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Bad Attitude Rules

March 22, 2010

It never ceases to amaze me how sensitive some people can be.  For some, a little bit of rudeness or inconsiderate behavior from the staff at a restaurant is a personal affront akin to spitting in their food.

Last week, All Over Albany mentioned my love of Mahar’s.  I was kind of surprised, since the beer I was talking about in my post would likely get me thrown out of this temple to the gods of brewing.  Mahar’s isn’t just a beer bar, it’s a serious place for serious lovers of seriously good beer.  And they do not suffer fools.

They make it plain as day on their website, which is a staggering work of genius.  And I do not use those words lightly.

Bartender Bill Deans and Comic Book Guy Jeff Albertson might just have been separated at birth*.  That is, if the later wasn’t a fictional character.  The attitude is the same: the smug superiority that comes from a vast depth of knowledge that other, less dedicated mortals will likely never possess.  And you know what?  I’m fine with that.  They have earned it.

Those people who make a truly superior product can pull this off.

When I was in San Francisco and drinking some of the best espresso I have ever had, the barista looked like she wouldn’t spit on you to save your life.  She worked deftly but meticulously.  Her craft was honed as she pulled perfectly creamy double ristrettos one after the other, and nimbly manipulated her steamed milk bucket to create beautiful brown and white leaves and hearts atop the finished drinks.

She took her time.  And people waited.  And waited.  And.  Waited.

And they would continue to wait for this woman who cared nothing about them.  Frankly it didn’t seem like she particularly cared about the drinks either, as she stood behind her machine with a distinct sense of ennui.  She was the best damn woman that I’ve ever seen.

I could go on and tell similar stories about phenomenal pizza parlors, barbecue pits, bagel bakeries, kosher-style delis and other institutions where the rude ‘tude and great food seem inseparable.

People will wait and put up with all manner of indignities when your food is just that good (or at least they should).  But I often wonder why these people, who are working in amazing establishments, do not seem glad to be there.  My guess is that part of it stems from many people not truly appreciating how special the food is.  Also, regardless of what these staffers are producing, the work itself is generally thankless.

I’m not sure how many of you have ever been behind the counter manning a beer tap with throngs of thirsty people on the other side.  Believe me, it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds.  People who are thirsty and who have been drinking aren’t always at their best.

So I don’t begrudge them their grumpiness.  However, what I cannot abide is this kind of attitude when it has not been earned.

If Bill wants to roll his eyes at me because I’m waffling between the cask-conditioned Wailing Wench or the cask-conditioned Dragonslayer, I’ll stand there and take it like a man.  But if the barista at Starbucks rolls her eyes at me because I forgot to mention I’d like my cappuccino made with whole milk, thank you very much, I’ll be taking my future business to the Starbucks on the next block.

In some ways I now feel that bad attitudes are a good indicator of an amazing place.  So much so, that when I walk into a promising looking pizza parlor and people behind the counter are nice, I get very uneasy.

Sometimes good food experiences take a little sacrifice.  Just try not to take it personally.  Be brave.  And enjoy.
* Hopefully Bill will take this in the spirit it was offered.  I have a deep admiration and respect for the geeks of the world, whatever their passion may be.  While I do not get to Mahar’s nearly as much as I would like, it would be my preference to remain welcome at one of the greatest establishments the city of Albany has to offer.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellie permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:24 am

    I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve never been treated badly at Mahars. A friend and I had stumbled upon the place when I had first moved up here through word of mouth. I had been lamenting a distinct lack of place similar to Bacchus in New Paltz. Food was optional, but as a beer lover, I was done with Sam Adams on tap. Not that Sam Adams is bad, but it’s the Olive Garden of beers. It’ll never be bad, but it’ll never be particularly very good. Or Amazing. It was a busy Friday but Bill got me my first beer quickly and without attitude. I think he might even have smiled at me as I helped my friend pick out an Ommegang abby ale. When I went to get my second beer, he answered my questions and helped me pick out a nice, a very nice esspresso stout.

    I don’t get there as often as I’d like. Lately I’ve been drinking the hefty beers, and it’s just too far to drive. However I’ve never been treated rudely, even during peek times. Yes, sometimes I’ve had to wait while Bill or his staff serve others but that’s par for course on a busy Friday night. However I’ve waited at lesser establishments for shittier beer.

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    March 22, 2010 11:17 am

    Bad attitude is never OK.

  3. kerosena permalink
    March 22, 2010 1:45 pm

    I’ve only been once or twice, and I went with a beer-nerd friend who had his own glass there, and possibly a jacket. I was not treated poorly.

    I’ve read on other blogs that the place has a rep for their beer snobbery and unpleasant attitude.

    If a person was to go there as an admitted novice, and ask for recommendations, how do you suppose they’d be treated?

