James – Southgate

Phicklephilly is back and going out on the town again! I’m so happy to have some new things to write about!

We’ve been locked up for over four months. Covid and being quarantined has taken a toll on all of us. When this is over things will definitely be different. The way we work, socialize, and connect with each other.

Some of the restrictions have been lifted in our city. Food delivery’s been huge. But we can all agree we miss going out and having a drink and a bite with a friend. James and I usually try to get together at least once every other month when times are good, but that’s been impossible for the past four months.

I’ve enjoyed facetime and zoom calls during this challenging time. But it’s just not the same as real human interaction. I think one thing that this quarantine has taught us is that you find out who your real friends are. I was initially a little butt hurt when I didn’t hear from people I thought were my friends. I spoke with a close friend about this and explained to her my plight several months ago. She said, “Those people weren’t really your friends. They were simply your happy hour buddies.” She was right and that gave me clarity in regard to who I’d be spending my precious time with in the future. Those people were my ‘friends’ when I was taking them to big events where they could get dressed up and be seen. Surrounded by beautiful people, free drinks and free food. I really liked these people and thought we were friends, when in reality they just attached themselves to me like sea lampreys and basked in my light.

The lights went out back in March and I haven’t heard from any of them. Not even a “How you holding up?,” text. Nothing. When I thought back to my relationship with these so called friends, we never really hung out and did things that friends do together. I was just a free drink, fun event, and meal ticket for these folks. I know people who have worked in the hospitality industry and they agree. These people were their friends as long as they were being invited to cool events and pounding free drinks. Anyway, lesson learned and I won’t be hanging out with any of these vacuous, self-absorbed fools anymore. But I digress…

James and I have been friends for I think around seven years. I could check previous posts about this man, but I think we met for the first time back in 2013. I was with Michelle at a fashion event that he was running at the Armory here in Philly.

Found his first post:

James – Modeling Agency Mogul

You can begin Michelle’s 24 part series here:

Michelle – Chapter 1 – A Brand New Day

James and I have always loved movies. Great films as well as horrible turkeys. We just love all things movies. I consider him one of my best friends here in Philly and he’s joined the ranks of my enduring friends. He’s a cool, smart guy who runs his own talent agency.

So after four months in quarantine, we decided to throw down the gauntlet and meet up for one of our now famous, ‘Hollywood Happy Hours.’ Scheduling seems harder than ever with everything that’s going on, compounded by the restrictions put upon us by this pandemic.

I’m happy that things are happening again. I used to always have stories from my life and series going about all of the fun people in my life. (Especially all of my crazy dates!) I’ve found without being able to go out and make new stories, I turned inward and have been publishing stories from my past. I hope people enjoy them and I’d like to publish a book about them maybe next year. But things are opening up now, and I’m starting to get out again. I’m ready to return phicklephilly to its former glory as a place with fun new content from my present life.

James and I were set to meet on a Wednesday, but something happened with one of his cats and he had to rush him to the vet. $1000 later, and the cat is fine. We bumped our meeting until Thursday, but his girlfriend got rear ended in her car out in Manayunk and that caused a wrinkle in her bumper and our plans. But she insisted he still get together with me. (Thank you, Amy! Glad you’re okay.) After making sure she got home safe, he hopped in a Lyft and headed down to see me.

We met at a place about a block and a half from my house. It’s a Korean barbecue bar/restaurant, called Southgate.

https://www.southgatephilly.com/

It used to be a neighborhood dive called Tangiers. It was a beloved spot for the people of the Graduate Hospital neighborhood to hang. Cold beer, good burgers, wings and board games. You could always run into someone you knew there. But like many places here in center city… out with old and in with the new. I’d never been to Southgate because I was locked into going to my spots uptown like Square 1682 and Harp and Crown. Places where I knew the staff and got the hookup.

