I mostly eschew ordering bottled water in a restaurant anymore. I like to take the high road and go on and on about carbon footprints, being green and all that. But it’s really just that I’m getting cheap in my old age. So I ask for icewater. Something that will steam my beans every time I am eating in a restaurant is giving me “icewater” that is way more water than ice. Serving me a 12 oz. glass filled with tap water that has four small, already-melting cubes tinkling around in it does not count as icewater. Can you please fill it, and I mean fill it to the top and pile it up, with ice, and then add just enough water to drop the level of the cubes back into the glass? You don’t need to be a physicist to know that ice melts. So start with more than you need. That way, when you re-fill with the pitcher that has been sitting around in the service station all night with its own ice supply melting like Antarctica, it will still be icewater. Not tepid water with suspended solids. The pitcher itself should be changed periodically and refilled with ice as well. And please get rid of those water pitchers that come with an “ice guard” across the spout. Heaven forbid we let any of that nasty ice go into the icewater glass when pouring.
When I worked for the Brennan family in New Orleans, they were icewater Nazis. Mr. Charles (in the South you never call anyone in authority by their first name without the Mr. or Miss), would ask us at our pre-shift, “What’s the main ingredient in Icewater?” “ICE!!” we would all reply in unison. He did it every day. At Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse in the Quarter, every icewater on every table was changed (yes changed, not filled, oh no, never..) every two courses. If you had just finished your Buffalo Oysters and had a 16 oz. New York on the way, I am removing your water and serving you a fresh glass with so much ice in it that the cubes do not even move. If you are a party of 16, I am removing and replacing all 16 glasses. The staff at the Steakhouse had the strongest left arms in New Orleans. Carrying a tray with 16 icewaters out to a table and serving them is one thing, but holding it while you walk around the table, removing one glass and replacing it with one from your tray, is quite another. Go to the gym sometime and pick up a 25 lb. dumbell and hold it in your left arm, palm up, out to your side with your elbow down towards your hip for two minutes and you will get my drift.
But there was an employee-generated service culture and peer pressure in the Brennans’ restaurants that demanded you do things a certain way. Icewater service became a point of personal pride. “Y’all call THAT an icewater?” my friend Otis would say, watching a newbie filling a glass in the kitchen. Otis had been with the family for more than 20 years. Never arm-wrestle with him for money. Especially left-handed.