It’s the Little Things: 10 Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities #hackdining

Michelin-level food, stellar service, or awe-inspiring settings can go a long way to creating a memorable meal. However, sometimes it’s the littlest touches that make the biggest impact. Here are 10 thoughtful restaurant amenities that help diners enjoy a next level experience.

Madison, San Diego, California
Situated in the trendy University Height’s neighborhood, the sleek Mediterranean eatery boasts a gorgeous cedar-lined patio. On evenings when the temperatures dip, guests dining al fresco can request one of the monogrammed fleece blankets. As they snuggle up, we recommend ordering another round of well-executed cocktails – such as the View From Above with rye and ancho chili liqueur – to help ward off the chill. Make a reservation at Madison.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, San Francisco, California
A lot of restaurants have valet parking. But this waterfront eatery is one of the few to offer free valet parking — for diners’ boats. The dock and dine perk allows waterborne guests to enjoy a seamless experience from the decks of their yachts to the restaurant’s patio. Make a reservation at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Besito, Burlington, Massachusetts
There are amenities galore at this Mexican restaurant. Little diners are given complimentary banana and avocado when they arrive, giving them something to nosh on while their parents peruse the menus. During the summer months, outdoor tables are stocked with sunglass cleaning wipes and treat/water bowls for dogs. And guests are sent home with still warm, freshly made churros at the end of their meal. The only perk we can’t guarantee is a besito (little kiss). Make a reservation at Besito.

Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities

Stars, Chatham, Massachusetts
Forgot your glasses at home, so now you can’t read the menu? Never fear, there’s an array of Moscot glasses on hand in a variety of prescriptions and styles. Once the menu is in focus, we recommend the butter poached lobster and the oyster stew topped with pork belly and caviar. Make a reservation at Stars.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Want tickets to the sold out Kanye West concert happening that night? Forget to bring flowers to your anniversary dinner? Looking to get into an exclusive speakeasy for post-dinner drinks? The in-house concierge can help with all these problems and more. Frankly, we wish they were available to tag along with us on all our nights out on the town. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.

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You Got (Dis)Served: 7 Signs You’re Receiving Bad Restaurant Service #hackdining

Signs you're receiving bad restaurant service

Alton Brown once said, “Good service can save a bad meal, but there is no level of food that can save bad service.” Oftentimes the errors can be glaring, but sometimes the slights to the guest are more subtle. So what are the signs you’re receiving bad restaurant service?

To find out, we spoke to front-of-house all-star William Washington. A managing partner at Farmers Fishers Bakers in Washington, D.C., he’s a veteran of The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Blue Duck Tavern, and the Inn at Little Washington. He clued us into seven common service slip-ups that can turn what should have been a great meal into an unforgettable disaster.

You’re not seated at the time of your reservation.

“After five minutes of waiting for your table, it’s okay to check in with the host to make sure you’re on their radar, but this doesn’t mean you should be complaining. If they’re 15 minutes behind schedule, it’s more than reasonable to ask for a manager. They should do something for you at that point – at the very least an apology, but maybe a drink, too. At 30 minutes you have a right to be infuriated and the restaurant should definitely do something for you.”

A staff member doesn’t acknowledge you when you’re seated.

“Someone should greet you within two to three minutes of you arriving at your table. Within five minutes, you should have a server getting your drink order and addressing any issues with the table or the experience. You don’t have the right to ask them to change the music necessarily, but if it’s a hot summer night and you’re sweating, you can ask them to check to see if air conditioning is working.”

You don’t have a drink in hand within 10 minutes.

“And it should only take that long for craft cocktails. Also, the sommelier should visit the table while you still have the wine list open – not after you’ve ordered.”

You’re not noshing on appetizers within 15 minutes.

“Unless it’s something convoluted. In that case, a server should tell you up front, ‘The shrimp soufflé takes extra time, so please be aware.’ If you only order mains, they should be to you within 20 minutes.”Continue Reading

Dining Room, Oyster Bar + Institution: Inside Shaw’s Crab House

Dining Room, Oyster Bar & Institution: Inside Shaw's Crab House

“Either you’re an oyster bar guest or a dining room guest,” says John Gurgone, General Manager at Shaw’s Crab House.

Shaw’s is the 31-year-old Chicago institution known for its simply steamed seafood, and as John points out, the restaurant offers two distinctive but equally iconic experiences. On one hand, there’s the dining room: 330 seats, white tablecloths, 17 servers at a given time, reservations strongly recommended. This is where tourists come in after architectural tours and where locals gather for business lunches or to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.

The oyster bar is a separate room entirely, with around 95 seats available exclusively for walk-ins — a mix of bar seats, high-tops, and casual wood tables. Oysters, predictably, are the main event: the centerpiece of the room is an oyster shucking station, where at any given time 12 varieties are served (six East Coast, six West Coast).

