Jenn James of the Rusty Knot Never Wants to Hear ‘Hotel California’ Again

jenn james of the rusty knot

"We do something called a 'pickle back' a shot of Jameson with a shot of pickle-juice brine."Melissa Hom

Jenn James was a full-time student and part-time rooftop gardener before she decided to return to waitressing. She called up her old boss at the Spotted Pig, Ken Friedman, and his brother, Doug, invited her to help open the bar he manages, the Rusty Knot. She knew it would be fun when on the first night everyone ate and drank so much that the bar had to close down for a few days to restock. Jenn pled the Fifth when we asked her about celebrities (Weve seen a few is all shed say), but, luckily, she had plenty more to talk about.

There arent a lot of seats at the Knot. Do you try to turn them over?
We dont really try to move the couches and the stools very much. But with the booths, if people want to sit down and eat, we like to nicely ask [people who are already there] if theyre done eating and if they wouldnt mind relocating.

Does the place get packed?
Weve had a couple nights where there have been 30-minute waits at the door. We have a one-in, one-out policy to maintain capacity.

So when should we avoid the bar, if we dont want to be left standing by the West Side Highway?
Thursday through Saturday night, from 10 p.m. on. Things slow down around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. People have usually had their fill.

What songs are you sick of hearing on the jukebox?
If I hear the Eagles' "Hotel California" one more time And Journey. I used to love the Eagles, but I must say I dont think itll be something Ill play very often after working at the Rusty Knot Id say we hear "Hotel California," conservatively, five times a night, every night.

The peel-and-eat shrimp is no longer on the menu did people get messy with them?
I have found many shrimp shells on the floor, as well as plastic mermaids and corn nuts. People would get really messy with our Coca-Cola ribs, but those are no longer on the menu as well.

Has anything been added to the menu recently?
A shrimp cocktail with a house-made roasted-tomato cocktail sauce with fresh shredded horseradish. And the crawfish is now out of season, so we just have the andouille-chicken-and-rice bowl.

What about the cocktail menu?
We recently added a tropical wine cooler, with white wine and passion fruit and papaya juice, a little sour and a little Sprite.

Do people get wasted off of those Scorpion bowls?
I will say I sometimes think our alcohol is more potent than other bars. A couple of our house drinks do have a lot of alcohol in them and can give you a little kick. We see our share of intoxicated customers, but its all in good fun we try to make sure it doesnt go too far.

What sort of things do happen?
We definitely had problems with the menu boards being changed to say fun and creative things. When we had the peel-and-eat shrimp, it got rearranged to peel & eat me.

Are there off-the-menu drinks?
We do something called a "pickle back" a shot of Jameson with a shot of pickle-juice brine that is quickly becoming a signature. Quino [chef Joaquin Baca] does a pickled cucumber, so we have amazing pickle juice. We share that shot with another bar called Whiskey Town.

What about food?
If you order our lettuce wedge from the menu, its served with a buttermilk bacon dressing, but if someone prefers it without meat, we can do a roasted-tomato vinaigrette.

Youre now open from noon, daily. Do people stop in when theyre jogging along the river?
We did have someone on Rollerblades who rolled through the restaurant to one of the booths, which prompted us to wonder whether we should have a sign No Rollerblades. The joggers prefer to jog on past and stay on their healthy path.