how things are going and what to expect.
A View of the Action
You generally can get a peek into the kitchen at the bar. Most places are laid out in that fashion. Why? It may have to do with the expo process, and it also might be easier for the mixologist taking your food orders to just yell into the kitchen… okay, they all use POS systems and other software to manage that now, but they tend to crash a lot (POS doesn’t always just stand for Point of Sale when talking about these buggy marvels of software engineering).
You Get to See All The Cool Stuff
We’re cocktail enthusiasts. We love the art of making cocktails and beverage culture. Yes, in some fancy joints all the waitstaff will know how to flame citrus like a pro, but in most places you’ll miss such pyrotechnics if you order your drink from a table in the corner.
This is not to say the whole point of a mixologist’s job is to provide a show, but even the most plain and non-showy bartender is far more entertaining than someone’s toddler staring unendingly at you during your meal from the adjacent table.
Plus, it’s neat to see exactly how your favorite drink is made. You’ll learn more about what you like and don’t like, and maybe make a more educated choice in the future.
You Don’t Have to Make a Reservation
We never make reservations but we almost always get seated, and it is not because we know people. It’s because bar seats in restaurants are, generally, non-reservable. Even at a super busy place that is always reserved out for days, you can find a spot at the bar if you keep a close watch over who is about done and who is just waiting for their table to be ready.
Swoop in quick and claim your spot. It’s a good skill to build if you’re someone who isn’t terribly pushy like us.
The Bartender Knows All
The bar is the nerve center of any good restaurant. A bartender is a combination of mixologist, waitperson, busser, GM, and host. They do it all.
As a result, they are often the ones who know the most about how to get things done and how long things will take. They need to know because running a good bar at a well attended restaurant is no less taxing or involving than running a kitchen.
The Drinks Taste Better
Call us crazy, but cocktails just taste better at the bar than when seated at a table. There is something about being able to watch the drinks being made and being able to chat with the person making it that adds to enjoyment of a drink. Even beer is better when you get to geek-out about IBU levels and the like with the one who poured it.
This is not to say that no one waiting a table is incapable of making your drinking experience better, even more so if that person if a sommelier and you’re having an in-depth convo about the soil and rainfall of where the wine came from; this is more for those of us who cannot imagine a fine meal without a stiff spirit-based drink (or a smashing mocktail, which is becoming more and more of an option in St. Louis these days).
So… we can’t all sit at the bar, but if you have the option we highly suggest it. The number of quality of the bartenders, mixologists, and sommeliers in St. Louis may not exceed other cities in pure numbers, but when you consider the per capita ratio the St. Louis area out performs almost any other metro area out there.
Respect the local talent we have, sit at the bar, and tip big. #stllove