It used to be easy to differentiate between what is a formal or an informal restaurant. Dress code, tablecloths, service, and decor were some of the important elements in making that determination. Price often factored in too.
No more! Especially in Vancouver every place is now strictly informal!
For many years I have been on the panel deciding the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards with our 25th Anniversary coming up next year. We used to designate restaurants into best formal and best informal categories. It wasn’t totally semantics but last year because every place indicated they were informal we changed the categories to Upscale Dining & Casual Spot.
Best Upscale Restaurant was defined as “consistently offers the city’s very highest quality dining experience based on exemplary preparations, cooking, ingredient sourcing, desserts, service and wine selection in an accommodating environment where the average entree for one person is over $30, there is a strong wine/sommelier program and reservations are accepted” .
Best Casual was similarly worded but drink selection substituted for wine, all for a reasonable price under $30 and may or may not have a wine/sommelier program and reservations may or may not be accepted.
Hawksworth cleaned up as Best Upscale, Best New, Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year in 2012. L’Abattoir won Best Casual.
Working now on our 2013 Awards we realize that all our Vancouver restaurants are really casual in nature. What happened to formal and upscale? Next year we may have to go to a different format completely and judge all restaurants together and separate them only by their geographic neighbourhoods.
It is a new dining era. Some restaurants discourage smart phone use but it’s hard to enforce bans. Tweets and immediately sharing photos of a dining experience on Istagram now is very widely spread.
Where are you in your city’s dining restaurant profiles? Please let everyone know what to expect when dining in your area.