Bartender of the Month: Jacqueline Brandt-Lee

Jacqueline Brandt-Lee chats about Bar Avalon’s engaging atmosphere that keeps people coming back.

Photo by: Amy Tucker
Interview by: Dan Mathers

How long have you been working at Bar Avalon? I’ve been behind the bar for three years and working at the restaurant for eight.

What drew you to the industry? Well, I was 17 when I started. It was just a job that was available that I knew I could do, and I could work my hours around school — I was still in high school at the time. As soon as I hit 18 I started serving.

Describe the atmosphere. Fun. Funny. Welcoming. Some bars you go in, you can tell people are not happy and that feeling spreads, but people come here because it is always happy. Customers know coming in is going to make them smile.

What’s the vibe on a typical night? Friday and saturday we have live music, so there’s a jazz vibe. Lots of cocktails, lots of small plates at the bar, so people are sharing. There’s a lot of interaction; not just with me, but between customers.

Most people are going for the cocktails? Our most popular is our smoked Manhattan, because it draws the whole bar in. We burn little wood pellets and put the glass on it and let it sit for a minute, then we flip it back over and pour the manhattan into it. It’s a fun drink because it raises a lot of questions, and that engagement is always fun.

And most people are going for small plates? We have amazing calamari, and then a fried cauliflower that is great. People get pastas and entrees and share them, plus our pizza is a big sharer, too. But, our most popular dishes are the lamb bolognese—which has been a staple on our menu—and our mussel bake: mussels with pizza dough baked over top for dipping. People also go for our burgers, like the stacker burger: cheese, fried pickles, lettuce, tomatoes with a big, fat, juicy burger on a brioche bun that comes with truffle fries.

Why do you think you’ve stuck with it?I love it. I love the atmosphere. I love the fast pace, and most of all, I love the people—the customers and the staff are awesome.

Have you developed strong relationships through work? I have become great friends with the staff. We go out on the weekend after work and text each other all the time.

How about with customers? My regulars are the best part of my day. There are a few who’ve even become my Facebook friends [laughs]. When I have a bar full of regulars—which happens pretty often; regulars are often the core of my bar—it’s like sitting at the bar talking to friends and family.

Why do you think you’ve got such a good group of regulars? I think because we’re good at making them feel welcome. If I notice someone more than once, I get to know them, what they drink, what they like. We don’t just throw a drink at you and walk away.