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on February 14, 2004
I've never written a review for a book I've read on Amazon before, but I felt compelled to do so here. I was given this book for Christmas by two separate people, probably because I'm a bartender myself. Let's face it, a bartender's memoir isn't exactly to be read as the apex of literary accomplishment, so I'm not sure why people can be so aghast at Behind Bars' few flaws. Wenzel has captured exactly what it's like to serve drinks to a vast myriad of people (drunks, suits, etc.), with such an honest verve that I felt as if I were sitting in front of her listening to the anecdotes on a really busy night. Her writing is raw and extremely fun. The Islamic bent from which she comes from was an interesting facet of the mix, too. This book isn't War & Peace, but it is really fun and, for me and many other bartender's I've loaned out to, quite representational. I don't think many of my customers know that I'm using "sex appeal" to keep them coming back for more. In fact, I think they are under the impression that I really am riveted by everything that comes out of their (most of the time) drunken rants. But I'm not. And Wenzel explains this, and why. I think raving drunks won't like this book because it reveals their weakness too much. Wenzel does NOT sugar-coat anything.
Her poignant and sometimes harrowing narrative was very intimate for me, and I wished I'd visited her on my last trip to New York (back when she was still tending bar on the Bowery). We could have commiserated together and laughed at it all. I await her next work eagerly, which I read about on her site.
Overall, not pretentious like some other "insider" books I've read, fun and very revealing.
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on August 13, 2003
Just finished the book yesterday and really enjoyed it. Never worked in the service industry but I got the feeling that I knew the ins and outs when I was done - and it's not for the faint of heart. It's easy to see why servers of any type could get so sarcastic after many years dealing with drunks and irrational diners. But it's funny too. Lots of insider tid bits, pet-peeves (which I'll keep in mind next time I'm ordering at a bar) and a funny glossary of terms I never knew existed. It's not whiny or apologetic. You can take it or leave it if you're an "orphan" (gotta read it to find out what that means) but I know service industry folks will love this. Definitely a fun summer read. Very entertaining.
Jim
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on August 21, 2003
This book is loads of fun. Both informative and catty, Wenzel dishes up her share of dirt from behind the bar. I've always fallen in love with my bartenders, so it was fun to hear what it's like to be on the other side. Made me glad that I'm a good tipper too... I recommend this book for everyone looking for an enjoyable read.
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on January 11, 2004
I was given this book as a Christmas gift because I'm always going on and on about my favorite bars and the mixers there. When I finished reading Ms. Wenzel's memoir on slinging drinks on the Bowery for a decade, I laughed and high tailed it over to one of my favorite bartenders. I handed it over to him and said, YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS! All the times they told me that they're going to write a book about their experiences behind their bars... well, Wenzel did it first! And it was hilarious and eye-opening at the same time. I thought that the listed "pet peeves" were great as well as educational for hardcore regulars, and the glossary taught me the insider language. There are a lot of gross things about restaurants and the service industry, and Wenzel tells it straight up... literally. Her writing is raw, fun and at times very thoughtful and eloquent. She's had plenty of touching moments to balance out the in-your-face truths and sometimes frightening anecdotes. Her Islamic background was interesting as were other elements of her life outside the bar.
Want to ask your bartender out? She'll tell you how to do it.
Want to know how to get a drink faster? She'll tell you what to do.
Want to know if you're tipping correctly? She'll really let you have it.
Ever wonder what they're thinking as you're babbling on? Wenzel doesn't pussy-foot around with what bartenders think.
Truly fun. And if you love it as much as I did, pass it on to your favorite bartender. They'll not only love you for it, they may get you a round on the house!
Cheers!
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on October 13, 2003
I read Behind Bars in one sitting. The double-entendre of the title is appropriate for this memoir because "the life" is not all that it's cracked up to be. I really felt that I was sitting in front of Wenzel at her bar on the Bowery listening to her tell her tales. The pace was wonderful in that it felt like a busy, crazy night at a hotspot in Manhattan. I wish I could have gotten a drink from Wenzel before she threw in the towel.
Her Islamic background made it more interesting, more than a chick-lit story of a girl in the big city. It was thought provoking in that her background was everything but where she ended up. Her prose is bitingly witty and brutally honest, yet as the time passes she softens to her regulars/orphans and the job itself. She doesn't pussy-foot around where tipping is concerned, and in fact, I've heard my own fave bartender talk about the topic in this way. In fact, I plan to get Behind Bars for her for Christmas, if she doesn't beat me to it. I already told her about it.
Lots of add-ons: funny glossary, recipes, pet-peeves and famous quotes about booze and bars.
Definite buy.
Jane Threlfall
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on February 19, 2004
Wenzel has captured a very fun, abeit disturbing, interpretation of the bartending life. When I say "the life" I mean it in the way Wenzel means it, as in the whole picture and the lifestyle. She's a flirt extraordinaire, hilarious, bitter and fun - kind of like the gals on Sex in the City, 'cept she's Muslim. This all adds to the story with more depth. If you want to bartend, or just fantasize... this is the book for you!
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on August 19, 2003
I finished Wenzel's Behind Bars last week and found myself using the recipes this week at a party I had. It was nice that she included some of her best ones. The book was incredibly satisfying that it was a fast read, fun and interesting in that it gives a brutally honest insider look at a job that looks so fun. I always had a regret that I never bartended so living vicariously through Behind Bars was fun. Her Islamic background was an interesting foil to the Manhattan bar life she describes so well. This urban memoir is a must for anyone who ever drank or mixed at a bar. I'll be going back to it for tips on how to get the bartender's attention, how to hit on girls that don't annoy them and most of all, again, the recipes for cool classic cocktails. Very enjoyable summer read.
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on September 23, 2003
... an orphan, that is. I've been going to the same bar for years now and just when I thought I was kinda fitting in (yikes!). This book tells so much more than I ever imaginged about bartending and working in the service industry. I promise to be a good tipper, not to make the bartender choose my drink for me, and try to know when I've had enough (or at least believe her when she tells me so). I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats! My hats off to you, Ms. Wenzel. You've created a reality for those of us who only knew what we dreamed it was like. And to think I almost went to bartending school oh so many years ago. I'm gonna let all my friends in on this one.
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on October 3, 2003
In "Behind Bars: Tales of a Big City Bartender", Wenzel skillfully articulates the trials and tribulations of being a successful and popular mixer in Manhattan's mercurial hospitality industry. Wenzel's anecdotes and rants are expressed with both candor and compassion. A must read for any future mixers and restaurant patrons!
Well done!
C.D. Milne, New York, NY
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on October 22, 2003
Ty Wenzel did a fantastic job of letting me see and imagine thru her words the actions that went on behind the bar scenes. i lived thru her eyes a little fantasy life. Some were a little scary and some were funny. Being a moslem girl myself it was nice to see someone came out of her sterotypical life to do and speak about it. BRAVO!
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