The pandemic has forced restaurants and diners to rethink the way they do business. Out: printed menus that get reused. In: QR codes that allow contactless ordering. Here are some things we’ve lost that I won’t miss:
No reservations: Lines are for Trader Joe’s. Unlike not so very long ago, most restaurants ask you to let them know you’re coming (and not to overstay your welcome). The ability to schedule a meal away from home is a boon to a big constituency: babysitters, super-planners — your feet.
Earsplitting dining rooms: I’ve put my sound meter on pause. With most people opting for takeout or delivery and dining rooms at partial capacity, noise has become a nonissue. One of many silver linings in the cloud: I have fresh appreciation for the Peruvian cooking at Pisco y Nazca in downtown Washington, where I once endured 100 decibels during dinner — the equivalent of a jet engine at takeoff. Lomo saltado tastes infinitely better at conversation level.
Help-yourself bread baskets: No more worrying about companions fondling the wares before making a decision. (You know who you are.) If you’re getting bread in a restaurant these days, chances are, it’s being doled out by a server with tongs on individual plates — cleaner and neater, in other words.
Communal tables: In theory, it sounds like fun, a bunch of strangers framing a big table and possibly bonding over more than just the menu. In reality, a lot of us just want to hang out with our own peeps and not feel the need to make conversation with someone simply because our elbows are touching.
Crowded bars: Do you miss shouting over a sea of heads to order an Aviation cocktail or DC Brau, then spilling some of the quaff when you tried to navigate away from the huddle? Me neither. I also don’t miss those barstool-savers, whose expected companions are “just parking” or should be there “any second now.” Don’t get me wrong. I sorely miss the conviviality of bars — just not the three-deepers.
Epic specials: A lot of menus got trimmed, meaning less waste for the kitchen and possibly more consistency for the diner. Specials have their place, but when their verbal introduction goes longer than a few dishes, you tend to forget everything but the nuts you love, the herbs you hate and … what’s a galantine again? Plus, masked servers, no matter how articulate, have to be grateful not to be asked, “Can you repeat that?”
Tight seating: Remember when you had to be a string bean to avoid slipping into a table sideways or on tiptoes or both? The pandemic established pools of space between tables, and diners everywhere are happy to be able to stretch out — and frankly, to avoid the fannies and crotches of strangers trying to squeeze by.
Designed by Twila Waddy.