Phyllis Brienza, a waitress at Manhattan’s Bun & Burger since the day it opened on Oct. 26, 1970, became famous for a unique gift — she had “such an extraordinary memory for the niceties of appetite that regular clients do not have to speak their wishes aloud,” reported Israel Shenker in the New York Times in 1975.
She recognized a customer in a Nehru jacket as “medium with half a bun and French.” A man in a raincoat was a “well,” a well-done hamburger.
“If you order it once one way, that’ll stick in my mind,” she said. “When someone new comes in, I think to myself, ‘That’s a medium,’ or ‘that’s a rare.’ Sometimes they have this serious look and I think, ‘That must be a well.’ Usually I’m right.”
In 1974 she received a Christmas card from a customer whom she remembered at once. It was signed “Medium rare, pressed.”