All week Eater Austin has been running a new series called Front & Center, highlighting front of the house professionals in Austin restaurants. Today, we're happy to honor the FOH folks who you, the readers, love best. Earlier this week, we asked you to nominate your favorites and now we're reprinting the best of your e-mails and comments to spread the love around.
After the jump, you'll find praise for restaurants large and small, high-end and old-school and everything between. Because of the huge response, we've broken down the replies by neighborhood.
Praise for Claire Hees at the soon-to-open Bar Mirabeau, formerly of the Roaring Fork:
"Claire Hees is absolutely incredible as FOH manager - she did amazing work for Roaring Fork and is going to create even greater things at Bar Mirabeau. Definitely not an experience to be missed!!" - commenter Jess Tonahill
"Sharon worked at Castle Hill for years, which is where she became our go to person whenever we'd go in to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. She'd always doodle drawings of our dog wearing wings or a tiara on top of the to-go containers. Over the years, we amassed quite a collection of "Meat Fairy" doodles on the refrigerator. When Castle Hill "closed" and became Corazon, she decided to take her talents, humor and beauty to Uchiko. She's unbelievably attentive, paces meals perfectly, and she has an amazing palette - when we feel like splurging we just have her pick 6-8 courses for us in the order she best feels highlights the food. We have her pick for us instead of opting for the Omakase tasting menu. Her wine recommendations are always spot on. She's hilarious and tells great stories. And finally, you can always find her with those bright red lips and husky, unmistakable voice. Sharon is awesome. End of story." - commenter KGray
"A consummate professional and amazing at the FOH. I can't wait to see her at Mirabeau." - commenter Daniel Nelson
Praise for Cat Tiffin at Coal Vines:
"Hands down, it's gotta be Cat Tiffin, Bartender at Coal Vines on 2nd street, just below Austin City Limits. Cat is highly personable and not only remembers everyone's drink order, but he remembers names, favorite dishes and more. In fact, Cat is so good at his job, that he has a following. I am part of the Cat Tiffin fan club!" - anonymous commenter
Praise for C.K. Chin at Swift's Attic:
"Ask any of his 6000 friends. He is nicest giant panda. Very friendly, attentive, informative and a great boss (worked for him for a couple of yrs at Imperia)." - anonymous commenter
Praise for Daryl, assistant GM at the Tavern:
"Daryl at the Tavern is assistant GM (and kitchen manager). I'm a regular there and we've worked together a few times. I've seen him deal with customers every now and then when I'm stopping by after work and he's always professional and quick. Working together, he's authoritative (in a good way), really knows his way around a kitchen and knows food. I see his job being really stressful, but he handles it well!" - reader Emily
Praise for Darcie Fromholz at Wink:
"My favorite gas always been Darcie Fromholz at Wink. Wether you are hungry, thirsty, or in need of a good story, she is there to exceed your needs and make sure you have an exceptional dining experience." - reader Milo Miks
Praise for Dirk at Wink:
"I travel to Austin 1-2 times a month and often find myself grabbing a quick dinner up at the bar of a tasty restaurant when I didn't make dinner plans with friends, bc I didn't know when I was going to get done with work. The one bartender/bar that I always find myself gravitating to is Dirk at Wink Wine Bar. His recommendations are ALWAYS spot on and, omg, that guy can pair a glass of wine with ANYTHING and have it be the perfect fit. He also shocks me, when I sometimes get to the bar, after a long day at the office, when I don't feel like I could make another decision if my life depended on it, and say?. Hmmmmm, I really don't know what I want tonight?.and WA-BAM twenty minutes later, out comes EXACTLY what I wanted, without me even knowing it! Plus, he is just a super cool person with great stories and a warm smile. Big props to Dirk! I hope other people recommend him too!!!" - reader Nicole
Praise for Riley Hutton at Truluck's:
"Every time I go to the restaurant Riley has gone out of his way to make myself and my fellow diners feel special. When the Chamber had last minute guests from the UK in during SXSW this year we brought them to Truluck's. Even though it was late in the evening Riley made sure that we had a wonderful table and personally saw to the excellent experience not only for our guests, but for our staff as well. Riley also presented one of our beloved staff members with her own crab pin just before she left us for Boston.
Whenever anyone asks me where my favorite spot in Austin is it's always Truluck's and when they visit I tell them to let Riley know I sent them. It's like a personal calling card to treat them with even greater care." - reader Amber Gunst
Praise for the front-of-house staff at Congress, Bar Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen:
"Laura Shearer, General Manager, has been welcoming me every time I walk in the door since they opened in December 2010. She always remembers the names of our friends in our party, where we like to sit and what we love to eat and drink. A true duck, she may be paddling underneath the water, but you would never know by watching her glide through the three restaurants taking care of business.
Caitlin is the cocktail server at Bar Congress and you will never meet a more capable, warm and professional server as her. She always greets us with a big smile, sees we have a comfortable place to sit and quickly brings our favorite libations.
June Rodil, the beverage director and sommelier is spot on with her warm personality and amazing palate to choose the right wines, beers and cocktails for every occasion. A true Rock star who plays the hits with absolute grace night after night." - reader T. Marshall Jones.
