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You are likely to not have a good meal at a restaurant if . .

1) The restaurant has a really bad name like "Pastabilities", "Sir Loin's", or "Best O' Thymes".
2) You can easily get seated for dinner in a really slick modern looking restaurant at 8PM on a Saturday Night (without a reservation).
3) Chicken Quesadillas are featured on the menu (and particularly if it's not a Mexican Restaurant).
4) They have to tell you on the menu that their food is: "delicious", "tasty", or "fresh".
5) It's German or Austrian.:)

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  1. I disagree with 5. It's only true if you don't like good food of that cuisine. I would be happy to eat your schnitzel, spaetzle and strudel und schlag for you. It's a cuisine sorely missing in the Boston area, and many Boston hounds sigh over that.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Karl S

      And, in NY, we now have "high end" Austrian - Danube, Wallse, Blaue Gans (a little less highend - same crew). Definitely belies your number 5.

      1. re: Karl S

        good schnitzle is good schnitzle. Let's not forget a wonderful addition that German cuisine has given us, forgive the spelling please, shveinahassen, mainly served in beer establishments in Germany. It's the butt of a pig that's been roasted for a few hours in the basement next to the beer kegs. Serve that with some red cabbage and potatoes and you have a feast. Then some great weissewurst from Munich with a stein.

        Number 5 needs to come off.

        1. re: jfood

          Schweinhax'n is one of the best things on the planet.

        2. re: Karl S

          What's wrong with German Food.
          Here are my reasons not to have a good meal at a restaurant
          Young Wait staff ( Collage and HS students)
          Empty Rest at 8 pm on the weekend
          Any place with a childerns menu
          Wait staff with an attitude and you haven't said a word yet to them.

          1. re: FAL

            I object to reason #1. I waited tables all through senior year and college, always at quality restaurants - no chains, all well-established family bistros and cafés.

            Now if the _chef_ is in high school...

            1. re: FAL

              Re: "Young Wait staff (Collage and HS students)"

              Well, high school students might not make the best servers, but I have found that art students (whether they specialize in photography, sculpture, oils, collages or...) tend to have delightfully quirky, outgoing personalities that can add to the dining experience. Are you anti-art in general, or do you just dislike collage art?

                1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                  pretty sure that they meant college, not collage art.

                2. re: FAL

                  I learned to wait tables at the Men's Union at U of M, then spent Summers doing the same at private clubs. It was the next best job to getting through college. Next time, I will tend bar and make better tips!
                  The best thing from the experience to this day was learning how to eat WELL and understanding good service. That is eating Healthy Foods instead of the junk foods.

                  1. re: nutrition

                    Exactly Understanding good service. Once you recieve good service it's hard to have it any other way. My advice to anyone go to any high end rest and see how you are served a meal. That's why I posted HS and Collage students.( Sorry I should have explained myself better) Taking an order and dropping a plate is not the only thing a waiter does. There are waiter's in NYC that make more $$$$ then some chefs.Trust me when I get a good waiter he/she gets a 20 % tip. Plus I do not treat them like dirt. It is a 2 way street. Next time you walk in they are even more heplful. With out asking. As for bartending a good bartender always remember what a good tipper drinks plus customer always remembers a good bartender.

                3. re: Karl S

                  Austrian food can be really wonderful if you are lucky to have a good source or chef. And as Karl S said, I will happily eat your schnitzel, spaetzle, and strudel und schlag as well as drink your beer. Also fat sausages roasting in a pan, chicken boullion, marzipan....

                  1. re: JudiAU

                    And don't forget the spectacular pastries.

                  2. re: Karl S

                    Struedel MIT Schlag (and note that German nouns are always capitalised).

                  3. Again, disagree with #5 on your list too. Not something I'd eat on a weekly basis, but it sure is a nice hearty meal when that's what you're looking for.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Rick

                      I disagree with #5 also. I don't eat that type of food too often, but have hardly ever had a bad meal when going out for German type of food. Not trendy, gourmet or low cal but real comfort food.

                      1. re: jackie de

                        The last one was a joke (sort of). I understand that there any many Michelin starred restaurants located in Germany-Austria (and apparently some great ones in NYC too). I personally have had bad experiences with this cuisine in North America though.

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          To hell with Michelin.

                          Use your own taste.

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            To hell with the concept of "Germany-Austria."

                      2. 6. if the restroom is not clean.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Babette

                          That would exclude many Chinese restaurants with very tasty food, not to mention lots and lots of delicious restaurants in Southeast Asia and all sorts of other areas of the world. No way in Hell is that an indication that you are not likely to have a good meal. You still might not choose to have a meal there, though; that's up to you.

                          1. re: Pan

                            Yeah, but to me, the cleanliness of the bathroom is a good indication of the cleanliness of the kitchen. So if the bathroom is dirty, I won't enjoy my meal, that's for sure.

                            1. re: Frenchie

                              Well--- One of he quickest ways to clear out a restaurant is to send the cooking and prep staff out for toilet duty.

                              I once worked at a restaurant that spent more money in the dining and restrooms that nothing was left to remodel the kitchen. Being from a farm, the kitchen to me, wouldn't pass my inspection to be a hog barn. Fortunately the outfit was shutdown before someone got deathly sick.

                            2. re: Pan

                              they must be so busy in the kitchen preparing wonderful food that theres no time to clean the bathroom..

                            3. re: Babette

                              I think it depends on what you mean by "clean". I'll settle for running water, soap, and plumbing that still flushes. Less than that and you do have to wonder what the staff is sharing with you.

                              1. re: Lee by the Sea

                                Does that mean you would never buy any food on the street? Because man oh man is there great food to be had in stalls in countries like Malaysia.

                            4. 7. If the Heimliche poster is in neon

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  That would guarantee an unpleasant meal, but would it guarantee a _bad_ meal?

                                  1. re: Pan

                                    ..not willing to take my chances :)
                                    if the service BEGINS snippy, I get up and take my biz elsewhere. I prefer service w/a smile ;P

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      lots of chinese or hole in the wall/greasy spoon places where the flavor not the service is not prioritized. sometimes it is one or the other.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        In my book it would!

                                        We went to an Italian place in the upscale suburb outside Des Moines one day for lunch, and the hostess gave us attitude from the minute we walked in. It was clear she thought we were corn-fed rubes as soon as we didn't understand her when she mumbled something to us about olive oil & cracked pepper with our bread, and we were treated accordingly from that moment on. She reached across both of us, grabbed the oil bottle, dumped some on a bread plate, ground a little pepper on it and threw one of her bread pieces on top of it, all with this sigh like "I can't believe you hicks are even allowed to come inside the West Des Moines city limits." (It wasn't that we were too stupid to know what she was talking about--WE COULDN'T HEAR HER!)

                                        The food wasn't actually too bad, but I wouldn't go back there on a bet.

