Vancouver Communal Dining and Long Table Restaurants

Are you brave enough to have a conversation with someone you don't know over a meal?

Credit: flickr / Evan Leeson

Long tables draw crowds in Vancouver, but do they interact?

Long tables draw crowds in Vancouver, but do they interact?

Vancouver careers are often furthered in cafes but heaven forbid that we’d socialise there…


I love the idea of a long-table dinner; a group of strangers connecting over the rudimentary act of eating; or individuals striking up a conversation over a cup of coffee and a copy of the Straight.  But more often than not, when I’m out at the various communal tables around the city, single diners keep their heads down and groups knit tighter than they would at a small table.


This always surprises me. We Canadians have a global reputation for being incredibly friendly, and certainly we’ll stop to give tourists directions or help someone with a flat tire but it seems that our common joy of food is an act too intimate to share.


Communal dining model: Grub with Us

It makes me wonder whether Vancouver could support a social dining experiment like Grub With Us, the Chicago website that aims to gather strangers around tables in some of Chicago’s best restaurants. Diners book themselves a seat at a table with other social diners in a sort of meet, greet and eat. Would we take the time to socialise? Or would we write it off as an awkward social experiment?


Benefits of eating together

The benefits of families eating together (which is on the decline in North America) are well documented. Likewise, dining with our peers provides the opportunities to engage in conversations that let us bond and learn from one another. It’s a chance to share information as well as feelings of belonging. It also fosters better manners. And while you may think that the pedantic rules of formal dining are irrelevant, the small social skills that we practise during meal etiquette provide a base for the rest of our social interactions.


Communal dining in Vancouver

Richard Wolak (a.k.a. the Vancouver Foodster) has compiled this useful list of cafes and restaurants with large tables for communal dining.

More information on this list is available at the Vancouver Foodster website.


Come on, Vancouver!

Let’s unplug our iPods and close our Netbooks. Let’s put away our work and dedicate our tea times to the pleasure of dining and social companionship.