As someone averse to planning for upcoming events (It’s our anniversary? Today?) I often find myself at the host stand of fine dining establishments at 8:00 pm on a Saturday night with a big smile and no reservation. But if I spot a couple of empty stools at the bar, the night is saved. Don’t cry for me Argentinian steakhouse.
Here are three reasons why you’ll have a better time at the bar than those prissy planners in the corner booth.
- Better service. Marooned at a table, your waiter drifts in and out of your orbit at will. Their will, not yours. If you don’t want to send up a flare for a glass of water or wedge of lemon, you just need to wait until “Lance” is done chatting up the pastry chef in the kitchen. At the bar, your server is rarely more than a few feet from your needy gaze, trapped in a holding pen lined with bottles of booze.
- Better Conversation. With the ambient noise at popular restaurants reaching the levels of a formula one race, the distance between you and your dining partner across the table can seem yawning. And that’s what you’ll be doing after giving up on shouting your conversation amid the din. Side by side at the bar, you can be heard with a whisper. And if the idea is to get closer, well there you are.
- Better Company. This isn’t such a great feature if you’re observing the aforementioned wedding anniversary, but if you’re alone or with a casual friend, the proximity of strangers can be a plus. Bar eaters are a tribe of kindred culinary cousins for whom dining is a social ritual. Long before ‘community tables’ the size of a landing strip started appearing in restaurant dining rooms, bar eaters were making friends, exchanging phone numbers and (gasp) trading bites of bacalao for tastes of trout. Try doing that with people at another table and you’ll make an impression, not in a good way. And if you’re the only one at the counter, there’s always the bartender to talk to. And they’re a captive audience.