On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Reserve 101 owner Mike Raymond makes his third appearance on the show. This time, he's joined by Michael Neff, his business partner in The Cottonmouth Club, the downtown bar that Raymond announced during his last appearance on the show.
Neff has worked as a bartender for over 25 years and has had a hand in acclaimed New York spots like Ward III and The Rum House. That experience has given him a unique perspective on the craft of bartending, which is what he shares during his conversation with Sandler. For example, consider this opinion on the goal he and Raymond aspired to with The Cottonmouth Club:
Mike and I talk about this. One of our early connections was, there's no reason to open a bar unless you want it to be the best bar in the world. What that means is an ever-changing spectrum. The way I think about it, if you walk into my bar, it's a new bar. If you and Mike and Colin and Michael and me are all in one bar, at the moment on the planet, that might be the best bar in the world. If one of us leaves, it's not as good. So now we want to get back there again.
I try to approach every shift and every night, whether it's one person or 100 people, how do we make this the best? If I'm overhearing you two talk about some concert you saw, now I have the power of technology I can sneak over to Spotify and throw a Travis song in. To you, it's, like, wait, wait, why is this song on? We were just talking about it.
"There's also something to be said about time and place," Raymond adds. "It's kind of the fourth dimension when you're talking about things. We have the drink and ambiance and all those things are great, but there's something to be said about the right drink with the right conversation with the right song at the right time. It's not a very tangible thing, but when it works and when it clicks, it's magic."
Listen to the whole conversation to hear the story of how the two met and to hear Neff's statement that Sandler calls "the smartest thing anyone has said on this podcast."
Prior to Raymond and Neff joining the show, local food writer Megha Tejpal (Houston CityBook, FoodNetwork.com) joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Ronnie Killen's decision to take Killen's TMX in a more Mexican direction, Kevin Floyd's departure from Underbelly Hospitality, and all the latest goings-on with three hotel restaurants. In the restaurants of the week segment, they share some thoughts on Rhotey Rotisserie, the recently opened sandwich shop that's attracting serious buzz. Finally, Tejpal offers a couple of recommendations from her recent visit to Lake Charles.