Letter from the Drinking Town 15 – Livia’s Dish

Dear Worcester

I went to a place I couldn’t get to during the original tour two years ago. This place was Livia’s Dish. I heard they had a full bar but the dinner time ended quickly and I couldn’t get to it before it closed so I gave it up for too much work. I mean, I ain’t paid for this. Hell, I am paying for the right of creating these letters. One cocktail at a time. This is the kind of thing that professional writers shun: do not pay for the permission to be a writer. They also say: don’t drink too much or you will turn into a writerly cliche. Well, looks like I’m batting a thousand on what not to do.

Today, because I knew I was leaving work early and had no committments, I looked up places I might go to. I checked out Livia’s Dish and read that they are now a brunch only place. They go to three every day of the week. And yes, they still have a full bar. Of course they do. How else could they make the necessary mimosas? I figured I could get there by two and why not? Let’s try another gin and tonic and another place I have never been. It’s pure evolutionary science. Man comes out of the muck, then man makes ridiculous goal that revolves around alcohol.

I got there and it was a very nice looking place. There is a ground floor and then quickly steps going to a second level where there is a bar and additional tables. Guess where I went?

The place was winding down. There were two parties at tables, finishing off, talking and lingering. I was by myself at the five seat bar. It was wide and presentable. There was a flatscreen showing a cooking show. The waitress slash bartender gave me a menu and greeted me warmly. Now, my problem was, this was a brunch place. At no time does it feel like the kind of place you walk into just for a cocktail. That’s just strange. So I decided to order something for lunch. This violated my rule, but I didn’t know who to avoid it.

Scanning the menu, I knew I wanted a salad. But first. I ordered the item that brought me here in the first and only place: a gin and tonic. It was almost a treat that the woman didn’t ask me what kind of gin. All they had was Tanqueray and Tanqueray was what I was to have. There is a pleasant sensation in surrendering decisions to the bartender. “Just make it.”

The drink came for seven dollars and I took a sip of it before I ordered my food. It was a nice cocktail. I liked it. Maybe not top ten gin and tonics in this tour, but hey, I would not spit this out with disgust. Sometimes you want a cocktail to taste like the cocktail always has, and this was it. You want a decent gin and tonic. This was it. And dealing with the vagaries of cocktail manufacturing in this day and age, getting a decent cocktail is a beautiful thing.  This is just me saying, if you need to go to a brunch place and have a drink, then you can a order a gin and tonic here and you will be pleased.

Then I ordered a salad and she told me that the pecans that are supposed to be in the salad are not available and they will have walnuts instead. I am allergic to walnuts and I am sad to report I felt a little put out. Not for anything they did, people run of pecans, it happens, but because I was probably pissed that I have this annoying allergy. So I looked at my choices and said, “You know what, I am cool, I will stick with the gin and tonic, thanks.”

This was kind of relief. It meant I could continue with just having a drink and no food for this tour. The bartender apologized a few times, but I was happy and told her so. I said a gin and tonic is three or four tiers of the nutritional pyramid.

Behind me, a group of dentists were telling horror stories of the trade. They had just come in from playing golf. Another couple was in the front room. The two waitresses and I were in the bar watching the mid-day news. The weatherman was wearing a buttoned sports coat that didn’t fit him. It strained against his belly. “There are scores of people around him, why wouldn’t someone tell him to unbutton that thing. Or get a jacket that fits.” I said.

The bartender said, “Yeah, he has put on some weight. Why wouldn’t someone say that that is not a good look.”

The other waitress said, “Of course the weather women don’t have that problem. They are all so thin and wearing dresses that show off too much. None of them should be bending down too quickly.”

“But what is it,” the bartender said, “with them. Even the ones not in good shape, they all have really toned arms. Every weather woman have these scutlpted arms. Like they are doing curls with weights before each time they go on air.”

The conversation went on. We talked about weather people and weather and that this is a nice place to work at. “Not too many people here right now though,” I said.

