Seat for One, Table for 12

“I got us the last reservation,” RG Daughter told me. “It’s earlier than we normally go out, but this place is supposed to be amazing.” I have been in Colorado for the past few days, a quick trip west to celebrate RG Daughter’s birthday.

Amazing restaurant, eh? Of late, I have learned I have to give up being so skeptical when someone tells me a certain restaurant is terrific, or that a specific beach is both quiet and wide, or that I will “love” a particular movie. Of late, I have been proven oh-so-wrong when, regardless of who is telling me what I will like, I still assume the restaurant must be mediocre, the beach has to be busy, and the movie plot is likely contrived.

Starting yesterday morning, however, when RG Daughter promised me the “best cafe mocha you will ever taste” at an indy coffee shop near her campus, I figured the gods must be trying to hit me over the head with the notion that I should stop pretending I know anything about anything I haven’t actually tried, and that I should shut up already with the skepticism and just try what various friends and family members are telling me to.

Duh, simple. But this opinionated head is sometimes quite hard to break through.

Thus, I now know I will never have another mocha like the one I had yesterday (it’s all in the melted dark chocolate they use instead of the usual syrup), and that a cafe in a small town a couple of towns away from my daughter’s college is, indeed, amazing.

We were seated at a nice table for four that overlooked a deck that overlooked the water that fed the springs that lured people to this town more than a hundred years ago. I noticed an enormous table next to us, half full, where the guests were clearly not dining together. One woman at one end of the table had turned her chair to the side and was sipping wine as she wrote in a journal. At the other end of the table, however, an elderly woman with tight white-gray curls and bright blue eyes, was engaging the young man to her left in an animated conversation punctuated with many hand movements and smiles. Soon, a young woman to her right joined their dinner talk.

One by one, the host seated another guest at this large rectangular table and offered a menu. One by one, these single guests were soon sipping wine and enjoying their meals with the others seated around them. By the time we were pondering dessert for our table, the woman with the journal had stashed it in her bag and was offering a taste of her wine to two women who’d been seated next to her. The opposite end of the table looked for all the world like a dinner party in full swing, the matriarch fully in charge of a conversation with no awkward lulls.

I learned this was a “community table” available only to walk-ins. A few of the guests came in as couples, but the remaining guests would otherwise have been a “table for one.” Except here in this amazing place, there were no tables for one–just a seat for one and the opportunity to break bread with others.

I know this is hardly an unusual concept in various European countries. But this was the first time I’d seen such a table in an upscale eatery that is reportedly always booked solid with reservations. Could a communal/community table work in any type of restaurant?

I tried to picture it in a number of places in South Florida, where I have dined alone at a bar in order to not feel alone. Such a table would have been so welcome, at least to me. I can’t imagine it in my restaurant, however, because we have so few guests who dine solo with us. But if we had a community table, might it become locally known and attract more single people? Is that a good thing for a restaurant? I really don’t know.

The communal dinner that played out next to ours on this night, however, seemed perfectly natural–not at all like a forced dining concept or a new fad. It was just dinner, and no one dined alone.






12 responses to “Seat for One, Table for 12”

  1. Kim Ayres Avatar

    What a superb idea! A table like that ought to be compulsory in all restaurants

  2. Jaime Avatar

    what a great idea!!!

    i can’t see it working in S. Florida…. at least, not as far south as I *think* you are. I wonder if it would work better where there is a larger elderly population, like WPB or Naples or Sarasota?

  3. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Kim–It is truly something. I went back to the restaurant for breakfast this morning with my daughter and her boyfriend. That’s when I discovered it is really called a “community” table designed for “communal” dining. It also seats fewer than I realized, although I think they squeezed 14 or more at that table last night. At breakfast today, 12 were seated.

    Jaime–Actually, I think it might work well in some trendy SoFla places where lots of younger single people go, too. At this Colorado restaurant, a range of ages enjoyed the table–from college student to grandmother.

  4. mur Avatar

    I recommended exactly such a table to our local cafeteria, a nice neighborhood place that is very popular with a wide range of ages, incomes, etc.

    So far they haven’t done it, but I won’t let it drop. They are usually very receptive to suggestions, which is one of the reasons (other than the dependable food) that makes the place popular in our ‘hood.

    It would be especially nice for the older singles (I’ve seen a number of widows) to have a group to join. Maybe they could start with one night a week and see how it goes.

  5. Lisa Avatar

    That sounds amazing! I work in a local family diner/truck stop type restaurant. It’s a casual, seat yourself, owner’s mom in the kitchen cooking kind of place. We do get a lot of truckers in, and although we don’t have a specific table like that, so many of the truckers will start conversations with each other or sit with each other. There’s some tables that know each other just from coming in all the time. It’s awesome and feels like a little community in itself 🙂

  6. Mary Avatar

    One of the best breakfast adventures I ever had was at a “community” table many years ago at a small local family-run breakfast-lunch cafe. That cafe was where I also discovered pomegranate jelly — a favorite to this day and hard to find. Sadly, the cafe was bought out by the car dealer next door when it was expanding.

  7. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Mur–Maybe a “community table”night with several set up. On the other hand, I loved the natural, matter-of-fact idea of the one in the Colorado eatery.

    Lisa–Sounds like that kind of table–and only that kind of table–would work incredibly well where you work. by the way, is this your first time commenting? If so, thank you!

    Mary–Pomegranate jelly…I MUST have some on my rice crackers. Are you a new reader to this site? If not, apologies. I am suddenly seeing new names and trying to make sure I know who is who and who is new. Regardless, thanks for commenting.

  8. upset waitress Avatar

    All our outside tables are community tables. Big long picnic tables. It’s no different then sitting at an upscale bar that serves food really.

  9. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    UW–In a way, you are right, it is like eating at a bar. But there was something about the way people were seated around this huge table that lent a completely different feel. Also, it was in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by smaller tables, so it was very much a part of the dining room. Bars are often up front or off to the side, and not everyone at a bar is there to eat. This table was all about the food and being a part of the dining part of the restaurant.

  10. Jessie Avatar

    When my fiancee and I went to Colorado a year ago, we went to a breakfast place that came highly reccommended and were seated at the community table. I loved it. We struck up conversation with two other couples and got the feeling of being at a family breakfast even though we weren’t at home. I wish every restaurant would have a community table; I would sit there everytime!

  11. Sarah Reese Avatar
    Sarah Reese

    Talula’s Table, a little spot in the middle of nowhere, PA, does it. By day, it’s a community table, by night, it’s a private dinner party. Pretty neat.

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