How To Dine With AMBIANCE


It’s true that 800% of the time I’m drawn to a restaurant based on a need deep within my soul for some sort of cheese-based product for which that food spot is known.

But what about those other 1.4% of times (straight up, I’m no math scientist) when I am going somewhere to facilitate some sort of nuanced social gathering? Or have a need to be somewhere “funky”? Or “awkward”?


Thankfully, saving me from having to make a credit-card sized restaurant ambiance index to stash in my wallet, online design mag PSFK tells me there’s this new fangled website called Hoppit, “the first site to provide a dining-out search engine which filters its results based on the ambience of venues.

PSFK says:

“Based in Manhattan and currently available in 25 cities in the US, each restaurant in the Hoppit database is tagged with one of ten “vibes” or types of atmosphere. These include ‘classy & upscale’, ‘hipster’, ‘romantic’ and ‘cozy & quaint’, among others.”

And YES one of the “others” is the ambiance designation of “Mad Men.” Finally!

I’m not going to lie, this website solves my problems for when I want to go somewhere “hipster,”

Hipster Eating

because Lord knows I’m too *makes ‘square’ sign with hands* to figure that one myself. (No joke.)

So as an offer of thanks to Hoppit, the following are a few suggestions from around the globe for alternate ambiances they may not have gotten around to indexing just yet, such as “dumply” and “tiny epiphanish” and “legal.”

Read on, worldly ambient diners! You’re welcome!


“Dumply” – New York City; Mandoo Bar

Once you’ve laid your tongue on a mandoo from here, the mere whiff of a mention  of the restaurant will become synonymous with the experience of sinking your teeth into soft, soft dumpling skins. A Korea-town lunch place where expert dumpling-maker ladies sit in the front windows and hand press little savoury puffs of delight. It’s downright DUMPLY.

“Literally Exclusive” – London; The Ritz


They wouldn’t let the man-friend and I in here because they thought we were scrubs. True story.

“Tiny Epiphanish” – Miami; Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink

Kimchi eggs benedict. Home-made pop tarts. A hipster brunch cocktail of PBR and a Bloody Mary shooter. Everything in this awesome ‘chef re-does diner classics’ place is small and explodey. Also, I was sitting outside there during a thunderstorm, so, y’know. Lightning crack. BOOM!

“Brine-ing”– Montreal; Schwartz’s

Cured meats and brined sour dill treats in a tiny deli that can’t get any bigger for health code reasons relating to the old, old meat smoker… this is what it’s like to be pickled.


“That kind of red that makes Brianna think of Pleasantville and also True Love” – Boston (Well, really, Cambridge); Mr. Bartley’s Burgers

First sip the chocolate milkshake, then chomp the burger, then sip the milkshake again, and then you will glow just like a Valentine’s Day cupid card.

“Legal” – Toronto; Terroni on Adelaide

Pizza. In an old courthouse. Where they chastise you for requesting things outside the laws of their menu.

Hemingway“Hemingway-ish” – Nairobi; Thorn Tree Café

A beacon of clarity and tasty foods in a cruel and crazy city where leopards prowl the streets and there are more muggers than a coffee cup warehouse in New Jersey. They say that guy who wrote “The Sun Also Rises” used to come to this café in the Stanley hotel—But then again they say he went most places in Nairobi so take it or leave it. Or take it with a killer pull of whiskey and then shoot your rifle into the sunset while riding a lion and thinking about that time you slapped the woman who deserved it.  And then leave it?

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