Whether a restaurant is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. Quality of food, standard of service, the view, wine selection and cleanliness all contribute to one’s perception of whether a restaurant is good or bad; however, while a restaurant can be one person’s favorite of all time, the same place will make someone else run out the door before being seated.
A great restaurant inspires cravings for its signature dishes, and a frequent longing to eat there more than once a week. Great restaurants are places where everyone really does know your name, or at least they recognize your face. At a great restaurant, if they don’t know you, they act like they do in a way that comes across as sincere. A great restaurant is one that all out of town guests are encouraged to visit, but would not know about without advice from locals.
Depending on where a restaurant is located, characteristics take on different levels of importance. A restaurant on the beach can get away with shoddy food and inattentive service because diners will be mesmerized by the view. A place diners can dock their boat and head straight for the self-service beer cooler will survive long lines, especially if the line cook keeps flipping shrimp boiled in Old Bay to people waiting to order. A steakhouse in a strip mall will not have such luck, and must serve up more appetizing food. A restaurant frequented by theater-goers will not make it if service is slow, while a tuxedo-and-diamonds establishment will flounder if the salad is served before the soup, and wine is not opened tableside.
The quality of a restaurant depends on the expectations of the diners. Someone looking for a quick bite during lunch has different expectations than a nervous twenty five year old, about to propose marriage. Parents taking their kids out for Sunday lunch after church want something different than co-workers out for happy hour.
If a perfect restaurant existed, and it is quite possible that one does, it would have the following qualities:
-Always a table available without the restaurant being deserted.
-Open seven days a week for at least lunch and dinner.
-Lunch crowds can munch on huge custom made salads that are still available at dinner. Dinner guests have delectable selections of steaks and entrees, with the option for a big salad if that is what they are craving.
-Service is attentive, but not imposing. The server respects the rhythm of the individual diners.
-The well rounded menu, no matter what the theme, contains salads, soups, appetizers, steak, chicken, fish and vegetarian options, with no single category shortchanged.
-Reasonably priced, homemade desserts are available to finish the meal.
-A wine list that is not illegible or unaffordable.
-Has not been cited for numerous health violations.
-Is no more than fifteen minutes away from home.
The restaurant above exists, for many a diner, in many a city. It is immediately apparent by the plans one makes to return before finishing a meal. A perfect restaurant is discovered over and over again by new patrons and old. It is the place to return when a swanky new establish does not live up to reviews, or when it is just time for something familiar. A good restaurant beckons from the dark night, folds its patrons in, tucks metaphorical napkins under their chins, and lets them settle in for a familiar, almost home-cooked meal.