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Ms. Manners: Communal Seating

At some point, everyone has been thrown a curveball when out in SF.  I don’t mean an awkward run-in with your boss, or that time you tried online dating.  I’m talking about when the atmosphere is unfamiliar and you’re left clumsily shuffling through your index of social graces and coming up empty.

Maybe it’s the moment you realize the bar is cash only, or you don’t recognize 75% of the ingredients on the dinner menu.  I’m here to help you tackle any situation, from the banally inconvenient to the treacherous, with grace, aplomb, and maybe just a hint of smug.  After all, your Mom is right; manners matter, even in the modern age.

Communal Seating:

Many restaurants now offer communal seating in the dining room.  This can make for a really fun and unique experience (and give you a shot at walk in seats that are otherwise non-existant at hot restaurants), but it also has the potential to throw a lot of people off.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to make sure you get the best out of the big table.

Do: Use props to engage with your neighbors. It can be awkward to chat with those around you, beyond an initial friendly smile when you sit down. Use the materials around you as an icebreaker.

Don’t: Force it. Don’t feel pressured to talk to those around you, or be the life of the pseudo-party. If and when you are engaged, have fun and be friendly, but remember, you don’t have to entertain anyone.

Do: Go with a small group. A party of 2-4 people is great for a communal table, because you don’t dominate the table.  Stick with your close friends, and make sure there is at least one outgoing person in the bunch.

Don’t: Take a first date. It may seem like a good idea to try the casual communal table but your date may be uncomfortable in the atypical social setting.  That being said, some folks are cool with it and it can be a great bonding experience.  As a rule, proceed with caution.

Ultimately- it’s a chance to relax and maybe meet some new friends. After all, you’re there to have fun and enjoy the good things in life: good food, good drink and good company. Ready to try it out yourself? Here are three great restaurants in the city with communal seating.


Guten tag! Suppenkuche is a great place to try out the communal table. Get a big beer, and enjoy traditional German cuisine while you get to know your neighbors. Maybe if you get really lucky one of your tablemates will know some traditional beer house drinking songs- you’ll all be the best of friends by closing time.



This popular spot on Divisadero is always packed, so often your best bet is the communal table.  Near the front of the house- it’s lively and gives you a great vantage spot from which to keep an eye on the bar, street and the rest of the dining room.

flour + water

One of the great things about flour + water is that they make it easy to talk to your neighbors. If the interesting menu, and friendly staff aren’t enough- they distribute the restaurants evening playlist every night which is great fodder for conversation!