07 February 2018

"Dining with strangers"

The Star-Tribune carried a story this week about restaurants setting up "communal tables" where diners can sit with strangers.
Dropping their chilly, arm’s-length practices, complete strangers are now willingly sitting next to one another — and testing the boundaries of their well-guarded personal space — as they enjoy a meal.
With solo diners, couples and groups all gathering around mammoth tables and counters at restaurants across the metro area, Twin Citians seem to be catching up with the way the rest of the world dines.

“In California, it’s the norm,” said architect David Shea of Shea Inc. in Minneapolis, which designs restaurants all over the country. “Up and down the East Coast, too. In New York, it’s a given that we’ll include a social table. It’s all about socializing, about talking about the food you’re eating and the drinks you’re drinking. I’ve been pushing socialization as a part of dining for as long I’ve been at this, and that’s 40 years.”

This newfound acceptance is part of a larger trend, where dining out is becoming more and more casual.
I remember 50 years ago having dinner in Boston at Durgin-Park and being seated at an immensely long table with a checkered tablecloth with strangers next to me.  I hope that tradition continues there.  Can any readers confirm?

Photo credit anthony.souffle@startribune.com

10 comments:

  1. Ah...Durgin Park. My wife still talks about the time she sat across from Boston Pops conductor Arthur Feidler.

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  2. Yes, in the '62 to '64 era Durgin park was a trip. Asking strangers to pass the cornbread, or the butter. Tablecloths piled an inch deep to be whipped off layer by layer as the evening went on. Lined up down the block(actually down the warehouse under it) at 6 PM. Good times.

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    1. That's the same memory I have. '63-64 probably for my couple visits. And walking through a veggies-and-flowers street market I think, on the street from the MTA stop.

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  3. As I recall there were a couple MTA(now MBTA) stops within a block of Faneuil Hall.

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    1. IIRC, I used to change at Park for Haymerket, and walk from there.

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  4. Bea's Restaurant in Chattanooga, TN. You are seated at a large round table (with others usually...unless you're party takes up the whole table). Then food is loaded on the a carousel-like centerpiece. As it spins around, you take what you want, then spin it along, etc. I love the place! Some of the South's finest fried chicken (white meat only).

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    1. Sounds like a pleasant way to have dinner out.

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  5. There are a number of eateries in the South that serve “family style”. Sometimes you make a friend. Sometimes you talk with those you may never see again and enjoy good conversation.

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  6. I'm having a hard time imagining a worse dining experience. Maybe if we allowed smoking again?

    But then my ideal restaurant would have each table in its own room so you wouldn't have to watch or hear another diner.

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  7. There are tons of new/hip restaurants in San Francisco that offer communal style seating. I’ve yet to strike up conversation with anyone in this type of setting. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me that that would be the point of communal tables. (I always thought it was to save on space/furniture for the establishment. SF real estate is cray.) Maybe it’s because practically everyone eating at these types of places here are young, of similar ses, and often transplants (almost never natives). Or maybe it’s because I myself am an introvert and prefer not to strike up conversation with complete strangers at a time when my body is supposed to “rest and digest,” as interesting as it may sound.

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