Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No Schatzies ... :-( ...

Yesterday evening we had a mother with her teenage son for dinner, and they had Schatzies for dessert. Schatzies are addictive, and the son wanted to get some to go, but his mother declined, which clearly must have bummed him out, because after they left, our waitress found this drawing on their table.

For those of you who haven't been to Gunk Haus yet, Schatzies are bite-size chocolate-filled pretzels, and they are highly addictive. The name was coined one evening when we had our neighbor Billiam (of Liberty View Farm) and his friend Helen (the associate publisher of edible Hudson Valley) for dinner, and they got to try Schatzies for the first time. The ensuing naming discussion finally settled on Schatzies, and that's what they're called now.


Monday, June 28, 2010

My Beef With Google ... (Updated 07/11/10) ...

Update: Google has meanwhile fixed the problem, which is why below map does not display the problem anymore.

Google is omnipresent in my internet life. My browser home page is Google, this blog site is owned by Google, I use Google Docs, and various other nifty applications Google offers, for free. I love Google, and I think it's the best thing that happened to the internet world since the start of the World Wide Web.

However, right now I have a problem with Google: It is losing us money!

The problem is that Google Maps is a widely used application to locate places and get directions (I use it all the time), but it has our location wrong, by a whopping four miles!!! Here is a map of where Gunk Haus is (marker A) and where Google thinks it is (marker B).

This is a big deal to us! I have heard from several people already that they couldn't find us, because they looked us up on Google Maps, but you can assume the number of people who don't tell us is substantially larger.

Of course Google allows you to notify them of a problem, and I did so twice already, and I was told twice that I am right, but being right doesn't bring guests to our restaurant.

The next complaint I have is with Facebook, which I also use extensively. Initially I had posted our address there, but then I found out that they turn the address into, wait for it, a Google Maps link.

I can assure you, we are pretty upset about this, and the thought of legal action has crossed my mind, just to get someone's attention (Google doesn't have live customer service, because it costs money; gee, tell me about it, I have wait staff taking orders and delivering food, being there for our guests if things aren't right).


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Proper Signage ...

At long last we installed the Gunk Haus sign on the building today. Jack and Jerry were at hand to help with the installation.

Jerry and Greta, the makers of the sign.

Jack with the wrought iron sign he had made for us. Jerry painted it.

Now we have a real restaurant.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Feels Like Sunday ...

Gunk Haus is closed on Tuesdays. Originally we thought about closing on Mondays, but reconsidered, because there are too many holidays on Mondays for which we would have been open, and possibly confused our customers.

Anyhow, Gunk Haus is closed on Tuesdays. All this means to us is that there are less people around, but the work continues.

This morning our friend, and logo designer, and sign maker Jerry (of Starpoli Signs fame) dropped off the sign for our building, and it looks fantastic!!!

Here is a closeup.

Later in the afternoon Jack, our Jack of all trades, came by and we talked about how and where to hang the sign (amongst other things, like building a custom walk-in cooler in the basement, and turning the basement underneath the beer hall into a prep kitchen).

I went to pick up more wine at Whitecliff Winery this morning, and on the way back stopped by at Jerry's to pick up the other sign, that will adorn our building. Unfortunately, the stein and pretzel, which will hang off the bracket, aren't done yet, but maybe by Saturday, when Jack and I are planning to hang it.

This morning I received the new part for the dishwasher, which now works again. Paaaaarty!!!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Father's Day ...

Yesterday was Father's Day, and without surprise we had a nice crowd. From the early afternoon to almost 9pm we had Dads and their families walk through the door.

One of our guests was Agnes of The Village Tearoom (Facebook page) and her family. E! had worked at The Tearoom as the daytime cook for almost a year, before we bought Gunk Haus, and learned most likely more than during her year at The Culinary Institute of America. Cooking to order requires continuous planning and scheduling, so that meals for one table are ready at the same time, and this is a skill that can't be taught in a classroom, but has to be practiced.

The evening went smooth with one exception: Our dishwasher broke. It doesn't drain the water anymore, most likely because the drain pump is broken. Kudos to our human dishwasher Rob, who pulled through, doing the dishes the old fashion way.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Walk Right In ...

