Dinner and a Show: The Best Tableside Dishes from Coast to Coast

They say there's no place like home for the holidays. But if a cozy gathering with friends and family isn't possible this year, then these show-stopping tableside presentations will more than make up for it.

Photo By: Galdones Photography ©2014 Galdones Photography

Photo By: Kristin Teig ©Kristin Teig Photography

Photo By: Greg Powers

Dinner and a Show

Dinner out is always great entertainment, but when dinner is also accompanied by the ritual of tableside preparation — flaming crepes, freshly tossed salads, carved whole roasts, even make your own sundae carts — things get a whole lot more fun. Here are our favorite places for show-stopping tableside preparations. 

Chicago: Embeya

Chef Mike Sheerin's pan-fried Whole Fish  is brought out to the table to be deboned and filleted for the diners, sprinkled with fresh herbs, and served with seasonal vegetables. The dish changes seasonally, but Embeya prides itself on using sustainable fishes like Walleye from Lake Michigan. 

Chicago: River Roast

At River Roast, James Beard Foundation award winning Chef Tony Mantuano and Chef John Hogan serve possibly the best roasted whole chicken for two in the city. The bird is roasted, wheeled into the dining room on a rustic wooden cart, presented to you for the requisite Ooohs and Aaahs, then carved tableside and served with crispy potatoes. 

Dallas: CBD Provisions

On trend with the nose-to-tail cooking movement, chef Richard Blankenship serves tableside Berkshire Pig-Head Carnitas at CBD Provisions, his Modern Texas Brasserie. Served family-style (you need at least four people), the dish makes its way through the dining room and every table stops to stare. It's nearly impossible to ignore a whole pig's head. Instagram it. The pig head is sliced up and presented to the table with pickled radishes, cilantro and the chef's homemade salsa. 

Los Angeles: Baltaire

Greek Salad is not something you usually see being prepared tableside but at Baltaire, Chef Travis Strickland makes a solid argument that it should be standard practice. His Greek salad is completely prepared on the spot, with a dressing made from mustard, shallots, red chili flakes, salt, pepper, feta cheese, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Romaine, cucumbers, and tomatoes are then plated and dressed, and each guest also gets a crumble of feta cheese and a big butterflied shrimp on top. 

Photo by Kristin Teig

Los Angeles: The Bazaar by José Andrés

The craft cocktails at Bar Centro at The Bazaar by José Andrés are prepared with modern tools and a range of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. The signature LN2 Caipirinha is crafted table-side with Brazilian cachaça, fresh lime, and sugar, all frozen by liquid nitrogen, which gives off a dry icy haze of magical mist. It’s like an 8th grade science experiment but with really good booze. 

Los Angeles: BOA Steakhouse

Who doesn't love a good Caesar Salad? The showstopper at BOA is enough to make you swoon. Executive Chef Jose Melendez's version is prepared tableside from crisp lettuce leaves tossed with minced anchovies and garlic, coddled egg yolk, Dijon mustard, fresh ground black pepper, and parmesan cheese. The dressing of grapeseed oil, extra virgin olive oil, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fresh squeezed lemon is emulsified and tops off the salad and croutons. The performance is so choreographed and impressive, it can draw the attention of the entire restaurant. 

Nashville: Le Sel

At Le Sel, the New French restaurant located in Midtown Nashville opening in October, Chef Rene De Leon, most recently of Next and Alinea, serves two different dishes tableside for groups of four or more. For his Salt-Crusted Fish, he de-bones the fish, stuffs it with rosemary and lemon slices, and bakes the fish in a salt crust made of flour, salt and egg whites. The fish is then presented at the table and the server cracks open the salt crust, like a present revealed, to uncover the fish. He also serves a Roasted Veal Shank in a large copper pot with a trio of sides. It’s wheeled to the table where your server carves the roast as you like it.

New Orleans: Commander's Palace

Probably the most iconic tableside preparation in the restaurant industry happens dozens of times a night at the legendary Commander's Palace in New Orleans, the birthplace of bananas foster. Chef Tory McPhail's Bananas Foster Flambé for Two is a tableside flambé of bananas with Caribbean rum, brown sugar, banana liqueur, and vanilla bean ice cream. The restaurant has used the recipe for 50+ years, making it a New Orleans essential.

More About: Commander's Palace

New York City: Sessanta

At Sessanta, John McDonald and Steven Eckler's swanky new Italian spot in SoHo, chef Jordan Frosolone's Timballo di Zanghi commands the attention of the dining room. The Timballo, or dome, traditionally made from pasta in its native Palermo, is made here from mound of eggplant is stuffed with baked aneletti pasta in a traditional pork ragu and layers of more eggplant; it's very Big Night. The Timballo gets its name from the chef's daughter, Zanghi, who only ate aneletti pasta for the first year of her life. Tableside, the Timballo is sliced into wedges, topped with olive oil, more of that great pork ragu and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  It serves three to five diners (or one very hungry guest). 

New York City: The Gander

If the phrase "Tableside Ice Cream Sundae Cart," isn't enough to get you to The Gander, acclaimed chef Jesse Schenker's New American restaurant in New York City, there might be something wrong with you. Schenker's Willy Wonka-esque Ice Cream Sundae Cart features a mobile ice cream station stocked with house made flavors like Tahitian Vanilla Bean and Valrhona 72% Dark Chocolate and a flurry of toppings like candied walnuts, rum soaked raisins, fresh macerated berries, rhubarb jam, salted caramel sauce, and so much more. You can make an ice cream sandwich tableside using house made cookies, go for a classic ice cream sundae, and even top your own profiteroles. You're welcome. 

Washington, D.C.: Graffiato

The Countryman Pizza has been on the menu at Graffiato's since the day the restaurant opened its doors, and for good reason. This pizza comes piping hot topped with black truffles and fontina cheese. But that's not all. Once it arrives, your server will crack a perfect 63-degree egg onto your pizza and swirl it around. The heat of the pizza will cook the egg softly, which makes this lunch a great breakfast, too.