A Foodie’s Guide to An Amazing Dining Experience
Finding a new and great restaurant can be like finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. Whether you’re in a new city or trying to find a great spot in your hometown, the process for finding a delicious upscale spot or a wonderful hole-in-the-wall is the same. Follow the guide below to find your next new and favorite place to eat!
Finding Your Spot - Start off by asking for opinions! But be sure to ask someone who is on your epicurean level—you wouldn’t want to ask about fine-dining establishments of someone who only likes hole-in-the-wall places. Next, check online reviews. Reviews can be confusing but there are a few things to keep in mind: 1) There is a HUGE difference between a 4-star rating and a 4.5 and above rating. Personally, I would try to start my search with those restaurants that earned at least a 4.5 rating. 2) What time of day or night are they open? Filter your search by breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 3) Next, you can fine-tune your search to include things like: what type of cuisine you are after, does the establishment accept reservations (more below on this) and, of course, the location in which you’d like to dine. Pro tip: I always compare at least two review apps because you’ll start to see a consensus on those restaurants that have great ratings, no matter which app is rating them. Finally, try to avoid chain restaurants because you can go to those anywhere/anytime.
Reservations - Make a reservation if you can! Making reservations is always a win-win because it guarantees you a table, you won't have to wait as long, and based on the number of reservations in the system, the restaurant can gauge inventory and labor needed in order to provide you with a better dining experience. If you want something specific… ask for it! Whether that specific request is a: table outside, or maybe you’re in a hurry and you want the waitstaff to know ahead of time? Or perhaps this is your anniversary or it’s a loved-ones birthday? Most restaurants will try their best to accommodate your specific needs.
Prices - Pricing is a no brainer: you get what you pay for. Organic, exotic or high-quality ingredients always equate to a higher price tag, as does expert presentation and alluring ambience. If quality means something to you, then the extra expense will be worth it.
Ordering - Wine and cocktails can be an added bonus to a great meal. When a restaurant has a creatively gifted bartender, always ask for his/ her recommendations, or ask your server for a listing of libations that pair well with your particular meal. However, there’s no shame in eating your meal with a glass of water, as water allows you to taste all the flavors of your meal in their purest form. You can always have a cocktail or a nice glass of wine as your bookend to cap off a great culinary experience. When ordering food, ask your server for suggestions, but try to narrow down your choices to those things you know you’d enjoy. And don't be afraid to try new things that might be out of your comfort zone!
Experience and Other Thoughts - Bring a friend! Better yet, bring a group of foodie friends with you and enjoy not only the fabulous cuisine, but also the social aspect! There’s always something to be said for great food enjoyed among great company.
Expectations In Check - Don’t have preconceived expectations upon experiencing a new restaurant. Clear your mind and allow the food to speak for itself. As can be the case in dating or watching a movie, sometimes the best ones take you by surprise!
Leaving Reviews and Tipping - Reviews are a great way to give your opinion, both online and off! Give kudos where kudos is due and feedback, both negative and positive. Face to face, good or bad, this really helps owners understand what they’re doing well and what still needs improvement. I also say, regardless the scenario, negative feedback is ALWAYS an opportunity for the restaurant to improve. Where online reviews are concerned, take a moment to assess whether or not you are being fair in your judgements (both positive and negative). If your experience was flawless, but there was a water spot on your fork, put that water spot into context. And don't be the person who only leaves bad reviews, but never takes the time to give credit where credit is due. As the saying goes: “vote with your dollars”. A word on tipping: if you felt like your waitstaff did a great job, let them know! If they didn’t, then allow your tip to reference as much.