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sethd

Restaurant Dress Codes and Attire

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To me it seems much more a question of behavior than of the actual dress. In all the times I have gone to EMP I have dressed in jeans and sport coat and never felt out of place. Also, at EMP I have felt the other diners around me (whether they were dressed formally or not) never interfered or negatively affected my dining experience. To contrast this with one of my experiences at Le Bernardin where a very formally dressed woman ruined my dining experience by talking so loud about her baby's stinky feet (among other things) that she drowned our captain explaining the dishes we were being presented. My conclusion from both of these experiences is it's not necessarily about the dress code, but about how people feel they can act in a specific type of restaurant.

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I really don't think that either EMP or Le B encourages their patrons to have loud conversations that disrupt the dining experiences around them. I'm sure that a simple heads up to your servers could have easily ended that problem. Or a quiet word with the disruptive patron. I think it's a bit absurd to suggest that there's a difference in "how people feel they can act" at EMP versus Le Bernardin. There's clearly a difference in how people feel they can dress, though it seems clear that the level of formality does not dictate appropriateness or attractiveness in all cases.

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I just called EMP and asked what the restaurant's dress code is: The reservationist responded that the restaurant does NOT have a stated dress code but most of the men wear jackets. A policy that is different from that of the other four star French restaurants in New York.

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ETA -- I hate to make work for management, but maybe an Administrator could take this interesting discussion and make it a thread on the "General Restaurant" board. It might not really belong in a thread about this particular restaurant.

I took the liberty of creating a thread where I tried to pose the various questions I see cropping up in the posts above that aren't specific to EMP.


True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Most men wear a jacket or a suit, but they are ok with the more casually dressed. On my one visit there in Jan we were just in NY for the weekend and I was just smart casual. We didn't get the best table (in the asian food blogger section :-)), but service and food was all top notch and no snootiness about dress at all. Cheers, Harry

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It seems that we are living in a much less formal age when it comes to the attire of customers in fine dining establishments today. Recently, the discussions in the Eleven Madison Park topic focused in on this issue of whether or not a certain level of dress is appropriate when one is dining in a high-end restaurant. Should the apparel of the customers meet the expectations of the sophisticated food on the plate seems to be the question. (There is another topic that was inspired by the Eleven Madison Park discussions, “Rating a Restaurant, What criteria are fair game?” here. )

I’m a product of a generation where fine-dining restaurants regularly posted dress codes, yet somewhere in the past 25 years or so, it seems the culture has moved to one where men can comfortably wear dockers and a golf shirt while dining on caviar and foie gras served by Waiters wearing expensive Armani suits.

The previous posts speak to this issue as it relates to Eleven Madison Park, but it’s a separate topic that is ripe for discussion on its own.

Are the restaurant dress codes of the past appropriate today and secondly, should customers feel compelled to “dress-up” when they are patrons in a fine dining restaurant?

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Are the restaurant dress codes of the past appropriate today and secondly, should customers feel compelled to “dress-up” when they are patrons in a fine dining restaurant?

If the policy is in place and enforced unilaterally, then certainly: a customer should *feel* compelled because they *are* compelled, if they choose to dine in said establishment. That being the key, there: "if they choose to dine". It's very much a choice, and a restaurant of any caliber, in my opinion, is allowed to set standards for what is or isn't allowed in their restaurant, so long as they're keeping within the law. That's another entirely horrible mess though, now isn't it? "Discrimination" is such a vague, knee-jerk buzzword in American culture, and there are just so many stupid lawyers willing to take on *any* case of supposed "discrimination" against any given establishment, that having any such policy in place can be asking for a world of hurt in the form of never-ending litigation. Believe me: I live in the Detroit area, and never has there been any greater a place for "discrimination" to be used in place of "I don't like this, and therefore what you're doing is illegal".

That's a rather huge kettle of fish, that, so I'll just leave it there to boil.

