Chris Stein at Smith and Mills Is Proud to Be a Luddite

Chris Stein

Chris Stein will rescue you from the bathroom.Photo: Melissa Hom

Chris Stein was a server at La Esquina before he started work at the equally atmospheric if much smaller Smith and Mills, where hes the only man on the floor. Does he miss working at a larger spot? Other jobs there have been managers saying the same shit to you over and over, and trying to get you to sell certain things, he says. Here, there arent any of the gross vibes. A lot of the times the owner is having a drink also, or were all having a drink. Sadly we werent having a drink when we chatted with Stein, but that didnt make our conversation any less spirited.

Do you ever get claustrophobic in such a small space?
If I get frustrated, Ill just walk out and hang outside for a minute. In New York, waiting tables is constantly an awkward thing. Ive never worked anywhere where I was like, Wow, this is comfortable!

Whens the best time to show up and snag one of those coveted tables?
It fills up and empties like clockwork, over and over. Around 7 p.m. is the first time it empties. People come for drinks from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and then it dies down. From that point on, its hard to say.

Can you sit for a drink or is it dinner only?
You can just have drinks. Id never ask someone to get up and stand if theyre sitting down.

Are there people who dont understand the spirit of the place and dont realize its supposed to be relaxed?
You mean douche bags? Luckily they feel uncomfortable in our place. Sometimes they walk in and dont even get a drink and leave they know right away that they cant be their disgusting selves in our place. We really appreciate that.

Whats another pet peeve?
If youre getting the whole table drinks and one persons drink is almost empty but they say they dont need another one. Then when you come back with everyones drinks, they order another one.

Do people bitch about the cash-only policy when that bill for a few hundred dollars hits the table?
A credit-card machine is not something were interested in. Its whats nice about the place its small, cozy, and quiet. We dont want to fill it with computers and printers. The whole credit-card thing is kind of gross.

Do you have to do other things when youre serving to fit the vibe of the place?
Were getting uniforms this week that will be a bit militaristic. It sounds cool. I havent seen it yet, but I trust the taste of the owner, if its going to follow suit with the place.

We gave your bathrooms five stars. Does the party ever spill into it?
Late at night when people are wasted, girls end up piling in there. For some reason, nobody can figure out the door. They get in, and they cant figure out how to get back out.

Related: Smith and Mills: The Smallest Next Big Thing Ever