Many hMAG readers are surely familiar with The Ainsworth without having stepped foot in its Hoboken digs. With three popular Manhattan locations – in addition to one in Las Vegas – The Ainsworth has successfully built up a reputation as being an upscale, sports-friendly bar that a lot of private events are hosted at. Now there is a fifth Ainsworth, located at 310 Sinatra Drive, occupying the space formerly held by Little Town New Jersey.
The Ainsworth’s Hoboken location keeps up the reputation of its other locations with its surplus of flat-screen TVs and high-end decor, but it also offers a larger dining area and a more extensive menu than I have observed at other Ainsworths. The menu provides an interesting balance of high-brow and comfort food, offering “Panko Chicken and Fries” and “Buffalo Cauliflower” on the starter list alongside the “Spinach and Artichoke Dip” and “Ainsworth Buffalo Wings” that one would expect. Specials and events related to said food and drinks are regularly posted on the bar’s social media sites, which are grouped together in one place on the Ainsworth website: http://theainsworth.com/social.
I had the opportunity to speak with two of The Ainsworth Hoboken’s bartenders, Natasha Javed and Glen De Magalhaes. Natasha and Glen, who both joined the Ainsworth team around the time of its opening a few months back, come across as hard-working, enthusiastic folks in their responses. Both Natasha and Glen had to move up the ranks before they got to where they are now – Natasha first as a server and Glen initially as a barback – so it was refreshing to learn about people who openly acknowledge today’s greener pastures.
How did you get your start in bartending?
Natasha Javed: I have been in the service industry for 10 years. As a server, I thoroughly enjoyed multi-tasking and conversing with my customers. Being that those were the most valuable derivatives to me, I decided that I may extract more pleasure from being primarily behind the bar, engaging in differing functions of serving alcohol, helping co-workers, taking multiple drink orders and delivering them in the most efficient fashion. And, of course, ensuring that they are enjoying themselves.
Glen De Magalhaes: I got my start in bartending when I was still in college. I started working at a night club that my mother frequented, and they notified me that they were looking for a new barback. So I took the job without hesitation because I was 19 and working in a 21-and-over club, and I thought it was a dream come true. A few months later they gave me a shot at bartending when they were short a few bartenders and just threw me into the mix. I was nervous, but considering that the majority of the drinks already have the ingredients in their name, I picked it up fairly quickly. From there I never looked back.
Before you wound up at the Ainsworth, where else did you tend bar?
N: McLoone’s Pier House.
G: I worked in a handful of places, some full-time but mostly part-time as I always enjoyed the quick extra income on the weekends. But I started at XL Lounge [Newark], Rio Lounge [Newark], Baru Lounge [Newark], 118 Lounge [Newark], Guitar Bar [Newark], Black Bear [Hoboken] and MK Valencia [Ridgefield Park].
Do you have a favorite item on the Ainsworth menu?
N: The Mac and Cheese Burger.
G: My favorite item on the food menu is the Hanger Steak Burger. I mean, the name says it all. It’s steak on a burger, what more can you ask for? Oh yeah, that’s right, they add shredded parmesan cheese, jalapenos and mushrooms to the mix – a.k.a. a mouth-gasm. And to wash that all down, I would always enjoy a Sixpoint Sweet Action. Burgers and beer go so well together.
How does The Ainsworth in Hoboken compare to the Manhattan locations?
N: I think that The Ainsworth in Hoboken maintains the same quality of standards as the Manhattan locations. However, it offers something different: at The Ainsworth in Hoboken, you know everyone. Our staff, from the managers to servers, runners, barbacks, the kitchen, bartenders, etc. work as one big family. There are times when I have things happening within my personal life, and when I walk into The Ainsworth, I am greeted by my family immediately and it only grows as I continue to make my way to the computer to clock in. I feel home there. For customers, they can expect the same service consistently. We have an outdoor bar that people constantly take advantage of, and our view, well that just speaks for itself.
G: The Hoboken location has a lot to prove considering the success that the New York locations have. But one thing I’ve learned about working in Hoboken is that people enjoy more of a close-knit bar where everyone knows each other and everyone can have a good time any day of the week. This is something we are definitely trying to accomplish from doing our best to remember the names of those who come a few times a week to putting out specials for the locals. But we have everything the other locations have, we have a ton of TV’s, great food, awesome drinks, and the staff to tie all of that together to give a great customer experience.
What do you like most about Hoboken?
