Table Talk

Snezana Pejic from Brookline’s Etiquette Academy of New England offers tips for communal dining.

Photograph by Toan Trinh

The communal-dining trend is on full display at Pammy’s, where a 16-seat table made from salvaged architectural drafting desks serves as the focal point of the thoughtfully decked-out dining room. Eating elbow to elbow with total strangers has the potential to bolster the fun, social aspect of dining out—or go horribly wrong. For the dos and don’ts, we turned to Snezana Pejic, of Brookline’s Etiquette Academy of New England.

1. Be friendly. You’re eating dinner, not waiting to get a tooth pulled, so stop pretending that the people sitting next to you don’t exist. “Give them some eye contact and a nice smile, just to acknowledge that you are sharing the space,” Pejic says.

2. But not too friendly. If your tablemates respond to your icebreakers with curt one- or two-word answers, let them eat their pasta in peace.

3. Mind your personal space. “When you sit down, the area that’s yours should be really obvious based on the boundaries of your seat and place settings,” Pejic says. In other words: Keep a close eye on those water glasses to avoid swapping spit with a stranger.

4. Keep things PG. No one wants their dinner served with a side of PDA or a rundown of your last therapy session. Assume that your dining companions can see and hear everything, and keep your conversation—and behavior—fit for public consumption.

5. And keep (most of) your opinions to yourself. Ogling and complimenting food? Totally fine. Grimacing at the sight of that too-rare-for-you steak? Not so much. “You never want to say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t look appetizing,’” Pejic says.

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