I just returned from a week in Dusseldorf where I was fortunate to have a meal at the three Michelin starred Im Schiffchen just outside of the city. Some have called this the greatest restaurant in Germany. Having had dinner at Citronelle the weekend before I couldn't help but make comparisons.
Im Schiffchen is on two floors in a building which must be 400 or 500 years old. It is appropriately formal with perhaps the best local comparison for style being The Inn at Little Washington. (Im Schiffchen is FAR SUPERIOR and MUCH CHEAPER with a twelve course prix fixe at approximately US $98 while Saturday night at The Inn is $149 plus a suppliment of $350 for the Chef's Table.) As far as I could tell every man in this restaurant had a coat and tie on and the women were all dressed extremely nicely. The age range was actually fairly old with the average diner probably between 45 and 65.
The next night we had dinner at Dusseldorf's best Italian restaurant, Osteria Saitta which was much less formal located in a 1000 or so year old converted house with brick floors, stone walls and exposed wood beams in the ceiling. It was incredibly charming and intimate with only 40 seats. (It was not as good as Obelisk but close.) Again, everyone here was dressed quite nicely with only two or three men without ties but they still had sport coats on. The age range was probably similar to what I might find at Obelisk, overall younger than Im Schiffchen.
At our dinner at Citronelle I noticed three or four men in the dining room without jackets and (incredibly, for me) a man wearing jeans. Several women were casually dressed. At other better D. C. restaurants I have seen T shirts and sweatshirts at D. C. Coast and Palena for dinner and shorts several times in Obelisk during the summer. (In the summer a coat actually seems like too much but shorts?)
I raise all of this because I found the European emphasis and tradition of better dress to be more appropriate. It simply seems more respectful of both the restaurant and the experience it attempts to create as well as the other diners in the room. In a post further down I mentioned a meal at Marcel's which was disappointing. After I made the entry I remembered that a table of four was seated next to us that was loud and dressed very casual: T shirts and jeans on two men and what I thought was sloppy dress on both of their dates.
Perhaps every restaurant should not atempt to be like the Prime Rib which requires a tie. But the overall experience and ambience "seem" better when dress is, at the least, approrpiate, say with at least a sport coat for men in non summer months.
I know that D. C. is actually more "formal" and "traditional" than, say, Los Angeles or Phoenix while San Francisco and New York tend to be more European. But what are other's thoughts on dressing up for a serious meal? I enjoyed the European ambience and emphasis on dress. Am I wrong to think that an evening out, spending $200 or more dollars deserves appropriate dress? Am I wrong to think that restaurants on a certain level SHOULD HAVE A DRESS CODE WHICH THEY ENFORCE? Perhaps not a tie and heels but certainly not jeans, T shirts, etc. Am I wrong to feel offended if Palena seats a man in a sweatshirt and jeans next to me at dinner?
What are other's thoughts?