Food Fight

Another Day, Another Dress Code Dispute at Da Marco

Welp. It's been a solid eight months since someone last contacted us regarding a dress code issue at Da Marco.

Yesterday, we got an email from a reader who relayed the following tale of Da Marco dress code woe:

My family of four and my friend got kicked out of DaMarco last night...My son had a navy blazer, white oxford button down shirt, and khaki (below the knee) shorts--given the 100 degree weather. He also had dark sneakers since I discovered too late that he had outgrown his dress shoes. I had no idea there was a dress code, "no sneakers, no shorts" policy. It says nothing on the website other than "jacket attire preferred" and they never said anything while making a reservation. My husband was in a suit, my daughter and I were in nice dresses. The hostess let me in to discuss plans with my husband who was already waiting inside...This was my husband's birthday celebration, and my husband and friend had already ordered $400 worth of wine which was opened and decanting in the back room. But while discussing our options, the manager came charging back to the table, yelling "Did I not make myself clear??? I said you are not allowed in the restaurant."

We called Da Marco to get their side of the story, and it was...well...a little different.

"Before they walked in, my hostesses informed them of the dress code," the general manager Nicholas Nikic explained. "We inform people on the phone, and it's written on the website and outside the restaurant."

The message regarding the dress code on the website isn't as specific as the supposed verbal instructions. It says, simply, "Please Dress In Jacket Preferred Attire."

When you make a reservation via OpenTable, the dress code policy is made a little more clear.

Message from the Restaurant: Thank you for choosing Da Marco. Should your plans change, please let us know. We look forward to serving you. Our dress code is bussiness casual no shorts or sandels allowed. [sic]

Nikic said the woman and her son walked into the restaurant under the pretense of going to the bathroom and talking briefly with her husband. Instead, they sat down at the table and tried to order.

"So I went to talk to them, and they just ignored me," Nikic said. "They were trying to order, and I told them they couldn't order because they didn't have a proper dress code. Just no matter what you say, we couldn't reason with them. Either you leave or you go change and come back. I went back for the third time, and finally they got up upset and left."

The woman who emailed us said that no one from Da Marco explained the specifics of the dress code when she called to make a reservation, but Nikic said they have a policy of telling all customers when they call.

"The hostess tells people they need to have dress shoes, dress pants and polo shirts," Nikic said. "I cannot emphasize enough that we told them up front."

He also said that he never talked to the woman, but spoke only to her husband, so her allegation that he yelled at her is false.

"We went four or five times to the table and tried to be as polite and professional as possible," he said. "We have the whole thing on camera if anyone wants to see it."

It appears at this point to be a real he said/she said incident, and one that leaves us with a few questions about dress codes in general.

First, at this point, does anyone not know the Da Marco dress code? Enough has been made of the restaurant's policy, which is one of few such policies remaining in Houston.

Which brings us to the next question: In Houston in 2014, should dress codes still be enforced? Dining in general has become much more casual than it was in the past. Of course, you could argue that Da Marco is one of only a handful of places that adheres to such strict standards of dress, which is somewhat refreshing in a sea of jeans and flip flops at many other restaurants.

What do you think?

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Kaitlin Steinberg