The bartender said, “It’s after two in the afternoon, we close at three. It’s the end of the night for us. Last call.”

Nothing important was said in this conversation. No one opened their souls. No one learned something important. But everyone had a nice moment chatting, killing time, enjoying the end of the night – in the middle of the afternoon.

The thing about what I do, is that it is not a comprehensive review of a place. But I get an impression. I really liked being at Livia’s Dish. The place was bright and inviting. The staff was terrific. The food looked good and they made a fine gin and tonic. I will definitely try out the brunch with my family soon.

It is always fun to talk smack about a place, but it is more satisfying to speak well of a restaurant.

Until Next Time



Letter from the Drinking Town 14 – How we talk about bar service

Dear Worcester,

I thought I would show with you how I conduct research for this collection of letters. There is the drinking of gin and tonics at the bars of Worcester, of course. Then, there is the discussion I have afterwards. I have a little group I bounce ideas off and I air questions about the things that puzzled me at the bars.

The discussion takes place at a bar. I was with a friend and a bartender (who is also a friend, but for this letter, they will be called Friend and Bartender, got it? These things should include a dramatis personae in the first paragraph of every post). I got my beer and was asked if I had been to any bars and like that, the brain trust was called into order.

“Okay, here’s something that happened at the latest bar,” I said to the bartender. “I got a gin and tonic that was eight bucks and forty two cents. I gave a twenty. The bartender brought back eleven dollars.”

“Wait,” my friend said, “where was the change, the 58 cents.”

“That’s the thing,” I said. “It wasn’t there. He didn’t give me the change. Just the eleven dollars. But he also gave me the receipt and it said 8.42. I am only talking about half a buck here. Is that a thing. Take the change as a service charge?”

The Bartender was savvy and quickly said, “Don’t write it. Don’t include that in your blog. That was just a mistake. Was it busy?”

“Yeah, there were people and things were moving along.”

“There you go,” the Bartender said. “This was just a mistake he made. He didn’t mean to do it. Because why would he blow the chance for a 1.50 tip just by taking fifty cents. I mean, there was a chance when you noticed he shorted you, you were not going to give him anymore tip, right?”

“I thought about it.”

“And if he knew that, why would he chance that? You might not throw that dollar or even more. Why? Just to take fifty cents? Believe me, it was just a mistake. Don’t write it.” There is something endearing witnessing a bartender protecting one of his brethren. I agreed, but said I might write about it without names.

“Since we’re talking about weird bartender behavior I got a question about a waiter,” my Friend said, “I was at an Italian joint with a date. I had an appetizer, ate it with a fork. The fork was on the plate when I finished with it. The waiter came over put down my entree. Instead of giving me a new fork, he picked up the one on the appetizer plate and he didn’t put it next to the plate, he placed it right into my entree. Weird right?”

“I never would do that,” the Bartender said. “I will ask if they want a new fork. Always. And I wouldn’t put it in the food. That’s not right. It’s fine to use the same utensil, but you ask if they are good with that.”

“That’s what I thought,” my Friend said.

The Bartender went to take care of a few customers and came back when he could. “Last night was one of those nights. Crazy customers who don’t know how to behave in a bar. I had this one girl come in with some friends and she just said, ‘I want something blue.” That’s all she could identify. Something blue. I tried to be helpful. I asked her what things she like. She said she wanted something blue. Blue is not a flavor. It is a color. You don’t drink colors. Her friend had a mojito and the girl said that that looked yummy. I told her I could make a blue mojito by putting in blue curacao. She said no. She wanted something blue. I told her I could make a blue margarita. She asked me what went in that and I told her. She said that sounds great and I made it for her. She hated it. And I charged her the full amount. There are no discounts for ordering a blue drink and not liking it.”

There were more conversations and revelations as the evening went on. But that’s a bar for you. And that is how I do research for these academic entries.

Until Next Time