Straight Wharf’s Tim Farley

Tim Farley has been behind the bar at Straight Wharf Restaurant for 13 seasons. What started as a summer job turned into a career, and for Farley it’s much more than just making drinks. It’s about tradition and a sense of community.

I grabbed a pint with Timmy at The Chicken Box’s newly-built beer garden. We talked about bar etiquette, the concept of a “real job” and what it’s like to be one chapter in the long history of Straight Wharf.

Nantucket Today:

How did you get into bartending?

Tim Farley:

“I was caddying at the Nantucket Golf Club and the boarding house needed a door guy. it was toward the end of the summer season and they had lost some staff and needed help. i would caddy during the day and go work door at night. toward the end of the season they started teaching me how to bar-back. before i moved here i was planning on moving out to California or New York City to get a “real job.”

“The baton was passed to me at the relay race. I didn’t create the image of what Straight Wharf is, I’m just trying to carry on the tradition. There was a great tradition that was taught to me and I’m trying to pass it along to the guys I work with now.”
Nantucket Today:

It’s funny you say that, “a real job.” it’s crazy to me that people don’t consider working in the restaurant industry a “real job.” What would your so-called real job have been?

Farley:

“I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector. i am still really passionate about nonprofit work. before i moved out to Nantucket i was working with AmeriCorps. i had been doing some office work at Massachusetts General hospital the previous winter. but AmeriCorps doesn’t pay anything and it felt good to walk home with a pocket full of cash after a day of caddying and a night of working the door.”

Nantucket Today:

How did you end up at Straight Wharf?

Farley:

“After working at the boarding house for another season i accepted a job at the brant Point Grill. soon after there was an opening at straight Wharf and my manager at bPG told me i’d be stupid not to take the job. Going into straight Wharf i started back at the bottom. i’d pick up door shifts and bar- back shifts, really any shift they would give me.”

Nantucket Today:

In the past i have likened straight Wharf to a ship. the dining room side has that old-school ocean-liner feel, whereas late night the bar and grill side seems more like a pirate ship. how hard is it to find a balance?

Farley:

“It can be challenging because you need to respect both sides of the building. You don’t want to compromise the 40-plus years of what straight Wharf is. the bar has the reputation of being more laid-back and low-key, but you still need to provide the best experience for the guest. We get people who dined with us years ago and still remember it.”

Nantucket Today:

I have heard that there is no point-of- sale system behind the bar. that can’t be right, can it?

Farley:

“You heard right, it’s all verbal. You can’t look back at the computer and figure out what went wrong. the verbal communication behind the bar has to be on point. if someone is sick one night, there is a good chance things could be a little off that night. but once you get into the zone it’s auto-pilot.”

Nantucket Today:

So when a server orders a drink for one of their tables they just stand at the service bar and tell you what they want? that would drive me crazy. is there a method to the madness?

Farley:

“There is an order. Anything in a martini glass goes first, drinks in a rocks glass go next, then specialty cocktails, beer and wine and finally soft drinks. it gets easier the longer the servers work with you. there is a lot to manage, but you have to understand the servers have a lot to manage as well.”

Nantucket Today:

Bartender or mixologist?

Farley:

“Bartender. i have all the respect in the world for mixologists, but that’s not how i was brought up. i was taught to make good, quick drinks and show people a good time. Volume bartending. that’s the way the guys at the boarding house and straight Wharf did it.”

Nantucket Today:

This winter you were down in Charleston, s.C. helping out at 167 raw’s new restaurant. What was that like?

Farley:

“It was a lot of fun. their cocktail program is based on classic cocktails. i was working with teddy Nixon (formerly of the Club Car), and he is known for making great cocktails and making them quickly. it’s a lot of prep down there. We were constantly squeezing juice.”

Not much has changed at Straight Wharf’s bar, pictured here when it first opened in 1976.

Nantucket Today:

What is the most popular drink during dinner service?

Farley:

“Over the past few years the Mucho Gusto has been the most popular. it’s our version of a Paloma. it’s tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and soda water. Who doesn’t like tequila? late night it’s the Goombay smash. We get people coming in saying, ‘i’ve been waiting all season for one of these’!”

Nantucket Today:

I’d like to ask you about bar etiquette. What is the last thing someone should do to get the bartender’s attention?

Farley:

“Oh jeez, i hate to say it, but grab the bartender’s arm or yell at them. When you are making a cocktail and someone grabs your arm the drink usually gets spilled. Which usually results in a longer wait time. Another thing you shouldn’t do is say, ‘i’ve been waiting 20 minutes.’ that won’t speed up your drink order. i think something people should know is we are constantly moving. if i am not making a drink there is a good chance i’m controlling the playlist or closing out a tab.”

Nantucket Today:

Start a tab or pay as you go?

Farley:

“If you close out your tab after you order a round there is no confusion at the end of the night. it can slow things down a bit, but it makes it easier for everyone involved. during the height of the summer we run about 100 cards a night. We had to add another credit- card terminal. the whole, ‘two vodka sodas, close it,” we get that back to back to back.”

Nantucket Today:

Straight Wharf restaurant has been open for over 40 years. if the walls in the bar grill could talk, what would they say?

Farley:

“I don’t know. Most people think of the bar at straight Wharf and think Figawi weekend. that one weekend isn’t very indicative of the restaurant as a whole. it’s not just people partying. People have weddings here. they celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. You meet a lot of great people here, whether co- workers or guests. there is a lot of history here and i’m just one chapter of it.”

Nantucket Today:

What do you order when you go out?

Farley:

“I’m not very complicated with my drink orders. i usually go with a good beer or a margarita. i also really like rum. i usually go surfing in Central America during the winter. i tend to drink Flor de Caña rum or a daiquiri. low- maintenance is usually how i approach it. but with dinner i like a good glass of red wine.”

Kevin Stanton is an artist and graduate of MassArt, living and working on Nantucket. A bartender in Boston before he moved back to the island, he writes the “Drink” column for Nantucket Today.






Latest issue...

To view the magazine full size, click the image above.