Twisted Fork is located on Milwaukee's East Side, which I sort of equate to the Belmont area of Chicago; progressive, trendy, full of old buildings that are now loft apartments, coffee houses, and the occasional tattoo parlor. Previously occupying the space of the restaurant was a liquor store. Unglamourous, I know, but before that, 2238 North Farwell Avenue was home to a very special place; The Oriental Pharmacy. This joint had it all; lunch counter, hardware section, and the drugstore that spawned a staple t-shirt in Milwaukee, a little number that said "I'm Hooked on Oriental Drugs" (plans are currently being mulled over for a new version, in the same faux-Chinese font, that reads "I'm Hooked on Twisted Fork"). We're still located smack dab next to another Oriental building, though, the Oriental Theater, art-house cinema of the East Side.
The restaurant makes full use of the space formerly occupied by the Oriental Pharmacy, with a cocktail lounge, bar, patio (seasonal, of course...our tables and chairs were just trucked of to storage this evening), main dining room, a more subdued "Alley" dining area (occasionally referred to as "the Opium Den"), and banquet room. There's a nice little nod, I've learned, to the old Pharmacy, carried out in the tile work on the floor of the cocktail area and front dining room; apparently, it's the same pattern as was on the floor of the lunch counter.
My job positions me smack-dab up front (usually, unless I'm helping to bus tables, or occasionally run food out to the cocktail area), behind the host stand. I get to greet people, show them to their seats, and make note of where I've sat them (not simultaneously), and sometimes pop back to make sure the servers know they've been seated. I wear all black, which makes me feel, occasionally, like a failed goth-Johnny Cash wannabe.
We've been open for about two months now (I think we kicked our doors open on August 23rd? Something like that.) and we've had a bit of an interesting time thus far. About 4 weeks ago, right around the very beginning of October, we had an unexpected visitor at about 3:30 in the morning. Someone ran a red light coming down Farwell Avenue (that passes right by our front windows), t-boned a van that was heading on one of the cross streets by our corner, and the van wound up banging into our wall of windows. It only broke one, but it also smacked a support beam. The beam was repaired in the next couple of days (there were many others holding up the apartments above us, thankfully) and this past week, we finally got the sheet of glass cut to replace the lovely hunk of plywood what was masquerading as a very opaque window.
Then, this past Saturday night, just after I left work, some firemen strode into the restaurant and told us that we needed to evacuate. Apparently a new furnace installed in the Oriental Theater, which we share an interior wall with, was emitting very high levels of carbon monoxide (about 500 parts per million, I'm told, more than enough to kill you with prolonged exposure). Nine people from the theater were taken to the hospital, and several others either passed out, threw up, or both, in the alley behind the building. The restaurant was reopened aroudn 7:30, two hours after the evacuation. We wound up comp-ing $600 worth of food for the inconvenienced-but-still-conscious guests. We're a bit worried that bad things might come in threes. We've been double checking smoke alarms and fire-suppression systems.
One good thing about working in a restaurant is you're never wanting for food (obligatory link to menus here). However, with someone that's already vaguely pudgy like me, that 50% employee discount I get can be a problem. I've been making an attempt to eat at least somewhat healthily; having a fruit cup with sandwiches instead of fries, ordering salads (of course, that crispy chicken breast on top ain't gonna help my waist line, but oh well). On busy nights, though, I do tend to run around quite a bit making sure everything is in order, helping bus tables, checking the TP and paper towel situation in the men's room (I'm the only male on the host/hostess team...kinda odd), but apparently I do my job well, or I wouldn't have gotten that promotion to host trainer (when we finally need to hire new hosts) and raise ($10/hr now, instead of $9). I occasionally think I'm being groomed for future mangement, but I don't know. My current manager is cool, though. Amy is mid- to late-twenties, fun, perky, sometimes disheartened that her suggestions aren't taken as seriously as others' are, but a good person to work for. She definitely makes me feel valued and important to the restaurant. What's odd, is the bar manager, Drew, is a guy I graduated from high school with. Got hired on about a month in to replace a manager that just wasn't working out, I guess. Another guy Drew and I graduated with, Tony, was a server, but just got another gig that pays better (in addition to his day job as a carpenter), so he quit on very amicable terms, and still visits from time to time.
So yeah, that's what I do with myself when I don't have my ass parked in front of this computer. It's the first job in quite a while, since DisneyQuest in summer 2001, where I like what I do, I like who I work for, and I feel my work is appreciated. Who'd a thunk I'd enjoy working in a restaurant?
PS -- I've also got a recipe for a kick-ass vegetable stew from the restaurant. Our chef attended some sort of women's expo in the area and he offered it to attendee's. We have a bunch of copies up at the host stand, one of which I nicked, so if there's any response to this post, or any expressions of interest, I'll post it. It's got a bit of a kick from the single diced habanero pepper, not enough to make you feel like you're gonna spew lava, but just enough to warm your mouth and stomach. It's got sort of a Thai/South African influence, and, well, it rocks. Let me know if any of you want it.