Are You Side-by-Side Diners?

Like artichokes and mushrooms, either you like eating side-by-side with your partner or you don’t. Both are valid positions, but (in my limited experience), you’re in one camp or the other.

Since I started dating girls (here’s looking at you, Michelle Byrom), I’ve been a face-to-face diner. That is, when I go to a restaurant, I always like sitting facing the person I’m eating with.

This, not surprisingly, goes for same-sex lunches (we can have those here in Canada) as well.

The other night I was dining at the Urban Thai Bistro. They have lots of booths and tables for four there. I finished my dinner, and walked out. I noticed an inordinate amount of people sitting side-by-side. This was probably just some statistical improbability, but it reminded me of the phenomenon.

Do you sit side-by-side when out for dinner with your partner? Do you always do it? Have you always done it? When did you decide to do so?

Note: I just did a quick Google, and I’m hopeful that the Michelle Byrom I dated in ninth grade is not the only woman sentenced to death in the state of Mississippi.


  1. My partner has refered to dining side by side, as parisienne style. We sometimes do this. Having never been in Paris, is this really how they eat in the city of lights?

  2. As I recall, this question was the subject of a very long thread on Ask Metafilter a couple of months ago!

    I often sit to the immediate right of my dining partner — but going around the table, so I’m not across from them.

    Isn’t Michelle Byrom that death row inmate who was doing a big appeal? Perhaps it’s a good thing you sat across from her.

  3. I have no experience with Paris or Michelles but I notice the exact same thing – side-by-sides – when we went for dinner on Monday night at Stella’s on Commercial. The place was only about half-full and 3 couples were sitting side-by-side.

    I don’t like it. For me, side-by-side it’s too hard to carry on a conversation without being distracted by what I’m actually looking at, which may be the TV on the wall, the pretty girl walking by or the couple having a tiff at the bar. Face-to-face is the only way to go.

  4. For lots of people in Paris it’s because of the seating layout. There are very stict rules governing the amount of footpath/sidewalk a restaurant can use. They are only licensed to use a certain amount and they have inspectors to make sure no one is cheating. This makes it a matter of economics as it is more expensive to eat and drink outside rather than taking a table inside.

    As for us, I sit to the right of my wife for dinner at home. When eating out, I nearly always sit face to face.

  5. Does that make it a French Sit?

    I sit across…unless there’s a really special view that both people want to see.

  6. The only time I have sat beside my spouse (or indeed any date) was on a double date or group outing; if it’s just the two of is, it feels … weird not to be facing each other.

  7. I’d say across, always, so I can look at their face when I’m speaking without craning my neck. That said, if we’re out with another couple or a pair of my female friends, we’ll sit side by side.

  8. Do none of you have kids? Most of the time when we’re eating out, one of our daughters wants to sit with one of us, and the other with the other, so my wife and I sit across from each other.

    On the other hand, we generally have always sat across from one another when dining together at a restaurant, right back to our first date. The only time it differs is if we’re at a restaurant (the Cannery and C come to mind) that has small square window tables with two seats perpendicular, so you can both see the view.

    And at home, our kitchen table is against the window along one long edge, so we usually sit perpendicular, since it would seem weird to stare at one another along the long axis of the table.

    There is of course, one side-by-side eating arrangement we use commonly: on the couch.

  9. In a booth situation where it’s two chairs on each side, we’ll sit across from each other. If it’s the two of us at a square table, we’ll sit on adjacent sides, not directly across.

    At home, we sit next to each other, but that’s only because we’re sitting at the breakfast bar kind of thing in the kitchen. There are stools on only one side.

  10. Reminiscent of Seinfeld. We sit across from each other, for the sake of conversation I suppose. In social situations I think we tend to sit beside each other as a unit, although we won’t completely die if we’re not joined at the hip. I also echo what Derek said about the kid factor.

  11. Face to face is better for me, and psychologically I think side-by-side sets up an “Us and Them” kind of vibe in a public place— making it seem like you’re huddling together, which kind of creeps me out.

  12. i rhought i was the only one pondering over this. im not sure how an ideal date should really go about but i just thought of this when brad pitt and morgan freeman on their movie se7en, the former said something like “lets not sit like this (side-by-side), or people would think we’re dating”. so i thought, if youre on a date, its side by side, as norm. after i read this page and comments, its not really all that common knowledge/practice afterall. just a thought. cheers!

  13. I always thought the side-by-side thing was weird but my boyfriend is all for it. I just go along, figuring that if that’s as far as his demands go I shouldn’t push it. I’m not really sure why all of the people commenting seem to think it gives you neck strain to talk to the person next to you. It isn’t like we’re asking for a 180 here. Just a normal 90 degree angle. But maybe we just do it because we’re still young enough to constantly hold hands, and, besides that, it’s useful if you want to gossip about the other people in the restaurant. 😉

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