Our walk-in cooler has been sitting in our basement for a year and a half now, nicely stacked. We bought it for our beer draft system, and to serve as additional produce cooler.

Most prefab walk-ins are seven or eight feet high, which is why I haven't installed it yet: The space in the basement where it will live is not high enough. In the olden days, the basement of Gunk Haus seems to have been occupied by a kitchen. The kitchen floor was installed on top of wooden beams, which sat on top of rocks and dirt.

Without the floor, the walk-in should just about fit. So yesterday I started removing the old flooring, and while I was at it, did some general cleanup in the basement.

I meant to continue today, but E! had noticed a sewery smell in another part of the basement, which was once the home to four tenants. A while back I had ripped out the shower in what used to be the bathroom, to make space for our washing machine. To make it short, I ripped out the remaining fixtures and the flooring to get to the drain pipes, and lo and behold, the drain pipe from the washing machine had a loose connection, releasing water and sewer gases. Not anymore. And while I was at it, I replaced an existing S-trap with a better P-trap.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Victims Of Our Own Success ...

It was a stunning weekend. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we had large crowds for dinner and lunch. We had so many people come through the door, that E! had to ration hamburgers, to save some for Sunday. Today's menu is brief, very brief.

Fortunately, we're closed tomorrow, giving us a breather, and time to restock our fridges.

So, why didn't we get more supplies upfront? Well, stocking up a restaurant is like investing in the stock market: You look at past performance, look at future prospects and influencing factors, and take a stab at it. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.

Today is slow, which isn't surprising, but we are gearing up for Wednesday, for our first Yappy Hour (bring your pooch, and enjoy the company of other dog-lovers in our beer garden).


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brush Your Teeth ...

My blog posts have become sporadic of late, the excitement of the renovation process and the rush to open up have faded. Now that we're open there is different excitement, but there is also a lot of work, which just occupies my time, and keeps me from sharing with you my experiences.

This is why today I decided to note every little thing I do, and a rough time-line. Right now E! and I work at least 16 hours every day. Even on Tuesdays, when we are closed, there is so much to do that we barely have time to sit down together.

So, here is what happened in my life today (as far as I remember, and wrote down; E!'s days are equally busy, but I don't have the time to follow her around, and write down everything she does):

I get up at 7am and walk the dog. She needs food, like we all do, and she'll get it hours before her daddy. I make coffee (Monkey Joe's Columbian) and have a cup. I pore over last night's receipts, add up, compare, making sure all servers get an equal share of tables and sales.

A little after 8am, E! reminds me that I had promised to go to Highland, to pick up sausage at Mark's. I rush into Highland, pace myself, the cops are out there. I pick up Weisswurst and hot dogs, stop by our friend Carol's on the way back to see if she has strawberries. She promises to get them to us later in the morning.

Back at home I read the water meter. We have to keep record of our water usage for the health department. While I'm in the basement, I grab some beer and wine to restock the bar supplies (I should let the bartender do this, I always forget that we pay people to do work).

9:30am, I haven't had breakfast yet, but will eat next time I remember. I settle last night's credit card receipts, and make sure the cash register has enough change. Do laundry (aprons, wipe-down towels, which we use a lot of during the course of a day).

I briefly discuss ordering more coffee with E!. At 10am I sit down for breakfast, two slices of the finest rye, made by our neighbor Joe Calabrese (he used to own a bakery, and makes some yummy bread).

I write checks to employees, tape the switches in the bathrooms, so people don't turn off the lights all the time (we have motion-activated timer switches, which turn on and off automatically).

I install protective baskets on the basement lights, which hang rather low, and I have hit them already a few times.

11am our daytime bartender arrives, we open shop. I forgot to put the laundry in the dryer. Have I brushed my teeth yet? No. Will do later.

Take the dog out, she has needs, too, and she isn't a happy camper being confined upstairs all day. It's tough being a restaurant dog.

Print out lunch menu, pay the delivery guy for produce, rearrange shelving for dry storage in the basement to make space for another shelf. Check on laundry, not dry yet.

Noon, bring kitchen scraps to compost (another job for someone we pay, but I'm a do-er, I do stuff). Chat with our neighbor Bill, our first customer of the day.

