IT’S THE ATMOSPHERE. IT’S THE background music of cutlery-clinked plates and conversation. It’s the initial pleasure of sitting down at “your” table. It’s having a skilled and knowledgeable waitron. It’s eating what I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) cook for myself. It’s the free iced-tea and water refills. It’s being exposed to unfamiliar food. (It’s also the first bite of said food.) It’s expanding my culinary horizons. It’s seeing and guessing what other people are eating. It’s the perfect match of expectation and fulfillment. It’s the way the aromas of the place excite your senses before (or after) you walk through the door. It’s reading the menu. (It’s also, sometimes, asking the waitron to explain the menu.) It’s checking out the bathrooms: are they clean? are they themed? It’s the meal’s leisurely pace. It’s hearing the waitrons and patrons sing “Happy Birthday” at an adjacent, or even distant, table. It’s the linen napkins, especially if they’re folded. It’s the unfamiliar tableware; in Chinese restaurants, it’s the using of chopsticks. It’s looking at the decor while waiting for your meal to arrive. It’s finishing with a cup of strong coffee. It’s walking out with a doggie bag. And it’s the leaving of a well-deserved tip.