  4. Kate permalink
    March 22, 2010 3:58 pm

    I used to visit Mahar’s in my younger days but since I moved to the other side of the river I haven’t been in a really long time (it’s not in walking distance and there’s too many good ales for me to stop at just one). The rumor is that the owner of Mahar’s is opening a place on Main St. in Castleton. Since it’s pretty close to my house I keep driving by and looking for signs of business. I can’t wait for it to open so I can get a really great pint without having to leave my neck of the woods.

  5. March 22, 2010 4:33 pm

    To each their own, but the rude & condescending gimmick doesn’t do anything for me. I know some folks (including those at Mahar’s) would take offense at me referring to it as a gimmick. I don’t mean that it’s insincere, per se, but even when it’s not trying to be, it is. Going out of your way to avoid being courteous, helpful, and friendly is every bit the put-on that being congenial is; particularly when it reaches a level of self-parody.

    It’s important to note that I’m not a foodie, though, and my tastes are anything but particular. So to me, there’s no great reward for being subjected to a frustrating wait or attitude. So I simply stay away from those places, rather than return with friends and complain every single time the same thing happens like so many people do with Mahar’s.

  6. March 22, 2010 4:35 pm

    I will say after looking at the site that you’re right, it is indeed brilliant. Anyone that can write in all caps and still have it be an enjoyable, worthwhile read has a true talent deserving of praise.

  7. phairhead permalink
    March 22, 2010 6:13 pm

    Sexybeast will never grace Mahar’s any longer as they gave him hard time about ordering PBR

  8. March 22, 2010 7:48 pm

    First of all, I am amazed at folks saying they have never been treated badly at Mahars. On my sole visit, I did not see anyone who was NOT being treated badly. It’s part of Mahars brand as their website and Kevin, I am sure the use of obnoxious and hard to read ALL CAPS CHARACTERS WHICH DAVID OGILVY POINTS OUT DO NOT WORK IN ADVERTISING BECAUSE YOU CANNOT READ THE COPY BUT MUST MAKE OUT THE INDIVIDUAL LETTERS is intentional.

    And I am totally in agreement with Mr. Sunshine that bad service is never OK. Go to the uber cool Ferry Plaza in San Francisco and you’ll always get a friendly smile from Farmer Al at Frog Hollow or the handlebar moustache guy at the wheatgrass place. When everything else about the experience is immaculate, it is appropriate that the server should acknowledge and appreciate your enjoyment rather than being detached and indifferent and on another and higher plane.

    Waiting is a slightly different though parallel topic. Last week I was in Austin where I had one of the 10 best meals of my life at, a trailer sitting on gravel in an empty lot. On Yelp people complain of waiting an hour for their food here. (I didn’t have that experience because I was there when it opened at 5 pm.) I can see that the servers, seeing people lined up for a meal in an empty lot, might get a sense of entitlement. Maybe they even think the diners are hankering for a bit of abuse?

    I draw the line here. If I’m hungry I’m hungry and I’m not going to wait till I approach that body-feeding-on-itself phase before I get my food. Good reviews or not, I’m going elsewhere.

  9. March 22, 2010 8:08 pm

    BTW Profusser, if the barista at Blue Bottle was “the best damn woman I have ever seen” I hope she was Ms. Fussy but I fear and expect she was not. In which case I will buy you a Screaming Wench at Mahars, and damn the consequences, while you are waiting to be readmitted to the FussyHaus.

  10. Ewan permalink
    March 23, 2010 9:54 am

    kerosena: Mahar’s – and Bill – have always treated this novice superbly; given information freely, recommendations accurately, and service speedily.

    Fabulous place.

  11. March 23, 2010 9:56 am

    I’m with Sunshine, Kevin and Otis on this one. I’m not cool with being treated like shit. You don’t have to fawn all over me but politeness and respect go far towards earning my devotion.

    And it’s even worse when attitude is part of the gimmick.

  12. mirdreams permalink
    March 23, 2010 10:35 am

    Mahar’s is not about treating people badly for the sake of treating people badly. It’s about respecting beer and respecting the people who serve it AND the people who drink it. If you come in and give Bill a reasonable idea of what you like (i.e. I like dark, malty beers, or I like IPAs) and then ask him for a recommendation (when he’s not slammed with other orders) you will get a good recommendation and very pleasant service. If you come in underaged or expecting to get a good wine menu, yeah, you’re going to have a bad experience at Mahar’s. But that’s who they are and thank God for that.

  13. Ellen Whitby permalink
    March 23, 2010 7:20 pm

    I’m curious, Profusser, how many beers do you have on your list at Mahar’s?

  14. kevin permalink
    September 3, 2010 12:00 pm

    now open

    [note from the profussor: It may not be obvious, but kevin is talking about this.]

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