Menus at chic restaurants around the country are experimenting with a new offer: tipping the kitchen with beer.
You've just had a gorgeous restaurant meal: Delicious food, attentive service and an atmosphere that made you feel both indulged and privileged. You already know to tip your server nicely, but what else can you do? Well if you happen to be in certain restaurants, you can thank the kitchen with a gift that's almost as widely appreciated as money by cooks around the world—beer.
East Coast Grill's menu in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers a "Kitchen Beer Appreciation Special"—a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon—for $12. Whisknladle in La Jolla, California, gives customers the option to order a "Kitchen Sixer" for $7. And at Top Chef winner Ilan Hall's The Gorbals in Los Angeles, the dessert menu features an item called "Buy the Kitchen a Round of Beers" for $10.
"I brought the idea over from East Coast Grill," says Brian Huston, chef at The Publican in Chicago, which has a "6 Pack for the Kitchen" at the end of its extensive beer menu. "We get at least one or two six packs a night and it's almost contagious." (The Publican staff add to the merriment by ringing a bell whenever a customer orders the beers for the kitchen, causing other customers to ask about the noise and hopefully, order it as well.) Says Huston: "The record is seven in one night." Which, by the way, the staff get after dinner service, not during.
Fun for the customers + fun for the kitchen staff + fun for bean counters = everyone wins, right?
Well, not always. "At Blackbird, we got staff beers at the end of the night, which would flow over into sitting at the bar and getting toasted," says Huston of The Publican's sister restaurant. "Same at Avec"—also part of the same restaurant group—"the kitchen would get staff beers and on rough nights we'd get Jameson too. That would lead to some mishaps along the way, like stuff not getting put away. So when the Publican opened, [owner] Paul [Kahan] didn't allow staff beers."
Until he realized it could be profitable. "He said, 'We're not gonna do staff drinks,' chuckles Huston. "And I was like here's a way for you make money. Then they're like this is great, let's get as much beer in here as possible and get you guys drunk!"
CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel. @clarissanyc1