I love when James comes down here to Rittenhouse. I always feel like I should make more effort to go hang with him in his neck of the woods, but he says he likes to come down to center city. A place filled with cool stuff to do, and places to go, and beautiful people. I can’t understand the attraction!

Because of the pandemic, you can’t sit inside of any restaurant, but if they have outdoor seating they’re open for business. So I grab a table for two and my buddy arrives. It’s great to see him in the flesh! There he is! He lives! Within in minutes we’re settled and sipping refreshing cocktails. It was a nice evening and a welcome repose from the heatwave we’ve been in for the last month. We caught up on all things about life, his agency, phicklephilly, family, and published books. Did I mention movies? There was much discussion about all things film, past and present.

Our night started around 7pm and there’s some rule now where if you’re going to take a table you have to order food as well as drinks. I suppose the space is so limited they make their money from the food and they don’t want people taking up tables just to get hammered. I got the fried chicken; soy and spicy, and he ordered bao buns and the bibimbap. I’d never heard of either of them, but he seemed to like it. The food and drinks were delish and the staff was on point. We even had the honor of meeting the owner. A charming gentleman who came out to chat with us.

It got to be around 10pm, and Southgate was closing for the night. (Time always flies when we’re hanging out together because it’s always a lively event) We paid our checks and tipped mightily. (They need it!) We decided to head two blocks west on Lombard to another local spot called Lou Bird’s.

https://www.loubirds.net/

I’ve only been to Lou’s one time before. It was New Years Day about three years ago. I was with my friend Mary. You can check that out here:

Mary – Chapter 2 – New Years Day Brunch – Part One

Mary – Chapter 3 – New Years Day Brunch – Part Two

Since the troubles hit our fair city two months ago… race riots, protests, fires, looting and general despicable behavior by a few bad actors, I just haven’t had any desire to travel uptown to hang out. I’m tired of dealing with the homeless element, and just couldn’t look upon the destruction and sadness that has befallen our fair city. So I’ve been trying some of these places near my house with great success.

I had stopped at Lou Bird’s for the first time in so many years after I finished the final draft of Angel with a Broken Wing. This was back in mid June. I decided to celebrate by taking myself out for a cocktail made by someone other than myself. I sat at a little table by myself and lovely Sarah the server took very good care of me. I vowed after that day, that Lou Bird’s could become my new ‘spot.’

So we get there, and it’s dark but there are plenty of seats. They stayed open until 11pm so we had some more time. We found a table in the street, because they’ve roped off a section on 20th street to have more seating space. (genius!) I got a Manhattan and James had a beer. Sarah was there and she looked after our needs. I’m sure she’s even prettier without that mask! But within an hour, they started picking up the tables and it was time to go. James and I were left standing on the corner wondering what to do.

“I don’t feel like going home yet.”

“I don’t think anything else is still open now, James.”

“Can we go to your place and drink?”

“Boom.”

So we get back to the batcave and I grab some beverages. We decide of a couple of spiked seltzers, Bon & Viv make some great ones.

https://www.bonvivspikedseltzer.com/

We both do a shot of bourbon and sip our drinks. Our conversation once again turns to movies. I tell him how many bands and comedians are doing shows at old Drive In movie theaters. There are a few left still standing after so many years since the advent of home video in the eighties. Which leads me into tales of some of my adventures at the drive in movie theater that we used to go to 35 years ago in Rio Grande, New Jersey. It was amazing, and I have many memorable stories from that wonderful place. I had recently watched a terrific documentary about a drive in movie theater that’s still alive and well in Lehighton, PA. It’s about 75 miles northwest of Philly. You can find it on Amazon Prime, It’s called, ‘At the the Drive In.’

https://www.mahoningdit.com/

Since we both love film and the movie experience, James tells me he’s never been to a drive in and that we should go.

“We should go to one for your birthday.”

“I don’t know if there are any left around here. The one on in the documentary is really far away.”