                                        1. re: revsharkie

                                          I know exactly where you're talking about and I wouldn't go in there if they paid me.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            A few weeks later I was back in Des Moines and a friend and I went out to eat, at another Italian place not very far from the airport. The items and prices on the menu were comparable to the place in WDM but the attitude was not. The hostess and waitress were incredibly friendly and helpful, and we didn't get any attitude from anyone other than the attitude that they were glad to have us eat there and wanted to help us any way they could to have a good experience.

                                        2. re: Pan

                                          NYC has many restuarants that are famous for there brusque service, as well as their good food: Peter Luger's (home of the 8 inch plate drop), Katz's, JG Melon's, just to name a few.

                                          1. re: tbear

                                            I was at Katz's last week. My cutter (hand-cut the pastrami & made the sandwich) was the old Ukrainian who's been there 25 years. He was smart-alecky & full of backtalk, but it was in that good-natured charming manner that only can be pulled off in NY, or possibly an SF Chinatown place.

                                      2. If there's a TV on. Multiple TVs? Aie.

                                        (And I will disagree with original post's no. 5. My part of the world had many German immigrants and there are still some great German food restaurants in the area).

                                        11 Replies
                                        1. re: nasturtium

                                          I agree about the television thing. More than one guaranties a bad meal. Another one is peanut shells on the floor. If empty peanut shells are allowed to be tossed onto the floor the meal will be terrible. Also if the man or woman greeting you is wearing a headset with mouth speaker piece.

                                            1. re: kare_raisu

                                              Completely disagree with both of the above. I go to a bar for wings which are very good. The have serve yourself peanuts and you sweep the shells on the floor. It's a sports bar so guess what they have a lot of.

                                              The headset thing not withstanding. I may just turn away when I see that. Food could be great. I wouldn't like the attitude.


                                            2. re: Chinon00

                                              Or they hand you a coaster with manically blinking lights. . .

                                              1. re: Covert Ops

                                                You'll get just such a pager at Harris Ranch just off I-5 in the little town of Coalinga between L.A. and San Francisco. It's because of the crowds getting some of the best beef in California at very fair prices. Look outside and you will see (and smell) why. Oh, my light is blinking--they've got a booth for us.

                                                1. re: Lee by the Sea

                                                  There is a crowd from the Freeway, since it is midway between LA and SF and there is not much of any other place to eat, while stopping for a tank of gasoline to finish the trip!
                                                  At least you won't leave as hungry, but be sure to RECYCLE the air in the car to get past the feed lot!

                                                  1. re: Lee by the Sea

                                                    You know what, though? You'll have some of the best beef in California with some of the worst service in California -- we've been several times (it's usually that or Pea Soup Andersen's, which is a blue-haired horror) and the service is always abysmal.

                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                      I bought some of the Harris stuff at Henry's and after it was cooked, it had the smell of the Feedlot, that I find nausiating. THe odor is stored in the fat, and you don't get rid of it all the way home and into the dumpster.
                                                      I wish it were otherwise.

                                              2. re: nasturtium

                                                Some of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants have TVs going. I just try to ignore them and focus on the food.

                                                The funny thing is that when we were visiting my relatives in Vietnam, some of them had the TV on during meals for background noise. Almost like the equivalent of dinner music.

                                                1. re: Carb Lover

                                                  my favorite chinese place has a tv going on chinese cartoons all the time to entertain their small son (its a small family cafe) and yet the food is amazing.

                                                2. re: nasturtium

                                                  I agree with you in general, but once, travelling alone with 2 6 year olds and an 8 year old -- we'd had a hot, busy day and a week filled with exotic foodstuffs. I took my kids to an East Side Mario's where they had a tv AT THE TABLE and we ordered burgers and fries and an all you can eat salad bowl ( and a gin and tonic for Mommy). It was air conditioned, service was speedy and friendly and the kids were drugged by cartoons -- one of the most pleasant meals of that trip!

                                                3. They advertise something as bottomless or neverending.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                                    And if they sell the glass the bottomless comes in. :)

                                                  2. If you see any of the following in a restaurant, lower your expectations accordingly:

                                                    -Phony antiques;
                                                    -reproduction Coke posters;
                                                    -Neon signs outside of the bar area;
                                                    -a "cop-out burger" on the menu for the indecisive and/or the unadventurous;
                                                    -Animatronic animals;
                                                    -Imitiation diner decor;
                                                    -Any dish named after a celebrity who is highly unlikely to have ever dined there;
                                                    Any sort of giant "free if you can eat the whole thing" menu item.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: Vexorg

                                                      Come on, now, people in the business are just trying to make a living.

                                                      A burger on the menu doesn't mean that they're copping out, they're just trying to remain stable.

                                                      1. re: Vexorg

                                                        how do you tell a 'cop-out' burger from any other type of burger? Lots of Chowworthy places have burgers on the menu...

                                                        Come to think of it, one of my favorite places, Luka's in Oakland, has a great burger, and the TV is always on in the bar area (which is a great place to eat that great burger). I can't say for certain from memory, but I am reasonably sure there is more than one of those TVs in the place...

                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                          a "Cop-Out Burger" refers to a place which has no business having a burger on the menu (e.g. a burger in a Mexican or a Chinese restaurant.) I can understand where seafood restautants need to have some non-seafood items on the menu for people who won't eat seafood (my mom won't touch the stuff) but there are some types of restaurants that just shouldn't have a burger on the menu, period.

                                                        2. re: Vexorg

                                                          "Any sort of giant "free if you can eat the whole thing" menu item."

                                                          I disagree with that, that to me sounds like a challange! However, I did learn (the hard way) that if you're at a place where if you eat something, you get your name on a wall, that is not always a pleasent experience.

                                                          1. re: rcheng

                                                            yeah, I would happily go back to "The Big Texan" even though i could not hope to choke down the 64 oz steak with all the sides. There is a certain joy to "free if you can eat the whole thing" places. Doubly so if you can buy a snake skin belt buckle at the check out counter

                                                            1. re: frankiii

                                                              I LOVE THE BIG TEXAN! I tried the 72 oz steak, but didn't quite finish it, still being one of the great dissipointments of my life.

                                                              1. re: frankiii

                                                                At Pinnacle Peak (Tucson and maybe elsewhere) it used to be 32 oz. I was with someone who ate it all and still had room for dessert.

                                                          2. There are always exceptions -- I don't always succeed, but I try to get to a new place before the word gets out and the place starts getting crowded. #2 can imply success in such a situation.

                                                            1. The tv thing only applies if the shows being shown are in English. Good ethnic restaurants often have tvs blaring with programming in their native language. I think its because people who can't afford the expensive satellite programming in certain languages go to their favorite restaurants hoping to catch certain shows.....

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: janetofreno

                                                                I go to a great Ghana/Ivory Coast restaurant in Harlem in which there are copies of African expatriate newspapers, the family that owns/cooks all the delicious food is newly transplanted from Ghana, and nearly all the clientele are from Ghana or the Ivory Coast. When I eat there nearly all of the other diners (usually solo) are silent and completely engrossed in their newspapers, but at 8 o'clock on Tuesdays the diners, the cooks, the cooks' kids, and any other family members around stop whatever they're doing to crowd around and watch "Dancing With The Stars" on the TV that plays on top of the fridge in the dining room.

