benches along the wall, hostess stand, menus, silverware roll-ups, crayons and coloring paper for the kids, chandeliers, candle light, paintings, wine bottles, bar, stools, empty glasses, glasses sitting on bar napkins, liquor bottles, mirrored wall behind the bar, low-hanging lights, bowls of nuts/pretzels/mints, people swiveling on stools, booths with cushioned benches, high tops, tables and chairs, flower centerpieces, place mats, cloth or paper tablecloths, salt and pepper shakers, bread baskets, waiters and waitresses rushing by, aprons, pens and pads, steaming trays of food, customers seated at tables, kids turning around in seats, empty tables with dirty dishes, bathrooms, mints placed on top of a bill, busboys/girls with bins of dishes, managers stopping to chat, chalkboard with specials written on it, Visa/Amex sign at the cash register, steaming hot cleansing towels on plates or bowls of lemon water, the pained expression of receiving & paying a high bill, A themed decor (Italian: jars of decorative oils, dried pastas, chillies, a bistro-like feel; 50's diner: shiny chrome stools, milk shake machines, juke box, checkered tile; Japanese: Sushi rolls, silk fans/room dividers, Japanese art, Sake bottles, servers dressed in traditional kimonos,) etc.
people murmuring/talking/laughing, loud laughter/shouting from the bar, sports events/news anchors on TVs, silverware clinking, dishes breaking, doors swinging open, servers taking orders, children yelling/crying, sound of children's' feet as they run to and from the bathroom, squeak of swiveling bar stools, swish of glasses being filled at the bar, knives scraping on plates, slurp of straws, ice tinkling in glasses, menus snapping shut, receipts printing at servers' stations, servers and cooks yelling back and forth, sizzle of cooking food, footsteps, music softly playing, soft scrape of cheese or pepper being grated onto food, scrape of chairs on floor, soft swish of fabric on booth cushions, radio station tuned in, tailored to customer demographic, employees gathering to sing happy birthday to a customer, waitress reciting specials, the hiss of draft beer/ pop pouring out of the spout, noises of food enjoyment, the crunch of crusty bread being cut at the table, the sawing of steak, knives scratching at the plate, the clink of keys being pulled from pockets as customers prepare to leave, flickering candlelight
prepared food, themed to the restaurant's genre menu (Pasta, ribs, sushi, Chinese food, steak, seafood), steam, spices, yeast, beer, robust wines, perfume, cologne, grease, starch/bleach smell on linens, air freshener, cleaning products, garlic, bad breath, mint from breath mints or gum, sugar and vanilla from baked goods,
Food, crisp salad, dressings, spicy, desserts, coffee, tea, water, wines, beers & other alcoholic beverages, bubbly pop, ice, mints, gum, chocolate, lipstick or lip gloss, garlic, pats of butter, oil, grease, meat juices, gravies, sauces, salt, pepper, tobacco, smoke
crunching salad, plastic or fabric of seat covers sticking to legs, hard wood or tile floors, cold silverware and dishes, rough paper or soft cloth napkins, smooth tabletop, warmth from low-hung lamps and candles, shoulders/hips touching in a too-small booth, warm bread, hot plates, a/c set too warm or cold, waft of air from ceiling fans
--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.
I chose a table in the corner but this was one scenario where location didn't seem to matter. Kids' shouting vied with the noise coming from the arcade in the back. The floor shook with the stomp of little feet, accompanying the percussion of balloons banging into my head. I scanned the menu, but the smell of sweaty kids killed whatever appetite I'd come in with. The waiter appeared, voicing what I think was a request for my drink order. I closed the menu and rubbed at the ache starting behind my eye. "Vodka?" I begged.
I slid into the booth, approving more and more of Rob's choice of restaurant. Candles flickered on the tables and the lights were nicely dim. A server approached on noiseless shoes, bearing a basket that smelled like a baker's oven. My stomach rolled over. I opened my menu and hoped Rob wouldn't be long.
--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile)
As the too-loud mariachi band approached my table, I cringed and hoisted my half-empty margarita glass into the air, waving at the server across the room like an air crash victim signalling help.
Example 2: (Metaphor)
Refolding the napkin on my lap, I forced an interested smile at Alan, a balding accountant who looked nothing like the photo he posted online at the dating site. As he launched into a explanation of the tax laws surrounding capital gains, a waiter passed with the dessert trolley, a rolling siren's call of custards, pastries and layer cakes.