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Jan 6, 2008 04:31 PM

TV Dinners

Why has having a television mounted in the corner of practically every restaurant necessary nowadays?! Whatever happened to going "out to eat"?

Here's why I'm fussin':

Last night, I took the wife to Bob's Steak & Chophouse (Lemmon Ave.) for a nice, tasty, spendy steak dinner. I requested "quiet and romantic" on their online reservation form. So we get there, and they seat us on a 2-top in the back of the place between 2 flat screen TVs, both playing the Pitt/Panthers playoff game. What the!?! It was annoying and distracting. Not the fact that the television brightness and strobing effect made it hard to see the details of my wife's face, but the fact that 3 of the tables around us had football fanatic guys yelling in celebration of [the game] while I attempted to enjoy a $50 filet and have an audible conversation with my wife. I was truly shocked that the highly acclaimed Bob's, had sunk to the level of a sports bar. We might as well have gone to any food chain/sports restaurant for the same atmosphere. Needless to say, Bob's Steak and Chophouse has been lowered on my must-have list as last night was like a nightmare. I felt as though I should have been dining on pizza, nachos, peanuts, hot wings, cheesedog, and beer in a plastic cup, rather than a 16-oz. rare filet and a glass of Pinot.

There's a time and place for everything. I love watching TV, but not when I go out for fine dining. Televisions broadcasting sports, news, foodnetwork, E!, whatever -- don't deserve a place in the main dining area of an establishment where the average bill for two tops the $150 mark.

Have we really evolved into a society that is completely dependent on fine dining under the glow of broadcasted sports flat screens? I was shocked to see a highly-regarded establishment feature televisions in their main dining room!

Big ups to the high-end establishments that have resisted the sports bar aesthetic and offer diners an opportunity to leave the mundane world and all the vices of the "house" behind, thereby letting their patrons feel as though they are doing something special for a change. If television is [that] important for a segment of Bob's patrons, I'll be taking my business elsewhere.

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  1. I've noticed this happening a lot as well.
    It seems like it's much more lucrative to cater to sporting event crowds, etc, but I really don't like it when a nice place does this. It really does cheapen the experience for anyone who goes not expecting a sports explosion.

    1. If I want to go to a family-type place where I need to keep my kids amused while we eat, a TV tuned to Nickelodeon is fine. But in a formerly "nice" place, no way.

      I yearn for the good old days when the only TV in a "normal" restaurant might have been a 9" portable with rabbit ears and a snowy picture behind the bar. If you badly needed an update, you'd ask the bartender for the score and return to your table.

      Restaurants promoting TV watching might as well encourage cell-phone yakking and other obnoxious behavior at the table.

      1. At a place like that, I do believe I would have left immediately. A sports bar or Hooters, well okay I can tolerate it, but a high end resto like that, absolutely not!

        2 Replies
        1. re: danhole

          Yeah... should woulda coulda left. I guess I was too embarrassed to get up and take a stand. I guess I wanted that steak too bad. Maybe Bob's will add stadium seating and change the waitstaff uniforms to cut-offs and tiny tank-tops -- bare mid-driffs exposed, of course! Okay, I'm done fussin'!

          1. re: DiRotiman

            Glad you got it off your chest! BTW - taking Bob's off my list of places to try in 2008!

        2. Not that I'm disagreeing with your original point, but as far as Bob's goes, they're more of a "boy's club" than a high-brow, stuffy restaurant, and I would think that management would have no problem with that characterization. Definitely the loudest and least formal of the high-end Dallas steakhouses (at least the ones I've been to), not someplace I'd go to for an intimate evening with my wife, someplace I would go and have gone to on a more casual occasion, or a night out with the guys.

          My wife and I had a nice, quiet dinner at Chamberlain's the other night, and yeah, if they had a bunch of TV's in the dining area, I'd probably have been a bit put out.