Praise for Susan Bright, server at Uchiko:
"Sharon Bright, server extraordinnaire at Uchiko. Sharon worked at Castle Hill for years, which is where she became our go-to person whenever we'd go in to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. She'd always doodle drawings of our dog wearing wings or a tiara on top of the to-go containers. Over the years, we amassed quite a collection of "Meat Fairy" doodles on the refrigerator. When Castle Hill "closed" and became Corazon, she decided to take her talents, humor and beauty to Uchiko.
She's unbelievably attentive, paces meals perfectly, and she has an amazing palette - when we feel like splurging we just have her pick 6-8 courses for us in the order she best feels highlights the food. We have her pick for us instead of opting for the Omakase tasting menu. Her wine recommendations are always spot on. She's hilarious and tells great stories. And finally, you can always find her with those bright red lips and husky, unmistakable voice. Sharon is awesome. End of story." - commenter KGray
Praise for Julie Holland at Foreign & Domestic:
"I would like to give a "shout-out" to a great waitress named Julie Holland. Currently Julie works at F&D...but she has graced Austin for some time w/ previous gig's at Basil's and Castle Hill among other places. Julie knows her stuff and more importantly gets to know her customers in a very natural and unique way. For example I love good food but am not always that adventurous (nothing wrong with being a little simple now and then) and Julie always has the best suggestions for me. A few nights ago when I saw her at F&B she suggested I go with the Fried Chicken and biscuit and Beef Tartar and I happily inhaled every bite of that.
Over the years of following her from restaurant to restaurant I have learned that she is an actress and has done stand-up comedy. At the same time she is an amazing server—one that really makes the entire dining experience out to be great. Any place would be so lucky to have her and although I wish her well in her show business dreams a very selfish part of me hopes she is still around in the Austin restaurant scene for a very long time." - reader Christopher Ross
Praise for Michael, bartender at Uchiko:
"I love Uchiko and often use to go by myself and sit at the bar during happy hour because i need my Uchiko fixing. Michael has always been really friendly to me and because he recognized my love for Uchiko, he always connected with me by informing with about upcoming happenings at Uchiko and provided thoughtful recommendations. He has an incredibly positive personality and smile that I have always appreciated." - reader Amit Anandwala
Praise for Uzi, server at Uchiko:
"Articulating how amazing Uzi is difficult, but I have some stories that hopefully help highlight how much I think of her. The first time I met her, I was sitting at the bar and asked her for vegetarian recommendations because I wanted to bring my parents to the restaurant. She grabbed a menu and started marking items with a heart to identify which ones could be vegetarian/vegan. She was a vegan at the time so she could really relate to that diet and provided incredible insight. After talking to her, she gave me one of the warmest hugs you can receive from someone you first met. Since then, she has always made me and my family and anyone else that I have brought to Uchiko to feel warm. She moves through the restaurant like a choregraphed dancer that is able to connect with everyone with her radiant personality. From talking to her, you know 100% that she loves her job and i honestly think she has one of the most beautiful personalities out of anyone I know." - Reader Amit Anandwala
Praise for David Evans, server at Uchiko:
"Out of all the servers in Austin, my vote goes to David Evans at Uchiko. He is always positive, enthusiastic, flexible and knowledgeable.
We never open a menu at Uchiko when David is our server. We just ask him to bring us what he thinks are the best choices of the night. He not only hits it out of the park every time but his wine pairings are stellar as well. He remembers our favorites from visit to visit and always has a smile on his face. I think that says it all." - reader Ann Seals
Praise for Thomas, a server at Olive & June:
"A few months ago, I had dinner at Olive and June, and was lucky enough to have Thomas as our waiter. I love food, and love even more when our server knows about food! He was really knowledgeable about everything on the menu as well as what wines would go well with what we ordered. My husband ordered a glass of Super Tuscan, and when Thomas wasn't 100% sure that he grabbed the correct wine order from a very busy bar?he took it back to correct it, just in case. My husband probably would have not really known the difference, as I suggested the Super Tuscan, and he had never tried it before?but Thomas really went out of his way to correct the mistake.
At the end of the meal, my husband requested limoncello, and Thomas suggested nocello instead. He seemed genuinely excited that we were willing to try new things, and boy are we glad we did! No joke, the nocello is one of the best things I have ever been introduced to! It was so nice having a waiter who not only seemed to care about the customer, but also the food he was serving. He explained a lot about how different dishes were made, where they came from and how they prepared them without being long winded and preachy. When people ask me for restaurant recommendations, I always list Olive and June, and I always tell them to ask to be sat at one of Thomas' tables." - reader Kelly Williams
Praise for Scott Bennett at Contigo:
If you don't know Scott either you just moved to Austin or you have been hiding under a rock. He is one of the most witty and entertaining servers you will have the pleasure to experience. Scott always has great recommendations on food, drinks and life in general; he stands tall in my book! - anonymous commenter
Praise for the whole Shangri-La crew:
"Joe, Echo, Chadwick, Chance, Megan, Trevin and all the crew at Shangri La. They remember your name, remember what's going on with you, remember your drink and don't put up with people's bull. They are all fantastic and the turnover there is incredibly low when it comes to their main crew." - reader Rachel Daily
Praise for Clara at Barley Swine:
"Clara at Barley Swine. She knows the menu inside and out and is so enthusiastic about the food. She is just a lot of fun to be around and doesn't take herself too seriously (she has been known to sport a pink faux hawk). I think she deserves a little spotlight." - reader Dan Stacy
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