This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite dining destinations.
Jennifer Yin, 9/11/08
The cat's certainly long out of the bag when it comes to Bar Jules, Jessica Boncutter's tiny, personal Hayes Valley restaurant. Since opening last November, Bar Jules has quickly run the course from hidden gem to in-the-know foodie destination to a legit San Francisco star. On any given night or day, you might find recognizable chefs or even former first daughters (see below). Reservations aren't accepted though, which means that unless you get there when the doors open, odds are you'll have a wait. Which is where the Gatekeeper comes in.
Melissa "MellyG" Gordon, FOH/Bartender at Bar Jules: There are about 28 seats on the floor and 10 at the bar. Since we have such limited space we can get pretty creative when seating large parties. When weather permits, people take advantage of our outside seating, which expands our capacity to 47. I usually work the bar, and am partial to those seats; the intimate setting allows me to be more accommodating and gives the customers and me a chance to schmooze about the menu or about their day. If dining on the main floor, table “#5” is very popular, nestled in the corner; you’re able to look out of the window and you have a nice view overlooking the restaurant.
8 PM on a Saturday night. What’s the wait for a table? EEK! Well parties of two can often be squeezed in, but the wait is usually around 45 to an hour for parties of 2+. Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? “I hate Yelp”? just kidding. If people are open to sitting at the bar, this greatly increases your chances, and then you get to hang out with me! Ever been offered gifts or cash? I’m not often offered gifts or money, because I mostly help people once they’re sat. With that being said, a gentleman did offer me a Tiffany necklace once, that was awkward.
Tell us about your favorite customers. Any celebs been by recently? We have a few extreme regulars, and by extreme I mean people coming three or four times a week. Those who frequent our spot are special people, since they understand the mission of Bar Jules and enjoy themselves when they attend. I have to admit I love our gay customers. They all dress so nice and are super hot! We have had a few celebrity clients, one of which and his wife are our favorite customers, but I’ll leave them anonymous. We did host Chelsea Clinton a few months back, but I was the only one who recognized her. She complimented me on my red patent leather flats while she waited for the restroom.
How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? VIPs? With such a small restaurant, I’m sure everyone feels like a VIP upon entering. ...the owner’s friends? Everyone is trying to shout out Jessica these days, but her friends make reservations like the rest.
What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? I think asking for butter when you’re given olive oil is outrageous. ...that you couldn’t accommodate? Jules, the owners Basset Hound, is sometimes hanging out in the back of the restaurant. Customers sitting at the head of the bar can steal a glimpse of her, and then they usually ask to pet her. She’s our mascot, so I can understand the desire, but we can’t have people constantly walking through the kitchen.
What’s your favorite dish at Bar Jules? And what is the most popular dish, or signature item? The menu changes daily, but we have a few signature items that grace our chalkboard. The ‘cochenita’ style pork is fabulous: it’s rubbed with a blend of peppery spices, braised in orange juice, and wrapped in a banana leaf to marinate over night. It comes out of the oven moist and melts in your mouth. The house made ‘boquerones’, otherwise known as white anchovies, have to be one of my favorite items. The anchovies are filleted, layered, and then marinated in sherry vineger, olive oil, and chili flake until they are fully cooked, delicious. There is one lady who comes in anytime we have them on the menu and has multiple orders in one sitting.
Where are you eating when you're not at your restaurant? Oh lord, I love to dine. My last few places include: Rosamunde, Beretta, Dynamo Donuts, and the cafeteria at San Francisco State University. I love finding the hole in the wall joints; breakfast at Art’s Café, ramen at Tanpopo, but I’m a dumpling junkie at heart. Most of the time you’ll find me in Hayes Valley having lunch at Arlequin or coffee on Linden.
What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? A Wine-key and my red lip-gloss.
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