“We’ll figure it out. I want to do this, Chaz.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

We wrap up the night, and I assumed it would be forgotten. I knew it’s something we both wanted to experience, but I was okay if it didn’t happen for my birthday. I never make a big deal about my birthday anymore. I just feel like I survived another trip around the sun and I’m grateful I still get to be in the world for another year!

He gets into his Lyft and another great night is on the books with my dear friend James. Things are opening up, so at least I’m getting out of the house and spending time with people I care about. I’m very fortunate to have them in my life. I love my alone time to create and reflect, but I get my energy from being around people.

We’ll see what happens…

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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Life Before Quarantine – Part 7

During quarantine I’ve been fairly productive. I get my energy from people but I really enjoy my alone time. My daughter agrees. We’re both perfectly happy being on our own. I was looking through some photos the other day and I got some great memories of when we were all allowed to come out and play. I thought I’d share some of them with you. I’ll run this series every week until I run out of photos! If you see yourself, hit me up!

I’m very fortunate to have met you all and enjoyed the times we had together. Thank you!

Enjoy!

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

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How Can Restaurants Recover From Coronavirus?

Dining out has been one of the many social and economic casualties of the coronavirus contagion known as COVID-19. City and state governments all over the country have closed restaurant dining rooms, which were never really set up with social distancing in mind anyway. Only delivery and takeout orders are allowed for the foreseeable future.

Many restaurants have shifted to the new, hopefully short-lived reality. Many more have closed entirely. Whether they’re gone for now or gone for good remains to be seen. But for the time being most restaurant staffers find themselves unemployed, and people who might dine out under normal circumstances find themselves ordering in, if they can even find a place to take their order.

The restaurant industry is suffering, like most of the economy. But there will come a day when people will eat out again. And while the landscape will be drastically different, the experience may be strikingly familiar. Once the health crisis subsides, what will it take for restaurants to open their doors?

Jason Bowell is the assistant general manager at the Beatrice Inn, a traditional New York chophouse that prides itself on its innovative yet timeless meat dishes. Bowell has been managing restaurants for about a decade and worked in the restaurant business for the better part of three decades.

“The restaurants that are going to have not as much trouble getting back on their feet are going to be restaurants that are involved with larger chains,” says Bowell. “Restaurants that are able to pivot well enough to create a good enough online delivery business — delivery and takeout business — are at least going to weather the storm a little bit. And people that are savvy enough to understand how to work their way through getting relief from the government. There are loans being offered, especially for restaurants that are keeping people on staff as paid.”

A successful pivot, even if only to tread water in the short-term, is far from assured for most establishments. There are many factors at play.

“Places with high overhead, like large places that would normally really focus in on getting a lot of guests in and turning those guests over, they’ll be struggling pretty bad,” Bowell points out. “If your business model is based on having large groups of people in your place… your costs per square foot is going to be really hard to cover by doing delivery.”

Those costs could be anything from fixed costs like rent on the space to variable costs like electricity and other utilities. Variable costs, of course, drop with decreased usage. Restaurants sharply reduced their labor costs when governments closed dining rooms and eliminated it entirely if they opted for hibernation. After all, as Bowell points out, “the most important difference between a restaurant that’s going to succeed and one that’s not going to succeed is whether or not you can cover your current costs.”

While reducing or eliminating labor costs may bide time in the short-term, those tactics will also make re-opening that much harder when that time finally comes. “I don’t see the point of not employing people, being in business if you can. If you’re not, not only are you going to have a really hard time not completely folding while the restaurants are closed, but also getting yourself back up to speed when you’re actually allowed to start taking people again.”

Having a staff ready to go when the economy opens its doors again could be the difference between a strong comeback and a dismal end. “It’s about staff retention,” Bowell bluntly puts it. “If I retain my staff, I could probably be open in four or five days. And that’s just to make sure that we’re getting all of our product in and that we’re prepping everything and all the things we need to have ready to go for service are ready to go.”

