Eating at the Bar
I was watching an old Sex in the City rerun the other night, the episode where Carrie Bradshaw is gracing the cover of New York magazine as the poster child for the single and fabulous. Yet, she looks like shit and is holding a cigarette. Anyhow, the episode ends with Carrie coming to terms with being single as she sits at a table in a restaurant by herself, no girlfriend, no book, no computer, no crutch.
A lot of people probably applauded her “bravery.” I kept wondering why she didn’t just find a restaurant with a bar and eat there. We know she liked to drink at a bar. Of course, I know Carrie Bradshaw is just a fictional character, but a lot of people cringe at the idea of eating at the bar, including several I know.
I used to think it was perhaps leftover from the days when many bars served only a limited “bar menu” of chicken wings and hamburgers. Studies of consumer research suggest something else might be going on. Americans are more comfortable being seen doing “utilitarian” activities alone than “hedonic” ones. People worry that doing something like eating or drinking alone carries a negative connotation, an indicator perhaps that they are lacking friends and therefore something must be wrong with them. Going grocery shopping or getting one’s car washed alone, on the other hand, is okay.
I love to eat at the bar. First of all, you seldom have to wait for a seat. That’s good for someone like me who never has it together enough to make reservations and who eschews large group dinners. Don’t even think of handing me one of those plastic buzzer alert thingies. The service at the bar is usually quick and attentive. You also get your drink faster, too. Let me say that again: you get your drink faster. And, if you like to watch sporting events, well, that’s usually where the televisions are.
Bartenders tend to be more truthful, I think, than waiters on providing tips on what’s good in the kitchen on a given night. Bartenders also seem to know everything going on in a community, so if you’re traveling or on vacation in a new locale you’ll learn much more about the place sitting at the bar for your supper than you would by trying to slow down a waiter who’s dashing about his section.
I also find Bar People infinitely more interesting than Table Dwellers. I’ve met lesbian birders, oyster farmers, a medicinal marijuana grower, and a crime noir writer. In Key West once a Chihuahua in a tutu tried to bite me. In Baltimore a derelict tried to sell me stolen sneakers and tomatoes. I’ve been offered a cat to chase mice. I’ve learned how to make my own ginger beer and how to properly taste moonshine. Speaking of tasting, I tasted my first Manhattan while having dinner at the bar at Annie’s on 17th Street in Washington back in the ‘80s. I swear Annie herself poured them pre-made from a plastic container. Could that be right?
All the entertainment aside, you want to know the best reason—hands down—for eating at the bar? No children!
Rehoboth is known as a restaurant town. It’s also a great town in which to eat at the bar. Here are a few of my favorite haunts, starting with the bar at Café Azafran. It’s a great spot to tipple and nosh and see and be seen. Go on Thursday night when Holly Lane is singing and slinging behind the bar.
The bar at DiFebo’s is comfortable and roomy. The bartender puts out these lovely wooden trays that fit over the lip of the bar to create your personal dining table. The bread and the wine never stop flowing. I’m so glad bread is back. I also like the big meatballs they plop onto the small bar for you over at the Lupo Italian Kitchen.
Baseball fans should check out the downstairs bar at Nicola for pizza, classic American lagers on tap, and the Phillies/Orioles/Nats games du jour. The (Frogg) Pond is great for football Saturdays and Sundays. The screens are placed just right so you can look up from your plate of chicken wings, face and fingers smeared in sauce, and check out the games.
I could go on, but this isn’t a restaurant review, just a friendly tip from your friendly neighborhood writer. As the high season will soon be upon us, I suggest you consider bellying up to the bar not only to drink, but to eat. What are you waiting for? Not a table, I can tell you that.