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Misi’s bar with the let me tell you badge
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Let me tell you—sitting at the bar in a restaurant is always a great idea

Whether dining solo or with a pal, consider sitting at the bar.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan

"Let Me Tell You" is a series of columns from our expert editors about NYC living, including the best things to do, where to eat and drink, and what to see at the theater. They publish each Tuesday so you’re hearing from us each week. Last month, Senior News Editor Anna Rahmanan listed all the reasons to catch The Ally at The Public.

When it comes to dining out, my husband Perry and I share a few proclivities as a couple: we enjoy Thursday night outings over Saturday evenings, we won’t ever take pictures of our food and, without fail, when given the choice, we sit at the bar.

The seating preference sort of came naturally to us—an unspoken habit that developed over time after enjoying meals together at restaurants around New York and abroad. 

When asked about our penchant, Perry answers in a typical Perry way (you should really get to know him):

"I think it's the same reason why I dislike brand names on my clothes," he says to me. 

“Which is to say?” I respond. 

"Less show-offy? It makes the dinner less formal in a way,” Perry says to me.

I see his point: although the service at the bar is usually on par with what is offered at “traditional” tables, the whole ordeal feels less stuffy when sitting shoulder-to-shoulder among strangers. In a way, bar diners sort of disappear into their surroundings, becoming part and parcel of the restaurant’s decor.

There are, though, a few things to keep in mind, including the number of folks in your party. If heading out to lunch or dinner with more than one companion, sitting at the bar would just make things awkward, for example. A three-way conversation while you're shoulder-to-shoulder is guaranteed to be a not-so-pleasant experience, after all. 

The cuisine offered at the eatery also plays a role in it all: when at a sushi restaurant, dining at the bar usually involves seeing the chefs excel at their craft while slicing fish right in front of you, for example. At an Italian joint—take Misi in Brooklyn, home to one of the best restaurant bars in the city—you might be able to catch cooks perfecting a sauce or flambéing a dessert. Think of it as dinner and a show!

Although our common disposition does, indeed, fill me with a sense of contentment and serves as obvious proof of our compatibility, I enjoyed sitting at restaurant bars way before Perry and I got together.

I’ve devoured pasta at the bar by myself at Don Antonio before catching a Broadway show countless times, reveled in the sweetness of the fish at Sugarfish on Spring Street and pondered about the state of worldwide affairs at Norma in midtown while having dinner next to a woman who looked like the perfect cross between Robin right and Leslie Mann.

Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with sitting at a table on your own to enjoy a meal cooked just for you at any type of restaurant, there is something more relaxing, refreshing and mildly enterprising about grabbing a chair by the bar: you never know who is going to sit next to you and what may happen next—especially in a city filled with characters as varied as the ones that call New York home.

Which brings me to my final point—a Time Out tip, if you will. For the sake of enjoying the spirit of New York, which is most thoroughly encapsulated in the vast variety of restaurants that stake a claim here, try to put your phone away and just focus on the food in front of you and the people around you (well, next to you) when taking a seat at the bar. There will be time to scroll through Instagram while laying down in bed with your belly filled with delicious food and your brain reminiscing about the cooking technique that you were able to gaze at earlier. Perhaps a trick to show off at your next dinner party?

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