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Would you eat at a communal table with people you don't know?

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It's a tough sell round these parts. At the restaurant where I work, we were hoping to have Sunday suppers communally but, for the reasons noted above, I think, the communal part never really took off.


Chris Amirault

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It certainly depends on the situation. Often, at lunch in an Asian restaurant, there are communal tables and I have no problem sitting at a large, round table with 3 or 4 other deuces or a bigger party and just me. I pull out something to read, and I'm fine with that.

At dinner, if I'm already with 3 others, I want my own table. Those are the people that I want to talk with.

And when I'm just with my wife, I like to be able to spend that time with just her.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I like the idea in theory, but in practice, it hasn't been too good for me.

I've sat at communal tables and been ignored, which felt pretty terrible. I'm not sure why other people sit at communal tables if they don't want to commune.

Then again, I've sat at communal tables (usually mandatory at dim sum) where I had to hold my hand over my eyes to keep from viewing the horrors of chicken feet disappearing in undainty ways into other people's maws.

My experience with communal anything has been better in Europe as was stated upthread.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Well for me, it will depend on who I am with. If its just a friend or an office mate, then I think it's okay for me to eat at a communal table. So if ever I'm with my special someone, I always want it to be romantic and prefer to be with just her in the table.

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it's so rare that we get to go out for dinner - usually once a year or so for my wife's birthday and maybe a handful of other times, that I'd change restaurants if I had to sit with some strangers, no matter how interesting they may be. I don't even like it if my table is so close to others that I can hear every word they're saying. I want my space and enjoy a dinner for two, not make friends or listen to somebody else yacking away :laugh:

Eventually the kids will be old enough so we can leave them at home alone, then we can go out a bit more often, but in general I very much prefer to cook myself instead of having to get dressed up and drive around. The restaurants I would LOVE to visit, those I can only afford on rare occasions :cool:

I do remember one time where a communal table was fun, a small very old restaurant in a back alley somewhere in Florence, parma hams hanging from the ceiling, no label house wine bottles scattered around the ONE long table, bread and other things and no menu to pick from, you only could say no to courses you might not want to eat, but other than that it was same menu for everyone. I don't speak Italian, but it was still a fun experience. Sadly I can't remember the name of the place, nor it's location. It would be worth a trip to Italy all by itself :-)


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

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Noriega's in Bakersfield has always served it up family style. Customers could have a drink at the front while waiting for the doors to open up to the dining room in back. You paid as you went in, took your seat at the long table next to someone you more than likely would never see again, and passed the dishes to each other.

The Original Pantry in Los Angeles used to have a community table. I remember sitting at it one time with my dad to have breakfast.

It's been awhile since I've been to both.

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Probably not. I tend to lean towards the hermit side under the best of circumstances. A bunch of people I don't know isn't the best of circumstances.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Sure, why not? Maybe not if it were all restaurants, all the time, but for some/most meals, sure.

Had a lovely experience at a communal table on a riverboat in China.

Talking about the other diners wasnt an option since I only had two words of the language. ;)


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I've had some great meals served at communal tables.

Perhaps my favorite memory is eating at Cantler's just outside of Annapolis in the 1970's. The place was a warehouse-like building out in the woods (but on the water, it has its own dock so you can arrive by boat if you'd like) that had three rows of wooden picnic tables pushed together making three long communal tables -all covered in newspaper. You ordered at a little counter and got crabs by the dozen handed to you in the shallow cardboard boxes that hold 4 six-packs of soda. You could get cold soda in cans, and that was about it. Rolls of paper towels were provided along with mallets when you got your crabs.

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I don't mind communal tables, and certainly in Chinese places, it's not uncommon to stick multiple small groups at one big table if that's what's available. Sometimes this works out better than others, but it's not usually that uncomfortable.

However, recently, I did have a somewhat awkward experience. I was grabbing a bite at a trendy "mac and cheese" restaurant in Oakland, and the staff asked if they could seat me with another single diner. Since I was in a hurry and the place was mobbed, I decided to go for it. I was seated with the other party directly facing each other at a two-top. Even knowing that going in, it was a bit more awkward than I had bargained for, and I hadn't brought any reading material either. We made a little bit of conversation, but overall, it was a super weird experience.

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Communal table - somebody commented that they are more common in casual places, and I agree. The tables that attracted me were more than just double-sided singles counters...they were a main feature of the restaurant. That is, the table itself was beautiful and unusual, a huge cut from a log with minimal finishing around the edges. I think it's best when edges are shaped so that people on opposite sides are not staring each other in the eyeballs - curves that require seating to be at a slight angle deflect the gaze of the person opposite you very easily.

Objects in the center of the table can be of varying heights - a bowl of stones, for example, invites comment without blocking people off from one another, while flowers, plants, screens offer more privacy. At a casual place, I'd like to be able to choose either option.

...and to be honest, a power point and hotspot would go down well too! Maybe even a pinpoint reading lamp for the intrepid dining reader in gloomy evening restaurants!

Regards

Helen H


Edited by helenjp (log)

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When I go out for dinner, it's with people I know and I usually do not like communal tables. However, it also depends on the occasion, the people I'm with and the 'other' people.

If I'm with my boyfriend, I never do this communal table thing. If I'm with these 2 girls I'm really good friends with, then definitely a YES. We backpacked when we were younger and communal tables tend to be the norm. In general though, if I'm having dinner in a nice-ish place, I want to eat with my partner(s) and definitely do not want our conversation heard or to hear anyone else's conversation...


Nyonya in The Netherlands

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I think I would have to be in a particular mood to seek that out, and that is rare indeed. I much prefer privacy and quiet conversation. My wife, otoh, is quite gregarious and likes this kind of thing. To be quite honest, I find way, way too many people eat with their mouths open and have poor table manners in general. It just kind of pisses me off so it's best for me to avoid it.


There are 3 kinds of people in this world, those who are good at math and those who aren't.

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Talking about other people aside haha. Communal tables are AWESOME. It really gives a sense of community and a pursuit almost, as you are all sharing the same experience. Theres a pizza place here in Atlanta, called Antico which has communal style dining and the experience of meeting new people over great food is amazing.

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Most of the time when we're in the mood for that kind of interaction, we sit at the bar to eat. But, if a communal table is available and we're in the mood, we're fine with it. There are plenty of good places in NYC where communal tables can be enjoyable and, when it's not, we know how to shut off our interactions. Given how close together some places put individual tables, you might as well be dining communally anyway.

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The only experiences I've had with them are at various high end safari resorts and "camps" in Africa. Felt a little strange at first but ended up enjoying them immensely.


Edited by Twyst (log)

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Some communcl tables (Co in NY) are unfriendly and too wide and too loud, you are closer to strangers than to your friends. But we recently had a great meal at Graffiti in the east village, and the other couple at our table were as fascinating and enjoyable as the food. Can't wait to go back for the food, happy to eat with others who enjoy it.

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