Not retaining staff means using time for hiring and training that might otherwise be spent serving, and making money from, the public. Another potential hurdle is restocking restaurant kitchens with ingredients.

“You’re going to have a lot of people ordering a lot of stuff really quickly,” says Bowell. “And that’s going to cause issues getting product from point A to point B if you’re having huge, massive orders come across your board. Keep in mind, you make those orders for all that food, it’s all perishable. So it’s all about timing. Restaurants are going to have to wait until they’re stocked up, until they’re prepped and then take a day to open. It might be staggered when those restaurants are opening.”

The few restaurants that can stay open, retain staff and ramp up quickly, can expect banner days as all the pent-up demand fills the marketplace. Diners should expect a far different landscape, however, with fewer dining-out options. According to Bowell, “a lot of those places that shouldn’t have been open, that were on the cusp, are going to be closed. So all the restaurants that are still open are going to benefit from that for awhile.”

The in-house dining experience may largely return to what it was before the pandemic, and restaurant scenes everywhere will find some sort of post-coronavirus existence. But Bowell doesn’t see the world returning to the way it was. “I don’t think there’s ever a normal again after this, because this is really rewriting the way all restaurateurs think about their businesses. It’s going to be a different playing field. I think a lot of people learned a lot of lessons about how their businesses run during this thing. It’s going to change the way they run their businesses right now.”

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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How to Save the Most Money at Bars, According to Bartenders

Did those cocktails from last night leave a few extra, unexpected digits on your credit card?

(And, uh, maybe those drinks merrily offered to your friends — hey, put it on my tab! — didn’t help.)

Navigating the cost of going out, whether to a sophisticated cocktail bar or your favorite dive down the street, isn’t as easy as it might seem.

This is especially true if you’re ultimately trying to have fun and not think about finances, and if you’re not seasoned at figuring out the maze of a drinks menu, which somehow always looks a little fuzzier as the night rolls on.

To see if it’s possible to save money on one of most people’s biggest expenses (without swearing off drinking altogether, which is always an option), we talked to those who know best: bartenders themselves. Here, they share their own tips and strategies for going out — without going over-budget.

Well, well, well.

“Happy hour of course is the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind, but there are other ways to find good deals,” says Meredith Hayman, cocktail director at R6 Distillery in El Segundo, California, who’s also worked behind the bar in the Los Angeles area for over 13 years.

“Check out the well offerings [also known as house or rail liquors because they’re the go-to spirits used by staff],” she says. “Every bar offers these and they are typically around $10 and often what they use in their cocktails anyway. Talk to them and ask what’s in their well.”

Be honest, and servers will frequently be honest in return about which well options are worthwhile or not — and when you land on a promising option, you can request it in a standard cocktail.

Happy hour doesn’t have to be so obvious.

Happy hour mostly exists to lure in new customers and increase foot traffic during off-peak hours with large-volume orders. It has advantages (the discounts!) and disadvantages (the crowds!), but one perk is the ability to squeeze a few dollars off more experimental items.

“There are some interesting takes on [happy hour], especially in wine bars, where they use reduced pricing as a means to have their guests try different grape varietals and move out of their comfort zones, which I am all for,” says Frank Caiafa, beverage director at The Stayton Room at New York City’s Lexington Hotel. This can also apply to new tap beers or a house cocktail the head bartender is tweaking. If you’re willing to try something new, resist going to your default order and read the list from top to bottom.

Fall back on the shot-and-beer specials — or the wine bottle list.

“In more divey spots, where I am wary that I will get a good cocktail, a shot and beer can go a long way,” Hayman advises. Otherwise known as boilermakers, these supreme deals deliver exactly what’s listed and pack an alcoholic punch. They may or may not be advertised, but just ask your bartender to see what’s available.

Also “check out the wine bottle list,” Hayman adds, especially if you’re a discerning wine fan at a place with a decent list. “Don’t be scared. You can get a bottle for $40, and that is four drinks right there.” It’s not always easy, but estimating what you might drink at the beginning of the night — and what your drinking partner’s plan is, too — can save you both some money.

