We went out to dinner the other night without a reservation. I was willing to wait an hour and a half for a table even though there were seats at the bar, because I didn't want to feel rushed. My husband disagreed—he's always trying to convince me the bar is better. Why?—Angela
Who the hell waits an hour and a half for a table when in that hour and a half you could be eating at the bar? It's a personal preference, bar or table, but you're wrong and should get over it. I understand that when spending a good chunk of change, you want to feel taken care of, and having your very own table feels more special than a barstool. Maybe you like your own space and don't want to sit next to anyone. That's why I hate the communal-table trend, but a bar is different. At a bar, it's accepted if you want to be left alone—and I believe you can receive a restaurant's best service sitting at the bar. At a table, you are no longer necessarily in control. You are at the whim of your server and a finite set of variables. If you have an experienced, empathetic server, she will read you and figure out if you're eating or dining (there's a difference), and adjust speed and service accordingly. Of course, you can always make it clear to the server that you don't want to be rushed and order one thing at a time, but this behavior at a table will most likely cost you goodwill, unfair as such treatment may be. The bartender, on the other hand, is at your whim, and appreciative of hungry bar customers because drinks plus food is better than just drinks. You offer the promise of more money per barstool, as well as good, lingering company. In addition, the bartender has more to offer you. Say your server has seven tables. Even spending as much time as possible with you and staying on top of your every need, he has at least 25 people to manage. That's a lot of trips to the bar for drinks, busing of tables, and running of food. The amount of time a server spends at your table is nowhere near what a bartender spends, remaining front and center for much of your dining experience. If a bartender has a few moments to spare, she's right there, leaving extra time to pour you more wine, make sure your space is tidy, or kibitz about current events, should you welcome the interplay. If you're curious about food and enjoy adult beverages, you're also likely to get a taste or two of any cocktails or beers that pique your interest. But it's not about the freebies. The table is a finite experience; the few variables and inputs lead to mostly predictable outcomes. The bar, however, is as communal and interesting as you want it to be, without the forced intimacy communal tables foist upon us. The equation's intriguing unknowns—bartender, customers, random extras—are infinite, and therefore your experience has more potential for standing out and exceeding expectations. So that, Angela, is why you are wrong, both psychologically and mathematically. Got a question for the bartender? Send your boozy plea to firstname.lastname@example.org.