More and more in this area, fine dining establishments don't care how customers come so much as that they do come at all. Many places around here have restructured their menus to be more affordable, including many prix fixe menus at affordable prices to lure diners in...any diner at all. Honestly: do you expect them to turn away those who are cash-paying customers if they're not in jacket-and-tie? They're just happy to have warm bodies in the chairs, for heaven's sake. I can count on far less than one hand (and possibly no fingers at all) the number of establishments that would prohibit service to someone who was at least presentable, hygienic, and in their right/sober mind (and many times, not even that!).

Myself? If I'm making an evening out of a dining experience, yes: I want to dress up for it a bit, and if it's a destination restaurant, then it's suit-and-tie for me. I truly hate ties, and the jacket won't stay on all evening, but the tie will. I appreciate those who make a concerted effort to contribute to the experience by doing the same, but I'm far, far, far, far, far more bothered by those who don't know how to conduct themselves via loud/inappropriate conversation, bringing their too-youg children/devil-spawn-of-hell along, having their cell phones ring, conducting said phone conversations at the table, getting drunk, et cetera. I don't care if you dress the pig up in a jacket and tails...it's still a pig, and there's nothing "stuffy" or "high-nosed" about calling a spade a spade. Rude is rude.

I find it odd that one of the folks who condones strict dress in such venues felt it appropriate to be served at the bar in less than appropriate dress, though they weren't "doing them any favors". Being the black-and-white thinker that I tend to be, one can't have it both ways. It's all or nothing. I'm certainly not that entrenched in my dress policy (to me, what they did was okay by my standards), but when it comes to disruptive fellow diners, or staff, I'm not silent; first I speak up verbally, and then with my wallet.

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It is a pity there aren’t more like you in the UK. The dress standard just seems to go down and down over here. Open neck shirts and jeans even when their partners are dressed up. And if I comment about it on the forum it is just considered funny by many. Mind you we did have the staff's kids playing hide and seek under the paino once in a two Michelin star restaurant!


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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I find it odd that one of the folks who condones strict dress in such venues felt it appropriate to be served at the bar in less than appropriate dress, though they weren't "doing them any favors". Being the black-and-white thinker that I tend to be, one can't have it both ways. It's all or nothing. I'm certainly not that entrenched in my dress policy (to me, what they did was okay by my standards), but when it comes to disruptive fellow diners, or staff, I'm not silent; first I speak up verbally, and then with my wallet.

Just to be clear, I DIDN'T feel it was appropriate. I felt it was INappropriate. I did it anyway because I'm selfish.

But also, to be fair to myself, I guess I felt like it's up to the restaurant to decide what's appropriate for them. I didn't just plop myself down at the bar. I went to the maitre d' and asked if they'd permit me to eat at the bar despite what I considered my inappropriate dress. Frankly, the maitre d' responded like he didn't know what I was talking about.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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I see both sides of this issue, and am divided on it. For the most part, like the Dude in The Big Lebowski, I'm "a man in whom casualness runs deep" ... and side with Anthony Bourdain who feels the food had better be mind blowing if he'll be coerced into a noose just to get in the door. On the other hand, I appreciate the need for occasion. We don't have much of it anymore so it's nice to have something, once in a while, to rise to.

That actually might be the distinction: I like dressing up for a sense of occasion, but I'm repelled by any sense of stuffiness. I don't want to feel that the restaurant needs my jacket and tie to elevate it ... I want it to be so inspiring that I'll happily remember how to iron a collar and tie a tie.

The other diners? I'm less bothered by casualness than by slovenliness and repellent social habits, but those can't be fixed by a dress code. Of course I'm not thrilled by the woman in the sweat suit spilling out of her chair. But I'm not thrilled by her in my neighborhood bodega either. There is no dress code that can keep her in Jersey. Ultimately, if the food is amazing, I'm not going to pay attention to the other diners, whether they look like royalty or lepers.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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In the vein of this thread, I thought I would copy-and-paste my thoughts on my special occasion dining experience last weekend at Detroit's Restaurant Week:

Yes! My friend Donna and I went to Iridescence at the Motor City Casino hotel this past Saturday, and had a fantastic time. The food really was great, though the dessert was slightly less so than the roasted shrimp app and the salmon main. Trust me, though: the app was sheer A territory and the salmon was B+/A- territory. For $27 per person, we ate very, very well.

