Food & Drink

Tell Us What You Eat: BlackTail’s Jesse Vida

Courtesy of Blacktail

As the old saying goes, you are what you eat. To better get to know our favorite bartenders, we’re asking them to chronicle their eating habits for two days during their shifts. This time around, BlackTail’s Jesse Vida.

Jesse Vida’s eating habits can be described as haphazard. In our conversations, he admitted that a lot of his meals consisted of whatever’s in front of him—or happens to be in his fridge. However erratic, his eating habits make sense. Recently, Vida graduated from a bar position at famed NYC cocktail stalwart The Dead Rabbit to become head bartender at their much-buzzed new venture BlackTail.

Launching a new bar isn’t easy—especially when it comes with the level of expectations that came with opening BlackTail. Owners Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon’s first establishment, The Dead Rabbit, has been named best bar in the world more than once. Originally from San Francisco, Vida started his New York bartending career at luminary bars like Dutch Kills and Booker & Dax before starting at The Dead Rabbit. At BlackTail, his skills are on display, and the drinks are incredible—no one else would have ever thought to add Champagne to a Rum & Coke. Here, Vida lets us in on what it’s like to eat as a seriously busy bartender for two days, eating bowl after bowl of mashed potatoes and hosting “little old ladies.”

Thursday, August 31st

Today, I get up around 11:45 a.m. I wouldn’t say that I have a normal breakfast—it varies too often. I tend to make breakfast with whatever I have lying around the house. This morning my girlfriend makes these corn wraps with quinoa, black beans, some fresh cherry tomatoes, a little kale and this mango scotch bonnet hot sauce. I don’t remember the brand of hot sauce off the top of my head, but I got it in New Orleans when I was there for Tales of the Cocktail. I love it so much that I keep reminding myself to make a cocktail with it. I also brought back this ghost pepper hot sauce that’s equally as delicious—but it’s way too spicy.

Thursday is my longest work day. It’s usually the day of the week when I put in liquor orders and have my managers meeting. I also close the bar on Thursdays and Fridays. I tend to get to the bar around one in the afternoon and leave around 3 a.m. I generally don’t get to eat until family meal—after our managers meeting around 4 p.m.

Today for family meal, I have a large bowl of green salad with mesculin lettuce, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. My salad is followed by a bowl of extra buttery mashed potatoes. I’ve been a mashed potato fan since I was a young child so I go for seconds.

I learned when I first got into the bar business about 10 years ago to load up on carbs right before your shifts—just to have something to burn. Generally, once a shift starts, I know I’m not going to eat food for anywhere from six to eight hours.

Around 10:30 p.m. I take a quick break to eat the Moors and Christians dish off the menu. It’s a really classic Cuban dish—think paella. It’s made with rock shrimp and chorizo, fried rice, black beans and cilantro—but I get it without the shrimp and chorizo. I also order our grilled veggie salad with summer squash, cauliflower, Lola Rosa baby lettuce, sofrito and a sherry vinegar.

Throughout the day I have iced coffee—with a splash of milk, no sugar—and multiple sparkling waters. Thursday nights are always busy at BlackTail. Tonight is no exception.

Behind the bar I continue to hydrate with several large glasses of water. There are two to three rounds of shots with customers and staff throughout the evening. I don’t really have a go-to shot, but I usually drink tequila or Irish whiskey. After closing the bar around 2:30 a.m. I have my shift drink, which is a Doc’s Draft Hard Cider off the tap.

Friday, September 1st

Today, I’m awake at 11:50 a.m. I wake up, take a shower and head to work. I just moved to this apartment in Gowanus and there’s a brand new Starbucks in the building. On my way out I manage to grab a cinnamon raisin bagel loaded with plain cream cheese and an iced coffee—splash of milk, no sugar. I eat it on the go.

At work, I don’t get a chance to eat again until family meal at 4:30 p.m. Today’s meal is white rice, non-descript chicken and a small salad. Family meal is generally just that: protein, starch, fiber. I eat just the salad and rice.

At the beginning of the shift, someone calls the bar asking for me. It’s super weird because if a friend or family member wants to get in touch, they text or email me. Even with press contacts, they find some other form of communication than the work line. It’s 5:30 p.m. We just opened. We’re not busy yet, and the hostess comes up to me—I’m behind the bar at this point—and says, “Oh, Jesse, there’s a Carolyn on the phone for you.” I don’t know any Carolyns, but I’m not that busy, so I take the call. It turns out it’s my childhood friend’s aunt, who I’ve never actually met before. She’s in town, finds out that I work at BlackTail, and wants to come see me. I’m like “cool” and tell her to come on by.

So, this little old lady sits down in front of me, with a couple little old lady friends. And the moment they sit down, the bar just gets slammed. And of course, it’s like 101 questions: What’s this? What’s that? What’s that bottle? Did you go to bartending school?

Besides that, a normal, busy Friday night at the bar.

At 10:45 p.m. I get a break. I order the grilled veggie salad off our menu again. This time it’s accompanied with yuca fries and a side of garlic mayo.

While I’m not strictly vegetarian, I lean that way. I break from my vegetarianism every once in awhile. If I’m traveling, I don’t adhere to it at all. I just have what I want to have. Like, when I was just in British Columbia, I ate primarily seafood. But my average for meat eating is once or twice a week when I’m working.

My girlfriend definitely played a part in that decision, but I was thinking of making that switch for a while. She moved here four months ago from Canada. We were dating about a year prior. At the time, she was primarily vegan. I felt like it would make it easier for me to make the transition when she came over here if I changed my diet. And that turned out to be the case. Even though she eats more meat than me now.

Nothing else to eat after the fries. The busyness of the shift carries us until the end of the night. After closing the bar, I drink a Doc’s Draft Hard Cider off the tap, except this time I follow it with a glass of Barbera.