Always cold at restaurants? Pack a coat tote.

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This post originally appeared in the January 31, 2023 edition of The Move, pro tips and advice from Eater’s dining experts, direct to your inbox. Subscribe now.


Nothing exposes you quite like your online search habits. In my case, the number of times I have Googled “What to wear to a restaurant in this weather?” reveals me to be a chronically cold diner. Luckily, habits change. Instead of constantly turning to the vague guesswork of comparing articles and forecasts, I now lean harder into the art of the coat tote — and you should too.

What, you ask, is a coat tote? Essentially, you stash all of the core essentials you might need to enjoy a meal or drink out at a restaurant or bar in an unassuming vessel – a tote, for instance – and place it by your door or in the trunk of your car. For me, that means packing gum or breath mints, Aquaphor (or chapstick), deodorant, a sample of perfume or cologne, and a light layer of clothing that can easily fold to fit into the bag.

For that last piece, think: a chore or shirt jacket, a cardigan, or a sweater you like but aren’t deeply attached to so that you always have something on hand to accommodate unpredictable weather, a restaurant’s aggressive air conditioning, or even a seat at the bar that just so happens to be directly next to the door. For warmer weather climates, you could opt for a spare tank top or T-shirt if you’re worried about sweat stains and needing a wardrobe refresh.

You’re probably imagining the headlines now: Man on the Internet Credits Himself for ‘Inventing’ the Concept of a Purse. And sure, you could use literally any kind of container for this exploit, but the distinction matters more than you might think.

Like anyone who has ventured outside of their home in the last few years, I’ve collected a small pile of totes without even meaning to do so. For each one I can remember acquiring, there are probably two or three others that seem to spontaneously materialize. Therein lies the tote’s greatest strength: ubiquity. Because of their availability, you probably have a tote you can dedicate to this task and barely notice its absence.

Plus, although it’s not optimal, you can even leave the bag right on the floor. Just toss it into the wash later, rather than dirty a beloved purse or favorite coat.

The coat tote comes in handy at impromptu happy hours, early reservations that don’t spare time to refresh at home, or dinner dates that turn into late- or all-night affairs. While the method isn’t foolproof, having this bag in my car has saved me from shivering in silence, pulling up to a date with crusty lips, and potentially developing Google search-induced arthritis — but I’ll double-check WebMD for that last one.

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