In addition, we tried a cucumber and ginger martini, which was quite different from what we were used to, and we greatly enjoyed it. Hit several different places on the tongue, which is always a plus to us. At $10, we split that, so we were about $80 out the door with tax and tip.

Service was very good, and the First Asst. Manager, Sharon, was a true joy to speak with. Very personable, friendly, and food-knowledgable. Our server, Moisi, did a fine job himself. They serve only bottled Mountain Valley Spring Water (no tap here), and my glass never emptied, to my knowledge.

The room has a *FANTASTIC* view of the Detroit River, the Ambassador Bridge, Windsor, and the Ren Cen. When darkness came, the view was far more enjoyable, too. The room itself is very nice, and I enjoyed myself immensely, as did my friend Donna.

The only caveat is that they did lose my reservation, which surprised me, since they had to call me back and confirm it. Weird, that, but it didn't matter: we were seated quickly, and got the window seats we'd hoped for. Fortunately, most were dressed as we were: to the nines, and there were very few casino casual-wearing idiots...but there were some. Still, didn't take away from the place at all.

*Highly* recommended.

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I think the issue of dress code is really that people seem to have absolutely no standards for appropriateness if you don't give them very clear and firm direction. For men, that generally means a jacket. Could a guy look dapper and well put together in the right pair of jeans and a button down or the right slacks with a sweater? Of course, but most men will look schlubby and messy. Women get more leeway, but appropriateness is certainly an issue. Can jeans work with a nice top? Sure, but I really don't need to see three inches of your stomach/hip/whatever that area is called. It seems like the more casual Americans are, the less that they're capable of looking put together. That's why Europeans can manage the L'Arpege dress code, but NYers as a whole (and the rest of the US is far worse) can't do it. Stylish and foodie are hardly terms that go together...

I must whole heartedly agree, I think as generalizations go, Americans are sloppy dressers. Not sure why, but we are. My wife and I had taken a trip to northern Spain (my first trip abroad)we had to call quite a few restaurants to ask about a dress code, since no 'rules' were offered on the websites. Both of us were prepared with NYC formal attire, three suitcases full of suits and evening dresses (well, not for me.We ate at no less than 25 restaurants in 2 weeks, everywhere from local pinchos joints to the likes of Mugaritz, Cinq and other Michellin Stars. Our first dinner was at Martin Beresategui's, and we were both dressed to the 9's, upon sitting, we were shocked, confused, and a bit uncomfortable(but not for long) that we were the only couple in 'formal' garb. Most men sporting dress slacks and sweaters, or the more common combination of Jeans and a button down, even the two tables with kids (even more shocking). Women were well dressed but not as formal looking as our last trip to 'Per Se'. This trend continued througout our entire trip, ending with us returning home with a suitcase and a half of unworn attire. And not once did the lack of 3 piece suits and evening gowns dampen our dining experience.

My observations were that people in Spain, and from what I have been told most of Europe, just 'dress better'...all the time. We did tons of walking in San Sebastian, Madrid, Barcelona, etc... and the overwhelming population of men walks around town in dress shoes, slacks sweater and a nice coat, women mostly wore heels with dresses, overcoats and scarves. The only people that we saw in 'Americal Casual' were tourists, and stuck out like a sore thumb. My wife laughed one morning when I told her that I just saw a gentleman picking up yard waste in slacks, dress shoes and a button down. Later that evening (2 am ish) we saw three separate women walking their dogs in dreses makeup and heels.

It occurred to me that maybe Europeans seem (apologies in advance)to grow up knowing how to dress, something that American just seemingly missed the boat on. They don't need to be told when to dress up, because they always look sharp in public, Americans on the other hand need to be told, since, like so many other aspects of our society we don't know how to think/act for ourselves. Even though thought the dress in Fine dining is more casual, the dress in casual restaurants is much more sharp. I'm sure folks in Spain wear jogging suits and t-shirts, but they wouldn't show up at Cinq Sentits in it (they would be embarassed). Sorry for the digression, but I really do feel like Formal Dress does not = Fine Dining. However this only holds true when diners know how to present themselves in public, which may be a while here in the US.

