Manners at Restaurants

I found this gorgeous moment on a Parisian street photography blog and I can't get enough.  I love the images so much it's all I can do not to buy a one-way ticket to France right this very moment.

If you are a New Yorker and your apartment is 1000 square feet or larger, you are either rich or lucky.  And for that reason many, many people find themselves spending their evenings in restaurants rather than around the dining room tables of their own homes (a dining room table in this city can well be considered an 'amenity').  But restaurant manners in this town can be tricky.  First of all, cool restaurants are so busy that many of them don't prioritize good service.  And second of all, even when the service is spot-on, diners often act a little prickly because they are anticipating bad service.

But a good restaurant experience, especially in your own neighborhood, can make a city feel like home.  (Hi, Lafayette!!)  And achieving that great experience is a two-way street.

- Greet your restaurant hostess graciously.  Look her in the eye and smile.  Even if your friends are texting "in a cab! be there in 5!", leave their message unanswered while you say hello or good evening.

- Traditionally, restaurant reservations are made under a husband's last name, if there's a husband involved.  Otherwise (or if you have a significantly less complicated last name than your other half, *ahem*), feel free to use your own name.  But pay yourself some respect and use your first and last name.

- Restaurants: accommodate your guests.  When I was eight months pregnant during a triple digit heat wave, I was appalled to be told that I could not take a seat in an empty restaurant and instructed to stand in the bar area for fifteen minutes until the restaurant began serving dinner.  I did not expect to be served until the shift had changed, and I would have been gracious and accommodating to any server who needed to set the table, etc.  But I thought it was totally out of touch to ask any guest - much less a hugely pregnant one - to stand when they could otherwise be seated in a way that did not impose on the restaurant's staff.

- When a server approaches your table, acknowledge the server and allow him to his job.  It's frustrating and embarassing for a waiter to stand by unnoticed.

- Unless you are acquainted with a staff of a restaurant, keep conversations with your waiter kind and respectful, but brief.  Unless you are dining alone, you are there to enjoy the company of your companions.  And if you're dining alone, perhaps you're there to enjoy the company of a good book.  

- If you are a picky eater, that's fine.  It's true, you are paying for your meal.  However, if you make a littany of impossible, off-the-menu requests and your order is not delivered the way you imagined it, keep it to yourself.  The restaurant was kind for attempting to accommodate you.  (I once watched a woman in a baseball cap at a chic restaurant demand that her oatmeal be delivered with cold fruit.  She was desperate to explain that she needed cold fruit on the side in addition to the warm fruit that was a part of the dish.  She was barely keeping it together when the oatmeal was delivered without cold bananas.  This woman looked silly to everyone who overheard her and her waiter is a hero for tolerating her hysterics.)

- Do not criticize a waiter within his earshot.  It isn't kind.  If something is egregious respectfully ask for a manager, preferably at the end of a meal.

- If the service is smashing, leave a 20% tip and ask for the manager at the end of the meal to compliment your server and the establishment for the fine service.

- Be mindful of your use of electronics at nice restaurants.  If it's a chic place, a laptop is almost certainly out of place after dark and may be during daylight hours as well.  As a matter of respect to your guests, your cellphone should never be out during meals.  And please, for the love of God, keep it off the table.  If you are expecting a call from the babysitter or you have a deal that is about to sign or close, keep your phone in your lap and warn your companions that you may need to step away from the table.  Otherwise, don't conduct business during mealtimes with friends or family.  You do the entire working population a favor by educating your employer that the occasional two hour window is sacred.  (You do yourself a favor, too.)

Peter and I are checking out Narcissa this weekend at the East Village Standard with our pals Kendall and Wilson.  I've heard wonderful things.  Will report back!


Another Yanidel shot

Narcissa - I love a place with a real candle. (I also love that when I google 'Narcissa', the first result is Narcissa Malfoy.)