What Top Restaurants Can Teach Us About Dining Chairs

Photo Courtesy of  Gramercy Tavern

Photo Courtesy of Gramercy Tavern

After years of dedicated field research, we think we’ve cracked the code when it comes to sourcing the perfect type of restaurant chair— regardless of price point or décor. In fact, it’s starting to look like an open secret that some of the best hospitality groups are in on.

Those fabulous dining chairs. Image detail courtesy of  lasirena-nyc.com

Those fabulous dining chairs. Image detail courtesy of lasirena-nyc.com

We first became aware of it a couple of years ago while having dinner at La Sirena in New York City, which, alas, closed last winter.

As our party of three was seated, one of us commented on the chairs; so chic yet so comfortable, really a perfect design. By the end of the evening it was unanimous: These were, in fact, the best dining chairs of any restaurant we’d ever been to, ever. (The cocktails and wines were great, BTW.).

The bistro-style chairs at CATCH courtesy of the  CATCH NYC website

The bistro-style chairs at CATCH courtesy of the CATCH NYC website

Since then, we’ve been noticing how many of Manhattan’s most successful restaurants are furnished with some variation of a curved-back, armless, or slope-armed dining chair. Some are luxe and fully-upholstered like the ones at Eleven Madison Park, Babbo, and Del Posto; others are semi-upholstered and bistro-rustic like the ones at CATCH and Union Square Cafe ; others are midcentury-inspired like the ones at The Modern, and still others are warm & traditional like the ones at Carbone , 4 Charles Prime Rib , and Gramercy Tavern .

An upholstered seat obviously elevates the comfort level, but even without it, the common thread is definitely that curved back. But does this feature actually make a chair more comfortable, or is there something more subconscious at work? Could it be that the slight suggestion of enclosure—a little chair hug, if you will—can make us feel somehow more, you know,…loved?

Of course, our observation is by no means scientific, and we fully admit to a high confirmation bias and historical preference for Danny Meyer and the (formerly) Mario Batali brands. But maybe that’s the most telling point of all—when it comes to designing a great experience, these restauranteurs have figured out the hundreds of tiny details that add up to making guests feel special and valued, regardless of cuisine or price point. La Sirena had its share of problems, but we doubt those fabulous chairs were one of them. We just hope they’ve found a future new home by now; if anyone knows where, let us know!

On a brighter note, the new occupants of the old La Sirena space are these guys , whose Meatpacking location we mentioned above, and who also seem to be mastering all those details that bring guests flocking and paying (this new one will be Catch Steak). Looking at their other properties, they are clearly curved-back fans, so maybe we’ll find a new chair crush when Catch Steak opens in Chelsea this fall.

In the meantime, we have plenty of others to love. Check them out here.