The best waiter we encountered over the course of doing this article was a charming guy at Aigre Doux who struck just the right note. He knew when to engage, but never hovered; he offered intelligible food and wine explanations, but never droned. Perhaps best of all, he didn’t introduce himself and, in the absence of any busboy nearby, he refilled the water glasses as though it was an honor to do so. We called the restaurant to find out who he was and how he got so good. Meet 32-year-old Rich Dyer: He’s personable, funny, and prompt-and he’ll do anything to make you happy.

Photograph: Pete Barreras
Rich Dyer, Chicago waiter

Aigre Doux waiter Rich Dyer

Q: How long have you waited tables?
A: Eleven years. From Lone Star Steakhouse to J. Alexander’s to Roy’s to Aigre Doux.

Q: How was your first waiting gig?
A: Lone Star . . . This was when they still danced and sang. It was scary enough never having been a server before and all of a sudden the country music gets turned up and you are expected to stop on a dime and line dance. It wasn’t the high point in my life.

Q: What could be lower than that?
A: When I was in Hawaii, I had a difficult manager, and I’m at a table speaking to a couple when the manager grabs my arm and pulls me away mid-sentence. He turned me around and lit into me. When he was done, I turned back to the table and pretended like nothing had happened. The guy at the table said, “Son, would you like for me to take him outside and kick the shit out of him?” Yes, I would.

Q: What’s the best thing about waiting tables?
A: It’s really good money. People don’t realize what servers can make.

Q: What’s the farthest you’ve gone to make a diner happy?
A: I’ve given a diner my tie. He said over and over how much he liked it, so I wrapped it up like a to-go box. I have run out and gotten packs of smokes, Diet Mountain Dew. One time I ran down in my apron to Water Tower Park and got a carriage because a couple wanted it.

Q: Who tips better, men or women?
A: I plead the Fifth on that one. That’s like asking someone how much they weigh.

Q: Do you consider yourself a career waiter?
A: I consider myself a career waiter for now. You never hear your high-school guidance counselor come back with your aptitude test and say, “Well, it looks like you are going to be a waiter for the rest of your life.” But anyone who’s waited tables for 11 years and says it’s not their career, they’re fibbing.    

Aigre Doux, Blu Coral, Chalkboard, Chiyo, DeLaCosta, Erba, Ginger Asian Bistro

Habana Libre, Koda, Marigold, Mulan, Niche, Osteria Di Tramonto, Sage Grille

Sam & Harry’s, Sequel, Sol de Mexico, Tay Do, Tepatulco, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood, Xel-Há

Rest of the Best – Wine Bars, One-Dish Wonders, New & Notable, What’s Hot & Not

Q&A with Rich Dyer, a Great Waiter

On the Radar