It was a first for St. Louis--a restaurant with predominantly communal tables.
The restaurant Cassy Vires and Josh Renbarger of Home Wine Kitchen (SLM's Restaurant of the year in 2012) appropriately named Table was a noble exercise indeed, one that followers of the local dining scene has followed closely since Table debuted this summer.
Over the last decade or so, chefs around the country have embraced the notion of communal dining: it seemed every new restaurant had at least one table so dedicated. (The communal table at Bailey’s Range seats over 40 and is the focal point of the restaurant.) Chefs realize that dining is (and has always been) a shared experience, so why not nurture and promote that? A line from Table's website summed up the philosophy, describing dinner there as an "engaging and memorable meal that will strengthen us as a community of food loving individuals in one of the best cities we’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of." Amen to all that, we said, as did Dave Lowry in his review of Table last month.
But a restaurant composed almost entirely of communal tables “may have been a bit too aggressive,” admitted Vires today, after the decision to scale back on the concept in the coming year. Vires was quick to point out that it was not St. Louisans’ unfamiliarity of, or aversion to, communal dining that caused the shift in focus, but that it came on the heels of Home Wine Kitchen. “The concept might have been too big a departure for our customers, who were not accustomed to dining this way.”
So on January 10, look for Table to assume a more traditional look, with more deuces, fours, and six-tops. The communal tables will not disappear entirely, though, Vires said, but they will not be the concept the restaurant revolved around.
With the new floor plan will come a new menu, one containing fewer small plates and more value-priced items. That’s not to say food quality will suffer: “That’s the biggest challenge for a quality-minded restaurant today," Vires said, “providing value but not compromising its high standards.” Any chef will tell you the same thing, but only the savviest of chefs can pull it off.
Dialing back the concept will allow Table to appeal to a broader customer base, which could be a mantra for all restaurants in 2014.