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Aug 11, 2005 10:12 AM

Rant about dining at the bar

  • l

OK, I just need to get this off my chest.

The restaurant experience used to go like this:

-Show up, talk to host, if table is not ready, retire to bar and have a cocktail or glass of wine until talble is ready. Sometime even show up early specifically to have a drink beforehand. Eat dinner. Perhaps have an after dinner drink at the bar. How civilized.


Show up, talk to host, if table is not ready.. attempt to go to bar and get drink while being bashed into by people standing in the non-existant space by the fron door and get filthy comments and looks from the diners at the bar because asking for a drink is disturbing teir dinner . Retreat with drink to the two square feet between the bar and the door, attempt to not have your cocktail spilled all over you as the other sheep try and endure the time in the mosh pit until their table is ready.


Sorry.....just had to rant.

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  1. Better yet, give back cocktail lounges! This symbol of yesteryear high-living seems to be going extinct. About the only place you'll find one is attached to a restaurant that's still around after 50 years. I really miss that comfortable seating, dim lighting, and dolled-up cocktail waitresses.

    1 Reply
    1. I just posted this in the Babbo ? but wanted to post it where it belonged

      Well I think in part you have to blame chowhounds for the whole bar thing. The "advice" always given on this board is
      "do not worry if you do not have a reservation, show up at 6:00 to see if tables are open or show up anytime and just eat at the bar."

      Now I am all for bar dining when you are alone and do not feel like taking up a two top. In fact I did it a lot in my single days. Hell even a couple splitting a couple of apps is not that bad. But I have to admit this whole party of four for the bar attiutde is crap.

      It's just not at Babbo either the list could go on and on.

      TO me the whole dining at the bar experience is becoming like my college days when I am trying to order something along with 50 other people

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChrisZ

        the babbo post is what got me started. I or two eating at the bar is fine, but now it is the whole bar taken up by groups and couples, and it is, in my opinion, ruining the experience is many places. I don't demand a seat at the bar, but I would like to be somewhat comfortable while I am waiting for my table and not feel like I am intuding because I want to have a drink while I wait.

        But the attitude seems to be like (if you remember) Lilly tomlin on Laugh-in as the Telephone operator: "We're the phone company (insert Babbo, etc here)- we don't care - we don't have to"

      2. I get a kick out of the people who CHOOSE to eat in the bar, then complain about the smoke (about the only place you can light up inside most restaurants in my area), the noise/language from the other patrons/tv, or the slow service (many restaurants don't have enough servers in their bars to serve a full dinner and all that accompanies it).

        My favorite was a foursome that did all three. Back when i used to go to chain restaurants, my wife and i were sitting in the bar at chili's. There was a large group of college-age people there occupying most of the tables while watching some sport playoff/championship thingy. The bar itself was packed with us regulars. In walked two couples who go to the hostess for a table. She told them (we were close enough to hear everything) it would be a long wait. They discussed it, and decided to sit in the bar even though they didn't drink and didn't like those who did. They took the one table left. No more than 5 minutes passed before they asked to see the manager. He came over, and they complained about the smoke in the bar. He told them he couldn't do anything about it, but would be happy to get them a table in the non-smoking area (they refused because he wouldn't bump them to the head of the line). So they started loudly complaining about the smoke, and most people in the bar actually put their cigs out. The game on tv was going well, so the crowd was loud. These people complained to the manager again, this time about the noise and blue language the fans, in their increasing inebriety, were using (granted, not particularly appropriate for a restaurant, but this chili's is pretty sports-oriented, it was late in the evening, and near as i could tell there were no kids in earshot). He acquiesced and asked some of the rowdier ones to tone it down, they took it in stride (but this foursome was by now getting really dirty looks from most of the other patrons). These people got their food, and started noisely complaining about how long it took to get it and how cold it was (they were eating fajitas and the whole bar could see the smoke/steam coming from the food). The waitress came back, and they returned all the food. To their credit, the kitchen had fresh food out in mere minutes, with warnings that everything was VERY hot. One of the ditzes, having just been warned, reached out and grabbed the fajita pan, burned herself, then berated the waitress for serving dangerously hot food. Throughout all this they complained loudly to the air that they didn't like people drinking around them.

