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Banquettes: The Horseshoe Issue

In the back of my mind I keep a “hater” list that I add to more frequently than I’d care to admit. On it are things that aggravate me more than they should, things I’m not able to get all Gandhi about at this less-than-fully evolved stage of my young life. This list includes my hatred for people who clip.their.nails. on public transportation (!?), people who stop short in the middle of the sidewalk, lost or confused, so you run straight into them,  and restaurants that have glaring lights, so bright that you cast a shadow on your plate. Add to this list my latest aggravation: horseshoe-shaped banquettes. Now, I love a cozy booth as much as the next girl, and in theory I appreciate the idea of the banquette because it allows a lot of people to share a table and still be able to converse.

But a couple of new (and not-so-new) restaurants in town have the type of deep, large banquettes—flanked by giant, heavy tables—that are nearly impossible to get in and out of (Luce, Waterbar, Campton Place, the Ambassador—this post is for you). Senior editor Sara Deseran and I got talking (OK, ranting) about this today, about the humiliation that ensues when you try and scootch yourself toward the apex of the horseshoe without knocking over wineglasses or pulling the tablecloth akimbo, your jacket and bag trailing behind.

What’s more, a banquette puts you in awkward proximity to your companions—fine if you’re comfortable getting all snuggly with a date, but a bit uncomfortable should you be smooshed against an uncle, say, or a future mother-in-law. And once you’re in, you’re in. If you need to go to the bathroom, be prepared to inconvenience everyone at the table, and to repeat that awkward shuffle toward liberation.

Wait a second…have I turned into a total crank?