April seems to be the month that time forgets. It is March and it lasts forever, slogging through the final days of winter, each day taking 48 hours. May is filled with fun as the sun shines, but not with too much heat; everything is green and fresh and vibrant. April just is. My birthday is in April, so it should be the best month ever, but somehow April usually comes and goes without much fanfare. Taxes are due. There is plenty to mark the month of April, but it still seems to disappear into the year.
This year is no different. Half way through the month, I think to myself “Wow. Where the hell did this month go?”
This is not to be confused with the day to day of April. My April gas been filled with friends, family, the flu, a menu change, live music in my bar, and an abundance of life. These high points (and low points) will stand out in my mind, but not as a part of April.
Onto the bar. As i mentioned we are a week into our new menu and it seems to be a positive change. Minus some minor quirks, an exhausted owner, and some tweaking, it has been really smooth. And, besides the bright green sweet relish I didn’t realize had corn syrup in it, I am still very proud of my menu. It is natural, flavorful and good for you. I may never get rich from my food sales, but I will hopefully always be proud of what I serve.
In this process, I realized that I didn’t enjoy eating at my own bar before. Sure, everything was natural and made in house, but the flavors were not exciting. The menu, in retrospect, pretty much sucked. It was neither bar food nor restaurant food. It was boring, fancied up with nice ingredients and unfamiliar names.
For this and this alone is why food wasn’t selling. It was not that people in this city don’t eat at bars they go to nor was it because the feeling of Star Bar is as it sounds, a bar. It is because the menu was a failure. It was high quality ingredients shoved into a catering menu, meaning it looks great on paper and in actuality isn’t all that special.
The new menu goes back to what I know. We have nachos, but they are good nachos layered and with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. We have the artichoke and spinach dip, but we have it because it makes people happy and satisfied and that is what food should do. We have hot dogs now, in addition to our burgers and we have them because they can be bought 100% natural and, again, people know them and enjoy a good wiener (that word never gets old).
I am not trying to change the world through food. I am trying to change it through people, one experience at a time. Okay, while I am hopefully making my community a better place in no way, shape or form am I attempting to change the world.
The experience of a bar or restaurant is a simple formula: provide good service, provide a good atmosphere, and do what you do well. Oh, and work your ass off.
There is also many debatable things to aid in success, but I think they all come down to being true to yourself. If you are a lying cheat, be true to that (and I am not being facetious… I have known many deceitful bar and restaurant owners who have been more than successful). If you are a good, honest person, be true to that. Any bar or restaurant is a reflection of the owner and the staff.
The new menu is, hopefully, a fair representation of me, my partner and our staff. People leave satisfied and happy and with the feeling as though they got their money’s worth. They had a good time during their stay and they deserve that. We all deserve that when we go out.
See what happens when I try to write in the morning? No humor. All preachy and philosophical, and all the while not saying much.
Huh. I guess that I am a politician in the morning. Thank god I am not a morning person.
Star Bar, Portland, Oregon. Somewhere between winter and spring, 2011