By Gia Miller

Photography by Justin Negard

Waiters/waitresses are the world’s oldest influencers – they tell us what to eat (and drink) whenever we dine out. And we often take their advice without watching hours of their videos to determine if they’re trustworthy. We sat down with some of our local influencers to get to know the folks who influence our choices.

Joe Vales
Server & bartender, 5 years
The Horse & Hound inn,
South Salem

Do you consider yourself an influencer?
Not in the slightest. The term influencer kind of lost meaning in the last couple of years. But I do influence people’s decisions about what they drink and eat – that’s really about it.

What is your number one rule when making recommendations?
I always see what they’re in the mood for. If someone comes in looking for salmon, and I recommend a burger or ribs, that’s probably not going to go so well.

Best recommendation you’ve ever made?
Recently, a customer was deciding between the burger or roast beef, and I recommended that he get the pulled pork instead. He was blown away by how good it was.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened at this restaurant?
This restaurant is haunted! When I was a middle school (his parents own the restaurant), these “ghost people” came and determined that we have a ghost named Abigail who is eight or nine years old. I’ve had a few experiences with her.

Back in July of 2021 around 11:30 at night, we were at the bar and all the glasses behind me started shaking randomly. We knew it wasn’t due to the steam heat because it was the middle of the summer, so the boilers were turned off. We have no idea why it happened.

Another example was during service one evening. I didn’t see it, but I heard it. Two of our servers were in the back waiting for food to come up. There was a glass sitting on a shelf, and it just jumped off onto the ground – it didn’t shatter or break. It was as though someone lifted it up and placed it on the ground. They both saw it happen.

What’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened at this restaurant?
Recently, a couple who got married here 50 years ago came back for their 50th wedding anniversary. And another couple got engaged here in November 2021, and they had their wedding party here in April 2022.

What’s your favorite dish?
The pulled pork sandwich. We make our own barbecue sauce in-house – it’s the reason we have Guinness on tap. It’s just so good. We slow-cook the pork so just melts in your mouth.

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Justin is an award-winning designer and photographer. He was the owner and creative director at Future Boy Design, producing work for clients such as National Parks Service, Vintage Cinemas, The Tarrytown Music Hall, and others. His work has appeared in Bloomberg TV, South by Southwest (SXSW), Edible Magazine, Westchester Magazine, Refinery 29, the Art Directors Club, AIGA and more.

Justin is a two-time winner of the International Design Awards, American Photography and Latin America Fotografia. Vice News has called Justin Negard as “one of the best artists working today.”

He is the author of two books, On Design, which discusses principles and the business of design, and Bogotà which is a photographic journey through the Colombian capital.

Additionally, Justin has served as Creative Director at CityMouse Inc., an NYC-based design firm which provides accessible design for people with disabilities, and has been awarded by the City of New York, MIT Media Lab and South By Southwest.

He lives in Katonah with his wonderfully patient wife, son and daughter.