If you are a visitor here, you may wonder, how do people really live here? And if you are a resident, you may often find yourself saying, “For God’s sake, don’t these people know we live here?”
Our city, like many great destinations, attracts visitors looking for a slice of life that they can’t find anywhere else. The humor in this thought, however, is that our lives are fairly similar to theirs except for minor divergences here and there. We color our days in glitter and food and booze more than others, yet we still go through similar actions to get there.
At the base of the tourism pyramid (which supports so much in this city) lie the people who put in hard work with not only their bodies and minds but their lives. You have to own it to be in it. The service industry is rough, and most of their time is spent thinking about others’ needs while trying to deal with their own. However, we rely so much on their expertise and opinions. They are the front line for the marketing of other local companies, as every visitor—yes, everyone—will ask their server, bartender, valet, concierge, etc. where to go once inside the city.
Like all great secrets, they can’t be kept for long. Those trusted opinions leak out in innocent conversations and eventually become the next hot spot. So, read and learn, everyone.
Allie Porter gives off a misleading demure sensibility while underneath is a tenacious soul who loves conversation, great food and drink, and showcasing her abilities. She epitomizes a front-of-house server. Allie recently moved here from Maryland but has canvassed and learned about this city’s service industry more quickly and thoroughly than, I dare say, even I have. She knows every special or deal (listed or otherwise) in and around the city, and I’ve only benefited from her wealth of knowledge ($3 martinis at RFs, anyone)?
On her nights off, you can find Allie singing jazz, Janis Joplin or French songs that I don’t know at the Bourbon O or the Apple Barrel. She is never listed as a featured act, but secures these performances through friends in the band and becomes a local find … much like the Happy Hours only she knows about.
With such late nights and a job that demands a lot of face time, Allie typically takes the morning to relax and decompress from the night before. She either has coffee at home or at Stumptown on the way to work. A light lunch can be eaten at Satsuma, but typically it’s running up to Doris Metropolitan 30 minutes early to catch a staff meal.
The nightlife is where front-of-house workers truly shine. The Black Penny has excellent cocktails and a great pop-up for the reveler, but that is typically outshined by a night by someone’s French Quarter courtyard pool or a more quiet night at home … with champagne.
Adrienne Miller, is our bartender whom everyone wants to either be or be best friends with. When I first started hanging out with bartenders, it wasn’t the hipster-youth with too many ingredients to make a recognizable drink. They were the outcasts, those with hard livers and even harder limits. They ruled the roosts they sat in but recognized their roles in the establishment. Adrienne fits the type of bartender I like. A garbage mouth (by self-proclamation, as she was eating Hot Cheetos and a hot sausage sandwich when we met up) in consumption but not in conviction. She knows solid cocktails (try her Bacon Bloody Mary) but also how to appreciate the people in her life. To me, that’s what a bartender embodies.
On a typical day, you will find her guiltily ordering special-order lattes at Solo Espresso on Poland Avenue or buying growlers of coffee from Stumptown for her workers. Eating habits are not the wheelhouse for someone who works from 8 a.m. until midnight every day. Given the opportunity for an eating excursion (in which she would like to include Aaron Sanchez), she instantly mentioned Salvo’s, “Where I would go and eat all the damn crab legs and garlic,” or Doris Metropolitan for a nice meal out. Just know that she will be wearing her signature cut-off jean shorts and tank top.
“Being a Southerner, you are in a different country. Being a Southerner means finding new wonders,” Adrienne passionately laments when I ask her what she does in her free time. Short answer: she explores. Whether riding her scooter through City Park, trying out the track in Avondale, or visiting the smaller cities on the Northshore, it doesn’t matter. She will use her precious and rare free time exactly how she sees fit.
John Hunington, our steadfast new dad, back-of-house chef and overlord. “Dogs, work and baby.” That’s what comprises John’s life at the moment. As one of the more modest chefs in the industry, it is no surprise that John is completely relaxed in the interview. He is interested in things that are quick, convenient and to the point. His favorite coffee? Solo Espresso or Stumptown for the ride into work shared by his wife, Katie Darling of Ace Hotel.
On his off days, don’t expect to find John searching for the limelight at festivals or out with friends. Walks through the Marigny and French Quarter with his family are what recharges him ... plus the cocktails and conversations he has with friends at bars and restaurants littered throughout the area. A typical route? Crescent Park and Satsuma, walk into the Quarter and meet for a drink with Nick Detrich at Cane & Table, a bite at Felipe’s and a quick stop over by work at Marcello’s or the Aquarium, then a possible (almost inevitable) stop by Cafe Henri on the long road home.
With whom he wishes to spend an evening eating dinner? Jo Ann Cleaver of Upperline and numerous other operations. “She pulled me aside one day before I even knew her to tell me, ‘Cento tomatoes are the best.’ I have thought she is amazing ever since,” he recalls.