                                                              2. ... if you have to wait more than a hour for your table (especialy if there is no bar). That will always put me in a foul mood for dinner. It especially peeves me when we have a reservation but still have to wait a long time. I know its a good sign the restaurant is popular but...it is doubly frustrating when the restaurant is not full an you still have to wait!

                                                                1. Oh, I forgot an important one...

                                                                  ... if they have a salad bar. Nothing good ever comes from a restaurant with a salad bar.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: AmblerGirl

                                                                    Yep - my DH's list of indicia of poor food (with which I do not necessarily concur but which means those restaurants are excluded when we eat together):

                                                                    1. Plastic chairs - inside or out
                                                                    2. Salad Bar
                                                                    3. Pink table cloths
                                                                    4. TV

                                                                    Appparently there are some exceptions in his mind to 3 & 4. But the plastic chairs - verboten.

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Add to #1 those places where the chairs are attached to the table with a metal beam.

                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                        Ive had fine meals in places with each of those items present.
                                                                        I seem to recall a lot of pink tableclothes in Italy. And try to find outdoor dining these days, even in upscale places, where they dont use those white plastic chairs. They were all over provincial france when we visited last summer.

                                                                        TV and salad bars? go south or into rural areas in casual eating places where, like, the local cops come in. I wouldnt want to exclude these - in fact a good salad bar is a great thing . and lots of the ethnic places have tvs on.

                                                                      2. re: AmblerGirl

                                                                        actually...R.J. Grunt's the Chicago originator of the salad bar(and LEY impresario Melman's, I believe, first restaurant) serves pretty tasty sandwiches, burgers(cooked to order...imagine that!), and onion rings. Yes, their iconic salad bar is still in residence, but I see it more as an art installation than something to order from.

                                                                        and, then, of course, there are all the trendy churrascarias who offer massive salad bars in addition to the neverending parade of meats

                                                                        1. re: AmblerGirl

                                                                          I've been to a couple of good restaurants with salad bars over the years, and there's a third one locally that's basically just a salad bar and sub shop - but wonderful subs and home made chili and soups.

                                                                          I have no idea whether it still stands, but Pittypats Porch in Atlanta, in the 1980's, had an incredible salad bar, and was known for their game preparations (wild boar was popular).

                                                                          There was a place in Oklahoma City many years ago called Cattle Rustler's Steak House that had all you can eat steaks for something like $2.98 (in the 70's). And these were thick, Choice grade, sirloin - ok, so it's not rib or strip, but it wasn't like the yuck from those psuedo-meat chains. The trick was that they had an incredible and irresistable salad and soup bar, plus they had baked potatoes the size of a football with a great bar for fixins. My first time there, I was so full before the steak that I barely managed the first serving. But I learned! The next time I went with my friend instead of my wife - and they were pretty much begging us to leave.

                                                                          The local sub shop (Billerica, MA) makes a wonderful Cordon Bleu sub - with swiss, ham, home-made chicken nuggets, and hollandaise. Their salad bar is always full, cold, clean, and well cared for.

                                                                          1. re: AmblerGirl

                                                                            ...not true if the salad bar is here in California. Or how about a restaurant that *is* a salad bar? I'd rather have the freshly hand-made-in-front-of-you Caesar salad at Souplantation than any of the bland, creamy, thickener-loaded dressed dishes of iceberg lettuce that pass for Caesar salads east of here.

                                                                          2. 8. There's a guy in front of the restaurant in a mascot outfit waving at traffic (i.e., the mongolian grill "Mongo Man" inflatable suit that makes his head look macrocephalic).

                                                                            1. 9.They're paying a poor hostess to stand outside the restaurant to encourage people to come in using lines like.. "need something hot and satisfying? well come on in..."

                                                                              1. 10. You're at a corner sandwich shop that sells every take out item known to mankind: cheesesteaks, chicken cheesesteaks, hoagies, grinders, hamburgers, ribs, fried fish, fried shrimp, calzones, stromboli, pizza, gyros, chicken cutlet, veal cutlet, antipasti salad, greek salad . . . Also everything comes in a white styrofoam hinged container and they use the term "shoppe" instead of shop.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  11. The place has the word "Famous" in the title, in "quotes" for some reason. If they have to say it, they probably aren't.

                                                                                  Also, one caveat: the ribsubschickenchinesepizza places usually have at least one item they excel at. I've been to such places, one served mostly generic American chinese food, but they also made an excellent philly cheesesteak (thinly-sliced ribeye on a decent soft roll). Another served mostly sandwiches but made amazing fried chicken wings.

                                                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                    And in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys, the gyros-pastrami-tacos places often have GREAT food.

                                                                                2. The word "homemade" is sprinkled throughout the menu.

                                                                                  There is a recognizable mascot or cartoon theme.

                                                                                  You can't tell who owns the place.

                                                                                  1. if the tour group is just pulling in/out.

                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: serious

                                                                                      Serious, you forgot: Never eat in a hotel, never sleep in a restaurant.

                                                                                      1. re: serious

                                                                                        I just don't think that's true anymore. Look at how many high end NYC restaurants are in hotels.

                                                                                        I think the economics of a hotel restaurant often make better sense than a freestanding place. The hotels are willing to take a loss on the restaurant (or less of a profit), because they need the room service and they want the draw of a good restaurant.

                                                                                        1. re: serious

                                                                                          Not true in major resort towns. I live in Phoenix, and a very strong percentage of the city's best-known great restaurants are at hotels: T. Cook's at the Royal Palms, Elements at Sanctuary, Mary Elaine's at the Phoenician, Marquesa at the Princess, Michael's at the Citadel, Lon's at the Hermosa... the list goes on.

                                                                                        2. re: serious

                                                                                          serious, I just want to say I loved your response :)

                                                                                        3. I have to take issue with the TV "Guarantee." TV(s) don't mean a bad meal unless you're at a 5 star place. A local sports bar or pub can have some pretty damned good fare. Here in TO we have the Rebel House which has a fantastic menu and is a pub. Duff's is the best wing joint in town IMHO. TV's everywhere.
                                                                                          And as someone mentioned above. Some of the best ethnic places have the "Football" match on or something on a Saturday afternoon. You can be sure you'll get good grub at a lot of these places. It's almost a guarantee because that's where the ethnics go.


                                                                                          1. I think the reality is that there are exceptions to all of these "rules" ...

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                              I don't know, the tour group one is pretty hardfast. But, I get you're point, and yes, there are exceptions to most.

                                                                                              1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                I disagree - there are tour buses pulling up to some of the best roadside restaurants I've ever eaten at, in Thailand. Absolutely delicious, fresh and clean.

                                                                                            2. If the menu is over-the-top, glossy and has lots of pictures that could only have been done by a food stylist.

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Scagnetti

                                                                                                The food photos on the wall at Back-A-Yard in Menlo Park make me drool, and the food fulfills the promise. The rest of the decor is quite forgettable, and the menu is paper. :-)

                                                                                                1. re: Jefferson

                                                                                                  The movie trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace made it look like a good movie as well.

