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I always check the dress code.  I hate following the dress code and then see a restaurant allow people in with shorts when business causal is the dress code.  I don’t understand people who want to be spoon fed every piece of information.
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Q.  Hey Tom, curious what you think. On Sunday evening, my wife and I had a 5:15 reservation at Le CouCou in NY based on your recommendation from a few years ago. We were visiting from DC and, in general, love Stephen Starr restaurants. It was a hot day in NY and 90% of the male population was walking the cIty in shorts. I called to make the reservation months in advance and the receptionist said nothing about pants being required. Also, the day before the reservation, the restaurant called (and in fact left an obnoxious voicemail saying to call back and confirm, or the restaurant would cancel). When I called back to confirm, again, no one said anything about pants being required. We arrived, and I was wearing shorts (nice khaki shorts with a nice shirt, not workout clothes). The restaurant said we could not be seated, and the manager said it was my responsibility to read the website before arriving. Generally, I respect a dress code and think a restaurant certainly can have one, but in 2019 is it a fair expectation to assume a customer will read a restaurant website re a dress code when even very fancy restaurants rarely have a dress code nowadays and where restaurant websites are regularly non-functioning (granted, Le CouCou may be an exception)? On a side note, had the manager simply said, “I’m sorry, we have a strict policy but I have no choice and appreciate you making a reservation months ago”, I probably would not have resented the treatment so much. Instead, he pointed in the direction of Soho (at a designer store where pants probably would be $200), and said why don’t you just buy a pair of pants? I recognize there is some gray area here, and I don’t feel entitled to flout a clearly communicated dress code, but I felt (based on the overall circumstances) like the restaurant did not value our business at all – especially since it was 5:15 and the restaurant was near empty (they could have just placed us in a corner). What do you think? Who did responsibility lie with here? Thanks as always for these weekly chats! We love them.

A.  I'm sorry you missed out on the popular French restaurant. I just checked its website, and sure enough, the dress code is there and specific: "At dinner, we politely request no shorts, flip-flops, sweatpants or tank tops, and we ask that gentlemen remove their hats. Jackets are not required." 

That said, the restaurant should have taken a pro-active approach, both when a receptionist had you on the phone ("Please note, we have a dress code in place") and again at the door (with a placard or some such posted next to any posted menu). 

 

 

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I went to Le CouCou a month ago. It was spectacular and we were seated next to Diane Sawyer, Quincy Jones, and Gayle King. I would NEVER possibly think to wear shorts there. Also, if the restaurant is a place that calls to confirm the day before (and they did that to me and it was no big deal) I’d also assume it’s not a shorts place. 

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44 minutes ago, Rieux said:

I went to Le CouCou a month ago. It was spectacular and we were seated next to Diane Sawyer, Quincy Jones, and Gayle King. I would NEVER possibly think to wear shorts there. Also, if the restaurant is a place that calls to confirm the day before (and they did that to me and it was no big deal) I’d also assume it’s not a shorts place. 

The thing that struck me most about this is that they were in New York City going to a prominent restaurant.  How can you figure shorts are okay? You're not in the backwoods of [some state I won't name because I don't want to be prejudicial, but in a place with backwoods].

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this is probably the appropriate thread to finally express my annoyance at a fellow diner at the inn at little washington a few years ago. he was in shorts, maybe a polo shirt and, unless i've just fabricated this in my head, a backwards baseball cap (there was definitely a hat involved). as a first time diner there, i was taken slightly aback. maybe i shouldn't have been surprised when the waiter didn't check in on the four tables in the area for 15-20 minutes...

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