        At this point it was all the rest of us could take. The regulars at the bar caught the managers eye, he gave a nod. At least half a dozen people pulled out cigars and lit up, blowing the smoke towards this fourtop. The manager told the waitstaff to ignore the table, and he started serving them himself. They of course began complaining louder than ever, but the manager just grinned and ignored them. He walked back to the guys he told to quite down earlier and told them to enjoy themselves. A round of drinks magically appeared for all tables other than the problem one. He informed this table their meal had been comped. They quickly realized that tides had turned and prepared to leave. As they walked out, they were serenaded by a chorus of extremely inventive and loud profanity from the rest of us. I doubt they went back.

        At least three of us regulars contacted chili's corporate to tell them how well the manager and staff had handled these people (the staff really had been excruciatingly nice and over-accommodating until the end). We found out on a subsequent visit that the people had contacted chili's, but since corporate already had three contradictory testimonials on file, they just apologized and offered a few coupons (those of us who contacted chili's in the restaurants defense were also given coupons to make up for the bad experience these patrons had caused).

        9 Replies
          1. re: mark
            torta basilica

            Wish I'd been there...

              1. re: mark

                What a great story! Thank you

                1. re: mark

                  reminds me of one time I was in Bleeker Street bar (back when you could smoke...and it was one of the smokiest bars in town.. this woman comes in a complained about how loud the music was, how smoky it was, how loud people were laughing, ..she called it "carousing"...the noisy pool table noise from the back, and on and on.

                  Finally, the bartender looks at her and goes: "excuse me mam...BUT IT'S A F...ING BAR!!! What the .... were you expecting??? Finish your drink and leave, PLEASE"

                  The whole bar started clapping

                  1. re: ladeeda

                    Agreed!! Why go someplace where you know you will not be happy or when you arrive realize you will not be happy.

                    1. re: cbauer

                      I am often dragged by friends. I do not enjoy the bar experience and whole I don't complain, I am clearly not enjoying myself.

                  2. re: mark

                    Good story!

                    Yesterday I was at Wades in S'burg (very casual, family, meat and three joint) for lunch. Three sour-looking elderly people sat next to us and hadn't even ordered yet when they asked their teenaged server to tell a group 2 tables away to hold down the laughing. Waiter just says "no, sorry, I can't do that" and leaves to go get their tea. Talk about nipping it in the bud. (after that table left they turned the stink-eye on a baby seated close to them, but didn't try to have her ejected!)

                    1. re: danna

                      ya gotta wonder why some people go out at all.

                  3. t
                    torta basilica

                    I'm one of those sinners who love eating at the bar - and we do it because it is a lot more fun - I don't mind people ordering drinks over me & enjoy chatting with those around us whether they're eating or not. I do understand your point, but I think most people eat at the bar to be socialable & usually to get great service from a bartender happy for those dinner & drinks tips.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: torta basilica

                      Ditto. Several friends and I always eat at the bar, and we're also very helpful to those ordering drinks over our shoulders, passing them back, handing over credit cards/money, etc. Haven't had a problem. The places we frequent tend to have decent sized bars, and I've heard Babbo's is quite tiny, so perhaps that's partially the issue.

                      But I more often than not prefer the social atmosphere of bar dining at places I'm comfortable in. However, I will say the more upscale the place, the more I'd prefer dining in the proper dining room.

                      1. re: Linda W.
                        Janet from Richmond

                        I agree. After all, you and I have eaten dinner together at the bar on several occasions :-)

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          And DAMNED if we weren't sociable, too! :-)

                          1. re: Linda W.
                            Janet from Richmond

                            That we were :-)

                      2. re: torta basilica

                        That is the way it used to be (and still is at a lot of places), but at places like Babbo, it is a table first, a bar a distant, distant second.

                        I myself like to eat at the bar when I am alone or am having a drink and decide to grab a bite. Nothing wrong with it. A lot of people are like you: know it is a bar, too, and act accordingly.

                        But if it becomes a table, or if the eating at the bar takes over from the waiting/drinking as it has in a lot of places (with the restaurant's encouragement), then it sucks for the people who are forced to wait for a table. And a lot of the bar diners assume a table mentality.

                        1. re: torta basilica
                          Janet from Richmond

                          My husband and I often eat at the bar because it's fun and we usually know the bartenders so well that the service is much better than average. We don't mind the smoking (of course places which are completely non-smoking are an extra perk) and of course the people and the noise and we are more than happy to scoot over, pass drinks, etc.

