Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Austin restaurants. We've asked local industry folks, media types and food fans to tell us who makes dining out in Austin a pleasure—and if you're looking for something a little more proletarian, we rounded up reader favorites, too.
The quality cocktails of Austin owe much to Bill Norris, the Alamo Drafthouse's beverage director, but Norris himself writes that he's indebted to Sean, his favorite bartender at Enoteca:
When I moved to within walking distance of Enoteca this year, it became the place I hit for a quick dinner and glass of wine on those days when I don't want to cook or think about driving to another restaurant. I'm there a lot, and I always sit at the bar. For me, Sean is everything a bartender should be at his core--a terrific host.
He can sense if I'm feeling like talking or just retreating into some Italian comfort food. He's quick with an honest recommendation or suggestion, always remembers my name and the glass of wine I usually order, and has steered me to dishes, especially desserts, that I might not have considered.
I also enjoy watching the way he works his bar. He's got a sense of where all the patrons are in their meals; even when the bar is full and the service well is jumping, he's on top of his guest's needs, usually offering something just before I know I need it. That rare ability makes it feel like you're dining at a friend's house, even if you're sitting alone at the bar, and, more than anything else, it's why I keep coming back.
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