N: I know where to go for anything that I may need in Hoboken, and my extended group of best friends all live here, connecting to friends of friends to equate to the best group of people I know. I am lucky enough to get to see them nearly everyday because we are all tied to Hoboken.
G: What I like the most about Hoboken is that it’s a great place to go that’s close to the city but without the crazy high prices and traffic. You’re 15 minutes away from the city, but you can still get that home-y feeling you get from living in a suburb. Hoboken is a melting pot of different cultures and is always expanding and improving upon itself, which makes it a great place to work and live. The parking is still up for debate, but nonetheless, you couldn’t get the same view of New York City from New York City. Hoboken has it all.
Is there a song that makes you cringe when you’re behind the bar? That you’d like to never have to hear again?
N: “This Is How We Do” by Katy Perry.
G: “Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj. Enough said.
Under what circumstances is it the most fun to bartend?
N: It is most fun to bartend when we have a big crowd. Each bartender centers himself or herself within a given section, and no one stops moving. For me in particular, I never stop laughing with my customers and my co-workers. In that setting, I don’t feel like I’m working. I feel like I’m doing what naturally feels good.
G: It’s definitely the most fun for me when the bar is packed and I’m constantly moving and just rolling through the drinks for people. I enjoy making people happy and, of course, making money.
In your eyes, are there any misconceptions about bartending? Things that you’re tired of hearing about the trade that you wish people would stop repeating?
N: People often say “you’re just a bartender.” I am also not on the opposite extreme of feeling “entitled” on account of the fact that I am a bartender. People should realize that a job doesn’t define a purpose, and if you’re a bartender, it does not mean you are uneducated or ill-equipped to do another job. It just means you have a gift for versatility and you deliver it with style and grace! Not everyone has the disposition or capability for it.
G: One common misconception about bartending is that we know all the cocktails that have ever been made. It’s damn near impossible to know everything in general, let alone that drink some bartender made you that was sweet but strong that other night at the other bar you went to with your friends. Stop it, people. I know that news travels fast, but I don’t know what some other bartender is concocting on his spare time. So please, if you don’t know what’s in it, then please order something that I can make you and I will make it the best you’ve ever had.
What is the best way for a customer to get great service? Is there something they should avoid doing?
N: When customers give you an attitude because you did not serve them immediately, it only hurts them in the long run. I will always serve anyone, putting any feelings aside. However, that customer is shaping his or her experience by not being tolerant and inevitably setting the tone for unhappiness. I often find that the customer who exposes dissatisfaction with service from the beginning has a complaint about the drink as well as food, if ordered.
G: In all honesty, I give the best service to those who aren’t too high maintenance and are very relaxed when they are at the bar. Those people who make themselves enjoyable make it easier for me to actually WANT to give you great customer service. Other than that, I will give you everything you ask for whenever you ask for it, but I’m not going to go the extra mile because you’re making my life miserable while I’m doing it. If they’re pleasant to deal with, then it makes their experience much better. But I must add: “Money talks, bullshit walks.” Let’s face it, we don’t bartend for the social life, we do it because it’s a source of income, if someone comes in there and starts dropping very gracious tips, then it’s bartenders’ natural reaction to go above and beyond for said customer. I am no stranger to this rare phenomenon, and admit that I favor those whom are more gracious with their money, but I always try to treat everyone the same – unless they give me a good reason to do so otherwise.
Aside from the Ainsworth, do you have a favorite bar in town?
N: I love Green Rock [70 Hudson Street] – a guilty pleasure!
G: My favorite bar used to be Whiskey Bar on Washington, which is now Mills Tavern [125 Washington Street], but I enjoyed the cover bands that would play there on a weekly basis and the happy hour specials they offered. It was a different crowd and different time then, but I usually will frequent local bars from my hometown of Newark. One which definitely sticks out in my mind is McGovern’s Tavern on New Street in Newark.
When you’re not behind the bar, what do you like to do with yourself?
N: I like to run!
G: On my free time I like to do the normal things anybody in their mid 20s likes to do, which is nothing. But besides that I’ll go to the gym, visit family, summertime I’ll go to the beach, play some volleyball, work on my other business ventures and vacation as often as I can. Bartending provides the flexibility to travel with ease without the fear of losing your job – of course as long as one isn’t gone for a prolonged period of time. Traveling is my favorite thing to do outside of the bar.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
N: Ainsworth feels like home, so come visit the fam!
G: Don’t forget, what goes down does sometimes come back up. Please drink responsibly.