                          1. re: torta basilica

                            +3 torta basilica.
                            i love love love eating at the bar.
                            everything is more fun
                            this goes both for bars that serve alcohol and "chef's bars."
                            i swear, even though it makes no sense, that even the food tastes better at a bar.
                            all the reasons why it's fun to have a drink at a bar are still in place when it comes to ordering food.

                          2. In many of our favorite places I prefer to eat in the bar. At a local favorite (Tosca in Hingham Ma) eating in the bar means you get great service from the professional bartenders, you can easily try many wines before deciding on a glass, you get great parmesan crispy things to nibble one and the ambiance is wonderful.

                            The bartenders loves anyone eating there because it drives up their tips over all. The average customer who is just killing time waiting for a table will throw down $1 or $2 while the average diner leaves 18-20% on the coast of the meal which is easily $100 for 2 people.

                            Personally I don't mind if I have to pass a drink back or scootch over so someone can place an order (hey half the fun of eating at the bar is people watching and the energy) but it is all about the approach. If someone forces themselves at the bar, is rude or disrespectful or worse acts like they have right to get past me any way they see fit then I am not going easily accommodate them. If the restaurant chooses to serve meals at the bar then I am entitled to eat there without attitude from people who really thought that the place would be empty enough to accommodate them. If you don't like crowds then stay away from places like Babbo (or Tosca) they have them most nights of the week.

                            25 Replies
                            1. re: foodiex2

                              Well, great for:

                              the bartender

                              Still sucks for:

                              Diners waiting for tables.

                              Just maybe the bar wouldn't BE so crowded at Babbo if every single seat wasn't filled with people dining for 2 hours? That's the point. Not an occasional person eating at the bar. In a big bar like Wolfgang's or some issue. But to turn the sole area to wait to be seated into a table stinks...unless of course you are sitting at the bar.

                              And after one experience at Babbo...yes...I won't be back. The food was in no way worth the experience.

                              1. re: ladeeda

                                So if you owned the place, you would not permit food service in the bar?

                                Only drinks?

                                Or maybe only apps and drinks?

                                Maybe dinner but only if you set a time limit for the people at the bar?

                                That is what you don't own a restaurant.

                                1. re: Tugboat

                                  If I owned a restaurant that had a bar, which i fit was full of diners, left no alternative space to the people waiting for a table, then, no, I would not allow eating dinner at the bar.

                                  How's your restaurant doing, by the way?

                                  1. re: ladeeda

                                    what if the people waiting for a table wanted to order drinks and an app to eat while they waited for their table?

                                    1. re: ivie

                                      that's not dinner.

                                      And it doesn't extend tehir time at the bar, when tehir table is ready, they'd be moved away from the bar to their table and room for the next set of diners waiting for ther rez would open up.

                                      1. re: ladeeda

                                        so what if a group of people were already drinking at the bar. then sees another party eating appetizers. after an hour's worth of drinking at the bar they feel they need something in their tummy and order appetizers. would you refuse the order? granted they're not ordering entrees. but most people can make dinner out of a couple of appetizers.

                                        1. re: ivie

                                          I'd let them have some apps. Their is a huge difference between 6 people noshing on some apps and six people facing forward on six stools eating a full meal.

                                          But I am really talking about those places who promote using up all available room at the bar expressly for dining, while leaving other patrons to fend for themselves getting run over or crammed into small places.

                                          I've waited in mobbed bars and never ahd a problem with it, because it's a bar, and that's waht bars are like sometimes. When you have the dozens stools at the bar eating formal dinners it is a completely different ballgame that drinkers/waiting for table folks occupying the same space.

                                          1. re: ladeeda

                                            To be clear I have no problems with single diners and the occasional couple eating at the bar. In fact when I was single and/or travel I usually eat at the bar so a table will be available. What is now happening when I travel is groups of 3 + are starting to eat at the bar rather than waiting 10 minutes for a table.

                                            What I have a problem with is when 6 people have now started to consider the bar area their table and occupy it for 3 hours. Are disrespectful to those who want a drink and act as though you are standing over their table waiting for their bread.

                                            1. re: ladeeda

                                              Agreed. When it gets to a certain level, it's no longer a bar. It's a lunch counter.

