Ask Tom: Dark restaurants

menus in the dark
(Edwin Fotheringham)
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mark Heil wants to see restaurants lighten up.

During several dining excursions, including to Proof in Penn Quarter, "it was so dark, with the menus printed on dark paper with small script, that I literally could not read them," he writes. "It was a bit embarrassing to ask my companion to read the menu aloud to me." The District reader says that "I have good vision, and I'm decades away from being a senior citizen," and that he hopes his experiences aren't "indicative of a movement toward lighting more suitable for, say, a bat cave than a restaurant."

Proof's owner admits that dim lighting is "the biggest complaint I get"; at the same time, it also creates a romantic mood he likes. "I went for the look I got," Mark Kuller says. He instructs his staff to steer older diners to areas with the most illumination (the window tables facing the streetlights, the booths with their pendant lights), and he stocks a nifty solution for anyone who can't view what he's selling: a credit card-size magnifying flashlight. Since opening three years ago, Kuller says, "we've gone through hundreds of them."

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