          1. DiR, not just you.

            I extend your (well-deserved) rant into the home. So many of my compatriots in middle-age/child-rearing years have TVs in their kitchens, to entertain them (adults and kids) while they eat. DVD pairings with dinner? Flight of Cartoon Network? What? Am I missing something?

            Normally, our home diners are without-screen. The dinners include, ahem... conversation. I admit to this: there is a primary/caucus season going on now, and sometimes debates are held in prime-dinner-time. In that case, we will sometimes say (as the parents of teens): "lap dinner, learn about democracy" and watch debates, but for sports? No. For other "entertainment? No way.

            If I go out to a restaurant, I do not want to be assaulted by "screen" either. I avoid sports' bars, and anything else video-oriented. A little low music, and my taste for media is satisfied. Beyond that, I'll stay home and stage my own.

            In curmudgeonliness,

            5 Replies
            1. re: cayjohan

              I'm with you on this one. It seems that the sports bar with televisions is a growing market segment.

              I grew up in a family where they would literally roll the "portable" television on a cart into the dining area so that we wouldn't miss a beat of whatever was on television. Funny, but my family has never been a bunch of great communicators, not surprisingly. Therefore, I don't allow it on during dinner in my home.

              When I eat out, I am careful about where I choose in terms of atmosphere, depending upon what we are in the mood to experience. For example, if I am into wings, I expect that the wing place, which serves on paper plates, is going to be noisy during a game. If I want to have a quieter experience, we go somewhere else. I wouldn't blame the restaurant, but I would learn from the experience and choose wisely next time.

              1. re: RGC1982

                I agree with you in that I don't like televisions in restaurants, unless they are super-casual places with wings, burgers, etc. Even then, I don't really care for it, but I can deal with it.

                However, I'm not so sure that I agree on your family communication issues being because of the TV. When I was growing up, we had a television in the kitchen. And it was on a lot. The way some people listen to music in the background, well, for us the TV was background noise. I have my own 2 small kids now, and I still speak to my mother, father and sister (all separately) several times a day -- every day.

                My kids do watch TV too, but during meals, they sit at the table and eat, and they can watch when they are done. It also helps that they are only 3 and 1, and fabulous eaters.

                1. re: valerie

                  Hi valerie...I don't wish to poke at you, but I must ask if TV as a reward for your kids eating dinner is working for the family ( I have a friend dealing with reward issues and want to have something more to say to her...). Are you saying that your 3 and 1 year old children can leave the table and go watch TV? Does the rest of the family do the same, or is this a special dispensation for the children? Or, is it even a reward?


                  1. re: cayjohan

                    No, I never thought of it as a reward. Honestly, it just is what it is. Like I said, my kids are good eaters, so they are eager to sit at the table and eat (the 1 year old is still in a high chair, so he can't go anywhere anyway). I don't have to reward them for eating.

                    We have a big kitchen/family room, so there is a TV in the vicinity of the kitchen table, although you can't see it from the table. The TV is turned off during dinner anyway.

                    And, no, they cannot leave the table to watch TV. After dinner is over, they can watch TV while I clean up. As for the rest of the family, it's my husband, me and the 2 kids. We take them to restaurants all the time, and I don't mean Applebee's (these kids have never stepped foot into Applebee's). I wouldn't take them to 4 star places, but I take them to places that they can handle. I don't expect them to sit through a 6 course meal (in a restaurant or at home) because they are children, and I don't care who your kids are, young kids just don't have the attention span.

                    As for your friend with reward issues, I can't speak from experience with food "rewards", but my 5 year old nephew is one of the world's worst eaters. My sister has often resorted to "rewards" to get him to eat. Call it "rewards", call it "positive reinforcement", call it "bribery", in my opinion, you gotta do what you gotta do, and whatever works for you (or your friend) is their business, and nobody else's business.

                    1. re: valerie

                      Thanks valerie - glad to hear that you're not thinking of it as a reward. Gives me some thought on what to say to my friend, who does. And a gigantic THANKS for not playing, say Sponge Bob movies, to get your kids to eat. You are doing them a favor by having family dinners.

                      Eat on,