                                      2. re: ladeeda

                                        I have no place yet, but if and when I do own a place it would be CRAZY to set limits on what people order in any part of the restaurant.

                                        If someone is willing to order, I will do my best to get it for them.

                                        It seems to me that people that complain about those that eat at the bar are really just upset becuase they did not get there first.

                                        There is a place in DC (Palena) where many customers PREFER to eat in the bar area. The food is a bit more casual and the setting is not as formal as the main room. What is the issue with that?

                                        You always have a choice. If you go into a place and the dining room is full (and you have no reservations) and the bar area appears to crowded for your tastes, move on. Go to a place with no people in it. Why blame the management for letting a group of people enjoy themselves in the way they see fit?

                                        1. re: Tugboat

                                          What about the poor slobs who played by the rules and made a reservation, and due to absolutely no fault of their own, now have no where to stand or have a drink while waiting? And mind you, they are waiting because the restaurant isn't able to hold up their end of the bargain (now, I know this happens and I am not complaining about waiting). The customer did not create the problem, the restaurant did. Now, the restaurant responds by seating parties of six who stroll in at the bar to eat, taking up the space for the guy with the reservation to wait. How fair is it that?

                                          If there is plenty of space, no problem. If it is the occasional diner or two...fine..I like to eat at the bar myself sometimes. I'm talking about bars that are end to end filled up with diners eating full meals.

                                          If it is a small bar with no other area to stand, it is bad management, in my opinion. There are plenty of restaurants who won't let people eat full meals at the bar for just this reason.

                                          1. re: supa

                                            Just don't go to those places then. If "There are plenty of restaurants who won't let people eat full meals at the bar for just this reason" then you should have no problem finding places to eat where you won't have to deal with us other "poor slobs" who eat at the bar because we like to and the restaurant allows it!

                                            1. re: foodiex2

                                              " If "There are plenty of restaurants who won't let people eat full meals at the bar for just this reason" then you should have no problem finding places to eat where you won't have to deal with us other "poor slobs" who eat at the bar because we like to and the restaurant allows it! "

                                              Bingo. Essentially, it's up to the restaurant to decide if they want to serve food in their bar (full or bar menu) and it's up to the potential patron NOT to eat there if they don't want to wait in a bar where the restaurant DOES serve food in the bar.

                                              Personally, I'll stick with the restaurants that serve the "poor slobs" in the bar. :-)

                                              1. re: Linda W.

                                                So those restaurants should have the good sense not to tell the waiting customers that they should "have a drink in the bar" when it's clearly absurd for them to attempt to do so. That's what I find the offensive part - the management of the customer who comes on time for his reservation and has no realistic place to wait for the promised table.

                                                The manager or maitre d' should simply tell them - with a smile - to wait outside, providing a service umbrella for those occasions when there's inclement weather. Perhaps they could leave a cell phone number, and have the restaurant call them when their table is ready? That way, they might be able to find a pleasant bar within walking distance.

                                                1. re: Barlover

                                                  No, it ultimately is up to the patron that if they want to dine at a restaurant that serves food at the bar if they want to wait in the bar if people are eating at the bar. Simple as that.

                                                  1. re: Linda W.

                                                    of course it is always up to the diner to go or not to go to an establishement. This is a given for ALL the practices of a restaurant.

                                                    What does that have to do with someone here thinking it is a bad trend to be making bars into primarily full dining areas instead of being primarily a bar??? I think the complaint centers on restaurants without sufficient space to accomodate thjose waiting for tables turning their backs on those customers who are waiting for their reservation by taking away their only waiting area in order squeeze in more dinners at the bar.

                                                    I happen to agree that it is a bad trend.

                                              2. re: foodiex2

                                                I never said the diner at the bar were "poor slobs". Not their fault they are eating and enjoying themselves. I said the guys with reservations and no place to stand were the poor slobs.

                                                And that is the whole point: ranting about restaurants that do this. Of course if you don't like the way they do business, you don't go there. the rant was against the trend in th e way they are doing business.You seem to be taking personal offense taht if you eat at the bar, you are doing somethign wrong. You are not.

                                      3. re: ladeeda

                                        Yep it is great for me!! ;) And that what I go out to eat for. My number one consideration is not the diners around me. I am courteous no matter where I eat- I don't answer and/or talk on my cell phone, get drunk and disorderly etc etc. But if the bar is more fun I am not going to stop eating there just because it bothers you.

