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What is a "fun" restaurant?

I never quite understand what people mean when they ask for recommendations and want a fun restaurant. Visions of 'Big Bob's Whoppie Emporium and Soda Fountain - Home of All You Can Eat Ice Cream on your Birthday' always come to mind.

I have never been to a truly "fun" restaurant that is good/fine dining. I've been to plenty of good/fine dining where the staff has been wonderful and the food great which made for a good evening but I would never put it in the fun category.

So what do others think? Are the two terms mutually exclusive?

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  1. I think the two words fit together. If I go out with some friends or family, we get good service, aren't rushed through out our evening, the servers can/do talk to us laugh, crack jokes, then in my books that becomes a "fun" restaurant. Although it might sound like it was just a "fun" night, I think that a fun night makes a restaurant fun.

    1. Well, I think of Churrascarias as "fun". And they are even "all you eats" to boot. Typically the cold buffet is of a higher quality and the "fun" of having your meat carved in front of you is kinda neat. I would not call them SUPER high-end, but certainly better than a typical chain.

      1. There is a restaurant named the Magic Time Machine here in Texas (I think Dallas & San Antonio) where the servers are dressed like different characters, such as King Henry, Olive Oyl, etc. and the rooms are themed with unusual decorations and seating. A large group of us from a Sunday School teachers convention went and sat in a tree, kind of like what you would find at a theme park. It was fun! The staff was delightful, and I think you even have to audition before you can work there, because you entertain and serve. We ordered a "Roman Orgy" which was chunks of beef, potatoes, and I don't remember what all else, but they would come to the table with grapes and dangle them over your head and make you take a stab at eating them. They really teased us a lot, as SS teachers "having" a roman orgy! My friend and I mistakenly asked where the restroom was, not realizing that there would be a congo line of people banging on pots and blowing horns to escort us to the"potty." We were embarrassed but it was fun!

        In the Texas Board people have really bashed this place, but we enjoyed it, and even took our daughters there a couple years later, where they had a ball, too. And we liked the food!

        1. I think "fun" restaurant often implies either something uniquely fun about the servers/service or the opportunity to interact more with your food. For example, a hibachi steak house is more "fun" for people because they are forced to sit with strangers and interact with them, which is unique, and they are "entertained" with how the meal is prepared. A fondue restaurant is "fun" because you interact with the food differently and share it communally, "cooking" and dipping your own food as you go. Johnny Rockets might be considered "fun" to some people because every 20 minutes or so the servers do a choreographed disco dance to a song that comes on the PA. It could even be as simple as something gimmicky, like a steakhouse serving peanuts in a bucket and playing country music.

          1. This may be too simple of an answer, but I consider a "fun" restaurant anywhere that I can truly enjoy & just be myself!

            1. I can definitely think of "fun" restaurants -- korean with lots of soju and bbq or anything else really because it's so perfect for company atmosphere, i guess also any thai/other communal jovial dining scenario?
              i generally look for something unusual (like new cuisine, eating style -- sitting on the floor, etc.) when i mean "fun"

              1. Yes.

                The words "fun" and "bar" go together, not "fun and restaurant."

                1 Reply
                1. re: wayne keyser

                  My daughter used to be a server at a mid-range (nothing fancy) Tex-Mex restaurant that was very popular with the sports crowd. The theme besides the obvious Tex-Mex food and drink, was that the servers were encouraged to carry on a lively, playfully rude banter with the guests. She used to say that the fun part for her was if she could get two or three tables going back and forth at each other, talking,laughing and joking, not to mention drinking, then she felt she had done a good job as well as collecting many nice tips.
                  Fun? I don't know. Might not be your cup of tea or mine, but I know they filled that place with a steady stream of regulars.

                2. For me a "fun" restaurant is one where there is a friendly atmosphere with pronounced interaction between guests. This can be interaction between a table of guys and a table of women, or interaction between a couple and another couple, or any other interaction arrangement. This for me happens most often in more casual places like tapas restaurants, gastropubs, bistros, etc (for fairly obvious reasons). Also, this has been, to my experience much more likely to occur abroad rather than at home. I had a wonderful time at a bistro in Paris where I arrived alone. A couple who happened to be Swiss noticed me and invited me to join them. And after that a very attractive group, who were speaking German (but as I would later find out were actually Italian) sat next to us. This led to an animated discussion about Euro-American relations that was educational, enlightening, and yes fun. Note: I had the pig’s foot stuffed with foie gras as a main and escargot to start.

                  1. I can have fun anywhere - seriously. As long a I'm with my SO or good friends, dining out is fun. We even choose to laugh about poor service, rather than let it ruin the evening.

                    Most people seem to mean some sort of entertainment when they ask for a 'fun' restaurant. So something with a theme, or live music. There's one place in LA where we sometimes go that has a Thai Elvis impersonator.

                    1. i have no interest in theme restaurants, nor being entertained by the staff. places that encourage so-called saucy behavior in their staff usually leave me cold because, frankly, my friends and i are funnier. if they can manage lively banter, i'm ok with that, but that's rare.

                      my mom always taught me to make my own fun. :)

                      1. A lot of so-called "fun" restaurants have a tendency to end up just being obnoxious (especially those that subscribe to the "throw a bunch of junk on the walls" school of interior design.) That said, a couple of interesting examples I've seen:

                        -The Iron Horse in Seattle (now long gone) - a burger joint in the Pioneer Square neighborhood that deilvered your food to your table by model trains. Probably nothing special for most of us, but kids love that type of thing.

                        -The Snow Cap in Seligman Arizona, where your "dead chicken" sandwich is accompanied by a side of dime-store gags, and has been for more than 50 years. I can imagine it would get old after a while if you were a regular customer, but the place is an institution of the old Route 66. and for tourists passing through it adds to the experience.

                        Neither of these two places would ever be mistaken for fine dining (in fact, they're both pretty much dives) but in the proper context, they can still put out good food and be entertaining.