Restaurant views and reflections: An essay by Jennifer Murray

Restaurant views and reflections: An essay by Jennifer Murray

One of my favorite moments while glancing out of the window during a busy night at work is when the sky is just darkening behind the old brick warehouse buildings of Lowertown and a final burst of sunshine breaks against the brick and windows creating a golden glow of buildings in front of the settling darkness.

I have found that it’s usually pointless to try and point this out to my coworkers at Saint Dinette, because we’re often all too busy in the evening to appreciate anything beyond the bustle of the restaurant.  Which is a good thing: that bustle means we’re doing a good job, means people are flocking to a place that we love, eating the food that’s been made with so much care and inspiration that it boggles my mind, and appreciating the atmosphere that is fostered and inspired by the amazing people who own and run the restaurant. The view out of the window is an added bonus, even if it only provides a short moment to re-center myself, because sometimes it’s hard to be an introvert in a job that mainly attracts extroverts and requires sustained bursts of energy in a crowded room.  

Sometimes I wonder how on earth I got here, nearly twelve years into restaurant work and finally in a job that I love on every single level.

Not that I haven’t loved my previous jobs, but none have had so few negative qualities (Saint Dinette has none of note). Sometimes I wonder how I ever got into and stayed in this line of work.  

Restaurant reflections, TiltMNI recall the views out of the various windows I’ve looked out of while working. My first restaurant job held a view of New Orleans partygoers, from the door (if strong enough to survive the spice of the crawfish boil in the front window), wafted in smells of beignets, puke and urine (hey, it was New Orleans) and rotting garbage that the humidity did not let subside. From my host stand, and later from the beer window I worked, I watched people from all walks of life let loose, watched the frustration, joy, and hardship of the locals, and found a community that felt like a small town in a mid-sized city. I was so young then.

I had no clue about life. But I knew I loved New Orleans, and the perspective of seeing life there from within the walls of a restaurant.

Another favorite view of mine was the river just downstream from Saint Anthony Falls when I worked at Cue, and later Sea Change, at the Guthrie Theater.  Every view from within that big blue box is impressive, but that northeast view of the river offered a piece of tranquility, and the availability of seeing the weather move by, that I loved. Every time a storm rolled past we could see it coming from the street windows, and then rumble downstream with the sun following in its place, illuminating the young trees with the dark clouds behind and sunshine in front.  Surely a view that would make the grand portraits of Chekhov, Hansberry, and Tennessee Williams want to turn their heads to see.   

Still I ask, how did I get to a time where I can look back with nostalgia at Decatur Street, the Stone Arch Bridge, drunk women in heels on First Avenue and Third Street, the Christmas lights outside of A Rebours, the construction of CHS field?  

I’ve lived inside and outside of these places. I’ve gotten married and divorced, earned a bachelor and graduate degree, had a child, and watched friends from this line of work come into and leave. There is a home for me here, a community that I have found myself a part of, even if always a little awkwardly placed (I’ve lately realized that all INFJ’s feel awkward in this way), and that is a treasure.

I’ve lately realized how lucky I am to have a job that I love, bosses that respect me, and coworkers that make me happy. It seems so common these days for college graduates to come out of school with such high hopes that quickly get dashed by the reality that well-paying jobs that are also intellectually and emotionally fulfilling are hard to come by, and that building a career takes years beyond graduation. I’m not sure what my expectations really were coming out of college, but I’ve definitely wondered why I was still working in restaurants despite all of my hard work in school. Now I truly understand that the hard work of building a career as a writer takes a lot more than college, a lot more than just making money at jobs that don’t fulfill the creative longings of an artist.

It takes living and feeling satisfied that there is a balance between making money, being present for the people you love, and devoting time to writing.  For the first time in my life I feel in balance, and Saint Dinette is a huge part of that.

Restaurant reflections, TiltMNSaint Dinette is the first restaurant that made it clear to me how much creative energy goes into the creation of a restaurant, not just in the food, but every single detail of everything.

And exactly how I love to sit for painters because I relish in the idea of being inside a piece of someone else’s art, I love being a part of the realized dream that is Saint Dinette.

It’s been said probably a million times, but there is an infectious quality to the passion that Tim Niver has for bringing people together, serving them the best food and making sure everyone knows that they are welcome and appreciated.  There is magic in this, there is magic in loving people and understanding the nostalgic power of food and gathering to eat.  There is magic in this very particular art of creating a restaurant that is more than a restaurant, that is a place to experience community in a way that humans have always sought, without judgement, and with such good food.  That magic touches everyone who works at all three of Tim and J.D’s restaurant’s, and it’s something I feel very privileged to be a part of.  

The windows that we all look out of to see the world are beautifully varied, we can all look at the exact same thing and see something different.  That is what makes a community special, it’s what makes this world and everything in it beautiful—our differences and our love for those differences.  I see a lot working in a restaurant, and I am very very happy.  

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Restaurant views and reflections: An essay by Jennifer Murray