Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7:30 a.m.
I've been served by hundreds of waiters and waitresses over the course of five years as a food writer in Orange County. Most encounters are unremarkable, and that's a sign of good service in my book. We once had such an inattentive waiter at the now-shuttered Carino's that I actually covered for the deadbeat, stacking plates to the side and filling up water for the table after we finished our meal.
The staff at Morton's have always been my favorite for their continual crumb-catcher action and willingness to ply customers full of onion bread, but it's a server at the new Slater's 50/50 in Lake Forest who'll go down as the best waitress I've yet encountered in Orange County. A big shout out to Nicole R. for her honesty, authenticity and willingness to patiently help a couple of hungry customers in a packed sports bar!
She took the time to work through the custom burger menu with me, answering all of my picky, foodie questions with a smile (Will this bun hold up to these toppings? Does the kitchen cook a medium burger just right, or should I under-order to make sure it's not overdone?).
When I felt I put too much on my burger--which I'm starting to learn is the downfall of custom joints such as Slater's or Pieology--she went through my choices and helped me pick which stuff to order "easy" or on the side completely, so as to not destroy my dinner. She was also sincere and truthful when helping my wife with her selection (orange-chicken burger or something else?) and told her she'd figure something out at the bar when Nadia asked for a strawberry lemonade with "some alcohol in it--rum, I guess." Nicole R. even suggested which dessert was best to go (choose the bacon brownie over the Pizookie-like cookie-thing) and told us the best way to reheat it at home. We never had to look for a refill or wait for the check.
The kitchen did mess up the egg on my burger, and she offered to replace it, but I was so happy at that point that I actually went WITHOUT YOLK. Crazy shit, I know. And on that note, dear Slater's kitchen, "over medium" means set white, runny yolk. Someone else I know said their egg was cooked through at this location, too, and that is a serious burger killer. Knock it off.
As for Nicole, she received a better tip than my cheap ass usually doles out. She asked if we could Yelp! our happy comments (something Slater's is big on apparently), but I figured this would do her one better--because a Weekly writer's opinion is a trillion times better than crazy Yelp kids, right?