Who Owns the Bar?

Are you sure you don't want a pork chop with that martini?
Are you sure you don’t want a pork chop with that martini? Photo: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

Bellying up to the bar is taking on new meaning in this era of the dining-at-the-counter trend. At busy and pricey restaurants the pressure to turn over your bar seats or order food can feel pretty darn familiar — not unlike the pressure diners feel to get out of those precious at-a-table seats so a new party can be have them.

This writer had a weird run-in at The Meatball Shop: After ordering drinks we waited for a dinner table and a third member of our party to show up. Right as we drained our sangrias and asked for waters — we declined to order a second round since our friend was five minutes away — the barkeep smiled sardonically and said, “That’s OK, I’m not mad.” Oof! Another Grub Street writer tipping back drinks at Vinegar Hill House the other night reports that the food menu was brought by “a few times” while he waited for a proper dinner table.

At Osteria Morini, two customers told the Voice that they wanted to drink a couple of glasses of wine at the bar, but were told to stand in the corner instead. Three being a trend, it was time to make some calls. Osteria Morini has an unusual policy. Manager David Norris reports that it’s “very conceivable” these diners sat in that section that is “solely for dining and reservation-only.” Apparently the back portion of the L-shaped bar is “set up for dining,” and since it’s near the pastry section, this is an effort to “keep diners in front of people who are making food” — a sort of Chef’s Table experience. He encourages drinkers to sit at the front part of the bar, where place settings are not apparent — although diners are welcome to order food at the bar (naturally).

The manager at The Meatball Shop, however, minced no words: “I don’t know why [that was] the reaction you got, and I do apologize for that … that should not at all have been the reaction. We’re so grateful for everyone to wait to get served … we couldn’t be happier that people are here and willing to wait for our food, so I apologize that that is the reaction you got from our bartender in any way shape or form.” Nice. We feel better.

But is it just us? With the bar becoming the new table, are you starting to feel the same pressures to vacate your seat?

Who Owns the Bar?