                                                                                                2. re: Scagnetti

                                                                                                  Plastic menus with colour photos, kiss of death!!

                                                                                                  I once did a (crazy! expensive!) road trip looping from SF > SLC > Boulder > Santa Fe > Flagstaff > Las Vegas > LA > back to SF. By the end of the trip we'd learned our lesson. The best roadside places used whiteboards, paper, or paper-inside-plastic-sleeve. Plastic menus with photos = plastic food with no flavour.

                                                                                                  1. re: spigot

                                                                                                    actually i've been to very good dim sum restaurants in los angeles that have plastic menus w/ color menus.

                                                                                                    asian restaurants break all the rules on t.v.s, plastic menus and the like.

                                                                                                3. ...the restaurant is the size of a warehouse, and the portions are just as big. Any time I hear how huge the portions are at some place it goes to the bottom of any list. For me quantity rarely equals quality.

                                                                                                  ... if the word factory is found anywhere in the name of the restaurant

                                                                                                  1. If you have to yell at your dining partner in order to be heard above the 14 televisions and the blaring classic rock.

                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                        Try telling that to the folks at Vegas ...

                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                          Have eaten in Indian buffets across the United States and in the UK and have never been displeased. Chinese buffets can be a different story however.

                                                                                                        2. you order "American" food at a "Chinese and American Food" restaurant.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                            Completely depends on the "Chinese and American Food" restaurant. There's a place called Joe's Sandwich Shop that serves both. Their sandwiches, particularly the Philly cheesesteak, puts the Chinese food to shame. Better than some of the touristy cheesesteak shops I've been to in Philly.

                                                                                                            Also, most Chinese places make excellent fried chicken wings. I think it's the deepfat fryer grease that absorbs all the eggroll/wonton/crab rangoon flavor and releases it into the chicken wings.

                                                                                                            There's a Korean takeout in DC that also makes great sandwiches.

                                                                                                          2. If the restaurant was just given a stellar review by the local newspaper/magazine. Invariably they get crowded and overbooked for weeks and then the Foodies move on like locusts leaving behind just an empty shell of what had been a promising new venue.

                                                                                                            1. It also sells gas and souvenirs

                                                                                                              The manager is under 21.

                                                                                                              There is a drive-through window

                                                                                                              You can see a freeway exit at your table.

                                                                                                              The restaurant mascot is a stuffed animal.

                                                                                                              You can't tell the difference between your waitress and a working girl.

                                                                                                              Tables and chairs are chained to the floor.

                                                                                                              They have articles of clothing nailed to the walls or ceiling.

                                                                                                              There is a reserved parking place for a exterminator.

                                                                                                              The sign on the door says "no shirt, no shoes, no service"

                                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Kelli2006


                                                                                                                There is a place just south of Nashville that is, gas station, souvenir shop, snack shack and restaurant.
                                                                                                                The food is fantastic.


                                                                                                                1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                  Davwud, Is this Nashville,Tenn or Nashville,Indiana? I have a aunt and uncle in Brentwood TN, and my sister lives in the suburbs of Trevlac, Indiana. I am always interested in finding a new dining challenge.

                                                                                                                  BTW, The best BBQ brisket I ever had was in a place that was maybe 2 critical violations from being permanently closed by the health department. They had remodeled(?) a closed gas station and the pits were installed in what used to be the service bays. there was a dog in the parking lot that slept under the awning and it seemed that the customers would throw him some meat as a bribe to prevent this beast from chewing the tires off their car. The brisket was properly smoky, tender and flavorful, had a great smoke ring and they didn't drown it in sauce.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                    Ya, sorry, it's Nashville, Tn.


                                                                                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                      The only place south of Nashville that I can think of which fits these criteria is the Cracker Barrel between Nashville and Brentwood. While I will cheerfully admit to a weakness for CB's food, in spite of the fact that they're as cost-cutting and soulless as Wal-Mart and then some, I have to say that "fantastic" has never been one of the adjectives that occurred to me while I ate there. Fried catfish as a breakfast meat offering is much better than merely good; this is as inspired as Cracker Barrel's food gets.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                                                                                        Stan's Country Kitchen. It's in Columbia, just off 55. Exit 42 if I'm not mistaken. We love the place. Country ham, biscuits and gravy, spiced apples for breakfast. Fried catfish, well it's a meat and 3 type place. Sadly it's not a place we often stop at. It's too close to stop at and too far away make a special trip, from the inlaws.

                                                                                                                        CB??? Yuck. One of the great peutrid restaurants.


                                                                                                                2. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                  Kelli, I seek out most of what you list.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                    Sam< your post has piqued my sincere interest. I am very interested why or what sort of food you are seeking.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                      I live in Colombia and work all around the globe. One (among others) thing that I miss in the US is roadfood. I recall places that have several of the characteristics you highlighted: multiple functions, see the freeway exit, stuffed animal mascot, and so on. Overall, I liked your list and thought it was hilarious.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                        Sam, I should have placed a note that none of those rules applies to real BBQ joints or road food.
                                                                                                                        The best BBQ I have ever had came from places that were maybe 3 critical violations from being closed by the health department, but I would gladly crawl across broken glass for their Q'.

                                                                                                                        Its not a hard and fast rule, but really good BBQ will never be found if the place has carpeted floors and a waiter. BBQ should be served on paper plates or butcher paper, and the tables should be a picnic table or plywood tables.

                                                                                                                        P.S,- I was driving through Memphis in the summer of 2000 and I asked the clerk at the gas station where I could find a good rib joint and he recommended the Applebees across the street. I looked at my BF and we decided to keep driving.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                          As a Texan expat in Phoenix I am consistently shocked by having a waitstaff at the BBQ joints. I don't ever know how to react. I look around, can't see a menu board, and there's no one within view cutting any meat, then some girl tells me to take a seat. take a seat? I don't even have any food, what kind of place is this? Aside from this just being plain wrong, if I'm trying out a new BBQ place then i want to see the meat before I make a choice.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Kelli2006

                                                                                                                            Now we're all humming the same tune!

                                                                                                                  2. It's a holiday or other dining occasion and the only thing on offer is a special preset menu.

                                                                                                                    1. I'm going to have to disagree with #2 in the original post. It applies pretty well to high price points, but in the lower end, slick modern design and a long wait are sure signs of an overpriced suburban "dining concept." Independent places with less ad budget are often easy to get into.

