Is the crowded, uncomfortable and noisy communal dining moment in the New York restaurant scene almost over? No, it appears to be more popular than ever—with the kids, at least. With the grownups, though? Both the Times and Post today argue in their own ways that restaurants that don't take reservations, stuff their diners into one big table under dim lights and blast loud music at them are effectively practicing "legal age discrimination." They've got points.
The arguments, however, are nothing new. People have been bitching about restaurants without reservations for ages now and yet it has done nothing to stop them from opening up. There is a simple reason: A certain kind of restaurant clientele just loves to join a line, y'know?
The same goes for noise and light. Shocking though it may seem, many older diners like to be able to read menus and hear their dinner partners. Unfortunately, bright and quiet restaurants read as antiseptic to younger diners, and so we have a plethora of dungeon-dark "hip" restaurants downtown. This is why critics in some cities have taken to including actual decibal ratings in their reviews. Unfortunately those ratings can only help so much, because you know what happens when a restaurant gets a good review? It gets more crowded. And noisier.
As for communal tables, they've been around for ages but have been showing up more and more in the past decade, hand in hand with no-reservation policies. And those oversized tables do make sense for a certain kind of restaurant with limited space to work with. The do not, however, make sense in many of the giant restaurants they've been popping up in lately.
Sadly, however, it doesn't look like these trends, or the age discrimination they essentially advance, are going anywhere fast. What's a discerning diner to do? Either pretend you live in Florida and show up way early, or rip that axe off the door handle and hack your way to the front of the line "Here's Johnny!" style.