Food & Drink

Why you should tip your chef with a beer

Tipping is a controversial topic... if you're a jerk. Otherwise, it's given that the cost of dining should trickle down to the people who keep your water glass from staying half empty. But what about the hardworking cooks who ensure you leave with a stomach that's more than half full? Well, if you don't wanna tip 'em the traditional way, then you should buy them a beer.

It's unlikely a line cook will plop down next to you at the bar, because most dining rooms have an invisible fence that shocks anyone wearing clogs during business hours. Or because they're busy cooking. But in an effort to knock down the wall between cook and customer, a growing number of restaurants are adding a menu option to buy the kitchen a beer. Here are four such spots from the far-reaching corners of the country.

seoul chicken
Andrew Zimmer

Seoul Chicken on NYC's Lower East Side is one such beer-popping establishment: there’s a $2 “kitchen beer” option at the bottom of their menu, right next to an illustration referencing incarcerated Harlem rapper Max B, who will have to wait 75 years until anyone buys him a beer. Thankfully, the SC cooks only have to wait the length of their shift for their bevy of tallboys.

Just North of San Francisco in Mill Valley, highly-lauded newcomer Molina brings chefs and diners close together with a tiny room and an open kitchen. If you’re sitting at the counter you can feel the blasts of heat from the kitchen, making it hard not to sympathize with a chef retrieving blistered peppers from the 1,300-degree wood-fired oven. But with an Alexander Hamilton, guests can keep the skeleton staff of three chefs well-lubricated with a can from their nearby stash of PBR or Hamm's tallboys.

The lengthy beer list at Chicago’s The Publican is organized by country of origin, but ends with a $10 six-pack for the kitchen. There's a cowbell by the bar that's rung for every kitchen beer order, at which point the cooks erupt into a cheer and start salivating like Pavlovian dogs. They've been well-trained, as the special has run since 2009 and the kitchen receives three or four rounds a night.

And in Austin, TX, the gastronauts behind Swift's Attic, one of our 33 best burger spots, ward off their thirst with a steady stream of brews from generous bar patrons. The menu offers a choice between cans or draft (two or three bucks), and, once you declare your intentions, the server ducks in the back for a headcount to let you know the damage.

On a recent visit for their Monday experimental burger night (only 12 patties made, all unveiled at 9pm), I devoured 3/4 of a Full Monty breakfast burger with English muffin buns, baked beans, a fried egg, tater tots, a beef sausage patty, bacon, and grilled tomatoes. It seemed only fitting to wash it down with a round for the staff.

After ordering the brews, the chef (maniacally pictured holding a knife here!) came out and warmly greeted me with a pound that seemed to have a little extra affection. Approximately one beer's worth.

Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's National Food and Drink team. He is currently petitioning his favorite coffee shop to add a "buy the lonely-looking writer in the corner a beer" option to their menu. Follow him to a beerless corner at @Dannosphere.