The Popularity Of Mediocre Restaurants - Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Great Food Blog at - 81965

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Great Food

The Popularity of Mediocre Restaurants 
Mar. 12, 2009 8:47 am 
Updated: Jul. 20, 2009 3:45 pm
OK, so here is my question.  Am I the only one in this universe who finds restaurants sorely lacking in quality?

Last night, our birthday club (mom & sisters) went to a local trattoria for some Italian food.  All of us except the birthday girl had never been there but she raved about it (ya gotta have the eggplant parmigiana!).  Now this place is extremely popular and was packed on an early Wednesday night.  Online customer reviews revealed many gushing comments.  Sounds good so far...

I love Italian food but as one who makes a pretty good spaghetti sauce, I was hesitant to try their sauce on anything.  The entire party ordered eggplant parmigiana, meatless lasagna and chicken parmigiana.  I chose to order a small pizza (no sauce) and salad.

So very glad I didn't order anything with sauce.  All the dishes were covered in pale red sauce that looked like it came straight out of a can - and I'm talking plain tomato sauce.  I didn't see much seasoning at all.  No cheese on top either.  I took a swipe of my sister's sauce with a bit of bread and my suspicion was confirmed, acidic and lacking in flavor.  My pizza had no sauce but still should have been brushed with olive oil/garlic/butter/something - but it was completely dry.  My family enjoyed their food.  I had to hide the fact that I thought the food was disappointing so the birthday girl wouldn't be upset.  My family already knows I'm extra picky about food and they may not want to go out with me anymore.  But wait, maybe that's a good thing...

Another item of note:  this trattoria does not serve spaghetti noodles, only linguine.  Linguine with everything, don't dare ask for anything else.  When I asked the waitress if the noodles were homemade, she said yes.  When the manager was asked if the noodles were homemade, he said no because they weren't able to keep up with the demand.  Huh?

This isn't the only establishment I've visited where I left thinking, "what do people see here that I don't - is it just me?"  Have customers become immune to poor service and food?  So I ask, "why-oh-why are subpar restaurants so popular?"
Mar. 12, 2009 8:56 am
I don't KNOW! And not only subpar - but often expensive. I have a hard enough time justifying spending $100 on what I could make for $20 - but DON'T give me a can of tomato sauce and a packet of noodles and call it good! I can do THAT for $1!!! Grr. Keep writing - I like getting a little ticked off in the morning to get me going! :)
Mar. 12, 2009 9:23 am
Thanks Sunny - my sentiments exactly. I have the bad habit of adding up the cost of the ingredients on my plate. Yes, I know, there's also the time involved in the shopping, preparation and cooking, the cost of clean-up, atmosphere, etc. but at least I should love the food!
Mar. 12, 2009 9:26 am
Mar. 13, 2009 11:58 am
I totally agree!! What I've been finding for the last few years is not just subpar food but super subpar service right along with it!! Supremely unhappy, customer unfriendly people who don't seem to realize that the tip amount is a direct result of the service. May the people who are enjoying the subpar food aren't bothered by the subpar service either and tips are not generally affected. I don't get it...
Mar. 14, 2009 5:37 am
this is my first time to add to a blog tho' i have been a member here for the past several years. my comment about sub-par would be to say that along with sub-par food and service, when my husband and i go out, i really do not like when a waitstaff person calls us 'guys'. sorry if i sound prudish, but at my age, with 3 grown kids and a wonderful granddaughter of seven years old, i am not one of the 'guys' this person would hang out with. i probably have shoes older than they are and i think when we are addressed as this, it is disrespectful. I also think when things are not up to our liking, we, as a society, are not always willing to speak up, so the things that make us unhappy with places just continue.
Mar. 15, 2009 6:21 am
Becuase tipping is the accepted norm in America and the wait staff know that they are getting their 15% regardless there IS NO incentive to offer anything other than standardised mediocrity. I too do not like wait staff to be overly familiar with us.
Mar. 19, 2009 11:05 am
Thousands upon thousands of so-called Italian eateries in the U.S. are owned and operated by second and third generation families, many of whom have never been to Italy, and most of whom are extremely budget-conscious with no concept whatever of quality. I mean not to disparage Italian-American cuisine, since not only am I a member of this ethnic persuasion, it is in a class by itself, and can be spectacular when done right. I always try to go on line and check the "pedigree" of the place, and not, repeat not, rely on guest comments or recommendations! Also, kudos to patacake51 who has articulated one of my worst pet peeves, i.e. my guests and I being referred to by mindless waiters and waitresses as "guys." Spread the word!
Jul. 13, 2009 6:43 am
ok I'm a few months late posting to this but I have to ask have any of you had waitstaff sit @ the booth/table with you? On vacation in FL a young waitress at the Outback sat down NEXT TO my husband to take our order. He didn't think it was a big deal, but let me tell you had the shoe been on the other foot and it had been a young handsome male sitting next to me I'm guessing his take on it would have changed. I pay for a good meal with that should be good service and I'm only 36 but this air of 'buddies' or whatever it is - the informal attitudes aren't welcome. As for the waitress I gave her a bit of cool attitude and she resumed a more professional role but still... and yes I did speak to the mamager and her tip reflected my feelings of the service we received.
Jul. 20, 2009 12:36 pm
I do hate it when the waitstaff get too chummy with you. It seems alot of waitstaff will kneal down at your table these days and I find this annoying. Don't get me wrong, I like the waitstaff to be friendly but some like to take it to a more "intimate" level which I think is obnoxious.
Jul. 20, 2009 3:45 pm
Finally I know that I'm not the only one. All my friends wonder at our lack of dining out only for my dear hubby to confirm that it's not the cost, it's the quality for the price, the loud noise not suitable for our nightly family discussions and the wait staff that apparently haven't heard that one should not handle money and then my food or dip their fingers into my cup before they pour the water or a number of other germy techniques of service. I love that my family prefers a trip to the grocery, time in the kitchen working together and a meal prepared just the way we like it.
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About Me
Wife and mom of young son with autism. In the past year or so, he's really broadened his food repertoire and is trying all the new dishes I cook. I'm thrilled that he likes nearly everything I make now, especially the nourishing soups. When he was very young, he mostly ate cereal and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. The brain disorder of autism usually comes with very rigid and narrow food preferences due to sensory issues of texture, smell and taste. So the very fact that he is now enjoying a variety of food is a miracle in itself. I absolutely love allrecipes. Making new dishes is so much easier after reading member reviews. It's almost like having your own professional cook in the kitchen guiding you!
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Soups, leafy green salads with lots of veggies, spaghetti, grilled meat, mushroom risotto, enchiladas, and pizza.
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Let's see: Easter ham, Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas Eve buffet and we have a grilled steak or fish every Saturday night.
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I've mastered prime rib roast, chicken marsala, enchiladas, corned beef brisket and barbeque spareribs among other dishes. I hosted my first Thanksgiving and it was a hit. I'm always asked to make cheesecake, rum cake and pumpkin rolls. I can also make a delicious baklava. Lobster tails are pretty simple and delicious when we can afford it. Traditional cakes are still a struggle for me but I keep working on it. I still can't quite master pork loin roasts, they always come out dry and making a decent pie still eludes me.
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Not really a tragedy but when I was dating my future husband, I made a batch of lasagna roll-ups. I accidentally used MINT toothpicks to secure them. I am still reminded about it to this day!
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