Why I never want to shake a bartender’s hand

Plus: beware of Athens's food scene—it'll make you want to move there

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Christiane Chronicles: Don't shake my hand

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Rant
Please, Don’t Shake My Hand
In the course of navigating the notoriously touchy-feely people of the restaurant industry, I have been air-kissed, pecked, bro-bumped, lightly hugged, and full-body hugged by men and women I hardly know. But there is only one move that makes me uncomfortable: the bartender handshake.

Once I am seated at the bar (I eat at the bar a lot), I don’t want someone to grab my hand and crush it. How weird would it be if, when you sat down for a meal in a restaurant’s dining room, your server shook your hand? And, unlike servers, bartenders handle lots of cash (paper money is filthy) and touch the rims of countless dirty glasses. I think of bartenders as veritable Typhoid Marys.

I understand that, as far as ritual greetings are concerned, we all live in a gray zone. Some years ago, after I came back from a trip to Japan, I tried to nod at everybody just short of bowing and never extend my hand. I could tell that it was perceived as silly and unfriendly. I now have a sort of karate move to deflect any attempt at a handshake with a preemptive, pro-forma hug. Of course, I can’t do that when I am trapped at the bar.

Bartenders, please: At least let me see you washing your hands before you reach for mine.

Rave
Go to Athens, Now
You could spend days in Athens taking a walking tour of the notable spots in the town’s robust musical history, hanging out in record stores or at Avid Bookshop’s two locations, exploring the university’s idyllic North Campus or its impressive Georgia Museum of Art, or wandering around the giant State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Or you could just eat and drink.

Head straight to the Expat in Five Points, where Jerry and Krista Slater, Atlanta transplants and cocktail mavens extraordinaire, serve highly original drinks (including a signature one with Maurin Quina, Junipero gin, and a touch of Luxardo Maraschino liqueur) and sophisticated food (think gougeres, escargots, toast with fava beans, rabbit leg with gnudi). Their restaurant occupies an old house with considerable charm, next to equally popular Donna Chang’s. If only you could eat two dinners in one night.

For power dining, nothing trumps the fancy digs of Five and Ten on Greek Row; you may even run into celebrity chef Hugh Acheson on his own turf. Acheson also has a more relaxed, Mediterranean-influenced spot, the National—whose chef, Peter Dale, recently opened a fast-casual place called Maepole, a sort of health-focused, hormone-free meat-and-three in a serene environment.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Weaver D’s serves the best soul food in town (and perhaps in Georgia). Warning: It’s closed on Sundays. Stop in at Cali N Tito’s (especially the one in a former garden center) for colorful and dirt-cheap Latin grub. And be on the lookout throughout town for the local specialty called mull (ground chicken and Saltines cooked in milk), which you can find at places such as Butt Hutt BBQ, Hot Thomas BBQ, Cabin Creek BBQ, and, if you want a fancy version, the delightful Heirloom Cafe.

As for the town’s renowned bar scene, among its newer additions is the eccentric Buvez, from the people behind Normal Bar. It feels like a cross between a little schoolhouse and a hipster den, with amari and snacks for the parents and Sno Balls, Swedish Fish, and games for the kiddies. You also must go to Seabear for oysters and easygoing drinks. Chief among old favorites is the dark and moody Manhattan, where the in-the-know drink order is a Blenheim spicy-hot ginger ale and bourbon.

You’ll spend the drive back to Atlanta plotting your next visit—and wondering how you might permanently relocate.

This article appears in our July 2019 issue.

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