Not long after Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks opened in 2005, I stopped and looked at the menu. “This place looks super fancy,” said the girl who once bought a little black dress to have dinner at Smith & Wollensky and had yet to learn that one almost never dresses for dinner in Boston (for better or worse.) “And it’s weird that they have liver on the menu. My dad would like that.”
We wandered in – who the other half of “we” is I can’t even remember – and the hostess was harried and rather rude, so I walked out and dismissed it for another 4 years or so. I kick myself to think of how much time I lost.
I don’t remember what brought me in again, likely a bad date (I’ve had lots of those there), but whatever it was it lodged in my heart forever. I have spent many nights and devoted many memories to Eastern Standard, although not as many as some of my friends. When I lay it all out like this, and these are nowhere near all of the occasions I’ve spent at ESK, it’s hard to imagine my life without this place.
When I graduated with my master’s, I brought my family for dinner.
The night E was born, N drove down the street to Eastern Standard, his eyes wide and his visitor’s badge still stuck on his chest, and brought me back a rare cheeseburger, the first red meat I’d had in nine months. It was glorious.
The day my father died, N and I met for some day drinking and the bartender happily honored my special request to make two zamboanga hummers, a ridiculous drink my dad used to make by the pitcher.
I have learned more about food and cocktails and myself and this city at that marble bar than anywhere else. It is where I celebrate, where I mourn, and where I once took a photo of the bar that now hangs on my wall.
It is not the cheapest bar in Boston nor the most expensive, and I am by no means a regular. But every time I walk in the bartender greets me with a look of “Hey, old friend” in their eyes and an eagerness to collaborate with me on finding the perfect drink to articulate the moment. I feel like a regular because they treat me like one.
There’s a lesson here on how to treat your customers, and creating loyalty by focusing on creating a personal relationship with even occasional visitors. You can think about it some more, or you can stop reading and head to Eastern Standard to learn it first hand.
You’re welcome. And to the family at ESK – thank you.