                                                                                                                      1. If they serve pizza, pasta, bbq, mexican dishes, fried chicken, steak and sushi.

                                                                                                                        1. i'd like to add:

                                                                                                                          if there is a price in the name: like 99 cents chinese food
                                                                                                                          if it is a dual function restaurant: like chinese food and doughnuts
                                                                                                                          if its an ethnic restaurant with mostly white folks dining there. (pf changs)
                                                                                                                          if its a chinese restaurant with an "A" health rating.
                                                                                                                          if its a chinese restaurant and there arent at least 35 percent white mercedes in the parking lot.
                                                                                                                          if its a chinese restaurant and its not at least within 5 miles of a ranch 99 market (or equivalent)
                                                                                                                          if egg foo young or chop suey is on the menu (what is that anyway?)
                                                                                                                          kosher or new york style chinese food: shalom hunan (ok i've never actually been)
                                                                                                                          any place that has a 1, 2 or 3 item combo.

                                                                                                                          on the other hand if you see a middle aged woman with a sun shield "welding mask" and/or white gloves there (preferably driving a white mercedes), its probably good...

                                                                                                                          1. Let's have some fun

                                                                                                                            - The valet is wearing his Tony’s Texaco shirt
                                                                                                                            - The valet sign in front says, “Please park next door at Tony’s Texaco”
                                                                                                                            - The menus are plastic and are dirty
                                                                                                                            - It’s 730 on a Saturday night and the Hostess says, “Please seat yourself, you’re the only ones here.” And snaps her gum
                                                                                                                            - The bartender is taking a nap with his head on the bar
                                                                                                                            - They have one type of Vodka
                                                                                                                            - The only beer on tap is Pabst
                                                                                                                            - When you order a drink at the bar, the bartender says, “Could you hand me that glass please?”
                                                                                                                            - You can see the chef in the open kitchen and there’s a cigarette dangling from his lips
                                                                                                                            - You do not feel real secure that the chair you are sitting on will survive to the end of the meal
                                                                                                                            - The waiter asks you is you would like your Gazpacho hot or cold
                                                                                                                            - The wine list has all twist-offs
                                                                                                                            - The waiter warns you to avoid one of the items on the menu because the last two tables left after one bite
                                                                                                                            - Caesar salad comes with the dressing on the side and in a little plastic cup
                                                                                                                            - The waiter recommends that the steak be served well done
                                                                                                                            - Pictures on the wall in a Chinese Restaurant

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                              If they only have one vodka it means they're not pretending to be a bar.

                                                                                                                              And what you don't see in closed kitchens is much, much worse than a cigarette in the chef's lips.

                                                                                                                              Not to mention that there are those stupid "set the mood" Chinese pictures on the walls of all my favourite dim sum houses.

                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                How 'bout, if your menu doubles as your place mat??


                                                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                  and the Texaco sign should read 'eat here and get gas'.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                    been to a place that had plastic patio chairs and utility folding tables as furniture (this is inside the restaurant, not out on the patio) and this "furniture" was not dressed up (no tablecloths, placemats, candles, flowers, etc)... it had amazing food, and while I was dining, one of the folks at another table suddenly crashed to the ground. the chair had given out.

                                                                                                                                  2. there is an ethnic disconnect between the proprieter and the cuisine being provided such as:
                                                                                                                                    1) an Arab owned and run Soul Food restaurant or Pizzeria
                                                                                                                                    2) an Asian owned and run Delicatessen

                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                      Some of the better pizza I've had in Manhattan was at a pizzeria run by Mexicans (with soccer on the TV) in the heart of Chinatown. Viva diversidad!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Covert Ops

                                                                                                                                        Do tell! I'd love a good pizza spot near chinatown

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                        davids bagels in the east village, which is loved nearly as much as H+H and Ess-A, is run by a thai family...

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                          I'm gonna object to #2 here. There used to be a great deli restaurant in Burlingame CA (Brother's Restaurant) that was owned by a Chinese couple. They bought it from the original owners and stayed faithful to the traditional recipes. It was always packed with the older, Jewish crowd from the local community. It only went downhill, closed and relocated recently, after selling to another (Chinese, I think) owner that didn't keep true to the original recipes.

                                                                                                                                          Their corned beef and pastrami was outstanding, their matzo ball soup was just like my grandmothers, and they were always busy. I pass their new location every few weeks. It's in a different neighborhood, and it's usually empty.

                                                                                                                                        2. ... if you encounter the word "loaf" on the menu more than once and/or if aforementioned loaf is made of anything other than "meat". Ditto the word "log". In ANY context. But Hotels? Better check yourself: Jean-George's first four-star, the Lafayette, was in a hotel. So was L'espinasse, so is Ducasse, so is L'Atelier de Joel Rubochon, so was Le Cirque 2k, and Ilo, and let's just say I've only scratched the surface. Hotels are often the only places with the necessary infrastructure to either underwrite or at least subsidize 4-star places with their six-miliion-dollar kitchens,, full brigades of semi-educated white boys, and superstar Chef's salaries. Such expenses routinely cripple and/or kill privately-owned three-stars (Anyone remember the pre-BLT days of Laurent Tourendel at Cello? Chefdude was pulling $250K in lieu of sweat equity, from what I hear, and then suddenly one day out of a clear blue sky ( while le LT was on vacation, no less) POUF! No more restaurant for you!)
                                                                                                                                          Just proves an old maxim: pigs get fed; hogs get slaughtered.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: diropstim

                                                                                                                                            OK, how about "no hotel restaurants that aren't in a MAJOR city (or Vegas)"?

                                                                                                                                          2. ... If you go to a tavern and there is a "Now serving food" banner over the front door. (True story. It was a place in Walsenburg Colorado, but we were just passing through on a roadtrip and didn't bother to investigate further.)

                                                                                                                                            1. Discount Sushi Nite On Mondays! (And yes, I've actually seen it advertised.)

                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                              1. Disclaimer: obviously, every rule has it's exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                *The food is described as Continental.

                                                                                                                                                *Appetizers include Jalepeno Poppers.

                                                                                                                                                *Little advertising triangles on the table describing desserts, drink specials, etc. that were obviously printed by the company that sold them the frozen dessert or pre-made mix.

                                                                                                                                                *Inappropriate "fusion" on the menu...Greek Pizza, Italian Nachos, Thai quesadilla.

                                                                                                                                                *In this town, if there is a wait list, the place probably sucks.

                                                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: danna

                                                                                                                                                  The jalepeno popper is a dead giveaway. I was going to add it to my original post. I glad that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                    Ditto! And, I think that we can add the ubiquitous Fried Mozzarella Sticks to that list.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                      In defense of jalapeno poppers:

                                                                                                                                                      Maybe this makes me less 'Hound-ish, but I _like_ jalapeno poppers--at least the way they used to be (containing something resembling real Cheddar cheese). More recently, the so-called Cheddar ones usually contain some kind of runny nacho-sauce kind of goo. Not the same thing.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Steve Green

                                                                                                                                                        My dad made a bunch of poppers from the peppers out of their garden. He cut the peppers open and cleaned out the seeds & stuff, then put a little cheese inside, wrapped a bit of bacon around, pinned them shut with toothpicks, and cooked them over charcoal. They were really good--and part of the goodness was that you could never tell whether the peppers were going to be mild or hot because garden peppers are different depending on what the weather was like at the time they were growing.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: danna

                                                                                                                                                      Greek Pizza is a kind of pizza in New England. It's delicious.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                        I stand corrected. What's it like? I'll be in MA on Monday.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: danna

                                                                                                                                                          IMO, Greek style pizza has been the downfall of pizza in the Boston area. It appeared in the '60's and has gradually displaced all the good pizza in this area. It was a way to make pizza quickly, without all that tossing in the air stuff - a style that originated out of shortcut processes and cheap manufacturing requirements, rather than any culinary desire to make a better product.