Otherwise, the menus are largely the same, but it’s the vibrant atmosphere that sets it apart: a live band plays jazz and blues music every Sunday through Thursday. Here’s how the two spaces work together. Continue Reading

Afternoon Delight: Top High Tea Restaurants

Whether it’s the iconic three-tiered silver tray with canapés and white-glove service or something fresh like al fresco iced brews and a “TeaJ” in lieu of a harp, afternoon tea is getting pinkies and thumbs up. Boston Public Library has even gone so far as to cancel its lunch service to make space for sippers all week long, and dads can get in on the game with boozy brews and heavier snacks like s’mores with maple-smoked bacon at another seaside hotel in that historic city. Blame it on an urge to celebrate British traditions with all of this Brexit talk — the union of savory and sweet in the afternoon will always win on this side of the pond at one of these top high tea restaurants.

The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts
Tea is just as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach at Boston Public Library, where the historic McKim Building, circa 1895, was declared a U.S. national historic landmark in 1986. The Courtyard Restaurant overlooks an open-air Italianate courtyard with a vaulted ceiling and ornate chandelier originally installed over a grand staircase in the 1950s, and the aesthetic was completed with the installation of a marble floor in the nineties. “Enjoying tea in the restaurant is transportive,” says manager Akiko Yamagata. “Sitting in the serene dining room in a historic building, one’s imagination takes hold, into a different time and its customs — just like reading a captivating novel.” The extensive menu — which changes several times a year — is just as captivating and features blends from Massachusetts-based outfit MEM Tea Imports, including the popular Wedding Blend, a fruity, flowery, and herbaceous green. Make a reservation at The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library.

High Tea Restaurants

 Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago, Illinois
Pavilion at the Langham in Chicago, truly brings a tradition from across the pond to the shores of Lake Michigan with its Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood — which first debuted at the Langham in London in 1865. Sweet and savory bites like artichoke and melted leek quiche, a grilled asparagus sandwich with petite lettuce salad, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh ricotta, lemon-cherry scones with grapefruit marmalade and blackberry jam, and chocolate verrine with dark chocolate brownie and milk chocolate mousse are served much the same way they were more than a century ago. The Pavilion serves up 25 blends including five blends exclusive to the Langham, including a fruity rhubarb for kids. Make a reservation at Pavilion at The Langham.

High Tea Restaurants

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
It’s no surprise that being in British Columbia the folks at Butchart Gardens would honor the British tradition of teatime — but what is unique is the way in which they incorporate West Coast flair. Both executive chef Travis Hansen and pastry chef Keith Tran — both of whom have worked at the Gardens for more than 25 years each — pride themselves on signature items such as locally smoked wild salmon, curried Cowichan Valley chicken salad, and candied ginger scones from an old family recipe. Summer is an especially ideal time to visit the Gardens for another reason, says sommelier and dining room manager Dave Lane, who notes that the Backyard Flight program is a “must-try. We’re extremely fortunate to be surrounded by wineries and orchards that provide us with world-class wines, spirits, and liquors, and every year we pick the best to pair with our teas to showcase the terroir and character of the growing conditions. It’s a unique experience not found anywhere else.” Make a reservation at Butchart Gardens.

High Tea Restaurants

Modern Tea, Chicago, Illinois
A tradition gets a makeover at Modern Tea in Chicago, where the Radisson’s swanky lobby with couches and a gold-plated mirror puts a new spin on live music from a jazz or string quartet with a “TeaJ.” There are eight Rishi teas from which to choose (available over ice when the mercury climbs) and outside seating for al fresco dining featuring sweets from the hotel’s new pastry chef Caroline Kolaja. One of her specialties is a basil passion tart, though she also admits to having a penchant for cake batter ice cream — her first industry job was as a Ben & Jerry’s scooper in high school. Make a reservation at Modern Tea.

High Tea Restaurants

Pembroke Room, New York, New York
Good things come in threes at the Pembroke Room, which features three styles of service: the classic, the Pembroke Royal, and the Lowell Imperial. Each includes a selection of more than 20 Dammann Frères fine French tea varieties, classic finger sandwiches (curry chicken, cucumber and watercress, lobster roll) a dill, egg, and cornichon salad, caviar blinis with goat cheese, scones, petit fours, and more. But the latter two options give you a chance to enhance your experience with a glass of rosé, port, or sherry as part of the Pembroke, and Champagne and caviar with the Lowell Imperial. Look for further enhancements starting in September, when the space will get a spruce-up with new furnishings, carpet, window treatments, and design elements meant to keep the spirit of the room while maintaining the tradition of classic elegance that’s been the setting for generations of bridal bashes and baby showers. Make a reservation at the Pembroke Room.

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