The best servers in Chicago

We asked TOC readers to tell us about their favorite servers. We didn't have to ask twice.
 (Photograph: Allison Williams)
1/5
Photograph: Allison WilliamsTangie Chambers at M Burger in the Thompson Center
 (Photograph: Allison Williams)
2/5
Photograph: Allison WilliamsMarlon Shkaidy at Next and the Aviary
 (Photograph: Allison Williams)
3/5
Photograph: Allison WilliamsDre Truss at Scoozi!
 (Photograph: Allison Williams)
4/5
Photograph: Allison WilliamsMegan Larmer at Green Zebra
 (Photograph: Allison Williams)
5/5
Photograph: Allison WilliamsRyan Groh at Southport Grocery
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Chefs get all the press, but who determines the seat you get? The pacing of your meal? How full your water glass is? That would be the front of the house—the servers, hosts and managers who are a restaurant’s face. A few weeks ago, we asked readers and TOC staff to tell us about their favorite FOH folks around town. The enthusiastic response proved what we already knew: The carbonara may be perfect, but a meal only achieves greatness when the person putting it before you knows what he/she is doing. So remember this list, people—these are Chicago’s front-runners.

Tangie Chambers, cashier at M Burger (100 W Randolph St, 312-578-1478)
On a recent Friday afternoon, customers at the Thompson Center M Burger were tearing up a little more than usual. They approached the counter with arms open for a hug. Many came bearing gifts. A few muttered an “I love you.” The affection was all directed at Chambers, a fixture of the M Burger franchise who has worked at the Thompson Center location—“burgers and money all day long,” as she puts it—since it opened in September. Not everybody who visits M Burger knows Chambers by name, but nobody makes a purchase without being exposed to her impossibly sunny affection. ”Hey, sweet pea,” “hello, my love,” “hello, queen”—these are just a few of the ways Chambers greets strangers. “I don’t mind showing a little bit of love,” Chambers explains. “Even if I don’t get it back.” It was clear that Friday afternoon that most people do in fact reciprocate—the emotional outpouring was because it was Chambers’s last day before she went on maternity leave. She was quick to console her customers that she and her pet names would be back soon. “Everything I do, it just comes from here,” she says, gesturing to her heart. “I can’t control it, I can’t stop it, I can’t change it—it’s just who I am.”—David Tamarkin, food editor

Marlon Shkaidy, service manager at the Aviary (955 W Fulton Mkt, 312-226-0868)
A couple of years ago, I ate at Alinea for the first time. My main concern wasn’t that I wouldn’t like the food but that the experience wouldn’t be “fun”—I can’t stand stuffy, sanctimonious dining experiences, and I was convinced Alinea would be one. Of course, it wasn’t, and that was nearly all to the credit of our team of servers, including most memorably Marlon, who brought not only the expected attentiveness and professionalism to the dinner but charm and humor, too. Each time I’ve seen him by the door at the Aviary (where he is now), I’m reminded of what a great time I had that night at Alinea, and who I had to thank for it.—Julia Kramer, associate food editor

Andre (Dre) Truss, server at Scoozi! (410 W Huron St, 312-943-5900)
Best. waiter. ever.—Lauren Peterson, via Twitter

Megan Larmer, server at Green Zebra (1460 W Chicago Ave, 312-243-7100)
My girlfriend and I both love this server, who works at the Logan Square farmers’ market. There’s a genuine and enduring warmth she emanates.—Zev Frank

Ryan Groh, server at Southport Grocery (3552 N Southport Ave, 773-665-0100)
He’s the kind of guy who will remember your name and exactly how you like your coffee, even if you’ve [only] been in once.—Jon Dolias

Paige Sandlin, server at Handlebar Bar and Grill (2311 W North Ave, 773-384-9546)
He’s a wit and will sit down with you and chat you up with funny stories, but not in an invasive way. And he makes brutally honest menu recommendations.—Martina Sheehan, associate features editor

Emily Bohn, server at Maple Tree Inn (13301 S Old Western Ave, Blue Island, 708-388-3461)
The spare footprint of the restaurant, and the location of the bar, ensures you can’t get into Maple Tree Inn without getting by Emily. And Emily doesn’t let you get by. She knows the bar biz, but she is the restaurant ambassador, greeting all with, “Hi, guys! How are you?” A seat at the bar means that she’ll remember your drink of choice, or that she’ll be able to recommend a new tap brew or recent seasonal specialty cocktail. When the owners are gone, Emily takes over and solves all problems—no attitude and always on an even keel.—Marie Mindeman

Jessica Tessendorf, server at Barrelhouse Flat (2624 N Lincoln Ave, 773-857-0421) and Lush West Town (1412 W Chicago Ave, 312-666-6900)
Jessica provides an awesome experience every time by not only keeping her customers entertained but pointing out different drinks to try based on customers’ likes and dislikes. She gets to know her customers and has witty banter. Perfect combo for any server, if you ask me!—Beth Schmitt

Gary Bahl, server at Girl and the Goat (809 W Randolph St, 312-492-6262)
I’ve known Gary for years and he is the definition of a great server. Extremely passionate and very knowledgeable on the current menus and wine lists, which is so important these days. Whether he’s been your server before or not, he always makes you feel like a close friend and makes sure your dining experience is memorable.—Tommy Van Lente

Saqib Razzaq, manager at Calo (5343 N Clark St, 773-271-7782)
He seems to be there 24/7, is always working his butt off, clearly takes great pride in his establishment and always greets my partner and me, often with a bro-hug.—Novid Parsi, senior editor

Matt Trudell and Shawn Wolfe, servers at Sunda (110 W Illinois St, 312-644-0500)
They are outstanding! They always know how to put a smile on my face. Oh, and they are good at their jobs, too.—Tenae Graybosch

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