Some people view eating at the bar as an act of desperation, a downgrading of the restaurant experience; they view the bar as the domain of the reservationless, the un-fabulous, the pathetic solo diners. I disagree. If given the choice of a table or a seat at the bar, more often than not, I’ll pick the bar.
For me, discovering incredible food is the main reason to eat out (and I love eating out), but all the same, it’s not the only reason. There’s the atmosphere. The service. The people around you, the conversations you have with your dining companions, the food you share, the looks you hungrily give other diners’ plates. It’s the way your server recommends a dish to you, or maybe the way she smiles after you make your pick and murmurs, “Good order.”
When you eat at the bar, the food you’re ordering is the same that you’d get at a table, but the ambience is different. It’s less formal, more about the food than the linens on the table. You chat with the bartender and the people around you, and as long as it’s not some crowded joint where each bite is alternated with an elbow in your back, it’s a far more relaxing experience. I’ve scored no-reservations seatings at restaurants where tables are otherwise impossible to get, and subsequently had fantastic meals that were elevated by where I was sitting (thanks, bartender at Babbo). And yes, when you’re dining solo, the bar’s the way to go. You’re never alone when you eat at the bar, unless you want to be.
Plus your water glass is always filled, and sometimes you get free drinks. And there’s a hook for your coat. (Hooks for your coat are one of the great inventions of modern life, don’t you agree? Though they do come a close second to free drinks.)
One more thing. Eating from the regular menu at the bar makes me feel pretty clever; but actual bar food, from whatever separate bar menu the restaurant might happen to have, is the final reason to herald the bar as the best place in the restaurant. I adore bar food, which is bite-size and shareable, and usually fried. Ahem. I love all kinds of food cooked in all sorts of ways, but for my last meal, I’m requesting fried chicken.
At any rate, that’s my long way of saying welcome to Just Another Meal, where eating at the bar isn’t the last resort of the lonely, but the first resort of the hungry: the place where great food and conviviality are essential components of the same meal. I want to treat eating out not as some lofty fine-dining experience — though that’s a joy all its own — but as a combination of the culinary and the social, no matter where you are or how much money you’re paying. Even if you’re not actually eating at the bar. (Sitting at a table isn’t all bad.)
To start, I’m going to focus on bar food, specifically wings, because I am mad for wings. And after that, who knows? Thanks for visiting, and happy eating. See you at the bar.