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It takes a trick or two

By ASHLEE HARTWIG
DCN Correspondent

Snow sticking to their boot soles, a group of three middle-aged women passed through the front door of Sara’s Table, breathless and rosy cheeked from the strong afternoon wind. Anders Lundahls’ footsteps create dull squeaks across the wooden floor following their melting footprints.

“Can I grab all of you a cup of coffee, hot chocolate? I know how cold it is outside. I had to scrape off my windshield this morning,? Lundahl asks them, placing menus in front of them and opening the menu’s cover with pancake-flipping precision.

This is clearly something Lundahl has done before.
A waiter at Sara’s Table, located on East 8th Street and also known as the Chester Creek Café, Lundahl never stops flashing his high wattage smile and moves with a bouncing gait to match it. He knows a trick or two when it comes to serving his customers.

“Waiting on people is like any sport. You have to have strategy and you have to be in the right mindset, especially when it gets busy,? Lundahl says.

At the beginning of every shift, Lundahl wraps his uniform apron crisply around his waist, but is not satisfied until he runs the index and middle finger of both hands around the inside of the waistband from front to back. After that, he tightly rolls his shirtsleeves up to right above the elbow, revealing a small intertwining tattoo circling his left forearm.

“I get some good reactions sometime when they see it,? Lundahl said, referring to his tattoo. “I guess I don’t look like the tattoo type.?

Standing to the side of the kitchen’s entrance, Lundahl scans the dining area diligently, taking mental note of who needs refills, which tables want their checks, or anything else that means a customer is in need of their waiter. At the same time, he’s discussing the Vikings' upcoming football game with one of the cooks.

“I try to get a feel for the place before diving in,? Lundahl says. “If I see a lot of smiling and laughter, I‘m in for a good shift.?

That seems to be the feel today. Lundahl disappears stealthily into the kitchen and returns with a tray held at this shoulder, bearing steaming cups of coffee and bubbling glasses of soda pop in a variety of colors.

Without breaking stride, he makes the rounds to his designated tables, placing the correct drink before the appropriate customer.

“I remember who gets what drink by something they’re wearing,? Lundahl reveals. “Sometimes it's easy, like the Pepsi goes to the one in the pink sweater. I remember it by P and P. Or the guy is wearing a suit jacket, so I know he’s getting the Bell porter beer.?

The table seating the three women, uncertain about what to order, ask their waiter his opinion. Biting his lower lip, Lundahl tucks his tray under his arm and looks towards the ceiling, thinking hard.

“I’ll let you in on a secret, ladies,? he tells them in a low voice, leaning in close as if to reveal a secret. “There isn’t a dish I haven’t liked here, but my favorite dish here has got to be the Tempeh Sandwich.?

With a flash of his signature smile, the ladies are sold on his suggestion and Lundahl relays the order to the kitchen.

“It’s hard for me to say no when the waiter is good looking,? Debbie Hetland, one of the three women, said laughing with her friends after Lundahl had taken their menus.

“Customers like her make my day that much more interesting,? Lundahl laughed appreciatively as he runs a hand over the white bandana holding his curly hair out of his eyes. “If my looks will get them to come back, that’s okay by me.?