What makes fine dining fine?
What makes a restaurant a "fine dining" establishment? If one looks at restaurants on a continuum, there are obvious extremes, from the fast food/greasy spoon type of place to the haute French Laundry/ Le Bec Fin, etc. I'm thinking about those places that might fall somewhere more toward the middle, and wondering how chowhounders define fine dining...
Looking forward to your thoughts...
I would define "fine dining" as restaurants that are dedicated to high quality food served by professional staff. Particularly high fine dining is where the staff makes you feel special not by saying: hi, I'm Margie and I'll be your server tonight, but rather attentive and discreet service that you hardly notice they've replaced the silverware between courses and poured a bit more wine for you; that is it's all about you.
Cisco does not get you there.
When I hear "fine dining" I immediately think "La Maison de la Casa House, Continential Cuisine", that fictional upscale restaurant which Calvin Trillin has spent his gastro-literary career trying to convince us is not where the good stuff is served.
Fine dining signifiers include cloth napkins, tablecloths, an extra fork, sugar cubes.
"fine dining" is a euphemism for "no excuses."
linen, china, silverware are mere trappings but appreciated where/when appropriate. plan to arrive on time and assume you'll be seated both cordially and on time. a quality meal goes without saying. specials should be special. wine should be an experience and not a return to the familiar. service should be efficient, not familiar. a visit from the owner is usually a good sign.
litmus test: after you've paid the bill and walked out arm-in-arm with your partner, you say something to the effect, "i had a great time tonight."
anything less is "expensive dining."