Drink insider invites you behind the bar to get to know some of Little Rock’s biggest names in brewing, distilling, and bartending. We ask all the awkward questions you were always afraid to ask your favorite drink maker. This time up, we chat with Kathy Jordan of Baja Grill.
Where are you from?
I’m from Sherwood – that’s where I graduated from High School. I’ve lived over in Hillcrest area for forever. I started waiting tables, I was a birthday hostess at Showbiz Pizza Place, in North Little Rock when I was 15. I was Chuckee Cheese, I have the VHS tape to prove it. After that, it’s kind of what I feel into, I didn’t think it was going to be what I was going to be when I grew up. But I love it.
Do you like being in the Heights?
I love this place it’s so pretty, you’ve got foot traffic, places to eat, and these homes right here – it’s very cozy. There’s a lot of regulars who come in here – at first I’ll know them by their drink, but then I’ll get to know them by their name. The people in this neighborhood are awesome, and so is the owner – Craig Roe. With Craig, what you see is what you get. He goes around introducing himself to the tables – he genuinely cares about the experience. He’s a great guy to work for, for sure.
When did you get behind the bar?
I worked at PIzza D for 18 years, so that’s when I learned how to bartend. It was very hands-on. I’ve learned a lot here because Craig has a lot of speciality drinks and signature drinks on the menu. As far as any real training, it was just all on the job.
What’s your favorite part of being a bartender?
It’s fun, I used to actually be shy. This career has totally taken that away. I’m making up for lost time. Pizza D was half my life … I’ve been at Baja Grill for about a year and a half now.
What’s your official title with Baja?
Bartender or sixth man. I’ve had several people ask me if I’m the owner, and my response is usually, “Is that because I’m the oldest one here, is that why you’re asking?” I just bartend.
What is your mindset for being behind the bar?
I have a motto – nothing but burritos and broken dreams. My objective is for every customer to leave happy with the intention to come back. The food speaks for itself, it’s very consistent, very good, and very fresh.
What about the drinks at Baja?
Craig gives us the recipes he wants us to follow. He keeps it consistent. All of our drinks start with a standard two ounce pour. You’re getting your money’s worth. They are good. We use fresh squeeze lime and lemon juice and house margaritas. … Pyea, the nighttime bartender, her first bartending job, she’s very creative. I’m not so much creative, I’m just goofy.
What’s your favorite part of working at Baja?
It’s the atmosphere. It’s a really good atmosphere. They trust me to let me be me. They let me have my big personality. It’s great – the food is always consistent, and the food is delicious. All these kids that work here – there’s such an age gap – those kids are just so endearing. They’re very mature for their age, and very sweet. I’ve never seen a restaurant where the front of the house and the back of the house has gotten along so well. Everybody here generally looks out for each other … you don’t see that everyday.
Where do you eat when you go out?
Cantina Laredo, a lot of their staff comes in here regularly, so we try to go there once or twice a week. I also love El Palenque. Don’t tell anybody – I want to keep it kind of a secret. I don’t cook – so I eat out alot.
What about drink-wise?
I hang out with the team here a lot, and it’s random when we go out. If we’re going to a dive bar, I’d probably go to the Town Pump, or maybe Midtown, … but if I’m going out for a drink by myself I probably will go to Pizza D because it’s nearby. Any place that I go to drink, I prefer that they have a TV, because I’m a big sports fanatic.
What do you think about our local scene?
There’s so many new restaurants – and I like that there are a lot of local restaurants. I prefer that, of course. … I like Big Orange, and then I like Pantry Crest for drinks. They have some great stuff going on. I do like that a lot more places are doing late night happy hours – and a lot of people are now including food discounts with that as well. … It seems to be up and coming – more people are jumping on it. They call it reverse happy hour. I do like that there are a lot more places offering food up till midnight now – used to – when I worked nights I would get off at eleven o’clock and there weren’t options.
What do you do with your free time?
I’m a nerd. So I’m playing fantasy football right now. We live in a beautiful state – there’s so much to do outdoors. … But honestly, I don’t really do anything, because I spend so much energy up here working and talking to people all day, so when I go home I decompress. If I do something, everybody comes over to my front porch and we sit and hang out.