                                                                                                                                                          It is "semi-deep dish", in that they use smaller pans that have a high, perpendicular edge at the circumfrence. They pre-make the pizza dough and roll it into the pan and stretch it out to the edge. They stack these pre-filled pans up next to their prep area - so that they are actually proofing as they sit. They'll put stacks in the fridge and rotate them out as needed.

                                                                                                                                                          The result is a medium thick pizza shell with a crispy crust and a uniformly airy (small pockets) crumb. There is virtually no edge crust. Now - this is fine for some, and I have eaten my share with some pleasure, no doubt - but this is not BOSTON Pizza. Boston pizza is bigger, thinner, has a well defined crust edge, and requires that the tip be folded in, and/or the slice to be folded in half to eat properly. Oil must drip off the slice when folded.

                                                                                                                                                          If you want a real Boston pizza, go to Pizzaria Regina in the North End while you're here. You'll see folks actually sprinkle on some olive oil before eating.

                                                                                                                                                          Is Greek style pizza that bad? No, not really - but it isn't anything to write home about - and I lament the fact that it has displaced so many good old real Boston pizza places.

                                                                                                                                                          From the perspective of it being a sign that the food in a place is not good, well it isn't that - in fact I agree with the posters that say that nothing ought to fall into that category for a real chowhounder. As much as I like Boston style pizza better, it would be a real shame to walk past a place that makes wonderful food, just because it has greek style pizza.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                              I will add that traditional Massachusetts greek pizza found at "House of Pizzas" all over ther state, usually contains enough olive oil on the pan to fry the bottom of the crust crisp. while it is not traditional pizza for me it is and interesting tangent.

                                                                                                                                                      2. I didn't read through all of them... did anyone mention mass-produced photographs of the food?

                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MuppetGrrl

                                                                                                                                                          In Japan it's is very common and charming to me to see plastic
                                                                                                                                                          representations of the food served on display at entrance to restaurant

                                                                                                                                                        2. Big sign out front that says "KIDS EAT FREE!" Drive on...

                                                                                                                                                          1. When you ask the waiter/waitress "what's good?" and they answer "It is all good."
                                                                                                                                                            It usually isn't.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Wineman

                                                                                                                                                              This is standard at Chinese places.

                                                                                                                                                              Me: What's good today?
                                                                                                                                                              Waitress: Everything good today.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                                                                                                this happened to me at sushi zo:

                                                                                                                                                                "whats special?"
                                                                                                                                                                "its all special"

                                                                                                                                                            2. The English writer, Kingsley Amis (father of Martin Amis) said, famously, that he knew he was in for a bad night if the first words out of the waiter's mouth were:

                                                                                                                                                              'Red or White, sir?'

                                                                                                                                                              - Sean

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Sean Dell

                                                                                                                                                                Was he referring to wine, or clam sauce?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sean Dell

                                                                                                                                                                  One of my favorite cheap places in my town lists the wines on their menu as "Red, white, or pink."

                                                                                                                                                                  I love eating there, but will go for beer or strawberry lemonade to drink!

                                                                                                                                                                2. 1) each table is preset with a bottle of spring water.
                                                                                                                                                                  2) their buffalo wings come not only as "hot" but in "honey mustard" and "bbq" style.
                                                                                                                                                                  3) your entree comes with a salad with your choice of ranch, french, russian or creamy italian.

                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Prawn Cocktail

                                                                                                                                                                    To me including honey mustard and bbq styles kinda screams out a desire to please everyone and to therefore simply make as much money as possible. I've had wings done in other styles (i.e. Asian, etc) and have liked some but again to me honey mustard and bbq in particular suggest "bottom line" to me rather than being inventive or creative. And if a joint has a strong "bottom-line" approach to their menu they're usually pretty lame.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Prawn Cocktail

                                                                                                                                                                      Buffalo wings are Buffalo wings. They are not HM and BBQ. HM and BBQ are HM and BBQ. It's like saying "Our limes come cherry flavoured."


                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Davwud

                                                                                                                                                                        I hear you D about calling honey mustard wings "buffalo" but from someone who does not like spice (and my daughter carries a bottle of hot sauce in her car) i would appreciate other forms of wings. How about calling them "Wings" and having them offered "buffalo", "HM", "BBG", etc. That way the people who like them hot go buffalo and the people who like them sweet go HM?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                          I love wings period. I've had HM, S&S, Thai, BBQ and the list goes on.
                                                                                                                                                                          The bar we went to after hockey this summer had about 70 different flavours and combinations there of. Only one was called "Buffalo" though.


                                                                                                                                                                    2. Letter Cs are replaced with Ks (ie, Kountry Kitchen).

                                                                                                                                                                      1. They sell you tickets to a show and then tell you reserved seating is only available with the dinner package.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. I stay away if it claims to specialize in more than 2 cuisines (even then I prefer just one, to have a chance at quality). I just now read one restaurant's claim to have Szechwan, Thai, sushi and Italian cuisine! This can't be good.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. I disagree with whoever said salad bars are a bad thing. It comes down to this - is it a good salad bar (like City Bakery in NYC), or a bad one (like your average cafeteria)?

                                                                                                                                                                            I also disagree with the "no corny restaurant names" rule. One of my favorites in Ottawa is called "So Good".

                                                                                                                                                                            I can't enjoy my meal if the room is too cold/hot or if there's blaring techno music on.

                                                                                                                                                                            Tip-offs that the food might not be good (a separate issue, IMHO):

                                                                                                                                                                            - 50-page menus - they can't possibly master so many dishes
                                                                                                                                                                            - instant coffee - what, they can't invest in a coffeepot? what other things are they scrimping on?
                                                                                                                                                                            - you can't modify dishes (within reason) - can indicate pre-made dishes
                                                                                                                                                                            - menus that use foreign words incorrectly or misspell them - if you can't spell "prosciutto," you clearly aren't familiar with Italy or its culture

                                                                                                                                                                            1. The name contains "Ye olde, exchange, factory, good food, eat, warehouse, or shoppe." Ditto on use of the word "fresh".
                                                                                                                                                                              Sign says Chinese or Greek or Viet-AMERICAN.
                                                                                                                                                                              Waitron asks "Are you GUYS ready to order?" and three of us are women.
                                                                                                                                                                              TV is on. Only exceptions: it's a bar, an ethnic place with special cultural programming, or it's a theme place in my 'hood called the Travel Caffe and they are showing travel videos.
                                                                                                                                                                              Huge souvenir shop surrounding us as we wait in line.
                                                                                                                                                                              "Music" is really loud, I politely ask that they turn it down, they do so by about 1%.
                                                                                                                                                                              Name of the place: two initials + McSomething
                                                                                                                                                                              Example F.Q. McSweeney's

                                                                                                                                                                              1. Almost any breakfast place that is part of a motel has mediocre food and worse coffee with whitener instead of cream.

                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                1. The restaurant is part of a hotel.

