Let’s begin our roundup of restaurant news with a couple of books. First, Heather Earnhardt’s “Wandering Goose” cookbook. Her restaurant, Wandering Goose, is on Capitol Hill, at 403 15th Ave. E., though you may remember her from the Volunteer Park Cafe, where she was Ericka Burke’s partner.
Also launching a cookbook: Jennifer Shea of Trophy Cupcakes, which has multiple locations, including 1815 N. 45th St. in Wallingford and 2612 N.E. Village Lane in University Village.
Alice Currah, whose “Savory Sweet Life” blog blends recipes and memories, turns up this month as host of the TV show “Original Fare.” It explores the lives of foragers, farmers and fishers, with episodes airing weekly on public television.
Restaurants opened within the past month: The Masonry (20 Roy St.) in Lower Queen Anne (pizza and craft beer); Josh Henderson’s Westward (2501 N. Northlake Way), at the north end of Lake Union; Bar Cantinetta in Madison Valley (2811 E. Madison St.), an offshoot of Cantinetta in Wallingford; A Bar Named Sue, on the site of Lucky 8 (1407 14th Ave.), on Capitol Hill; and Martino’s Smoked Meats (7410 Greenwood Ave N.).
Restaurants on the horizon: Ethan Stowell’s new [mkt] (think “Market”), to open in Tangletown (2108 N 55th St.); Barnacle, the latest from chef Renée Erickson (4743 Ballard Ave. N.W.); and Petra (1933 Seventh Ave.), next to Barolo on Westlake Avenue.
And a bit longer-range, an expansion of University Village, to include a flagship Joey’s Kitchen (the Canadian Joey’s chain), Molly Moon ice cream, Liam (the new spot from Kurt Beecher Dammeyer) and Din Tai Fung (the Eastside’s popular dumpling spot).
The ‘hot tips’
How much should you tip in a restaurant these days? And should your tip reflect your perception of the quality of service? Based on what criteria? How often someone drops by your table to refill your water glass? How long it took the kitchen to cook your order and for it to be delivered to the table? How cute the waiter of waitress is?
Or is it more logical to simply think of the tip as a surcharge? If so, why tip at all? In Washington state, with the highest minimum wage in the country, there’s no issue (as in states where servers make only $2 or $3 an hour) that tips are used to supplement the hourly pay.
In many European countries, the “tip” is added to the bill as a 12- to 15-percent “service charge” distributed to employees, a practice that The Wall Street Journal opposes because service charges are considered taxable income to restaurant owners, rather than taxable to servers. For its part, The New York Timesrecently weighed in with a call to eliminate tipping entirely.
Who pockets the tip? The server, surely, if you leave cash. The server, maybe, if you scrawl something on the credit-card slip. Your busboy? Doubtful. The kitchen? Rarely. The owner? Maybe, though it’s hardly legal and leaves restaurants open to lawsuits and fines.
At their best, servers are at least as valuable to a restaurant as the cooks on the line; they are, to use the expression of Portland, Ore., restaurant writer (and professional waiter) Paul C. Paz calls “tableside revenue enhancers” — not just refillers of water glasses. They are the frontline of a team that does more than plop down plates in front of a customer. Rather, the ideal restaurant staff works as a team to create an experience.
That’s true whether you’re just wolfing down a tuna sandwich (a short, fast, lunch-counter experience) or a romantic evening with wine at a white-tablecloth dinner house. The server — indeed the entire team — must give the impression that they’re working for you, the diner, while keeping in mind that the server has control of vital information (what’s good tonight, what not to order because the delivery didn’t come in, what’s available right now to get around a backup in the kitchen). That’s what your tip should reward, right?
The idea persists that servers earn big bucks while cooks must survive on the minimum wage. True, some servers (especially at bigger, more successful places) follow the practice of “tipping out” their front-of-house team (busser, bartender, host) and, ideally, sending some of the loot back to the kitchen, as well.
The rule of thumb is that 1 percent of total sales should find its way back into the pockets of the kitchen crew (not the owner-chef, if such there be), but the hardworking cooks, even dishwashers.
Assuming a waiter sells $2,000 worth of food in a night (and collects $300 to $400 in tips), that would mean sending four $5 bills back to the kitchen. Not a lot, is it?
But I also like this approach, taken by chefs Brian McCracken and Dana Tough at The Coterie Room in Belltown — it’s a line on the menu: “Six-pack for the crew, $10. The kitchen works hard to deliver great food. Buy ‘em a beer!”
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.