Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, November 3, 2016
One of the reasons why I like the great 1971 William Friedkin film The French Connection is because it shows a glimpse of 1970s New York City that has almost completely disappeared. Sure, we still have much of the lovable grime and debris that play such a prominent role in the movie, but there’s also a certain elegance in some scenes featuring a number of fancy stores and destinations—including a dimly lit, upscale French restaurant where the villain and his cohort sit side-by-side to dine.
It’s a curious collection of sequences. In the picture, the duo is being monitored by our policeman hero, and the dichotomy of the wealthy, erudite malfeasant getting spied upon during his swanky lunch by an uncouth Everyman on the right side of the law is evident. What strikes me as well is the snapshot of an era, and nothing encapsulates that more than the fact that the two baddies aren’t facing each other.
Look, it’s true that at certain high-end restaurants in the Big Apple, you can still sit next to your partner in a cozy booth instead of across from him or her. Yet it’s kind of a rarity nowadays, like tableside carving service and flambéed entrees. You just don’t always sit tuches-to-tuches with your dining comrade at eateries in the 21st century, and I think that should change. Not only is sitting side-by-side more intimate at a restaurant, but it’s also much more special … an acknowledgment of the idea that you’re dining out as a treat, an occasion, rather than sitting across a table at home. You’re in closer proximity to whomever you’re eating with. You may even—God forbid!—be touching.
Can’t we have a little more of this, O restaurateurs of today?
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t mind facing my friends, significant other, colleagues or family members while noshing on my munchies of choice at our eatery haunts. I only wish more establishments took the celebratory nature of eating out to heart and seated folks accordingly. Nights (and days) could be made memorable in this regard, instead of just charming. People could think back on these dining adventures with delight, reminisce with great pleasure. Certainly, the food is probably the most important factor that determines whether a meal is forgotten or cherished in every corner of a human’s brain, yet where the individual consumes his or her food is nearly as crucial. An uncomfortable chair can make for an awful gastronomic experience, right? So why can’t being next to someone you care about while scarfing down your vittles do the opposite?
I’d like anyone who reads this post to consider requesting such seating arrangements next time he or she visits a nice restaurant. Maybe the days of The French Connection are far behind us, but there’s still time to enjoy a tony repast while perched by one’s dining companion. At the right place, this can make all the difference … and I say, as I’m sure you will, too: Vive la différence.
As long as no frenetic car chases akin to the one in La Connexion Française follow my feast, I’ll be happy. Thankfully, the chance of that happening is about as much as me downing a chocolate Martini with relish.
And if that’s not a shameless, self-promotional effort to tout my other articles, I don’t know what is.