                                                                                                                                                                                  (In Asia) the waiters wear bow ties and call you "sir".

                                                                                                                                                                                  (In many places) you're not eating street food.

                                                                                                                                                                                  The menu tells you about "our philosofy" or "our approach"

                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                    There are examples of famous, great restaurants in hotels.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, in Europe and the US.

                                                                                                                                                                                      But I have to stay in a lot of hotels in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. My rule is to avoid eating in hotels.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                        There are many excellent restaurants in hotels in Singapore.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                                                          Funny, some of the best food in Hong Kong is in hotels.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I can't believe after all those replies nobody's mentioned my favorite:

                                                                                                                                                                                      "Cooked to perfection"

                                                                                                                                                                                      Probably not.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cheesemonger

                                                                                                                                                                                        Right on, include description that involve lots of first person possessives, "cooked to perfection with our ____."

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Oh, and the "Have you dined at Ted's Montana Superstation Grill/PF Changs before?"

                                                                                                                                                                                          Like ordering and receiving food are unique to that establishment, and without the waiter's help we'd be lost.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. i haven't read all the post to see if these are in here but

                                                                                                                                                                                            - if the name of the restaurant includes "family restaurant"

                                                                                                                                                                                            -if the restaurant advertises "greek ribs" on a billboard (esp. if the restaurant is not greek")

                                                                                                                                                                                            - if the restaurant has a billboard, period.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - if the waitress brings a dessert tray to your table... with plastic representations of the desserts.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - if it has more florescent lighting than an operating room.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - if your coffee, tea, capuccino and hot chocolate all come out of the same machine..

                                                                                                                                                                                            - 100 page menus with whole pages of burgers, seafood, pastas, pizzas, ribs, steaks, and at least 20 kinds of salad.. narrow it down will ya?
                                                                                                                                                                                            (3 pages of dessert is perfectly acceptable ;) )

                                                                                                                                                                                            - the wine comes out of a box.

                                                                                                                                                                                            - you can see all the waitresses underwear when they bend down... same goes for cleavage and belly buttons.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                                                                                                                                              "if your coffee, tea, capuccino and hot chocolate all come out of the same machine."

                                                                                                                                                                                              Hell, they might be making soup using that same water tower too...

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. ...any mexican place with "Taco" in its name

                                                                                                                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                                                Not in LA... Tacos Baja Ensenada, El Taco Llama, Tacos Sanchez... all the best in their bunch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                  There are exceptions, I know. I've never been to LA. Around here if it starts with "Taco" it's a chain. Taco Bell, Taco Tico, Taco John's, Taco Bueno, Taco Mayo, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm a freak, I guess -- I *love* chicken soft tacos from Taco John's. It's the only thing I can eat from there. The last time I had them was in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, where they stared as I laced the things with a healthy pour of Tapatio sauce (from my carry-on... I can't eat in the rural Midwest without it!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, you're not the only one. The only thing that saves me from requiring a daily Taco Bell fix is that the nearest one is 45 miles away! I've only eaten Taco John's once or twice (although my husband gets there more often); they're a little closer, but if I'm going looking for tacos in Storm Lake (the nearest place with a Taco John's) I'm going to pass Taco John's by on the way to the little taqueria downtown, or the Mexican grocery where I can get the fixings to make my own!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      If there was a Taco Bell in Storm Lake, unfortunately, things might be different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am just OK on Taco Bell but it isn't the same as "regular" tacos to me... as for Taco John's, they've got a deal with AAFES, so I had it pretty much anywhere we lived.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                          IMHO, Taco Bell serves lousy tacos and Taco John's truly abysmal ones -- and their other fare tastes just about as good. The little local taqueria is almost guaranteed to be better. Take a look at TB's ingedient statement (http://www.yum.com/nutrition/document...), which is like reading something from a chemistry lab. Lots of preservatives and stabilizers, and lots of deydrated this and something-ated that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                                                                                                                                                            This particular taqueria says it's "Jalisco-style," even though I'm not familiar enough with such things to be able to evaluate it on that basis. But their tacos are soft, with not much other than meat and onions and maybe a sprinkle of queso anejo. Their burritos are great fat stuffed things filled with lots of meat and not a lot of junk. You get some really spicy but not too chunky salsa, lime quarters or halves (halves if they're key limes, which they sometimes are), and some pickled vegetables (mostly carots & jalapenos), with each order. You can eat more than's good for you for under $20--and better than any of the fast-food taco joints. Plus, if you eat in, you can have Coke or Orange Crush in an old green glass bottle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                                                                                                                                                              You've quite obviously never been to Redwood Falls, then. There IS no local taqueria there. It's Taco John's or nothing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm afraid that I don't know which state Redwood Falls is in (northern CA, perhaps?), but my choice between Taco John's and nothing would be nothing. If my choice is Long John Silver's or nothing for seafood, I'll choose nothing too. If it's between Olive Garden or nothing for Italian, I'll go for nothing again. Same w/ Pizza Hut. My personal preference is not to eat somewhere that's guaranteed to displease my palate. I can survive without Mexican or border food or seafood or Italian till I get someplace where it's likely to be at least decent. And no matter where one's lives, it is possible to get ingedients (mail order if necessary) and make it home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's in southern Minnesota. I still say it seems obvious that you live in a larger city, because choosing "nothing" all the time means you're at home all the time. Not that cooking at home is bad -- it's not -- but when you want to go out and you're limited to a very short list of restaurants, it becomes a problem when you restrict it even further.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And no, it is not possible to make restaurant-quality Chinese in the average American home. Mail-order meat is usually OK but mail-order produce is usually a horror.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In general, I agree with you (though I do like the one menu item at Taco John's -- the rest can go into the ground and bake bagels for all I care), it is best to seek out quality restaurants; that's why we're here on Chowhound, of course. The problem is that there are huge swaths of American soil where there ISN'T any better Italian, Chinese, seafood, Mexican, whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you don't like Taco John's, don't go, but just because it displeases your palate doesn't mean it displeases mine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Taco Loco in Pittsburgh had been the only authentic Mex for 100 miles around until Azul opened.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. If there's a neon sign in the window (or, worse, mounted on a giant arrow-shaped framework pointing down at the front door) that just says "EAT"

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bonus points at such a place if any menu item is described as "famous".

                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: wayne keyser

                                                                                                                                                                                                      But Murphy's describes their Hot Hamburger as "famous"--and it's really, really good!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I used to see, up in the north end of Wichita on what would have been the highway before the interstate went through, a neon sign that read "Hot Fish" with an arrow pointing to a basement door of an old run-down house.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: wayne keyser

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The embodiment of my principle: a Pannsylvania chain descriptively named "Eat 'n Park."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: wayne keyser

                                                                                                                                                                                                          There is always an exception: Blue Plate in San Francisco (pretty well regarded on this board) has such a neon sign saying only "EAT" (and without the sign, it would be hard to spot).

