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Dec 8, 2010 07:28 AM

Picky about seating

Well, what? I am. About one thing in particular: I loathe banquette-style tables. Put the tables inches apart - as long as they are freestanding, I don't care. It turns a nice restaurant experience into a situation akin to carving out the shared space in the empty middle seat on an airplane.

And you just wouldn't ever put a freestanding table as close to another table as restaurants do with the tables along the banquette. Recently, I ordered a tasting menu with beer pairings that came with frequent visits from the beer sommelier, who took a couple minutes explaining the rationale behind the pairing and the background of the beer for each course. Poor guy had to wedge himself into the space between tables at the banquette, the table next to us probably logged about 30 combined minutes of his ass in their faces, and the whole thing just felt...different than it was intended to be.

So, now I ask. I write it right in my opentable reservation: I would prefer a freestanding table. And this seems to work! But I feel kind of bad, like I'm consigning all these other people to an experience I've decided I won't put up with. I only care when I'm going to a nice place, so everyone is probably invested in having a nice, relatively private dinner. Because nobody really wants those tables, do they? Does anyone enjoy it? I'm at a loss as to why any restaurant thinks this is acceptable, as it's clearly a naked ploy to eek more cash out of the place at the expense of their customers, which, once again, reminds me of the airport.

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  1. I like sitting on the bench side so I can have a place to put my coat and bag. I hate hanging stuff off the back of my seat, especially when the tables are close together no matter what style of seating nowadays.

    I think this has more to do with restaurants deliberately using every inch they can in order to eek out the maximum seating space, at the expense of customer comfort...than it has to do with seating style. I've been in banquette seating where the tables were far enough apart, and also in places where the freestanding tables were ridiculously crammed together so that no one could get out of their seats without hitting someone else.

    2 Replies
    1. re: yfunk3

      Oooh...I see. Yes, that "place to put your coat and bag." If I'm sitting next to you, you're talking about the space on the bench between me and you, right? That space that's about two feet, max? So whenever I have to get out from behind the table, I not only have to scoot in a totally undignified fashion but then do a freestanding lever action to avoid planting my hand in the middle of your bag? ;-)

      Seriously, I'm just picking on you, everybody does it - just tell me you only use up half of that space and leave a fair share for that person sitting at the next table. Since they're practically part of your dinner party anyway, might as well be polite. :-)

      1. re: Raids

        Or the person can use the other side to get out of the seat like I do when confronted with someone else's belongings on the bench? :o) I'd like to think that, while zaftig, I'm not THAT wide as to take up that much room to prevent anyone else from getting out of the seat. And I will definitely move my stuff temporarily when asked politely. ::bats eyelashes::

    2. I could not agree with you more. I hate, hate those tables. First, they are so close together, you feel like a cow trying to squeeze through, or, if you are the one on the opposite side, you're staring at a wall. Then, you get the joy of trying not to listen to the conversations going on at neighboring tables. This is especially fun if they are not having a good time. Plus, since the servers can't really fit between tables at the banquette either, they tend to hand the food over, as opposed to sitting it in front of you. This is a pain when the dish is hot or saucy. And I just don't like it.

      I've only been to a few places where banquette seating was comfortable. In general, I'd rather wait at the bar for a bigger table.

      1. As l am blessed with a forever bladder, l always get the banquette side, would not have it any other way, you are so right. Other thing to nitpick, l want, need, REQUIRE a backing to my chair, whether farm bench or most applicably the stools at the Momofuku group which after a 2-3 hour meal at KO, all l want to do is have a massage.

        1. A year ago, before I lost 50 pounds, I couldn't fit into most banquettes so, we had to have a freestanding table. The problem there is, as others have said, they pack too many tables in the allotted space so that the back of my chair is either against the back of the chair at the next table or there is no room for someone to pass inbetween chairbacks without jostling me.

          1. I love a banquette table. That way my wife han have the cushiony booth type seat and I can have the straight backed wooden chair my back prefers.

            As to tables being close, it has nothing to do with banquette for freestanding, jam it in style dining is not for me. I have favorite restaurants where the banquette may be found in private alcoves............................

            16 Replies
            1. re: bagelman01

              For me the problem with the banquette is the tables are anchored to the floor and can't be moved. There was too little space between it and the bench for me to slide in and out. Now that I've lost weight, it isn't a problem any more.

