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Outdoor dining is wonderful, and the TV is inside

Outdoor dining wonderful, and the TV’s inside

I’m not one to complain about food. I’ll eat just about anything except insects, testicles, squid brain, and beets.

On the other hand, I can easily go a day without food if there’s nothing worth eating. If the choice is hunger or something shrouded in a condom of cellophane, I can wait without complaint.

I’m more likely to complain about a restaurant.

Before I do so, let me point out that once I ate at an eatery on the outskirts of Ouagadougou where six or so strangers and I shared not only a table but a single tomato sauce can of water dipped from a rusty barrel. But I did not complain. The place was quiet, unpretentious, and cheap.

I mention this because, as the quarantine loosens, we are being urged to go out to eat, to contribute to a last-minute rescue of small, local business.

I’m all for local business, be it in suburban Ouagadougou or downtown New London. Spending money at a local place (as opposed to a local franchise), circulating those dollars in the community, is more like sharing than making an expenditure.

But restauranteurs beware: I like to cook, and I’d rather chop my own vegetables than pay $50 to be annoyed for an hour.

What annoys me? Waiter, the whine list, please!

For starters: television. I’ve seen televisions in restaurants, but I’ve never seen anyone watching. The glittery slime creeping from the TV set distracts the eye, but to what end? The only good thing about restaurant TV is that the sound is usually turned off. So why is it there?

Speaking of sound, who picked your music? The busboy? Is it appropriate for dancing? I ask because I’ve never seen people dance in a restaurant. That’s not what they’re there for.

Let me suggest the music be appropriate to the atmosphere. Thai food? Thai music. Classy food? Classy music. Testicles and squid brain? Punk.

Whatever it is, keep it soft. Loud music makes people talk loud, and loud people make people holler.

And here’s another thing: I will agree to chew with my mouth shut and keep my elbows off the table if the waitstaff will refrain from interrupting me to ask if everything’s OK mid-bite.

Anyway, the “OK” question is probably best left unasked. You don’t want to hear the answer. Rather than listen to me rant about the television, the music and the beets that I specifically requested be substituted with onion rings, staff would do better to go see if there’s soap, towels and hot water in the restroom.

Enough with the gripes. Let me speak in praise of outdoor dining and sidewalk bars. Why did we need a pandemic to give us the courage to do what Europeans have been doing since summer was invented?

Ease the zoning, adjust the rules, let’s keep this outdoor dining going. The only downside, it appears, is the hubbub of clinking glasses and people enjoying themselves.

The word “restaurant” comes from a French verb, “restaurer”—to restore. A “restaurant” is literally “that which restores.” Restaurants restore personal energy, community spirits, and local economies. I look forward to eating “out” this summer.

Glenn Cheney is a writer, translator, and managing editor of New London Librarium. He can be reached at



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