While talking with David McMillan about CVap burgers this week we took a small detour after he told me the Commissary was ditching the massive communal table that graced the dining room. For whatever reason, communal tables didn't really work in Dallas like they might in other cities, according to McMillan. We talked a little about why they might not resonate with the Dallas dining public, came up with nothing substantial, and then moved on.
Then Wednesday I sat next to a family at Veracruz Cafe and ended up with a massive case of plate envy. I was chowing down on an impressive bowl of soup, when a mound of queso, served fajita style on a sizzling iron skillet, made its way from the kitchen, drawing a trail of steam. Our tables were close, so I asked the woman about the molten mound of cheese, and for a few minutes we talked queso, cooking and the merits of mindfully watching the food that you're broiling (random, I know.)
I liked that little exchange, which made me think back to McMillan's comment. Communal tables are awesome.
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Bolsa Mercado has a communal table. I sat at it eating a pastrami sandwich that kinda tasted like pastrami and talked to two women who ran a design company in Oak Cliff. I've heard Kuby's has one, but I've yet to dine there. The Common Table has a long communal table outside, but I've only sat at that one with a small group of friends, no strangers.
At Goodfriend, outside on the patio there are long tables that strangers share. It was there that another customer asked if my sandwich basket contained a fried squirrel. (It was a pretty big piece of chicken.)
I love these seemingly random interactions with strangers while I'm eating out. Communal tables foster this interactions, but bars do too. A good bartender can keep his patrons talking, and a horseshoe shaped or square bar feels more social that a single, long run. The underground dinners you hear so much about in Deep Ellum make use of two, long communal tables, and while I've refrained from commenting on the cooking, I'll say this with authority: The dinners are fun.
What's your stance on dining with strangers. Is it an indulgence that fosters interaction with new and interesting people or would you rather stick with your own circle?