Go with draft beer…

Draft beer, or beer delivered directly from the keg, is the prize of any brew fan. It also makes the most monetary sense. “Choose draft when you can. There’s less overhead for the bar and the brewery,” Hayman advises, so the quality is higher for the price. “You also get a better beer, since it’s been dispensed from the tap. Think tap soda over bottled soda.”

…but don’t limit yourself anywhere on the menu.

If the draft list is sparse, look into all the offerings including canned and bottled beers (especially the former, which cost less to produce and can present amazing deals) to find something you think you’ll love.

The same goes for spirits. You may find that the standard liquor pour and that premium brand you’ve wanted to try are only separated by a few dollars.

Remember that you’re allowed to ask questions.

A nice cocktail bar is more expensive than a sports bar, and that’s by design. In a high-end establishment, especially in a city with a high cost of living, “be prepared to spend $13 to $18 a cocktail,” says Hayman.

But there’s a bonus: “You tend to get an expert along with it. Here you find the cocktails geeks, the hospitality experts, the ones that make this their career, their focus, their purpose,” Hayman says. “There is no question they can’t answer and you leave feeling that the cost was well worth it.” And while it’s not reflected that way in your checking account, isn’t it true a cocktail you adore at least feels less expensive?

About that infamous “buyback.”

The “buyback,” or the practice of getting a drink for free from your bartender, is mythical and poorly understood. You should never expect it just because you bought three beers or unloaded your thoughts about the latest season of Succession. But it can feel like a gift for those who do get it — and those people are always good patrons.

“The best way to get a buyback is to smile, be patient, and use your manners. At the end of the day, bartenders are human beings with feelings and emotions,” says Justin Campbell, bar director of The H.Wood Group, which is behind LA spots like Bootsy Bellows and The Nice Guy.

So don’t annoy your bartender by bragging about who you know. Don’t touch the garnish dishes. And don’t be obnoxious. Instead, be an amiable regular, because as Hayman succinctly puts it, “Many places reward you for your loyalty.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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Servers Share The Worst First Date They’ve Ever Witnessed – Part 1

First dates can be incredibly uncomfortable – but usually when people say that they mean uncomfortable for the daters. Trust us, though, some of those first dates can be just as uncomfortable for the people forced to witness them.

Reddit user StickyRice4 asked:

Considering your classic first date setup typically happens at a bar or restaurant, there were a lot of answers, each a little bit more awful than the one before. Generally speaking, they all boil down to one major mistake – an inability or unwillingness to read your date.

So there you go, folks. That’s our pro-tip for the day. Read your date so you know whether or not you should bust out your Pokemon, your racism or homophobia, your fetishes, or that thing you do with your tongue.

Spoiler Alert: Yeeeeaaaaah you should probably keep that stuff to yourself on a first date.

Untouched

This isn’t as bad as some of the others but the guy and girl arrived separately and it seemed like they were meeting for the first time at the restaurant. They sat down then the girl excused herself and went to the bathroom. The guy ordered drinks for them both while she was gone then, after like 30 mins, ordered two meals. It was so obvious she wasn’t coming back but he kept calling her and eventually just left all the food and drink untouched and paid the bill.

Starbucks And Japanese

She was Japanese and he started off by showing her his shirt with sumo wrestlers on it, then would ask questions like… what’s your favorite sushi? Do you only speak Japanese? How do you say toilet in Japanese? They have sumo in Japan right? Did you see my shirt? It was so amazingly awkward

Homophobic Mom

I once had two very young (like 15 at most) teenage boys come into my place for what was clearly their first date together, if not their first date ever. Maybe 20 minutes into their date one of their mothers showed up, realized it was a boy her son was on a date with, and started screaming and crying about she didn’t understand how he could do this to her and didn’t he know she wanted grandchildren, etc, etc. She just flipped out and was totally homophobic and told him he wasn’t allowed in her home if he was going to choose this lifestyle. He started crying, his poor date was totally bewildered, and ended up calling his mom to come take them home.

