Lawrence restaurants: 23rd Street Brewery server happy to see customers return
photo by: Ashley Golledge
This Q&A appeared in the Jan. 20, 2021, edition of the Journal-World’s Crave food supplement. More from that section, including interviews with the people behind several Lawrence restaurants, can be found here.
For Bailey Wilson, one of the most rewarding parts of her job as a server at 23rd Street Brewery in recent months has been welcoming back her regular customers after long absences due to the pandemic.
Wilson, who has worked at 23rd Street Brewery for more than two years, recently spoke to the Journal-World about her experience working as a server during the pandemic. 23rd Street Brewery, 3512 Clinton Parkway, is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Q: What menu item do you always recommend to customers?
A: “I would say the turkey stromboli, just because it’s different than a sandwich and a pizza. You kind of get a little variety with it … I always tell people that it’s like an adult Hot Pocket.”
Q: What’s your favorite item on the Lawrence Restaurant Week menu?
A: “We’re doing a Caesar salad, the Bill Self (macaroni and cheese), the naked nachos and then a one-topping pizza — all for $35. Of all those, I would say that my favorite is the Bill Self. The first time I ate here it’s the first food item I ordered. It’s different than a normal mac and cheese. It’s buffalo chicken on top of mac and cheese, so it’s a little spicy and savory. It’s what we’re known for here at 23rd Street.”
Q: What are the biggest differences in serving pre-pandemic and during the pandemic?
A: “I mean, other than the obvious ones like the masks, I would say we are not used to not seeing as many people, so that’s hard. I think the ambiguity is also hard. That’s the biggest difference. You don’t know if there’s going to be another shutdown. We are always trying to be prepared. The restaurant has COVID tests for us. That’s crazy to me that a restaurant is able to do that.
“Facial expressions are a big thing as a waitress, so not being able to smile or read customers’ facial expressions is tricky. That’s a big difference from a waiter’s standpoint.”
Q: What has been the most rewarding part of the past year?
A: “Oh man, there’s a lot. I would say seeing the regulars come back and seeing them happy to be back. People come in and they’re like, ‘We haven’t been here since you guys have shut down.’ So I think the most rewarding part is seeing customers who haven’t been in since (the pandemic) who are normally here every day.”
Q: Do you feel safe working as a server during the pandemic?
A: “Yes, 100%. We take everyone’s temperature when they walk in. Everyone has to have a mask when they are not seated at their table. We have to wear masks too. We wash our hands periodically throughout our shifts, so I haven’t felt super exposed. It’s been hard, but we’ve figured it out.”
Wilson also noted that there are plastic dividers between tables to provide more separation between customers in addition to keeping tables 6 feet apart.
“Knowing that our managers are doing things to keep our customers safe, it’s hard for me to not feel safe. I feel great about being here.”
Q: Is there anything customers can do to help make you feel more safe?
A: “I would say just if you’re not feeling great, stay at home.”
Q: Do you appreciate it when customers put their masks on when you approach their table?
A: “Yeah, I think it’s great. Personally I don’t have a problem with it either way, but if customers do it, I appreciate that. I know it’s part of their comfort level as well. But I know in between bites and taking drinks, it’s hard to time when people are coming up to your table, so I get it if people can’t always pull (their mask) up.”
Q: Anything you want to tell the public?
A: “We appreciate kind customers just as much as customers appreciate kind waitresses. And try our beer, because that is what we are also known for, not just our food.”