What’s the best way to eat your way through your city? A group of friends in Atlanta decided to rely on the alphabet as their dining guide, with an assist from OpenTable.
I talked to founding member Rebecca Winter, who shared,”We started our ‘ABC Dinner Group‘ about six years ago as a way to try different restaurants. Initially, there were four of us initially who wanted to get out once a month, on a weeknight, to have a nice dinner in a nice restaurant without crowds, kids, husbands, etc.” The unique structure of the supper club came about out of necessity at first. ” We found that without any structure to picking the restaurant every week, we ended up at the same old places we had already been. So, we decided to try restaurants, one a month, alphabetically by name.”
They reached the end of the alphabet after three years, an occasion which prompted a designated driver. “When we got to Z, we had one of the husbands drive us around in a van, like a limo service, so that we could drink before, during, and after our dinner to celebrate completing the alphabet,” Rebecca reveals.
The group has grown by a few members, but the core four, including Rebecca, have been constants. Maintaining the intimacy of a perfect dinner party, the group caps its numbers for each dinner at eight. Rebecca shared the ABC Dinner Group’s other hard and fast rules:
1. Celebrate independents. “No chain restaurants!”
2. Order, please. “We had to pick restaurants in the same order as the alphabet – no skipping around.”
3. Christmas is wild. “We allow ourselves a wildcard selection at Christmas;we could revisit a favorite in December.”
4. Eating isn’t optional. “We have to actually have a meal at the restaurant.”
5. Except when it isn’t an option. “If the options are limited, (i.e. Q, X, Z, etc.), we could amend the rules (like when we went to the only restaurant in town that started with a certain letter, but it smelled like a backed-up sewer in the dining room, so we all just ordered gin and tonics at the bar, then left and went somewhere else to eat). We counted that, however.”
6. Have fun, will travel. “No neighborhood, part of town, cuisine, is off limits.”
7. Eight is great. “The group stays small – no larger than 8 people ever, and the core group is the original four founders. We plan reservations around the schedules of the first four, and, unfortunately, everyone else is out of luck if they can’t make a time that works for us.”
Rebecca also shared some lessons the ABC Dinner Group has learned by following the alphabet:
* “There are many restaurants we would never have tried if we hadn’t needed to satisfy a letter requirement. Some of those turned out to be really, really good. So, we are now more open-minded about the smaller, less exotic places that are out of the way.
* “There are many great restaurants outside the center part of town. The suburbs actually do have good food.”
* “You can find something to eat in just about any restaurant you visit.”
* “Service matters. The food may be good, but if service is bad on a weeknight, we won’t ever go back.”
* “Buy a Food Journal that you take with you into every restaurant. After 3 years and many bottles of wine, it’s fun to go back and read where we’ve been and what we said about each place.”
* “Sometimes waiters will give you the leftovers of someone else’s $300 bottle of wine if you are the only ones still in the restaurant.”
If you choose to start your own group, word will spread. Rebecca recommends keeping it small, even if that means telling people the group is not accepting new members. “We encourage folks to create their own groups — carefully. Group dynamics are important; it won’t be fun if everyone doesn’t like everyone else.”
Have you ever been a member of your own dining club? How many restaurants did you make it through as a group? Tell us below or join the discussion on Facebook!