By Ainsley Maloney
Photography by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
The timing could not have been more perfect. One random Friday three years ago, Meg Kyle was strolling up and down Main Street looking for open server positions. She’d just left her job at a catering company and was hoping to find a new waitressing gig in Manayunk. No luck.
Then, she passed a tiny cafe near the Manayunk Bridge called Greg’s Kitchen and, despite not seeing a “Help Wanted” sign, she popped in and asked if they were looking for help.
“Actually, yeah!” owner, Greg Gillin, replied, not believing his luck. His head server was on her next-to-last day and he had no backup plan.
Greg asked Meg to come back the next morning, and after a quick exchange of sarcastic banter, hired her on the spot. Meg trained with the server on her final day, and she’s worked full-time at Greg’s Kitchen ever since.
Meg, now 23, said she fell in love with the “super cute, super intimate” breakfast cafe, located near the corner of Main Street and Green Lane.
“I call her the ‘Real Boss,’” Greg said. While he’s behind the counter cooking, he trusts she’s out front running everything smoothly.
“She’s a real take-charge kind of person,” Greg said. “I have enough on my plate; she takes the reins on things so I don’t have to.”
As the restaurant has grown in popularity, Meg has recommended four new hires (Meg’s sister, friends, and friends of friends). She’s pitched better ways to organize the cafe — which Greg said can be a juggling match, given its size — to enhance the flow of customer traffic.
“Meg has that personality of, ‘We [the servers] are the ones who work on this side of the shop so this is how it should be,’” Greg said. “She knows I trust her. She always wants to find ways to make this place better. As long as it makes sense, I’m usually like, ‘OK cool, let’s do it!’”
It’s this casual, laid-back atmosphere Meg loves most about working at Greg’s Kitchen.
“Greg lets us be ourselves,” she said. “We’re always joking with each other. It’s very casual, fun. Also, the menu is extremely adjustable, which I appreciate. There’s not a single thing we can’t do, which is pretty cool.”
When guests come in, she recommends they start with the specials or Robin’s sticker menu items, designating customer favorites. Her favorite special is the Sloppy Brekky.
“I’d say 98 percent of the people I encounter at Greg’s are pretty cool,” Meg said. “There are about 10 groups that come in regularly, and they’re just awesome. They know what’s going on in my life, I know what’s going on in theirs. We check up on each other. It’s casual, so you can banter with people, joke around, while still showing them respect. And they give it back to you 98 percent of the time.”
What’s with the 98 percent, Meg? Laughing, she explained that the other two percent happens when you take a very tiny, very popular breakfast cafe and mix in a bunch of hangry customers who just discovered there’s a one-hour wait. And on weekends, there’s always a wait.
“I liken Meg to an Air Traffic Controller,” Greg said. “She deals with the customers extremely well. She tells them not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear to keep the flow in and out running smoothly.”
When there’s a wait, Meg jots down a patron’s phone number to text when their table’s ready. Then, she switches hats from server to concierge. Reading the group’s mood, she’ll recommend ways they can explore the neighborhood in the meantime.
“I’ll tell them they can hang out next door in the comic book shop, Johnny Destructo’s Hero Complex, or across the street in SMoKE,” she said. “If it’s a longer wait, I’ll suggest they go to Volo [Coffeehouse] for coffee, or walk the Manayunk Bridge, which is a really cool way to see all of Main Street at one time. Or I’ll suggest that they shop in some of the cute stores like Millay or The Little Apple. There’s so much to do in Manayunk!”
If, on the other hand, Meg gets the vibe the customer doesn’t want to wait at all, she works her magic to ensure they still walk away from Greg’s Kitchen happy.
“I can tell when a customer wants breakfast right now,” she said. “So I tell them, ‘OK, this isn’t the place for you. There are other awesome brunch places right down the street — Lucky’s [Last Chance] and Taqueria Feliz — that have great food, are very friendly, and are reasonably priced. You should go there.”
Greg appreciates her straightforward approach. A happy customer is a returning customer, even if Greg doesn’t get their business that day.
“Meg is a very get-to-the point person,” Greg siad. “And I think our customers really appreciate that.”
Meg loves that she can walk 15 minutes to work down the quiet, peaceful towpath every day. She recently started a small floral business, Shadow Garden, on the side, but she plans to stay at Greg’s Kitchen for as long as he’ll keep her.
“The best part of working here is definitely the people,” she said. “The weekends are always a bit of a juggling game, but I never do it alone, thanks to my co-workers who are all my good friends. Since working as a florist, a lot of my responsibilities have shifted to Kristine, who is truly one of the nicest people I know. Then there’s Greg. He’s a super fun dude, and my regulars who, when I see, I actually get excited. I just so appreciate everyone that comes in.”