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Food & Drink

Know Your ’Tender: Friendly Spot’s Junaid Syed

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Junaid Syed (right) with co-worker Mel Ramos holding down the Friendly fort


What was SA’s hook?
I don’t know what it is about the Mexican culture. I’m Indian … my parents are from India. I grew up in a very strict Muslim household … no one in my family drinks now! I grew up very different from most people in the city. Maybe that’s why I appreciate it. I used to pray five times a day, go to the mosque; I used to be a Sunday school teacher in high school.

How did you get into beer?
Just drinking it. I tell new employees that come here—they are overwhelmed, much like customers—but the only way they’re going to understand is by drinking it. There’s a certain process about it where you’re thinking about the texture and effervescence, in terms of flavor. It’s not just beer. It’s a whole experience.

What’s the most frustrating question you get at the bar?
‘What’s good?’ I don’t think people ask it to be frustrating, they just ask it because they don’t’ know. But when you ask someone like me who drinks a wide variety of beer, it’s hard for me not to sound snarky when I say, ‘well, everything’s good.’ That’s something I struggle with a little bit and I know the rest of the staff does, too.

How do you recommend a beer?
You try to describe several flavor profiles and find what appeals to the customer. You ask if they want something dark or light, something aggressive or easy drinking … something bitter or something hoppy. All those descriptors I just used also apply to beers. It all depends on what you’re used to and what you’re in the mood for. That’s what I try to extract out of them.

What’s your beer of choice?
I don’t know what happened, or how it happened, but I became addicted to hoppy beers. Before I started working here, if I was drinking a good beer it would be a Blue Moon or a Stella. Now, I almost equate [them] with Bud Light and Dos Equis. People that worked here used to drink IPAs and my palate grew accustomed to them. Now it’s an insatiable desire.

9:00 pm, February 23, 2014: We have removed a question about a sensitive family topic at the request of Junaid Syed.

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