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Restaurant etiquette question: going just for dessert during dinner hours?

JoanArkham Oct 7, 2009 09:13 AM

I’m going out for a low-key anniversary dinner next week at a place that does not serve dessert. I was thinking of heading to a nearby, somewhat more upscale, restaurant for their (very good) cake and coffee, but honestly I don't know the etiquette of going to a "sit down" restaurant for just dessert during prime dinner hours. We're having dinner fairly early...maybe 6 or 6:30, so we’ll probably be trying to get dessert around 7:30.

Is it bad form to just show up for dessert? Do I tell the hostess or the server? Should we sit at the bar? (I’d rather not.)

All advice and opinions appreciated!

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  1. meatn3 RE: JoanArkham Oct 7, 2009 10:04 AM

    Call the place you are considering ahead of time. Explain what you would like and let them decide. The economy has slowed things down so much that they may be very happy to have any business come their way!

    2 Replies
    1. re: meatn3
      JoanArkham RE: meatn3 Oct 8, 2009 07:56 AM

      I'm kind of phone-phobic but this is probably the way to go. Thanks.

      1. re: JoanArkham
        meatn3 RE: JoanArkham Oct 8, 2009 10:07 AM

        Yes, I prefer face to face rather than phone myself.

        I was planning a special meal a few months ago. I made the reservation by phone, but later went in person during off-hours to explore some details. The staff was fantastic, added notes in the computer for my reservation and had great suggestions. Made the experience perfect!

        Hope you have a lovely evening!

    2. s
      soxlover RE: JoanArkham Oct 7, 2009 10:49 AM

      meatn3 gave good advice. I would also say that it would make a huge dufference if it was a weekend night vs weekday. If you do go and it seems busy, the best thing to do is enjoy the dessert but don't linger.

      1 Reply
      1. re: soxlover
        JoanArkham RE: soxlover Oct 8, 2009 07:56 AM

        It would be on a Thursday evening.

      2. h
        hsk RE: JoanArkham Oct 8, 2009 08:44 PM

        I wouldn't thing that's cool but if the restaurant is OK with it by all means. Did you consider places that specialize in dessert? I don't know if your locale has any but here off the top of my head I can think of 3.

        I've never heard of a restaurant that doesn't serve dessert. Why not go to the place with the very good cake and coffee for dinner (or is their dinner food not so great)?

        1 Reply
        1. re: hsk
          JoanArkham RE: hsk Oct 9, 2009 07:08 AM

          I'm in the DC area, having dinner on Old Town Alexandria. I know of one place downtown that specializes in dessert but nothing in that area.

          The cake and coffee place (Majestic) has excellent food, but we were just there for a special occasion dinner and wanted to try something new. (Brabo Tasting Room, which is more casual and does not seem to have dessert.)

        2. invinotheresverde RE: JoanArkham Oct 8, 2009 10:29 PM

          Here's my take, OP. You obviously feel weird about this; something is unsettling to you about going to a restaurant for just dessert. I say go with your gut. If you're apprehensive just thinking about it, you're likely to feel the same when you go, even if the restaurant says it's cool.

          As for myself, I'd definitely never go to a restaurant during dinner hours just for dessert. Why? I'd be super uncomfortable and not enjoy myself.

          Maybe they can do takeaway dessert and you can linger over it at home?

          5 Replies
          1. re: invinotheresverde
            JoanArkham RE: invinotheresverde Oct 9, 2009 07:11 AM

            Takeaway is a good thought. I just need to get over my phone phobia and call them!

            1. re: JoanArkham
              Miss Needle RE: JoanArkham Oct 9, 2009 07:14 AM

              Yup. Calling is essential. I've been turned away before from just having dessert at restaurants, even if it was on the late side like 10P because there were still plenty of people eating dinner at that time and couldn't give us a table unless we were ordering food.

              Are there restaurants like the Bar Room at the Modern where you live? It takes reservations but has a large bar and lounge seating where one can drop in and have a few bites. I walked in for dessert there a couple of times and had no problems.

              1. re: Miss Needle
                Kajikit RE: Miss Needle Oct 9, 2009 05:55 PM

                Dessert isn't food???

                1. re: Kajikit
                  Miss Needle RE: Kajikit Oct 9, 2009 06:21 PM

                  Of course. What I meant to say was ordering an entree.

            2. re: invinotheresverde
              Janet from Richmond RE: invinotheresverde Oct 9, 2009 07:13 AM

              I have done it on rare occasions, but have always sat at the bar and have coffee and my husband generally will have an amaretto.

            3. stellamystar RE: JoanArkham Oct 15, 2009 07:49 AM

              We tried to do this to celebrate our engagement one time - and we were told NO (face to face). Even though we were going to order champagne, etc. Never went back and called the MGR.
              If I were you, I would take it to go, get a bottle of wine at the store, and enjoy at home if you're going to be itchy/stressed about it (I would - I am a rule follower sheep-person).

              1. Karl S RE: JoanArkham Oct 15, 2009 11:29 AM

                You've received good advice.

                Also, how long are you expected to hold the table? If it's no more than 30 minutes (pre-ordering would be best), a restaurant might bite, since it could still turn the table during a reasonable hour.. But if you expect to linger, the server at least would need serious tipping up.

                1. JoanArkham RE: JoanArkham Oct 15, 2009 01:09 PM

                  Thanks again, everyone. We chickened out, and are just going to have dinner, then either get something on the way home (Whole Foods?) or wait until we come across something worth splurging on over the weekend.

                  The terrible, cold, dismal weather is playing a part in this decision as well! I don't feel much like strolling around Old Town tonight.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JoanArkham
                    dmd_kc RE: JoanArkham Oct 15, 2009 01:40 PM

                    Coming to this late, but I really wouldn't have worried about it. Call ahead for the reservation and explain your plans.

                    However, if you just show up, it's likely to be after they've turned at least one table as many times as they would have that night.

                    If I did it, I'd make sure to order two desserts, two coffees, and maybe two drinks. Make it worth their while -- and yours. Those items are higher margin than the entrees usually. It's the people who split one dessert three ways who don't help a restaurant's bottom line much.

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