Rita’s Bar and Dining, Dalston

So right now

The Vibe

It’s in Dalston, it’s on trendische up-and-coming Mare Street, and it’s owned by a young foodie who is easy on the eye and beloved by Vice magazine. Sure. But Rita’s Bar and Dining is also one of the most innovative offerings to come out of the American junk food moment in London dining, pure substance with just enough style to get you through the door. From the moment Rita’s opens at 7 the place has a mellow buzz to it. Only a handful of tables occupy one side of the room, positioned close enough to each other to get some vital tips on what to order. There’s a long bar to prop yourself up at after the meal, which you should take advantage of- partly because the feast deserves reflection and partly because you’ve travelled this far so might as well get comfy.  The joint is run by a group of up-and-coming young restaurateurs including Jackson Boxer (of Brunswick House Café) and the Hawksmoor’s Missy Flynn who, when present, contribute to the zeitgeist aura of the place.

The Order

The glutton in you will want to order the works, convincing yourself that the small plating of food means that you can take down a mean spread. Not so. The dishes are pretty filling and well priced at around £6 each so if you have fear of missing out then just ask the (hot) waiter/waitress to identify the key players. The fried chicken roll is a staple (light batter, fluffy bread, wonderful condiments), as are the honey and ginger chicken wings- albeit awkward to eat on a date- and chilli macaroni. However, the patty melt, a sort of cheeseburger sandwich, is king. Forget the proliferation of burger bars in town, this pattie is richer, more flavoursome and much easier to eat on a date than your regular burger. Share a portion for three or four neat bites of just the best darn thing around. Remember to order some greens which are excellent throwbacks to the refined dishes that Boxer did so well at Brunswick House.

The Game

There is most certainly such a thing as cool by association. Memorise the faces and CVs of the owners before you visit so you can casually fill your date in on your knowledge of who’s who on the foodie scene and perhaps even approach them at the end to share your enjoyment of the meal. Great pals. Order a couple of ‘ritas’ and four plates. More than that would be hard to manage. Try and get one of the corner tables so you can sit perpendicular to each other and avoid head on views of mouth wiping. Your napkin is your best friend here, keep it close at all times. Be relaxed, dress casual and don’t settle in at your table as if yours for the night. There is a sense that once done, you really should let someone else enjoy your seats so order the bill relatively quickly and suggest a second drink at the bar. Be true to the fast food nature of the place and keep eating time to under an hour. If you leave the place lateish, there are a glut of dingy drinking dens around. If it’s only 9 on a weeknight, bus back towards Shoreditch and hit a swanky bar for a nightcap.

The Faults

They could do without the bouncer at the door, as you naturally end up reaching for your driver’s licence as you approach.

Sex Factor

3. It’s a tricky one. Whilst it’s not the obvious joint to precipitate a bedroom session, there is nothing more sensual than the heady indulgence the food affords and the spirit of youthful intensity that pervades the place. Go on a Friday night, with a bar planned for after, and it can reach a 5+.

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