The Bar Is (Almost) Always the Best Seat in the House

It'll save you time, possibly some cash, and you may walk away with a new friend.

The view from the bar at a crowded restaurant
Photo: Aanarav Sareen / Getty Images

For a lot of restaurant customers, the bar is where you sip a glass of wine while you wait for a table to become available. Or maybe it's a port in the storm because it's the only place left to sit in a very crowded restaurant that you didn't make a reservation for. Begrudgingly, you agree to eat dinner at the bar, elbow to elbow with strangers and face to face with the bartender. Don't think of sitting at the bar as a downgrade, think of it as an opportunity. There are a lot of benefits to sitting at the bar for a meal.

You get faster service.

Think about it. When you sit at a table, your server has to walk from your table to someplace else in the restaurant every time you need something and that's if you can even find your server. More coffee? They'll be back in a minute. Another fork? They'll go get one. When you sit at the bar, the bartender is literally right in front of you and they have almost everything you need right in front of them. Things happen faster at the bar and when you order another cocktail, they are the ones who are going to make it for you. When you sit at a table and order a cocktail, your server is the middle man, er, the middle person. Businesses often say they eliminate the middleman to save you money, but when you sit at the bar, it saves you time.

Happy hour specials exist.

Plenty of restaurants offer a happy hour, but so often those special prices are only good at one place in the restaurant: the bar. Why sit at a table and order a mango Margarita with Hellfire bitters and a Tajin rim when you can sit at the bar and get the same drink for $2 less? If you can find that magical unicorn of a restaurant that also has happy hour food specials, chances are you'll have to belly up to the bar to take advantage of them. Every once in a while, you can find a restaurant that offers happy hour prices no matter where you sit, but more often than not, the bar is where it's at. Granted, you might have to be eating and drinking at 4 p.m., but that's a small price to pay to not pay a large price.

You can talk to your bartender.

That's not to say you can't talk to your server; it's just not as easy. A server has customers spread out all over the place and moves throughout the restaurant while a bartender is directly in front of you and their customers are sitting right next to you. If you feel like it, and they don't seem too busy, chat them up. It's a great way to build a relationship and maybe eventually be seen as a regular, which will only make your future visits even better. Ask their name and then actually remember it for the next time. Honestly, I keep a note in my phone with the names of bartenders from restaurants so when I go back, I'm ready. Being friendly with the bartender is a great way to possibly score an extra drink on the house. I mean, the liquor is literally right there.

It's more social.

Okay, talking to strangers may be seen as a con to some, but it's really easy to do when sitting at the bar. It's not an expectation that you'll strike up a conversation with the people next you, but it's way more likely than if you are all sitting at separate dining tables. This can be especially great if you're a tourist because it's a chance to ask others about this new city you're exploring. Most people who sit at the bar are open to exchanging a few words.

You get dinner and a show.

When you sit at the bar, you get to see all kinds of things that you miss when you sit at a little booth next to the restrooms. Sure, there might be a television at the bar, but that's not interesting. Observing how lovingly and carefully the bartender creates the cocktails is what's interesting. You can appreciate the precision and detail that goes into each drink and maybe even learn something about your beverage. If you pay enough attention, you might even be able to recreate these drinks at home. Have a question about the ingredients? Ask! Most bartenders are happy to discuss their craft and share their knowledge.

No kids are allowed to sit the bar. Period.

Dining at the bar isn't for everyone (and definitely not children), but there are a lot of people who might like it if they tried it. It's ideal for one to three people, but anything over that isn't conducive to conversation because you're too spread out. If there are just two of you, search out that elusive corner section of the bar so you can face each other a bit. Be prepared that the barstool might not have a back to lean on or maybe you'll be closer to a stranger than you're used to. Always look for a hook underneath the bar to hang your bag or umbrella on and then don't forget to take your things with you when you leave. (To any restaurant owners who may be reading this and don't have hooks under the bar: they're cheap and the value to customers is immeasurable so go buy some right now.) Sitting at the bar for dinner is an unappreciated option. Call me a barfly if you like, but I'll be sitting there and I'll get my drink way before you get yours.

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