The Other Critics

Locke-Ober: Time to Bring Back the Dress Code?

Yes, this is your grandmother's dining room.
Yes, this is your grandmother’s dining room. Photo: istockphoto

The time has come: The Globe’s Devra First visits the much-anticipated, refurbished Locke-Ober, now under new management. Hers is a melancholy portrait of a dining room echoing with garrulous old-timers and T-shirt-sporting tourists.

The bawdy elderlies make for fun-people watching. And, hey, the old-timey food gets a passable review. That’s all fine. Or, it should be fine. Because as First notes, people go to Locke-Ober because it’s a special-occasion place, a nostalgia trip, the kind of restaurant where you had your first covert gulp of Dad’s sidecar or tentative swallow baked Alaska. “It’s the best place in town to pretend you’re Don Draper or his date,” she writes. You don’t have to go for the food!

And herein lies our beef: The dress code is gone! And if your restaurant, one that’s built a reputation on stateliness and tradition, can’t churn out amazing food and it allows people to straggle in wearing T-shirts, well, why go? A jacket and tie can compensate for a multitude of sins, especially after a few swigs of that tasty sidecar. If Locke-Ober isn’t going to distinguish itself as an amazing culinary experience, it might as well stick to a Big Night Out policy. And that means dressing up. Clearly the clientele — most of whom remember Locke-Ober as it once was — wouldn’t mind the effort. Meanwhile, a younger group might treat the whole enterprise as a curiosity, a retro exercise. And if they can lure in a younger group with some dress-up cachet, and perhaps surprise and delight them with the food that they’re often capable of, well, who knows? The new Locke-Ober might capture a fresh generation of diners.

So while some might read the review and yearn for Lydia Shire, we say: Bring back the dress code, please!

Timeless Yes, But Time for A Change [Globe]

Related: Locke-Ober Sheds Jacket Policy

Locke-Ober: Time to Bring Back the Dress Code?