Win/Fail Fridays: Cafe Edition

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Welcome to Win/Fail Fridays, where executive editor Donna Garlough mouths off about her latest dining-out adventures.

This week’s WIN: Thoughtful touches at Thinking Cup

Thick, velvety curtains that block the winter wind for patrons sitting near the front door. A gleaming, fingerprint-free display case full of golden scones and brioche — no crumbs, no empty baskets, or lonely little muffins getting stale on the counter. Staffers that chat up regulars, smile real smiles at new faces, and make sure when they hand you your buttery, crispy almond croissant, that the bag is neatly folded. While I love me some Dunkin’ Donuts, this is getting your morning cuppa the civilized way.

This week’s FAIL: Tech excess at Sebastian’s

Considering we cover the best dining in the city, Boston mag staffers eat surprisingly unglamorously (and often crummily) at lunchtime. We dash out and hit the meager hot and cold bars at the Symphony Whole Foods, scarf down Boloco burritos, or nuke our Healthy Choice steamer bowls in kitchen. When our local Au Bon Pain closed, we had even fewer mediocre ways to fill our noontime bellies. But there’s something weird about its just-opened replacement, an outpost of the locally owned Sebastian’s Cafe chain. It’s not the generically pleasant decor, or the selection of salads and sandwiches. It’s the garish, glowing flat-screen menus that practically scream at you as you walk by.

I get that it’s probably more efficient to switch up menu items on plasma screens than change up printed displays, but in I just find such displays just so … odd. Maybe I’m old-school, but I find that an excess of high-tech accessories in a restaurant, however casual, can make patrons feel like they’re in a factory, or in the self check-out line at CVS. The iPad menus at Temazcal, which let you see pictures of the food before you order? They’re gimmicky, hard to navigate, and spoil the fun surprise element of having a pretty dish presented to you at the table. I won’t be texting my order in at Charlie’s any time soon. I don’t mind having a buzzer or a text message tell me when my table is ready. But I already spend my day staring at lighted screens of various sizes. When I pop out for lunch or dinner, I don’t want to do it then, too.

Stay tuned for next week’s Win/Fail!