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Oct 31, 2006 10:49 PM

Communal dining in SF?

In Portland ("America's most underrated food city" NY Times wine critic) we have what I call communal dining places or supper clubs, most open just Friday and Saturday nights. You pay one price, there is one serving, say 7:30, and you eat what is on the menu. All diners sit in one long table.

Anything like this in SF? We're visiting next month.

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  1. Not that I've heard of.

    Suppenkuche has communal tables.

    1. There are "underground" dining establishments that move around from location to location (usually someone's home) and have invitation-only dinners. Nothing I've heard of from an established venue that does this.

      Nopa has a communal table in the bar area that is quite popular.

      1. Three Stone Hearth hosts a "full moon feast" once a month that sounds a lot like this in terms of setting. Most of the food is organic, pasteured, sourced from farms/ranches/etc. that practice sustainable agriculture. This month's is sold out, but visit for details.

        4 Replies
        1. re: bruce

          Here's Morton's post on Three Stone Hearth, for anyone who's interested -

          Would love to hear from a 'hound who's attended a full moon feast too.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            What do those meals cost, and what was the dinner conversation like?

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              The meal costs $40 this time, and includes a speaker. This speaker is Linda Faillace, author of "Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA's war on a Family Farm." I don't know about the dinner conversation, but from the people I know who are involved I would guess it to be interesting & varied.

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              Um, I have? The Stone Hearth feasts seem to be the continuation of the Wise Food Ways Full Moon Feasts

              I attended the Full Mead Moon Feast on Saturday, July 23, 2005 that was in SF because of my interest in Ayurveda eating. From the website...

              Celebrating The Nourishing Traditions Of Ayurveda
              Jessica prepared a feast that was vegetarian, nourishing & traditional, and in keeping with Ayurvedic nutritional principles.
              Program featured Ayurvedic practitioner Ellen Shearer of Harmony Ayurveda to discuss how she brings together both Ayurveda and Nourishing Traditions for healing. We also talked with vegetarians who are following Nourishing Traditions principles with their diet -- including Jessica's mother who will be in town for the occasion!
              Dinner Menu
              Selection of Local Raw Milk Cheeses:
              Point Reyes Original Blue (Cow's Milk
              )Bodega Goat Cheese Queso Cabrero (Goat's Milk)
              Bellwether Farm Pepeto (Sheep's Milk)
              Served with Naturally-Leavened, Wood Fired Oven Baked Wholegrain Spelt Bread from Eduardo Morell
              Organic Valley Cultured Butter
              Main Course
              Coconut Milk and Peanut Curry with Summer Vegetables
              "Happiness Pancake": Vietnamese-Style Pastured Egg Omelette
              Brown Basmati Rice Baked with Fig Leaves
              Thai-style Pickled Cabbage
              Gujarati-style Salad of Indian Mung Bean Sprouts
              Lactofermented Raita
              Lactofermented Limeade made with Palm Sugar
              Mineral Water
              Sweet Somethings
              Fresh Melon Slices
              Warm Spiced Milk Sweetened with Honey

              I believe the cost was $40 a person, but I can’t swear to it. You could bring in wine if you wanted. There were communal tables. The crowd was not diverse – middle aged white folks, some more crunchy than others. People were friendly although there was a group of uptight teetotalers who gave us the hairy-eye for bringing wine.

              The food was mostly quite good. I adored the brown rice and immediately adopted that “sprouting” & cooking technique. But...and this is a big but...the lecture made me want to bitch-slap them.

              I had been quite excited learning more about Ayurvedic nutritional principles, it’s was something that I’ve read about and been experimenting with. I wanted to know more and be able to ask questions. Well, the speaker didn’t show. So instead of scraping the lecture portion of the evening, between the main course and desert, a couple of people (selected by Jessica), got up to speak. A couple of farmers spoke about farming techniques and current issues. No-one addressed Ayuvedic principles at all, instead the diet lecture was essentially “witnessing” about the Nourishing Traditions way of eating! Okay, they were talking about their diet not a religion, but I grew up in the bible belt and these people’s fervor matched that of southern evangelicals. Its one thing to educate someone about a style of cooking/eating or farming technique, but to be lectured and told how to eat...I had to get up and go outside I was so angry. But the yummy desert of spiced milk with honey & melon went long way towards calming me. Well, that and one of the farmer's stories about why he gave up being a vegetarian(short version - vegetables aren't vegetarian because farmers kill animals to protect their crops).

              I would consider going again just for the chance to taste something new that can’t be found in a restaurant. I’d just be mentally prepared next time.

              But by no means are they the only game in town - there are plenty of other opportunities for non-restaurant, alternative food exploration in the Bay Area. In fact, I belong to a Shojin Ryori group and this weekend I am attending a Japanese monastery style cooking class/dinner led by a Japanese Zen priest and one of his California students. I’m looking forward to learning about the differences between the original and California Shojin (which is what I assume I’m doing). hehe

          2. Sounds like a traditional Basque restaurant, which there use to be a few of in SF. Some did the one seating, communal dining, sit at one big table with whoever is there. Some did the open seating, i.e., come during open hours but sit at communial tables. Really haven't been following traditional Basque restaurants for a while.

            1. The Basque Cultural Center is in South SF but I haven't been there myself. Heard pretty good things from others, though. Not sure if they have communal tables like they do at most Basque restaurants I've tried in Bakersfield or Los Banos.
              Here's a link -

              1 Reply
              1. re: gordon wing

                They don't. It's a pretty normal restaurant. They have a "family style" nightly special on the a la carte menu, but that's not really the same thing.