Notes from the field.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Fine Menu Experience

When Laurel and I were in Brooklyn recently, I wanted to eat at Diner, located in Williamsburg, in the shadow of the bridge. Part of the Marlow & Sons empire, I’d heard things and had a very good direct recommendation earlier in the trip. We found our way down there on a Sunday as the late afternoon turned to evening and Diner was just opening.

The food is perhaps a tale for another time (it’s excellent) but what impressed us was the menu. Or, the lack of.

Our server instead came over and with the traits of a performer, paused to concentrate for a second before reciting the menu by memory. That wasn’t all. At Diner, all tables are covered with a large plain white craft paper of some kind. Upon it, our server sketched out the menu while reciting it, dish-by-dish, ingredient-by-ingredient, beginning with the small plates, larger plates and then the entrees.

He did it akin to the way one would organize content or take notes — writing out the small plates, drawing dividers between each, demarcated the beginning of the larger plates then flipped to the right column with a large long vertical swash of a line down the center and listed the entrees. Our server did it with a quiet intensity but had us completely captivated. Here was true showmanship.

I uploaded a photo of the menu to Flickr recently, and Andy Clymer commented: “I think they have the best menu experience around.” What a thing! I’d never considered the very idea of a menu experience, but here it was, at Diner. Instead of your typical passive experience — handed a printed menu and left to your own devices — you’re given a passionate telling of the story of the kitchen and what they had decided to feed you with tonight. In addition, the server’s body language and delivery helped, if you were observant enough, to key in on dishes that they might be more excited by than others.

Here, a unique, disruptive way to deliver a menu that made you salivate and kick off your dinner with gumption. The food was excellent, as noted, but as always, the better your overall experience at a restaurant, the more memorable it is.

Diner is memorable.

By Naz Hamid
in Considered



Memo is a blog written by Weightshift, a design studio. It is a collection of things we make, write and like.


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