dining outIn my book, there’s no better way to hang out with friends than at a restaurant over a meal where the focus is on talking, laughing and catching up with each other, rather than cooking, serving and cleaning up your own kitchen.

But how enjoyable the evening will be depends on one, very important factor: the restaurant itself.

Hopefully, no one has to enter a restaurant through its kitchen anymore. Believe me, I’ve seen more restaurant kitchens than I care to admit (Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, of all places, was one of them.) Half the time, once you went through the kitchen you lost your appetite.

Today, thankfully, the front door (or at least a side door) is open to all of us, yet problems await inside.

If you’re meeting your friends for a drink before dinner forget sitting at the bar – it’s still too high. If you’re lucky, there are a couple of tables in the cocktail lounge that are available.

When it’s time to be seated in the dining room, expect the tables and chairs to be crammed together. And that the host will seat your party in the back, which means diners already seated will have to stand, slide their chair out of the way to make room for you to get through. Or, your wheelchair will just barely fit between the tables but you’ll snag the purses, coats, umbrellas and other items hanging off the back of their chairs.

Most diners will be gracious about making way, but there wi