                                        So you won't go back to Babbo again. Good for you! Because I doubt he is going to walk away from the dining revenue and risk a less crowded bar just ordering drinks. Dining out is supposed to be fun and if patrons eating at the bar bother you just don't go. But may I also suggest you just stop going to the popular places or that you at least call any popular/new/hot spot and ask if they serve dinner in the bar first? Since it bothers you so badly I can imagine your attitude does impact the other people having fun at the bar!

                                        1. re: foodiex2

                                          You don't seem to get my point at all, do you, Skippy?

                                          Have fun at your "hot" spots, telling yourself how "fun" it is to be treated like cattle though.

                                          1. re: l

                                            Ok- deep breath I seem to have offended you but you were the one mentioned Babbo, sugar! I mentioned a my local place in the 'burbs that is outstanding and therefore popular. I don't think anyone would call suburban Hingham Ma as "hot" My point which you so obviously missed is that any good place that is new and/or popular and/or "hot" is GOING TO BE CROWDED!!! You obviously don't like crowds (I believe you mentioned you tend to feel like cattle??) and you don't like places that allow their patrons to eat at the bar. You seem so outraged that I merely suggested you go to less popular places that are not as crowded or call ahead to find the out the policy so that you can enjoy yourself and not spend the night fuming that you were treate like a cow. I do have fun dining out and would hate for it to be ruined by all that bad energy/attitude when I am doing nothing wrong.

                                            1. re: foodiex2

                                              and as I have said, it is not the crowding that offends. I've spent many a night standing at a mobbed bar waiting for my table. And that's waht it was...a bar area first and foremost. If they ahve an alternate place to linger while you are waiting to be seated..and you are waiting to be seated even though you were there at the appointed time....that would be fine, too.
                                              Waiting is fine, that's the way it works..but it is a good restaurant's obligation, in my opionion, to provide those peopel with reservations taht have to wait with a reasonable space to stand. The bar area was always that space. No longer in a place like Babbo. They milk the bar seats at the expense of the waiting diners. (Babbo wa mentioned because another poster started the thought train by complaining how nasty it was to wait for a table there.)

                                              You comment on how my supposed negativeity would affect other diners....I'm just ranting on a message board...not exploding at a restaurant. Ranting is what the board is for sometimes.

                                        2. re: ladeeda

                                          Well, great for:
                                          the bartender

                                          Still sucks for:
                                          Diners waiting for tables.

                                          Yes, it does. But if the RESTAURANT chooses to serve a full menu (or even just bar food) at the bar, that's their decision, and those wishing to dine in the dining area, but have to wait for a table, are just going to have to deal with it, aren't they?

                                          1. re: Linda W.

                                            My WHOLE point.

                                            I don't blame the people eating at the bar. Theya re simply enjoying themselves for the most part (although I find that a restuarants where dining fills the bar, patrons sitting at the bar eating are much less accomodating to people drinking and waiting than where the bar area it more oriented towards being a bar instead of a dining area.).

                                            And yes, if a restaurant gives me no reasonable place to stand and have a drink while I wait...then yes, I will deal with it.

                                          2. re: ladeeda

                                            if you go to restaurants that are unpopular, you will find it easier to find a spot at the bar.
                                            easy fix.
                                            if you want to go to popular, fun, restaurants with good food, it will be a lot less likely that they are going to focus their service on diners waiting for tables. this is even more true for restaurants offering all of this AND good pricing.

                                          3. re: foodiex2

                                            We weent to a better restaurant last October. They have a bar area with tables and there is a bar menu too. When we arrived we were told it would be 45 minutes and we said fine, we'll go to the bar and have a drink. Shortly after that a waiter told the young and inexperienced hostess taht he had a table we could have and she seated us and gave us bar menus. We thanked her and said we really would prefer the dining room menu (the bar menu was an abreviated form and the food all comes out of the same kitchen). She informed us, much to the waiter's consternation, that we could look at the menu but we would have to wait 45 minutes to order our dinner. You should have seen the faces and gestures the waiter was making behind her back. Of course he took our order righ away and the service was great too. We still shake our heads and laugh at that one. This place serves food at the tables in the bar but not at the bar itself.