^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
4

Custom Bars May Look Cool, But Are They Comfortable To Sit At?

I have long been convinced the bar is the best place to dine in a restaurant. You don't need reservations, bartenders are more attentive than waitstaff, and you get to talk to people you might not interact with while sitting at a table with friends. Not all bars are created equal, though. A bar has to be a comfortable place to dine if it's to reign over the traditional table. And it turns out that traditional tables and chairs hold the key to building a bar that works as well for a fork and plate as it does for a pint of beer.

When you buy a table and chairs for your dining room at home, the pieces are designed and built for each other. A dining chair usually has a seat pan that's 18 inches from the floor and table tops are usually 30 inches from the floor. That 12 inch difference between your ass and your elbows is a magical ratio that's governed nearly every meal you've had. No matter how tall or short you are, bars that mimic that ratio feel familiar, while bars that stray make for uncomfortable dining.

When I reviewed Tillman's Roadhouse last year, I noted the terrible ergonomics of their bar. The bar top is too tall and too shallow. You can't get your legs under the overhang and leaning over your plate is impossible. In comparison, Oak's bar is a pleasure for dining. Bolsa has a good one, too. I talked to Royce Ring from Plan B, the design firm responsible for both of these bars to see what it takes to build a comfortable bar. Here's what I learned:

Look to the dining table: Not just the measurement from stool top to the bar top, but the depth as well. A table for two is at least 24 inches wide, giving each diner 12 inches each for their legs before they rub knees. A bar needs to be at least this deep as well, or customers won't be able to "belly up" to the bar.

Monitor the build out: If your general contractor builds the substrate of the bar up to 42 inches and then you add a two-inch thick slab of granite to the top, the surface will be too high and customers will feel like little kids when they have a seat. Know what material you're using for the top before you build out the base.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Consider material: Nothing beats wood. It's warm to the touch and feels soft. If you go with cement, metal or stone, be mindful of the cold hard surface and offer your patrons a place mat.

Don't forget a foot rail: Ring told me the rail can range from 6 to 10 inches in height, but the most important dimension is its distance from the base of the bar. If it's not six inches away from the back of the bar, customers won't be able to rest the arches of their feet on the rail.

Purse hooks are paramount: A bar without purse hooks is a deal breaker. They aren't just for purses -- coats and umbrellas hang nicely there too.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.