Don’t reward bad behavior

It was a busy night, not so busy that the man didn’t have time to tell me that he was looking for a seat at the bar, and not too busy for me to acknowledge that.

When hick meets hipster, press on

They clearly were cool. It wasn’t something the two needed to say outright, it just permeated every aspect of their being, from their tribal tattoos to their attitude.

Everybody celebrates a birthday differently

I think I might have yawned. I know that I looked at the clock on the wall. Time can crawl or race by depending on circumstance. Sometimes working behind the bar is exciting — making lots of drinks, talking to lots of people, loud music, hustle bustle — and then sometimes it’s not.

Give the lady what she wants

I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I remember well how it ended.

“I never went back there,” said the young woman.

The problem with telling a customer, “no problem”

It was as good a lunch as one could remember. If Virginia Woolf is known for saying, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” I would like to go on record as saying that the same is true for lunching well. Anyone who works nights will tell you the same thing.

Spirited conversation, with cherry on top

“I’ll have an old fashioned with George Dickel, orange and angostura bitters and maraschino liqueur,” she said authoritively.

“With an orange twist and a cherry on top . A Luxardo maraschino, if you have it.”

“Ah, the original,” I said.

It all looks good until it doesn’t

He had been coming in a lot as of late. If they say time heals all wounds, then it would be safe to say his were sufficiently scabbed over — at least enough to be dipping his foot back into in the shallow dating pool around here.

Handsome, successful, generous and kind, certainly a catch for anybody interested in those sorts of things.

Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt

The light flickered just slightly in the little bar. Not enough for everyone to notice, but enough for the bartender to.

He flicked the little light with his index finger, causing it to flicker some more.

“We gotta get this fixed,” the bartender said in a fashion that suggested he had said it before.

Call it Easter or call it complicated

We sat in our little group around the large round restaurant table — a journalist, a master gardener, a Realtor, a law student and a poet. If politics make strange bedfellows then the restaurant business makes even odder table mates. It is one of the few jobs that you can work as much or as little as you want.

Caring is key to good service

To say it had been a bad day would be an understatement.

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  • “more about mixing people than drinks”
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  • “racy and innocent”
    Marin Independent Journal
  • “insightful writing about bar culture and human nature”
    SF Examiner
  • “the best stories are of the clueless at their worst behavior — often before they’ve ordered their first drink” “juicier reads than you would find in the pages of a family newspaper”
  • “a book of riotous stories”
    The Bold Italic
  • “great book, quite funny, and includes recipes!”
    Joel Riddell, Dining Around, NewsTalk 910
  • “I love this book. It's insightful, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and includes expert cocktail recipes, too!”
    Erika Lenkert, author of Last-Minute Party Girl and Raw: the Uncook Book
  • “Served straight up, with humor, irreverence and a one-of-a-kind perspective, Twenty Years Behind Bars takes us up close into the life of bars, bartenders, and those who frequent both. To get any closer, you'd need be an olive in one of Burkhart's martini glasses.”
    Kimberley Lovato, author of the award winning cookbook, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves