About a year ago, it occurred to me while eating at Nopa in San Francisco that it would be incredibly helpful if restaurants offered black napkins instead of white. (It has occurred to Chowhounds too. And Savory Tidbits was on the black-napkin tip even earlier.) I know you’ve had this happen to you, right? You sit down at a restaurant, lay the white cloth napkin on your lap, and at the end of dinner there’s a blizzard of white fuzz on your dark clothes.

So for the past year I’ve been asking for black napkins most places I go, which it turns out is actually proper etiquette. They’re never offered outright, though I really can’t understand why; the waiter at Town Hall said that it’s not his job to teach people etiquette, and offering a black napkin would “verge on judging someone’s choice of crap vodka”—huh? It also seems that mostly only higher-end places in San Francisco have them (Anchor & Hope, Zaré at Fly Trap, Sutro’s at the Cliff House). I was astonished that hot spot Nopa didn’t; I mean, come on, you’re a semi-hipster destination, tons of people are wearing black at your tables!

How about we start a black-napkin movement? The more of us who ask for them, the more the restaurants will take notice. It’s kinda like inquiring about the source of seafood or meat: Higher awareness = potential positive results.

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