Since our trip, I pay even more attention to what I wear on a daily basis :rolleyes:

Just my $0.02. :smile:


Edited by DessertsByDesign (log)

-CW

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Bluntly, I view having to dress up as a "tax" that affects whether or not I'll go to the restaurant.

If the restaurant is good enough, I'll wear a suit. But it had best be good enough.

And given an option, I'd much rather go to a restaurant that has casual dress and fine dining caliber food, than to one which also requires me to dig a jacket out of the closet.

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I don't know about other people, but my wardrobe isn't exactly bulging with slacks, jackets and blazers. Yes I have a few suits - I wear them for work and wouldn't really want to wear them out for a meal. If you are going somewhere decent then you should make a bit of effort - but as long as it's clean, vaguely smart and not showing too much flesh then it should be fine. You can where a jacket and tie and look incredibly scruffy (I work in IT - I know!) If some restaurants want to stick to dress codes then it's their business - they can appeal to more of a niche market (Not necessarily a bad idea business wise).


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I think all this "suit" stuff is a red herring.

I don't know of any restaurants that require suits. At most, they require jackets. It isn't that much work to throw on a sport coat.

As to the people who claim they don't have sport coats, I guess it's right that fine-dining places cater to a niche market that doesn't include them. I personally can't imagine being an adult (male) living in a city and not having sport coats as a substantial part of your wardrobe. But then again I'm part of the niche.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Very much part of a niche.

There are plenty of people out there with the inclination and funds to enjoy fine dining, who work in fields that don't require (or even commonly feature) a sport coat, much less a suit.

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One might argue that part of the inclination to fine dining should include the inclination to dress for it. But I suppose that gets at the crux of what this thread is about.

I'm not required to wear a sport jacket for my job, but I own a good number of them. I haven't been required to wear a suit for my job in over a decade, but I have several (and kind of think I need more). Seems to me these things are a critical part of anyone's wardrobe, and not just for "dining out". Don't people still (usually) wear suits, or at least sport jackets, to weddings?

Christopher

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It seems to me that one would organize one's wardrobe around one's interests, not one's interests around one's wardrobe. I have a bunch of sport coats because I like to do things -- theater, concerts, opera, high-end dining -- that in my view require them. It would seem strange to me to decline to do those things because I didn't have the appropriate clothes; I would just get the clothes.

But OTOH, it would seem lazy and solopsistic to me to say that I refuse to dress appropriately because I don't happen to have the appropriate clothes in my closet right now. Again, just get the clothes.

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Go for the food.

Not for the fashion.

If you want to play dress up, by all means, feel free. But don't expect me to conform to your societal expectations.

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The question is, Florida, whether it's "my" expectations, or whether it's the expectations of the place or generally accepted conventions.

If a restaurant itself has a dress requirement, it's hard to argue with their right to impose it on you.

If it's a generally accepted social convention to dress a certain way for a certain type of activity (and I'm not asserting it is here, just arguing that it might be), then I think it's selfish and self-centered to insist on your right to flaut that convention just because you don't like it or it's inconvenient for you to follow it. If anybody came to my wife's funeral in bright orange sweat pants, I'd have been pissed off. And I think I would have been justified.

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I'm curious, Florida, where do you draw the line (if anywhere at all)? Is it okay for someone to stumble into someplace where, oh gosh, they'll really appreciate the food, while wearing, say, flip-flops, grimy sweatpants, and a t-shirt with some lame obscenity emblazoned on it? Or are there some restaurants where you wouldn't necessarily expect to see that?

The notion of appropriateness seems to have died for many. Give a inch....

Christopher

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If your standard is "a generally accepted social convention to dress a certain way for a certain type of activity" then the theme of this thread would seem to indicate that those who are insisting on more formal attire are either in the wrong, or about to be.

Because it is clear that the general social convention continues to move to more casual dress for dining, even for fine dining.

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