Ashley, the Wonder Waitress
Texican Cafe server sets a very high standard
By Mick Vann, 11:50AM, Fri. Aug. 2
After all the years I've spent in and around the restaurant business, I often claim I don't care what the service is like as long as the food is good, but Ashley changed all that. Ashley made me realize how much I appreciate a fantastic server. She exemplified what we should all look for in table service, and she was rewarded handsomely for her excellence.
Last week, Art and I went to the original Texican Café (11940 Manchaca) to grab a bite after we had a restaurant consulting meeting; it's close to Art's house and a dependably good restaurant serving a wide variety of Mexican fare, particularly a great chile colorado sauce on pork or on stacked New Mex-style enchiladas. Service there can be hit or miss, but the particular server we had was a definite hit with us.
Shortly after we were seated, a pleasant, hipsterish, pony-tailed, twenty-something server appeared with a basket of unbroken, thin, hot, and crispy chips, and a full bowl of salsa. On recent visits we had been given baskets of broken remnants; the totopos Ashley delivered were golden. She took our drink orders: me a soda with bitters, and iced tea for homeboy, and disappeared in a flash. She returned shortly with the tea and a tall glass of soda sans bitters; seems the bar had no bitters; not her fault, but she apologized anyway.
She asked politely if we were ready to order, which we were, starting with a large bowl of their Maya queso, which is loaded with beef picadillo and avocado. Art was having the stacked New-Mex enchiladas with beef and cheese, some onion added as well, and a side of sour cream; a slightly complicated order, but no hill for a climber. I went with the chile colorado: tender cubes of pork swimming in a delicious Chimayo-like red chile sauce. She asked which type of tortilla I preferred and was about to go. We asked that she delay turning in the ticket until we were almost through with the queso and she said, “Certainly”.
She returned shortly with the Maya, two side plates, and a fresh basket of chips. We have always had to ask for more chips in the past; not with Ashley. About three minutes after we finished the queso, Ashley glided up with our entrees, advising me of the hot plate, telling me, “If you burn yourself you can't blame me.” A bit of flippant levity I appreciated. She also had extra napkins, and topped off our salsa. We have always had to ask for more salsa, and extra napkins. I've sometimes even have to remind them I need tortillas to eat my dish.
After a few minutes, she passed by and asked if everything was to our liking, choosing a time when neither of us had mouthfuls of food. When the drinks were about half gone, she brought us both new, full glasses of our drinks. When it was apparent that Art was through, she zipped by and removed his plate; likewise when I polished off my plate and set my utensils on the edge. No big production, just in and out seamlessly while our conversation carried on.
A few minutes later, she came by and asked if we wanted more chips, and if we had left room for dessert. With negative replies, she dropped the tab, letting us know to take our time, and that she would handle the transaction whenever we were ready. We both slipped in credit cards and she said that she'd be happy to split it down the middle. Upon signing the receipt, I remarked that in all the 15 plus years we've been dining at the Texican, we had just experienced the best service ever. For that flawless performance, we tipped her about 35%.
Ashley was perfection. I had to look at the receipt to find out her name; she didn't let us know up front. They only time I need to know a server's name is when I need to track them down for not supplying something I need that they should have known I needed, or to complain about them to a manager.
She was unobtrusive and anticipated our every need. She never said “no problem”, which annoys the shit out of me because it implies that whatever I wanted could have been problematic if the server weren't in such a good mood. She kept us in fresh chips and drinks, copious salsa, clean napkins, and didn't rush our entrees. Above all, she was very pleasant and she didn't smell like perfume, so we could enjoy the aromas of our food. Best service at the Texican ever! If you go, which you should, you'd be very wise to ask for Ashley's section. Our dining world would be a much better place if all servers operated on Ashley's elevated level.
Frequent Austin Chronicle food section contributor Mick Vann blogs at gustidude.com