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The GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods: Be a Good Regular


Used to be, you would show up at the bar on the corner a couple of times a week, order the usual, and everyone would know your name. But with Foursquare check-ins replacing barstool small talk, you’re lucky to get as much as a smile of recognition from the barkeep. In an effort to reverse the trend, here are some time-tested tips for becoming an acknowledged regular at your favorite local spot—the old-fashioned way.

Go often, and not just during busy times. At 2:30 p.m. on the dot for seven years, the filmmaker David Lynch went to Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank, California, where he would use paper napkins and a pen borrowed from the waitress to scribble down ideas. Showing up during slow hours makes you more visible to the staff—which puts you on the fast track to regular status.
Get to know the names of the staff and request your favorite waiter when making a reservation. “But don’t demand her, or make it seem like the other waiters are incompetent,” says Colleen Rush, the author of The Mere Mortal’s Guide to Fine Dining.
Use the bar. Arrive early for your reservations so you can get a drink and chat with the bartender. “They tend to have more time, so it’s easier to get friendly with them. If you’re in with the bartender, the rest of the staff will pick up on it,” says Rush.
Tip well. Think of that extra percentage as an investment toward drink discounts, freebie snacks, and insider information. If you toss the right bartender the right denomination at Musso & Frank in Hollywood, he’ll not only remember your name, he’ll regale you with stories about what the barfly Charles Bukowski drank when he sat where you’re sitting now.
Use your status wisely. Graciously accept preferential treatment, but never assume you deserve it. “There are good regulars and bad ones,” says Rush.
Sit in the same place. Starting in June of 1919, Dorothy Parker and a literary gang including some future New Yorker editors gathered for lunch daily at a round table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. You’ve heard of her, right? So had everyone who worked there —and not because they had to read her in English class.

Illustration by Trevor Burks.

This article first appeared in The GOOD Guide to Better Neighborhoods. You can read more of the guide here, or you can read more of the GOOD Neighborhoods Issue here.

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