              1. re: mucho gordo

                I'm pretty small (my nom de Chow is not a metaphor), and I hate immovable seats & tables for the opposite reason - I'm always too far away from the plate. So while you were maneuvering uncomfortably onto the bench, I was dropping food in my lap (still am).

                1. re: small h

                  My very small mom (4'10" before she lost those 2 inches we're all threatened with after 60) has threatened to make herself a bib from dental clips and a nice napkin for dining out in such establishments . Her "shelf" stops the food from landing in her lap, but laundry day can be a b#@$ch.

                  1. re: gaffk

                    I'm your mom's height, and I think she's on to something. Although I'd prefer a slide-out leaf, like an airplane tray table, so as to not to draw more attention to my clumsy self.

                    1. re: small h

                      Mom always sits at the head of the table: no legs to bump and she can pull herself in as close as needed. She still needs a bib though. And I can NE VER find her when shopping.

                      The hallmark of every grandkid (usually at 11-12) was "I'm now taller than grandmom." A very small feat; the boys all grew to 6'0' to 6'5"; the girls to 5'8" or 5'9."

                      My claim to fame? I am now 5'4" and a "1/2". The 1/2 is very important--it makes me the tallest of the 4 girls :)

                      1. re: gaffk

                        I'm hearing you guys here. I'm 4' 10 1/2" - and I agree that the 1/2 is important. Recently had dinner with the MIL and I strained my back because I was so far from the table. I really didn't enjoy the meal.

              2. re: bagelman01

                Absolutely agree with your take on this. Additionally, I like my back against the wall so I can see the whole room. My wife prefers the chair so she can concentrate only on me ( I wish). Seriously, I prefer in and she prefers out.

                I should add, we are both smallish. Also, if we place anything on the bench, we are very aware if someone needs to move and we move it over to give the exiters or enterers more room.

                1. re: Sinicle

                  My bf is the same way.... he has to have his back to the wall and be able to see the front door. Sometimes when being puckish I grab that side first just to watch him squirm in obvious irritation. I also admit to preferring cushy booths to the freestanding tables.

                  1. re: Firegoat

                    Perhaps its a 'guy thing' or maybe simply a 'hypervigilence thing', but I too need to periodically 'scan' the dining room at more casual restaurants when dining out with the wife. Civilian ptsd-type behavior; being ambushed by 8 thugs years ago will do that to a fella... Upon being seated I mentally note the points of entrance and egress from the room, as well as best places in which to seek cover in an emergency. Think 'coffee shop scene' at the end of Pulp Fiction. Such unfortunate events may not happen very often, but I prefer to see the door when dining...

                    1. re: silence9

                      well he's a former cop of 15 years and a former marine, so I try not to tease him about it too much. But I like watching the room too, more for humor than possible danger so occasionally I do want to grab the catbird seat.

                      1. re: Firegoat

                        I have a friend who used to be a cop; when I used to work near his 'beat' we'd get together about once a week for lunch. He'd ALWAYS have to face the room, and in addition always wanted a view of the front door...I think it comes with the profession. Indeed, he claimed it was 'part of his job', since he was in uniform, though he'd also want to face the door when he was off duty and not on his lunch hour.

                        Since I enjoyed his company and we had similar food tastes, I tolerated having to face the wall. Barely. I dislike facing the wall, also: people watching (and seeing what they ordered) is part of the fun of dining out for me.

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Let me guess, when he parked at the restaurant to meet you he always backed into the parking spot?

                          1. re: Firegoat

                            actually, he was a bicycle cop....:-) Probably part of his goal was to keep an eye on that bike :-)

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              well after seeing Lt. Dangle in Reno 911 I can't blame him!

                      2. re: silence9

                        You should always know where the exits are in a room, you never know when some idiot is going to set something on fire somehow. And accidents happen too.

                      3. re: Firegoat

                        John and I fight over the gunslinger seat too. When we first started hanging out he got it most of the time but I've learned to be a bit faster. Now it's about fifty-fifty who gets it.
                        I hate the banquette tables too and refuse to be seated there. I'll wait for a free standing table or go elsewhere. The benches were nice when I was a kid. When the dinner went looooong I could sometimes catch a nap.