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. True story: living in Denver in the mid-70s, one night a friend and I decided to go to try a Chinese restaurant that had opened up downtown that week. When we walked in I knew we were in trouble, because no one we could see (staff) was Asian, let alone Chinese. Nevertheless, we decided to stay and eat, and the menu, in turned out, was one of those order-by-numbers deals where you got soup and fried wontons with your meal. I picked a number and waited for my soup to arrive. When it did I laughed so hard I cried: it was minestrone!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MobyRichard

                                                                                                                                                                                                            As funny as that is, just try to imagine all of the ridiculous decisions required to get to that point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MobyRichard

                                                                                                                                                                                                              In Vail, also in the '70s too, I ate at a restaurant between Vail Village and LionsHead -- then a bit of a wasteland. The restaurant was called Ichiban. I saw trouble when I opened the menu, which was divided into four quadrants: Japanese dishes, Chinese dishes, Polynesian dishes and American dishes. I decided to play it safe with beef teriyaki, which turned out to be a decent piece of beef slathered with hoisin sauce and served with fried rice and --------- (drum roll ---------- peas and carrots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Happy update: I lived in NY then and knew something about Asian food. Now I live in Colorado, which has come a long, long way from those culinarily rocky days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. "1) The restaurant has a really bad name like "Pastabilities", "Sir Loin's", or "Best O' Thymes"."

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pastabilites in Syracuse is wonderful - great homemade pasta, wonderful sauce, great vibe, delicious appetizers, nice people, great service. One of my favorite retaurants in Syracuse and if it was in Manhattan it would be one of my farovite restaurants in Manhattan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              You cannot judge a book by its cover or title, I guess.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. A place that serves french fries with most of the dishes. A place that uses only iceberg lettuce for weak salads.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: nutrition

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Don't expect a GQQD meal in a place, that has a KETSUP bottle (upright or upside down) on the table, when you sit down!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. My #6 would be: Anyplace that has "Family Restaurant" as part of the name.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My #7 would be: Any restaurant that announces various things as being grilled or otherwise cooked "to perfection."

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I had the very best meal of my life at the Li Family Restaurant in Beijing!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So did we! Interestingly, the Li Family Restaurant is cited in the book I wish I had written: "1001 Places to See Before You Die." We think/speak of it often and wonder whether Dr. Li -- not a young man when we feasted there about eight years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. If they bring your plate to the table covered with one of those metal food warmers with the flat top and hole in the center, the meal is likely to be medicore at best. I see one of those and my hopes wither. While other CH may take exception to my-innermost-personal-restaurant-gauge-which-I-have-never-expressed-to-anyone-before, this rule of thumb has never failed me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. This is a hysterical thread. I really agree with the K post--I got dinged by that one recently. With the TVs--in non-Asian restaurants--I'd make a distinction between TVs going with the sound off and those with the sound on. Of course, sports bars are supposed to have TVs going--you go there knowing that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think the hotel rule--at least in the United States--has become outdated. I believe it used to be a must to avoid, but not anymore. Certainly there are a number of leading restaurants in hotels in San Francisco.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But whatever happened to "never eat in a place called Mom's"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. You are not likely to have good sushi at a restaurant if the name of the restaurant contains the words "and sushi".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Back to the German/Austrian thing - short of traveling to Germany and Austria and sample some of the outstanding cuisine - if you ever find yourself in Chicago, stop by the May Street Market (www.maystreetmarket.com) to taste one of the best new restaurants in the city run by an Austria-trained chef. The place is an eye-opener.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. ...they dining room table and chairs are so close together you're giving a back massage to the guy/gal sitting behind you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            or ...your table is anywhere near the restrooms/phone booth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. There is a place I ate at recently while visiting relatives in a small town in PA, that had 3 separate neon signs that advertised "Hong Kong Chinese Food, Taylor Travel and First Trinity Holy Church" all in the same space

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The church took over the restaurant on it's closed days and after 9:30pm during the week. Apparently, you could call the travel agent and he would meet you there. The funny part of the story is that the food was pretty good. The chicken feet with black bean sauce was killer. I can't speak for the church service since I left before they set up.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: chef poncho

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sounds great ! Might get me to go to church once in a while if I knew I could eat chicken feet there... and I am Jewish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. OMG i seriously drove by a place called the "Hard Wok Buffet" last night...i was appalled

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But did you think of trying out the food? It would appear that I'm implying you probably won't get good food at a place with questionable signage or menu translations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But, I gotta say that some of the best, albeit weird in an Eraserhead kinda way, meals that I've had have been in places where someone's passion for their cooking seemed to get in the way of their business sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I mean seriously, one time outside Kimball Nebraska I had the best breakfast ever in this strange place next to the motel I stayed at. The ham steaks, of which I ate two and took two to go, where to this date, some 20 years later, the best I've ever eaten or worked with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Of course, the only thing more memorable than the ham steaks is the image of the cook working with a cigar hanging from his mouth while he swung a huge scarely cleaver to cut the steaks. He looked kinda like Mel, from Mel's diner, only 50 years older and drunk at breakfast time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In Philly we have" Wok and Roll".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Another telltale sign that food won't be very good the fanciest restaurant in town (with bright, and sometimes even fluorescent, lights) sets coffee cups set at each place for dinner in the evening. Caveat: In some parts of the country, where coffee is the standard beverage with every meal, this rule MIGHT not apply, but I'll bet that it generally does.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. If I see anything that is alive (not in a cage or tank) and walking on more than 2 legs, I head for for hills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. So far, just about every opinion on this board regarding signs that your upcoming meal is going to be bad has been batted down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The only ones that stick seem to warn against making dinner reservations at a Chuck E. Cheese...but be serious, who needs to be warned against that?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ernie Diamond

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Well, nobody's cited a good "family restaurant" in the United States--avoiding them is one of my rules.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The test, however, is not whether the rule is true 100% of the time, few rules are, right up to "thou shalt not kill." The test is whether the rule is true the great bulk of the time. If so, it will save you from far more bad meals than it will screen you away from good meals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I feel like I must have eaten a good meal in view of a freeway exit in San Jose or Los Angeles, but I can't think of one, so maybe not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Filthy glass doors with greasy hand and finger prints ---I will not go in......

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. "Family Restaurant" always means to me that the place will be big and cold and plastic. I avoid them as well as any place:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Where you're told about the "huge portions" by everyone who recommends it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Not sure if this was mentioned, but I personally will not go to any pizza joint that advertises chicken wings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              How are those two things even related?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                those aren't pizza joints, they are food-to-shovel-while-drinking-beer joints.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. And, let's not forget about DINNER THEATERS!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As the old saying so correctly observed--"If you want a bad dinner and bad theater, go to a Dinner Theater".