New Yorkers Are Having Trouble with the Communal Restaurant Table

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Important cultural trend news in the New York Post Wednesday, from writer Hailey Eber. People do not like sitting with strangers at those long communal tables that have been springing up at trendy and expensive restaurants. Why would you pay to sit next to a stranger when you can dine alone, in front of your TV, or in front of your computer in your dark, empty office? Why, indeed? Ah, first-world problems. Here is why communal dining is so frowned upon: 

  • It is not intimate. [Ed: By definition, neither is a restaurant, exactly]
  • The prices are too high! A communal table says "casual" not "fine dining."
  • The restaurant waits are too long for such nonsense. 
  • You can't hear yourself think! Or talk, with all the loud jerks surrounding you. 
  • The loud jerks surrounding you are probably talking about you! Or your friends! For example, "Jason Brandt Lewis, a 58-year-old wine industry retiree, was visiting from California and having lunch at a communal table at the East Village’s Momofuku Ssäm last fall when he realized the obnoxious stranger next to him was gossiping about a mutual friend he was seeing for dinner that very evening." Awkward.

Eber continues by explaining that communal dining used to exist everywhere in New York, when we were better at sharing and less hoity-toity. Now there's something of a resurgence in the trend: "'There are a lot more communal tables than there used to be,' says The Post’s restaurant critic, Steve Cuozzo, who, along with Grimes and others, roughly traces the current trend to Asia de Cuba opening in 1997 with a noteworthy long, high, glowing marble communal table." Dang you, Asia de Cuba! And it seems communal tables are here to stay, what with high rents and small spaces and wanting to pack folks in to make as much money as possible; it's just another part of living in a big city, “like riding the subway or standing in the checkout line at Fairway.” Well, it is true, you can end up next to people you'd rather not in all of those situations, too. Though you're not chewing your meal cheek-by-jowl next to them, ideally.

Personally, our biggest problem with communal tables is one unmentioned by Eber: We'll call it the middle-seat airplane conundrum.  It's hard to extract yourself from the table! Ah such is life in the big city. Thank goodness there's always ordering in. 

Image via Shutterstock by Paul Matthew Photography. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.