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Best (bad) restaurant review yet. October 14, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Who could resist an article about the five worst restaurants in America? Not yours truly. Clicking the link on my Yahoo home page, I found descriptions of five truly awful-sounding places. Fortunately, they were all in urban areas—New York, L.A., Miami, D.C., and Denver—rather than in our neck of the rural woods.

Whew! There are plenty of places around here with mediocre food and ambience, and I’m sure some have food that is truly foul, though mercifully, our friend Ben and I have never landed in one of those. But the mouse-dropping-strewn floors and appalling hygiene (inlcuding filthy bathrooms) in these diner-reviewed roach motels went far beyond tacky decor and tasteless entrees. Not that the prices reflected that—the worst-rated sold a rum and Coke to an unsuspecting customer for $18 after his discount!

Needless to say, all five restaurants were savaged by Yelp reviewers (as well as health inspectors). Now, people who take the time to write reviews tend to be pretty passionate about their dining experiences, which can lead to some rather nit-picky quibbles with the restaurants in question. I try to take them for what they’re worth, especially when a restaurant gets a bad review for a criterion I couldn’t care less about. If you’re outraged because there was a green light hanging over your table instead of a pink light, I don’t really feel your pain. What was the food like?

My own criteria for what makes a good restaurant experience are pretty simple: Not having to wait for a table. Tables that are big enough for the food being served, and comfortable chairs or booths that are the right height for the table. (I hate feeling like a three-year-old with my head barely poking above the edge of the table because the table’s too high for the height of the chairs.) Enough lighting to see the menu, your dining companions, and your food: no more, no less.

Then there’s the peace, quiet and space issue. I like plenty of space between tables, so you don’t feel like you’re having a group conversation, or that if you get up to go to the bathroom you’re inadvertently giving the person seated behind you free gastric bypass surgery.

As for peace and quiet: No TVs or loud, blaring music, please. Preferably no music at all. If I wanted to watch TV or listen to music, I could do so from the comfort of home and not pay good money for the privilege of doing it in the middle of a restaurant. And no live bands, and especially no roaming musicians, of any type or stripe. I’m trying to eat a nice meal and chat with my dining companions in a normal tone of voice, not shout over the music or feel like I’ve been thrust into an interactive audience experience. (God forfend. If I’d wanted to be an actor, I’d have been one.)

I’m more tolerant of restaurateurs’ attempts at decor, as long as the restaurant is spacious, quiet, comfortable, and clean. If someone wants to decorate a Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, or vegetarian restaurant with their idea of suitable paraphernalia, color schemes, and the like, and they don’t seem to be hitting the mark, I give them credit for trying to make their restaurant distinctive. As long as Day of the Dead bobbleheads aren’t hopping up and down in my face or an endless loop of “That’s Amore” isn’t playing in the background, I’m fine. I wouldn’t want to encounter decor of this kind in a high-end restaurant, of course. But if I’m not paying for a leisurely, one- or two-hour supper, it’s fine with me.

I’m also okay with leisurely service, as long as the food arrives at the table at the proper temperature and in the correct order. Certainly, I don’t want my salad to arrive with my entree and have the now-cold appetizer rushed apologetically to the table soon thereafter. But as long as my unsweetened iced tea is brought promptly, I’m happy to enjoy my dining companions’ company rather than champing at the bit for food to be on the table now, or at least within seconds of ordering.

What about service? I appreciate a cheerful server, but don’t expect one. If I’d been standing on my feet for hours, rushing around, dealing with grouchy, even unreasonable or nasty customers, I’d be ready to dump hot soup down everybody’s backs. (Why I’m Not a Server 101.) I do expect courtesy from a server, as I expect a server to expect courtesy from me (plus a 20% tip after taxes). And I expect a server to keep an eye out and refill my iced tea without my having to ask for a refill, but not to hover over the table constantly, making me feel pressured to gulp down my food and leave as quickly as possible.

Oh, right, the food. Because I love cooking, when OFB and I go out to eat, I want food that I love but wouldn’t make at home. That includes all fried foods, from falafel patties and spanakopita to pakoras and vegetable tempura. Not to mention sweet potato fries, fried okra, and onion petals. It also includes beautifully made foods from international cuisines that I lack the patience or skill to make at home. And regional specialties that I also lack the patience to make, like our local Mennonite pumpkin roll (a pumpkin sponge cake rolled around a cream cheese-whipped cream filling), or luscious hickory-nut cookies.

But let’s get back to that restaurant review. The third-worst restaurant got the best bad review I’ve ever read. The Yelp reviewer who came up with it deserves a four-star rating him- or herself, don’t you think? “The place is dirty. I shudder to imagine what the kitchen is like. Save your money. Go lick a bus seat and get the same gastrointestinal experience for free.”

Gotta love that money-saving aspect.

‘Til next time,

Silence

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