Finally, I remember to brush my teeth. I should drink some water, I only had two cups of coffee so far, I don't want to get dehydrated.

Run into town for last minute groceries and supplies, there's always something we are missing.

2pm. I really should drink more water. Am I hungry yet? Let's hold off on that.

Get the laundry from the dryer, and drop it on the counter in the wait station. The staff will fold it, when they come in (I am learning to let go).

Chat with customers, print out more lunch menus (we have a lot of people stop by, asking to take a menu, which of course will have changed by the time they come back for lunch or dinner). Chat with customers.

3pm, lunch time, curry wurst on a pretzel bun, yummeeeeee.

Promote the Salmon Strudel on our Facebook page (I feel like a fisherman, trying to lure customers in, and Salmon Strudel is a fine bait).

A customer calls to make a reservation, we love reservations, they make it easier to gauge to the traffic for the evening.

I respond to comments on Facebook (off-premise customer care is just as important as on-premise customer care).

Think about all the things I need to or should do, resulting in a mental overload. Brush it off, everything in due time, baby steps, baby steps.

Talk to chef E! about the dinner menu, edit, print, and present the result to E! for proof-reading.

Call Monkey Joe's to order more coffee (I should have done that Friday already, baby steps). I catch them just before closing, but they take my order, business is business.

Print the dinner menus, respond to email. I need to drink more water. Did I brush my teeth this morning?

I haven't talked to my parents for weeks now, no time. I'll call you soon, love you.

I change for dinner service (dirty shorts and worn-out t-shirt isn't an acceptable dress code). Notice an error on the menu, reprint, E! notices another error on the menu, reprint again.

Kid comes in looking for a job, sorry, line cooks only, and by the way, next time you apply for a job, dress for the occasion, don't circle my entrance with your BMX bike like a fox the hen house, and f'in don't spit all over my walkway.

5:30pm customers arrive. Seat customers, chat with customers, trying to be a good host, making sure customers are attended to.

It's a busy night, almost all tables are filled. Seat more customers, take orders, serve beverages, bus tables, run credit cards.

7:30pm we're out of Salmon Strudel, burgers, and the Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate dessert. Sodas are running low. Need to make an emergency shopping trip tomorrow.

The evening is winding down. I cash out two servers and send them home. Have the last server clean the beer hall and wait station (every server has the honors at least once a week, I try to be a good and fair employer).

9pm a few bar patrons arrive. By 9:30pm the bar is empty again. We're closing down.

Going through the day's receipts so I don't have to do it the next morning. Sit down with remaining staff for a beer.

Another 16 hour day has come and gone. I had a job once where I was paid good money just to show up (my boss hated me, and didn't give me anything to do). This is much better.

Go to bed, start writing this blog post, too tired, will finish tomorrow. Roll over and fall asleep. I think I brushed my teeth.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grand Opening ...

More than a year ago we had Jeff, our master plumberer and air conditionerer, install the grease trap in the dish station. The purpose of the grease trap is to capture oils and grease, and prevent them from getting into the septic system, where over time they would clog the leach field. So they are a good thing, and as a restaurant we are required to have one.

Originally, the health department wanted us to install one the size of a VW microbus, for no justifiable reason, other than they said so. Talking to grease trap manufacturers and internet research didn't provide much help on grease trap sizing, except that dump load (in our case the size of our 3-bay sink) would be a good starting point.

Somehow we managed to convince the head-honcho at the health department (who has since been nixed) that a 100 gallon grease trap would be sufficient for our kitchen.

Fast forward to today. The grease trap has been in use for more than a year now, but I never looked inside. Until today. We are closed today (it's Tuesday), and it seemed like a good day to do it. Our health inspector (one of the good guys, despite the fact that he works for the health department) had warned us that the odors from the grease trap could trigger gag reflexes, and were beyond sour milk.

So I opened the door as a precaution, in case I needed to escape. Fair warning: the following pictures may not be for the faint-hearted.

Off with the lid ...

... and be disappointed. Yes, there was scum (about half inch thick), but the smell was like leaving a greasy pan filled with water sit for a day or two, i.e. harmless.

So I skimmed the scum off the top and put the lid back on. Until next time ...


About Music ...

A question I have heard a lot lately, is whether we would play music at Gunk Haus. The short answer is maybe.

