Monday, July 29, 2013

Ashley the Wonder Waiter

 Ashley: What Every Server Should be Like

Last week Art and I went to the original Texican on Manchaca to grab a bite after we had a restaurant consulting meeting; it's close to Art's house and a dependably good restaurant serving a wide variety of Mexican fare, particularly a great chile colorado sauce on pork or on stacked New Mex-style enchiladas. Service can be hit or miss, but this particular server we had was a definite hit with us. I often claim I don't care what the service is like as long as the food is good, but Ashley made me realize how much I appreciate a fantastic server. She exemplified what we look for in table service, and she was rewarded handsomely for her excellence.

Shortly after being seated at a table a pleasant hipsterish, ponytailed, twenty-something server appeared with a basket of unbroken, thin, hot, and crispy chips and a full bowl of salsa. On recent visits we had been given baskets of broken remnants; the totopos from Ashley were golden. She took our drink orders: me a soda with bitters and iced tea for homeboy, and disappeared in a flash. She returned shortly with the tea and a tall glass of soda sans bitters; the bar it seemed had no bitters, not her fault, but she apologized anyway.

She asked politely if we were ready to order, which we were, starting with a large bowl of their Maya queso, which is loaded with picadillo beef and avocado. Art was having the stacked NewMex enchiladas with beef and cheese, some onion added as well, and a side of sour cream; a slightly complicated order, but no hill for a climber. We asked that she delay turning in the ticket until we were almost through with the queso and she said, “Certainly”. I went with the chile colorado: tender cubes of pork swimming in a delicious Chimayo-like red chile sauce. She asked which type of tortilla I preferred, and we were off to the races.

Shortly she appeared with the Maya, two side plates, and a fresh basket of chips. We have always had to ask for more chips in the past; not with Ashley. About three minutes after we finished the queso Ashley glided up with our entrees, advising me of the hot plate, telling me, “If you burn yourself you can't blame me.” A bit of flippant levity I appreciated.  She also had extra napkins, and topped off our salsa. We have always had to ask for more salsa, and extra napkins. I sometimes even have to remind them I need tortillas to eat my dish. 

After a few minutes of us eating she passed by and asked if everything was to our liking, choosing a time when neither of us had mouthfuls of food. When the drinks were about half gone, she brought us both new, full glasses of our drinks. When it was apparent that Art was through, she zipped by and removed his plate; likewise when I polished off my plate and set my utensils on the edge. No big production, just in and out seamlessly while our conversation carried on.

A few minutes later she came by and asked if we wanted more chips, and if we had left room for dessert, and with negative replies, she dropped the tab, letting us know to take our time, and that she would handle the transaction whenever we were ready.

We both slipped in credit cards and she said that she'd be happy to split it down the middle. Upon signing the receipt I remarked that of the 15 + years we had been dining there, we had just experienced the best service at the Texican that we had ever had. It had been flawless and we tipped her about 35%.

Ashley was perfection. I had to look at the receipt to find out her name; she didn't let us know up front. They only time I need to know a server's name is when they are doing a bad job and I need to track them down for something I need that they should have known I need (or complain to the manager). She didn't smell like perfume, so we could enjoy the aromas of our food.

She was unobtrusive and anticipated our every need. She never said “no problem”, which annoys the shit out of me when a server says it (it implies that whatever I wanted could have been problematic if the server weren't in such a good mood). She kept us in fresh chips and drinks, copious salsa, clean napkins, and didn't rush our entrees. Above all, she was very pleasant. Best service at the Texican ever, and if you go, which you should, you'd be very wise to ask for Ashley's section. Our dining world would be a much better place if all servers were on Ashley's elevated level.


Mick Vann ©