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Years ago, I went on a road trip with some friends through Wisconsin. I was sitting on the back of a motorcycle, enjoying the scenery and the freedom I felt from packing one small bag for the long weekend. As the day gave way to sunset and then to night, it became unusually chilly for late August, and every bump we hit seemed to ripple jolts of pain through me. I was cold, stiff, and felt like I’d been on the bike for days.

As we rounded one last dark bend, the trees suddenly gave way to a clearing with streetlights and people and cottages and, ahead on the left, a busy restaurant with a picture window, through which I could see warm, happy guests sitting at tables with white tablecloths. “Civilization!” my mind cried in relief. I was saved!

White Linen TableclothYes, white tablecloths equal civilization to me. I like sitting down knowing I won’t set my arm down in something sticky. Tablecloths get changed every time guests pay their check, so the cloth I get is all mine to mess up. (And linen companies specialize in laundering and pressing these cloths, so I don’t even have to feel bad about getting mine messy.) Some of my friends, however, think that white tablecloths signify work and not relaxation—the way you’d stress about having dinner with your boss for the first time. Dear friends, allow me to dispel the myths:

Myth

“I’ll have to pretend I know about wine because white tablecloth places expect that.”

Reality

While Söntés has an extensive bottle list for the connoisseur, we also have forty great wines by the glass for a reason: you can try different wines and begin to experiment with your palate. We have two sommeliers on staff to help you choose the perfect glass or bottle and they’ll impart some information about what you’re drinking so you can sound like an expert yourself. Or simply ask any of the serving staff what we’d drink. We all like different wines for different reasons, and we’ll tell you why. Wine made simple. And personal.

Myth

Sit as you like!“I’ll have to sit up straight, keep my elbows off the table, and drink with my pinky fingers up.”

Reality

The bar and lounge area has couches and plush chairs, most of which are in front of the fireplaces, so you can sit any way you like and order from the full dinner menu. If you’re looking for relaxed dining in Rochester, we’ve got it. (What you do with your pinky fingers is your business.)

Myth

“I’ll have to wear a tie.”

Reality

Wear whatever you want! Between construction workers who just got off work and stopped in for a cold one, to Mayo doctors in suits doing the same thing, you’ll fit right in. Case in point: a couple of regular guests came in for New Year’s Eve dressed to the nines. Last week, they popped in wearing their gym clothes because they were starving during their workout. No one thought twice. Personally, I spend a good bit of time in the restaurant and tend to feel like it’s my home away from home. I love when guests feel the same comfort. I repeat: wear what you want.

Myth

The Fork Dilemma“I’ll have to figure out which one is the proper fork.”

Reality

We also serve finger foods. Feel free to sit with a white tablecloth and eat eggrolls or pizza with your fingers. If you order the ribeye and need a steak knife, or shellfish and need a place to put the shells, your server will bring that to you with the dish. We’re here to make you look good and feel comfortable in front of your guests, not make you feel like you’re “doing it wrong.”

Myth

“I’ll have to spend a fortune and eat bird food or things I don’t recognize.”

Reality

Söntés pizza and a beer: $25. Salad, beef sliders, and a glass of Cabernet: $25. Steak and roasted potatoes with red wine sauce and a glass of shiraz: $33. Or devise your own combination.

Myth

Beer!“People will think I’m crazy if I order anything but wine. But sometimes I just want a beer, and that’s not frilly enough.”

Reality

Söntés has a full bar. We’ll make you a martini or a Jack and Coke, or choose from among our 50 bottles of beer and four taps. We have at least a dozen different kinds of beer glasses made for specific beers, so you can kick back with a pint from the tap or with a bottled Kwak that has its own round-bottom glass and wooden holder. Regardless of how fancy or plain it looks, it’ll taste just right.

Myth

“I’ll have to elevate my conversation to legislation in foreign countries rather than the ballgame I really want to talk about.”

Reality

I have overheard conversations about baby diapers, surgical procedures, wrestling maneuvers, corpse hairdos, why Brussels sprouts are delicious, and once, fertility rate comparisons between Holsteins and Jerseys. Talk about whatever you want. Really, surprise me!

I see white tablecloths in a restaurant and I’m drawn in because I know they’ll pay attention to me and get it right. If I can’t eat peanuts, this place will make sure peanuts are not hiding in my food somewhere. If I’m feeling chatty, they’ll talk to me and make me feel welcome. If I want to be left alone to talk to my dinner guest, my server will automatically “get it” and won’t try to butt in and tell me his life story. When I leave, I won’t smell like grease and I’ll have a belly full of really good food.

For me, a white tablecloth is a beacon into the darkness signaling that this is a place tailored to make me happy. White tablecloth restaurants know it’s not just about eating, it’s about enjoying. To me, that’s civilized.

Jody

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