When trying new places or visiting new cities there are a few tricks I keep up my sleeve that determine whether or not I will eat in a restaurant and are pretty spot on for figuring out if the food will be good or not if you’re going for an upscale dining experience. If you’re going for something like Olive Garden, a burger or a BBQ joint, these rules do not apply. After many years of many wrong choices, I have discovered the following do-not-dine-here list. Generally speaking, if any one of the following are true, I do not recommend dining in this establishment.
1. Red and white checkered picnic style table clothes with felt backing – or any colored checkered table cloth
2. A neon open / closed sign. (Ethnic restaurants like Thai and Indian excluded)
3. Plastic laminated menus. Steer clear. It’s odd but they must be paper to be good
4. Bad or old house bread. If you love the bread you’ll usually love the restaurant
5. Plates you see loaded with melted cheese
6. Plates that are not well assembled
7. Paper napkins, rather than cloth (this can go both ways)
8. Menus with poor descriptions: i.e. Grilled chicken and potatoes
9. Menu pricing that end it .95 or .99
10. Bright fluorescent lighting and or poor decor
Usually, if these things are absent, you should have a great dining experience. Of course the rest depends on your mood, what you select and your service but this is a great secret and a great start.
To find great places, I find Yelp on my iPhone to be a tremendous resource for finding great spots in a pinch, I search my local area, filter with $$$ pricing, select open now and I’m off. Many times the pictures speak for themselves and you can get directions and reviews right from the app.