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6 Fun Ways to Bring the Restaurant Experience Home

A couple having a romantic at-home dinner, capturing the restaurant-experience.

There’s something alluring about going out to eat, which goes way beyond the delicious food. Here’s how to bring that restaurant vibe into your dining room.

Whether you are stuck in or trying to save money, creating a dining experience in your home is a fun way to entertain the family. With a little imagination and decoration, you’ll be surprised at how enjoyable in-home “restaurant” dining can be. Here’s how to get started.

Select a Theme

First, start by thinking about what type of food you want to enjoy and pick a complementing theme that matches.

Maybe you want to bring a diner experience into your home because breakfast for dinner is the best. Or, perhaps its steakhouse experience you long for, which means table cloths and heavy-duty steak knives.

Think about which restaurant theme you’d like to emulate, then go on and select your menu and décor.

Create a Menu

Now that you’ve selected a theme be sure to create an authentic and complementing menu. While cooking a restaurant-worthy meal might seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be.

Remember, this is your home, so there is no pressure in creating a fancy meal with ingredients or dishes you don’t know how to pronounce. Keep it relatively simple, and do plenty of research on the recipes and skills (or tools) needed to create them.

Think about local restaurants with a similar theme and try to replicate what they offer. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—find copycat recipes online.

Jazz up those Plates

Creating a delicious meal is one thing, but using different skills to up your presentation game is a whole different sport. There are so many fun tricks that restaurants use to ensure their food is always aesthetically pleasing.

You can keep it simple by garnishing poultry meals with fresh herbs, and always place a lemon wedge with seafood or fish entrees. Also, place small servings on large white plates to help make the food pop.

Set the Scene

A stack of white plates, crystal ware, linens, and a vase filled with peonies, ready to be set out for dinner.

To get that restaurant setting, be sure to set up a little scenery that makes it feel like you are there.

That means setting the table in a way that you usually wouldn’t bother for a regular home-cooked meal. You can go as far as adding a fancy table cloth and linens if that’s the theme you are working with.

Try adding silverware rolled up in paper napkins (or linens) just like they do in restaurants. You can even use those fancy glasses hanging around in your cupboard.

Decorate your table with a beautiful centerpiece like a simple vase filled with flowers or a candle with fancy salt and pepper shakers.

Create an Ambiance

An apartment windowsill loaded with candles and drapped with Christmas lights.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

You’ve set up your scene, now make a few tweaks to create that perfect atmosphere. That means considering things like lighting and music.

If you are going for a fine-dining environment, be sure that the room is dim enough to create a relaxing mood, yet not so dark that you can’t see the food in front of you. Candles usually help set the mood here too.

For something a little more casual, keep your room well lit, but not too bright, as that can even create the wrong feel. Even casual restaurants have mood lighting, not surgical-suite lighting. You don’t have a box of Edison bulbs and naked fixtures to put them in to recreate the look of the hip restaurant you normally go to? No worries. Just set up some indirect lighting like a table lamp set on the floor shining up the wall or even Christmas light balled up in a glass bowl or behind decoration to create a soft glow.

Don’t forget to create a playlist that matches your theme, to be played during your meal. Thanks to abundant playlists on Spotify, YouTube, and other services, there’s a solid playlist for every situation you can imagine (including actual recordings of real restaurant background noise).

Select music that harmonizes well with the image of what you are attempting to achieve and make sure the music is pleasant for you and all other guests. Finally, volume plays a huge role in the effect the music has: too quiet and it might as well not be there, too loud it becomes an obnoxious impediment to conversing.

Dress Up a Little

If you usually dress up when you go out to eat, then there is no reason to skip that step even if dining in your home.

If this is a date night for you and your partner, then we say go all out and enjoy your fancy and romantic evening. Dressing up is going the extra mile to enjoy the full experience.

At a time where our world feels overly complicated, there are plenty of ways to enjoy ourselves during these uncertain circumstances.

Creating a restaurant experience in your home is one of those ways. Get the family involved, or better yet, keep em in the dark and surprise them. Now pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy every step along the way.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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