First of all, we would have to put in a sound system, which is more work, and it costs money. Putting in the sound system, however, is the easy part.

I assume you don't know this, but if we were to play music at Gunk Haus, we would have to pay royalties to the music big wigs. You read right, the music industry wants its share when we play (copyrighted) music.

For a restaurant our size the annual royalties amount to about $1000 to $2000 per year, which to us is a lot of money (if it isn't to you, please adopt me).

The National Restaurant Association has a nice summary document about music licensing for restaurants (PDF document).

So for the time being we won't play music at Gunk Haus, and you just have to talk to each other for entertainment, but that's a good thing, isn't it?!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Empty Plates ...

The easiest way to judge if people enjoy a restaurant's food is to look at their plates when they are being cleared off the table.

So far we rarely have plates return to the kitchen with food on them, which is a good sign. It means that people enjoy the food, and that the portion sizes aren't too big to handle.

The credit for all this, of course, goes to E!, who creates and prepares all these yummy dishes.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

About Bar Stools ...

Gunk Haus doesn't have bar stools, and it never will. Gunk Haus is a restaurant, which happens to have a bar room.

When we applied for our liquor license some two years ago, we sized the bar to accommodate about seven bar stools, and that was the plan until we started looking for bar stools we like.

Bar stools, like most chairs, are expensive, which is why we then put off the idea of having bar stools, at least for the time being.

But soon we started recognizing that not having stools at the bar isn't such a bad thing. We want Gunk Haus to be family friendly, and in conversation with family we learned that families (ours anyway) are turned off by having to walk through a bar into the dining room.

This gave us pause to consider how we could debarify the bar room, and the first thing to go, not that we had them yet anyway, were the bar stools. Our bar should feel more like a living room, and to some extent it is our living room.

Aside from this, in German restaurants you rarely find bar stools, or people sitting at a bar, or think of a pub in England, where people stand at the bar (not that I know, because I've never been, but you always see it in the movies, so it must be true ... ;-).

Lastly, not having bar stools increases traffic flow in the bar tremendously.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gunk Haus Is Now On Facebook ...

Finally enough people like Gunk Haus on Facebook to enable me to obtain a vanity URL. To follow Gunk Haus on Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/gunkhaus. The Facebook page will provide more information on menu, beer, and wine selections, while this blog will continue to be my personal account of opening a restaurant, i.e. my place to rant and rage ... ;-)


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What A Weekend ...

What an exciting and tiring weekend. I don't even know where to begin, but this picture says it all: We are open for business!!!

Strike 11am on Saturday I flipped the sign to Open and ... nothing happened, until about an hour later when our first customers walked through the door: Shirley and Butch Anson of Clintondale. Both have been staunch supporters of Gunk Haus.

Saturday was filled with events. We had dinner reservations for about 40 people, and I sort of got yelled at by E! for not staggering them more carefully. By 7pm the Haus was bustling, there was chatter and laughter, and it felt good to see Gunk Haus alive.

Of course there were glitches: The fryer broke, and so we had to take the french fries off the menu. And then there was the A/C which stopped working in the beer hall.

Around 4pm I noticed that it was awfully warm in the beer hall. The air handler didn't budge. I tried to fix it temporarily, but without success. So I called the A/C guys, after all, I had a restaurant to run. By 6pm we were back and running, but the beer hall was still too warm, and it would take the A/C the rest of the evening to cool it down again, but no one seemed to mind.

My personal superstar of the evening was my beloved wife. E! ran the kitchen like a general, and churned out yummy food like there is no tomorrow. We haven't found a line cook yet, and therefore the burden of the kitchen rests on her shoulders.

Yesterday she came running out of the kitchen glowing with pride to show off her first kitchen tattoo: She had taken a rack of pretzels from the oven, and meant to put it on an upper shelf for cooling, when it slipped off her hand and started falling. Determined not to lose the pretzels she caught the hot rack with her upper arm, resulting in a one by three inch burn. Cooks are tough!

It was an exciting weekend, and there is so much more to talk about, but I will leave it at this for now.

I want to thank our service and kitchen teams for making this opening weekend a success (we have a great team), and of course you, my dear readers, and supporters.