Does Dallas Not Love The Communal Table?

Categories: Whimsy

Communal Table Flickr.jpg
Flickr
While talking with David McMillan about CVap burgers this week we took a small detour after he told me the Commissary was ditching the massive communal table that graced the dining room. For whatever reason, communal tables didn't really work in Dallas like they might in other cities, according to McMillan. We talked a little about why they might not resonate with the Dallas dining public, came up with nothing substantial, and then moved on.

Then Wednesday I sat next to a family at Veracruz Cafe and ended up with a massive case of plate envy. I was chowing down on an impressive bowl of soup, when a mound of queso, served fajita style on a sizzling iron skillet, made its way from the kitchen, drawing a trail of steam. Our tables were close, so I asked the woman about the molten mound of cheese, and for a few minutes we talked queso, cooking and the merits of mindfully watching the food that you're broiling (random, I know.)

I liked that little exchange, which made me think back to McMillan's comment. Communal tables are awesome.

Bolsa Mercado has a communal table. I sat at it eating a pastrami sandwich that kinda tasted like pastrami and talked to two women who ran a design company in Oak Cliff. I've heard Kuby's has one, but I've yet to dine there. The Common Table has a long communal table outside, but I've only sat at that one with a small group of friends, no strangers.

At Goodfriend, outside on the patio there are long tables that strangers share. It was there that another customer asked if my sandwich basket contained a fried squirrel. (It was a pretty big piece of chicken.)

I love these seemingly random interactions with strangers while I'm eating out. Communal tables foster this interactions, but bars do too. A good bartender can keep his patrons talking, and a horseshoe shaped or square bar feels more social that a single, long run. The underground dinners you hear so much about in Deep Ellum make use of two, long communal tables, and while I've refrained from commenting on the cooking, I'll say this with authority: The dinners are fun.

What's your stance on dining with strangers. Is it an indulgence that fosters interaction with new and interesting people or would you rather stick with your own circle?

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14 comments
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john smith
john smith

Thank you sharing exceptional post. Your own website is really so cool. We have been impressed from the main items that you’ve shown in  this post.  regardsRestaurant Tables

twinwillow
twinwillow

My ex always said no to staying at a "Bed and Breakfast" because she hated the perfunctory conversation at the communal breakfast table.Communal tables never bothered me, though.

CitizenKane
CitizenKane

Way too many factors enter into it being a good or bad experinece; so, a blanket "yes" or "no" to the communal question is not possible.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

A famous Greek place in LA has a weekly communal dinner.  Multi-course family style, prix fixe.  Went there once, wound up meeting several people there, one of which has been one of my best friends for the last 10+ years.

FANTASTIC experience.  We need more of it.

Also, Henks does long communal tables when they're busy or on special nights, not sure, I just know I go in sometimes and there they are, big rows of biergarten-style tables full of people eating amazing German/Austrian eats.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

How does this article not mention Joe T Garcia's?

Family style, communal dining is a blast in the right setting.  It can't be a place trying to be "intimate" or anywhere that would be in the Shops at Legacy, though.

TLS
TLS

Big NO on the communal table.  The chances of sitting with people with poor table manners, unsightly feet (men in flip flops or sandels...gross!), annoying conversations, sneezing, coughing, and burping, causing me to loss my appetite is too high.  They wouldn't like me either.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

Communal tables aren't for fast, casual dining.  Just doesn't work.  They ONLY work at places that exist for people who are there to enjoy both the food AND the experience.  Have you ever been to a hibachi place?  Ever had that problem there?  Exactly.

twinwillow
twinwillow

How about a sushi bar? That's a very good example of a "communal table". You'll usually only have to make contact with the people directly on each side of you.

Mark
Mark

Haha, at least you recognize that they wouldn't like you either. Nice save.

Jac
Jac

It depends on the place and the decor. Sometimes I totally don't mind communal tables, other times it can be annoying or poorly thought-out.

I don't think it's a "Dallas" thing as much as you might want to make it be.

Quite frequently, communal tables (done well) are in dense, urban centers where space is very limited. The places might even borderline on being cool, hip, eclectic and so on. Maybe even catering to a younger 25-45 foodie crowd.

In Dallas, we've got space. Lots of it, which is good and bad. But not too many restaurant are "small" or resemble the dense, urban little eateries that can be found in other cities. So diners here, just might not be as acclimated with seeing it too often.

I'm probably guilty of it too. At a little bistro in NYC or a spot in San Francisco, you're like "ohh, how intimate" or "ambiant". Here, at home, you just want some fuckin' space.

Jac
Jac

errr-"ambient"

matt
matt

Always dig communal tables. Especially at the pop up dinners so we can share wine and good stories with new friends

MattL1
MattL1

There's only one type of communal table that I like. It's called a "bar." 

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