Restaurant Guru

In Eat, November 2017 by Raleigh MagazineLeave a Comment

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Dear Restaurant Guru,

Recently, my husband and I decided to try a restaurant downtown. We didn’t have a reservation but we planned to enjoy a cocktail in their bar and just wait as we weren’t in a hurry. We walked in the door, added our name to the list and headed for the bar but we were told we couldn’t sit there and that the seating was reservation-only. What the…? This isn’t New York City. Since when do I need a reservation to sit at the bar, have a drink and wait for a table? Why are restaurants doing this? Is this the future of restaurants in Raleigh?

— Bar Stool Deprived

Dear Bar Stool Deprived,

Instinctually, I’m right there with you. What kind of establishment takes reservations for bar seats? Isn’t the bar simply a waiting area to meet your friends and eventually sit at a table?

I believe there’s a new
dining experience evolving at the bar, and it comes with the craft cocktail movement, complex menu selections and an engaging bartender. Sitting at the bar may be the best seat in the house.

Going to a great restaurant is now the entertainment for the night, and what better way to be entertained than to have front row seats to the performance? I recently dined at Death & Taxes with a large group, and we opted to sit at the bar facing the kitchen. The experience was tremendous. The chefs inspired us to order certain selections and even encouraged me to drink a shot of bourbon from a bone marrow luge. Yes, that’s a real thing.

So, if you’re planning a romantic date, make a reservation for a table. If you’re interested in a lively dining experience, perhaps a couple bar stools is the way to go? If it’s a spontaneous night, be prepared for the crowds. But most important, embrace that there are so many great dining options in town that even reservations are required to sit at the bar.

Remember, there was a time, not too long ago, when dining in Raleigh was nothing to write about…

And to my entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, here’s an idea: let’s open some bar-focused restaurants!

— Max Trujillo

Host of the NC F&B Podcast.

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