It is time to get to know the heart and soul behind every restaurant experience — the server. Here’s our Q&A with Leah Hopkins of Gadwall’s Grill.
How long have you been a server at Gadwall’s Grill?
This October will start my 27th year.
That is an impressive length of time. Is this the only restaurant you’ve ever worked at?
Yes, it is.
You obviously love working at Gadwall’s. Anything specific about the place that makes it such a great environment?
Working with my coworkers and employers. They really are like family.
I’ve met you once and you playfully made fun of me taking pics of my food. Do you think this type of back-and-forth interaction with diners is what separates you from many of the servers out there?
Absolutely! I love joking around with my customers, especially these days. It’s either laugh or cry, and I definitely prefer to laugh. If I can make you giggle that makes me happy.
I imagine that you have your fair share of regulars at the restaurant. Is this one of the perks of the job?
That is probably my favorite thing about my job. When you wait on the same people every week for 27 years, you can’t help but get to know them. I laugh with them, cry with them, and many have become good friends.
Someone walks into Gadwall’s for the first time, and they are very hungry, what should they order?
That’s a no-brainer! My favorite is the chili dog, add jalapeños.
Any not-so-secret menu items or modifications to dishes diners can make?
Add some Cajun spice to your grilled chicken chef salad or your grilled chicken sandwich. And while you’re at it, have them throw some guacamole on your BLT.
Besides leaving a good tip, what are things customers can do that really help put a smile on your face throughout a shift?
Of course, laughing with me. Also, they always ask about my son. He’s my only child and I just sent him to college for the first time. A lot of my customers know and love him. They always ask me how it’s going for him.
As a professional server, could you speak to the physical toll such work takes on the body?
For sure! I can work from open to close, but if I ever sit down, it’s hard to get warmed back up and going again. I can sure tell a difference between now and my earlier years. Good shoes are a lifesaver.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen a diner do at Gadwall’s?
Put Tabasco Sauce in his unsweetened tea.
Slightly related: What’s the weirdest item a customer has left at the restaurant?
Once a man left his prosthetic leg here. We were able to get it back to him. To be fair, he was in a wheelchair.
Switching gears a bit, when you dine at other restaurants, is it difficult or easy to turn your brain off and not be constantly judging other servers?
No judgment, but I sure want to get up and help them all!
What do you think is the key to providing great service?
Being very nice, understanding and attentive. I can have someone come in that seems very grumpy and I can have them smiling before they leave.
Gadwall’s is famous for its club sandwich. How many of them do you think you’ve served throughout the years? And is it your favorite sandwich on the menu?
Oh goodness! Thousands, I’m sure. Gadwall’s club was voted best sandwich in the state of Arkansas by People Magazine. Although I love the club, the corned beef Reuben is probably my favorite sandwich on our menu.
Finally, what is something about the restaurant that not many people know about?
We have served many celebrities such as Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Amy Lee of the rock group Evanescence, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason White, the touring guitarist for Green Day, just to name a few.