Friday, May 24, 2013

Nits About Restaurants and What I Love in a Restaurant

Right now, with an agent interested in selling my cookbook, Cooking in Leaves, I have food on the brain.  I don't always want to cook; I love eating out.  There are certain things that turn me off about some restaurants, though.  And there are things that make a restaurant one to return to.  Here's my list.  I'd love to hear yours.

My Restaurant Nits
**No reservations allowed
**Food I can make better
**Overcooked seared tuna
**Places closed between lunch hour and dinner
**Servers who kneel at the table
**Servers who push courses too fast
**Long, awkward waits for service or courses
**Expensive dishes that try but fail to be stacked art
**Tough or tasteless steak
**Sweet sauces on my meat
**Fusion of dissimilar cuisines for the sake of unique
**Ice tea from a soda dispenser
**Sticky tables
**Trendy food, like throwing a fried egg on everything
**Too cold
**Too dark to read the menu
**Fancy names for simple foods
**Desserts and appetizers that cost more than the main dish
**Barbeque sauce cooked onto my meat (I'd like to offer a shout-out here.  I’m from K.C. Missouri, and Rib House is the only place I’ve found in the Denver metro area that does it right…offering choices of BBQ sauce to later put—or not put--over pit-cooked ribs)

 What I Love in a Restaurant:
 **Ethnic restaurants as authentic as street food.  
**Hole-in-the-walls with dependable food and owners that get to know you.
**If casual seafood, paper towels on the tables and wood floors with shell discards.
**Free samples of wine.
**Ethnic faces in ethnic restaurants.
**Clean and elegant bathrooms.
**Exotic, unctuous offerings like innards (a wimpy companion will have to stomach it).
**Small portion offerings with reasonable prices so I can try several things.
**Food I’ve never had--unless it’s dog, rat, cat, or human.   
**My tacky indulgence—all-you-can-eat steamed crab (straight up, no butter).
**If casual, electrical outlets with internet enabled outside of peak hours.  It may be a chain but they welcome surfers and writers like me.
**Abundant lemon wedges for my tea.
**Would love but never get—passion fruit.
**Both olive oil and butter on the table for bread.
**Every kind of sweetener on the table from raw sugar and stevia to saccharine and Splenda, honey... offerings for all tastes.

What bugs you?
What do you think makes for a great restaurant? 
-- your food obsessed Inkpot


  1. I'm not Anonymous, no matter what the screen says. I'm Claire Walter at, and I look forward to your book.

    What I hate:
    >>Restaurants that are so noisy that you have to yell to be heard and strain to hear.
    >Servers who come back to the table right after they deliver the food and ask, "How's everything tasting?" Sometimes I'm still chewing the first bite.
    >Servers who after a meal unctuously ask, "How delicious was everything?"
    >Restaurants where someone takes the plate away from the person who is finished while the other diner is still eating, usually explaining that s/he is "taking it out of your way." What makes him/her think it is in my way. I believe that can make the companion feel rushed.
    >Waitrons who seem to turn the other way every time they pass my/our table.
    >Water glasses being refilled even after two sips.
    >Personally, I don't want my coffee cup refilled until I'm finished with a cup. I like my coffee sweet and with cream/half&half, so the balance is disturbed when someone "heats that up." But this is MY quirky preference.

    What I love:
    >Consistent service -- attentive but not hovering or neglectful.
    >House-made food. I don't want to pay 6 bucks for a piece of cake that came off a Sysco truck.
    >Good bread with a toothsome crust, preferably with a choice of olive oil or butter. Heating up bread that is lousy to begin with isn't good enough.
    >Dishes that are subtly salted. I can add more if I want, but I can never "desalt" something oversalted.

    I'll probably think of others after I click "Publish."

  2. I will second that -- noise really turns me off. It's "in" these days to have all hard surfaces and industrial ceilings, so that the noise redoubles through echoes. I don't care how good the food is, if nobody can have a conversation absent shouting, I refuse to return. (Jax Fish House in Boulder comes to mind.)

    I also dislike the now-standard practices of stacking food into towers and foams on everything. Truffle oil is nasty and should be banned (use real truffles or avoid altogether).

    I don't mind paying for extraordinary food, but I do mind paying extraordinary prices for things I can prepare at home (and better).

    Try KT's BBQ...although their ribs are peppery, they leave it to you to add the sauce....

  3. Interesting, but sorry, not a "foodie," and not all that picky. And, I have to say (cause I do it at home) I love grilling the BBQ sauce INTO the meat. I know, heinous, according to all the above, and I also enjoying adding MORE to it afterward.

    I'm just a barbarian. :-]