BBQ

Girl and guy came into the barbecue restaurant I worked at. At this place, like many casual BBQ places, you pay after you order and then come back to pick up your food when your number is called. That will matter in a second. Anyway…

They met at the door exchanging the usual “Hi, nice to meet you!”, etc. The guy was a complete ass. She ordered ribs and without hesitation he said:

“Do you want to keep that hot figure of yours or look like that chick over there?”

He then pointed to a woman who was slightly overweight. While they were waiting in line to pay he started flirting with the chick behind them. She dead ass waited until he paid then left without waiting for the food.

Her Hand

Couple in their mid-twenties comes in, it’s obviously a first date but they seem to really like each other and are getting along well. I wasn’t serving them however. About halfway through their meal I notice them holding hands over the table. Cute. Then, the guy lifts her hand to his lips and kisses the back of it. A bit of an outdated gesture, but still cute I guess. The woman seems slightly confused but goes along with it. A little while later I see the guy do it again. Okay, dude. Then again. Woman is confused and looks a little uncomfortable. They are no longer holding hands. I go to serve my table and see the dude full on MAKING OUT with her hand, tongue and all. Woman looks extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable, looking everywhere but at her date. I go over and casually ask if they need anything, and the dude stops. Woman yanks her hand back. She left pretty soon after.

The Cutest Karma

I had a 2 top in a small booth and across from them was a family of 6. The 2 top was in their mid 40’s maybe 50. I was delivering food to the 6 top and I was being berated for not using legs with my big trays, so I grabbed a pair and headed off. When I was setting them down a stacked plate on my tray shifted to the side and the whole tray pitched toward the 6 top. I panicked and tried to stop it from falling and it all went backwards off the tray.

Unluckily I didn’t hear a single plate shatter. I turned around and the woman at the 2 top had rib sauce on her face, mashed potatoes in her bust, and broccoli all over her lap. I started with, “I’m so sorry ma’am. Please stand up and we’ll get you cleaned up.”

My 6 top was forgotten at that moment. I pleaded with her to get up so we could clean her off, someone produced a towel for me, I had 2 managers trying to help. She was so polite and insistent that it was nobody’s fault. Her husband finally said, “at least wipe the sauce off your face.” And she laughed and got up.

Everything was comped on their ticket including alcohol. It was the only tray I ever dropped and they never made me use legs again.

They came back in and asked for me the next week. The husband told me they were celebrating 30 years together that night. I felt horrible. Then he told me on their first date she made spaghetti, and accidentally dumped it in his lap. He told her it was karma and they had a huge laugh, and a free meal.

The House Wine

I worked as a waitress in an Italian restaurant while in uni in 2006. Obvious first date comes in. He’s booked it and requested a table in a secluded area of the restaurant because the acoustics would be perfect.She arrives and asks to move table to by the window. No big deal. He’s annoyed at this.

They ordered a carafe of the house red with their meals. Anything she said he’d turn it into some achievement he’d already accomplished. He kept making comments about her order, such as how fattening a dish would be etc,and then proceeded to say his family owned a vineyard and he knew a good red wine when he smelt one.

He then asked for the most expensive wine on the menu and to take away the what he called “piss of a house wine” then talked about how the bouquet was different and the clarity was so much better on the “expensive” wine.

When it came to dessert she had enough of his bull and flipped when he said that she shouldn’t have any or she’d end up with stretch marks. She was a bit overweight but not overly so. She stood up and yelled at him for being a condescending piece of garbage, for knowing nothing at all about wine and dropped the coup de grâce that her father was our wine supplier and that the “piss of a house wine” red was exactly the same as the most expensive wine (all of which was totally true).

He was left speechless with the full check to pay.

 

I’ll write a few more in the next couple of hours!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

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