Getting to Know You

Breaking bread at community tables can make friends of strangers in the night.

Community tables (like this one at Buddakan in Atlantic City) make up in conviviality what they may lack in elbow room.
Courtesy of Starr Restaurants.

On a rainy night in Asbury Park, five patrons are sipping drinks at one of Salt Water Beach Café’s two ten-seat community tables. It is their first time at the café, but they are long-table regulars. “We always sit at the community tables at Bonefish Grill,” says Dolores Chirafesi of Linden, who is with her husband, Charlie. “We love to meet people when we go out, and these tables allow for conversation.”

Stone House at Stirling Ridge, in Warren, features a ten-seat table near the bar. “Guests start talking about what’s on the flat-screen TV, or the food or beverages,” says manager Carlos Franceschi. “A lot of friendships have started at the communal table.”

“Community tables breathe contemporary life into a family-style memory or tradition,” says Susan Davidson of DAS Architects, the Philadelphia firm that designed the Salt Creek Grille in Princeton. At that restaurant, community tables have had a mixed reception. Spots are prized at the twenty-seat table (made from a single slab of French Oak) in the bar, but a similar table in the dining room met with less interest.

Demetri Malki, owner of Table 8, a BYO in Montclair, says his eight-seat community table in the front window is perfect for walk-ins, and many customers request it. Warren Zinn, general manager of Daryl in New Brunswick, says he sometimes removes a chair from the dining room’s community table “to give guests more room between parties.” He also will place a row of tea candles across the table to create a border and a sense of privacy.

Daryl, relatively pricey and upscale, may be less suited to elbow-to-elbow dining than a place like Ox in Jersey City, with its industrial-chic decor and younger clientele. Ox uses tall steel kitchen-prep tables for community seating. “We have a lot of single diners who like the tables because they are perfect for socializing,” says chef and co-owner Nicole Puzio.
 
WHERE TO TRY COMMUNITY TABLES

Bonefish Grill 200 Mill Creek Drive, Harmon Meadow Plaza, Secaucus (201-864-3004); 625 US 1, Iselin (732-634-7379); 215 Route 22 East, Greenbrook (732-926-8060); 28 Route 46, Pinebrook (973-227-2443); 601 From Road, Paramus (201-261-2355); bonefishgrill.com

Buddakan Pier Shops at Caesars, Atlantic City (buddakanac.com)

Daryl Wine Bar and Restaurant 302 George St, New Brunswick (732-253-7780, darylwinebar.com)

Ox 176 Newark Ave, Jersey City (201-860-4000, oxrestaurant.com)

Salt Creek Grille Forrestal Village, Princeton (609-419-4200, saltcreekgrille.com)

Salt Water Beach Café 1200 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park (732-774-1400, saltwaterbeachcafenj.com)

Stone House at Stirling Ridge 50 Stirling Rd, Warren (908-754-1222, stonehouseatstirlingridge.com)

Table 8 615 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair (973-746-2233, table8nj.com)

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