As more and more diners yank out their cellphones and snap and post photos of the contents of every plate, bowl, glass and cup placed in front of them, another trend is emerging, at least on the East Coast: a ban on dining-room photographs.
I've not encountered a similar rule in the Twin Cities, at least not yet. But to get a sense of how such a limitation might fly in laid-back Minnesota, here are the thoughts of a few practitioners on the subject:
"It doesn't really bother me, and I don't see all that much of it. From time to time you get people who want to chronicle their entire meal. I notice it more with tourists than with regulars. People are low-key when they're doing it, and the phone cameras are low-key. If it's not affecting other people's dining experience, then why not?"
Alex Roberts, chef/owner of Restaurant Alma (528 University Av. SE., Mpls., www.restaurantalma.com).
"I think it's fine. I find the phones annoying, but that's only if the ringer is on. Let's face it, everyone has to get with the times, because this isn't going to go away. I see on Twitter that people are busting other people's chops all the time, but for me I get great enjoyment out of seeing what [Charleston, S.C. chef] Sean Brock is doing, or what [New York City chef] David Chang is doing.
"It's about keeping track of information, and remembering things. You go to a place like Travail, and how do you remember everything you had on the tasting menu?"
"It's kind of lame, restaurants making rules like that. It's not customer-friendly. In a way it's like Madonna, and I like Madonna, but she was really fan-unfriendly. The tickets were incredibly expensive, she came on hours late and she played stuff from her latest album that no one wanted to hear.
"We have to remember that it's no longer dinner and a show. Restaurants are now the show. With people posting pictures of our restaurant and our food all over the place, it only helps build our reputation. It's a compliment."
Russell Klein, chef/co-owner of Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, www.meritage-stpaul.com).
"I'm sort of tickled about it. Flattery takes all forms, I suppose. When I see people documenting their dining experience, I make the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that they are happy, and that they want to share it with others. I once took a trip to France and I photographed everything I ate, including the airplane food, and it was interesting to look back on it.
"I can see both sides of it. If you're a high-profile restaurant, and you have a lot at stake, I can see why you wouldn't want to have amateur photographs of your place and your food posted on some public site. But in a way, you're getting the real picture. I mean, anyone can photo-style something for a magazine. I guess the question is, ultimately, are you proud of your work? At the end of the day, regardless of what it looks like, let's hope it tasted great."
Steven Brown, chef/co-owner of Tilia (2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., www.tiliampls.com).