Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Maine restaurants. Right now, Kate McCarty, author of The Blueberry Files blog and Master Food Preserver, writes about Jeff Ellis, a barman at Binga's Stadium in Portland.
My favorite bartender in all of Portland has never made any "Best of" lists or won any awards for his work pouring pints and cleaning up baskets of chicken bones and sauce-soiled napkins. Not because Binga's Stadium's Jeff Ellis is working quietly behind the bar - on the contrary, he's kind of loudmouthed - but maybe more because his bar is not the kind that serves hand crafted cocktails of thoughtfully sourced ingredients. Sure, they have an impressive array of taps, many pouring local brews, but the most popular item I see served there is the Tower of Bud Light.
The reason I love Jeff so much is because he's allowed me to become a regular. Sure, I put in the time - I went every Sunday from September to January for several hours, but Jeff is the one that welcomed me, saved me seats, changed the TV channel for me, and kept the Miller High Lifes coming.
You see, I was a repeat customer because I found Binga's Stadium has enough TVs to play every NFL game demanded. And as a fan of a football team from away (the Baltimore Ravens), I flocked to Jeff's bar when I found my games were on regularly. I was especially happy to see the same bartender (a good looking one even!) every week, who then remembered me. He put the game on in front of where I was sitting at the bar, and I stayed for hours. A "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours," arrangement.
Sadly, our love affair is a seasonal one, since I haven't set foot in Binga's since the end of the season (stupid Patriots). But football season is around the corner again, so I'll soon be back to rebuild my "regular" status. And no, Jeff, I'm still not going to order the brisket special.
[Photo:Bar at Binga's Stadium/ Portland's Downtown District ]