Tuesday, May 29, 2012

U-shaped bays

According to the Times, Prime Burger on 51st St. will close:

 Though the family plans to salvage as many fixtures as it can, Mr. DiMiceli said he despaired of being able to rescue and reconstruct the built-in, one-person booths. In this highly unusual — if not downright eccentric — serving arrangement, customers sit in small U-shaped bays behind individual table tops that pivot shut to enclose them, almost as if they were buckled into an old amusement park ride. (The thrill lies in the calorie count.)
 The problem is that these booths may have been too well installed to allow removal. “We’d like to take the seats,” Mr. DiMiceli said, “but the guys I talked to said that taking them apart would probably destroy them.” 

 I went to Prime Burger only once or twice, back in the last century, but it left an impression. Indeed, the one-person booth aspect was imported into the novel (Chinese Whispers) I was working on (c. 2000). Eventually I cut the primary reference to the seating scheme, but here it is:
They sat across from each other. In more crowded circumstances, the tavern’s curious furniture permitted shoulder-to-shoulder arrangements. Along one wall were booth-like configurations that in fact contained seating for six, in a U-formation, two wooden seats per side. Each seat was separated by a brief raised stand, upon which an assortment of condiments reposed. But there was no central table as such. Instead, individual serving trays, also of wood, secured at one end with a pivot, swung into action. Each tray clicked into place to secure the diner. The overall effect was agreeably infantilizing.


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