Who tips what and why do they do it? Should everyone be required to use the Wizard organizer, a Seinfeldian tip-percentage device, when a gratuity is required? Are bartenders legally allowed to come around the bar to admonish someone when they get stiffed? Hilariously, this happens more often than you think.
Every bartender, server, foodie, Short Pump soccer mom, investment banker and consultant in this town has an opinion on what constitutes a good tip. Is 15 percent par for the course, or 20? At least one Richmond restaurant doesn't give you the option anymore and tacks an 18 percent automatic gratuity on all checks (Stool Pigeons, I salute thee!). I'm also aware of a certain RVA-blogging food guy who, though obsessed with food and restaurants, would leave nothing more than a few pennies and nickels on the table if it wouldn't hurt his reputation within the ultracool Richmond foodie society. Recently I encountered a functioning, socially inept adult male who told me that he had $50 in his bank account, and to cut him off when the tab reached $48. A greater look of disgust on my face you will not see.
It's easy for me to castigate these people, but it's not really fair. I've been in those shoes and I know that sometimes having eight vodka-crans with my last 50 bucks takes precedence over catching up on one's child-support payments.
Unfortunately, or fortunately for some cheap bastards, the ultimate canon is that tipping is completely optional. This is not Europe, and I don't get a paycheck like bartenders across the pond. This essentially means that service and treating the customers with respect is the only way to keep me in Diesel jeans and expensive Marie Callender's frozen dinners. So in lieu of my usual bitchery, I have a solution: an easy pocket guide to tipping in Richmond. Cut, paste, print, laminate, stick in wallet and use the next time you're too drunk to formulate a decent tipping strategy at the local pub:
• One drink = $1. This includes everything from a beer to a Grey Goose and soda.
• Multiple drinks on one order = 20 percent or $1 to $2 per drink.
• Bad service = 10 percent.
• Abhorrent, loathsome, want-to-gut-the-server service = $1. I'm against completely stiffing someone, and in many ways, leaving $1 is much more of a slap in the face.
• Great service, excellent time, leaving you in a state of nondrug-induced euphoria = Tip like Richard Pryor in “Brewster's Millions,” or tip something more than 20 percent.
• I'm your bartender = 100 percent. I'm that good.
Drinking Your Veggies
The vodka that many of my industry brethren and I dig right now is Square One cucumber vodka. It's smooth and easy to drink and available at the ABC store on Thompson Street in Carytown. Check out Dane and Will over at deLux for their excellent cucumber mojito. The vodka is also delicious when served chilled and neat.
Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback slings and consumes drinks at a number of local establishments. He also writes a surly blog at www.jackgoesforth.blogspot.com. Find him on Twitter @Jackgoesforth.
Have a question or comment for the bartender? Send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.