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Can you truly outgrow your favorite restaurant? [Moved from L.A. board]

Isn’t good food always just good? Or can you out grow something?

Since dining at Grace last night I’ve been rolling this around in my head. When Grace opened a few years ago I went for a Christmas party and LOVED it. Went back last night and hated it. I got beef tartar that was covered in some sort of sauce that tasted like a fancy vinegar/ketchup concoction. The pork shank was ok but the sides were horrible. I just couldn’t help but feel blahhh when I left.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been traveling a lot recently and eating at what are supposed to be some of the nicest places (from NY to San Fran) and I just can’t help feeling like if you’ve been to one then you’ve been to them all. These fancy places with celebrity chefs and the same menus over and over and over.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just bored. But I think it’s more then that, I think perhaps I’ve outgrown them. But can that happen? I’ve never outgrown rice crispy treats, or the cantaloupe aqua fresca at Alegria, or dodger dogs. These things aren’t fancy or pretentious. These things aren’t made by hot chefs with farmer’s market produce. Why are these things satisfying but other things just aren’t anymore?

Does anyone else feel like this?

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  1. Funny you bring this up, because I was rolling this around in my head lately, too. I go out to eat all the time, and after hitting the French Laundry last year, I've been underwhelmed by just about every restaurant I've been to since. Now, I can calibrate my taste buds for the proper experience: if I'm going to a small mom-and-pop shop for meatloaf and mashed potatoes, I'm not comparing it to Thomas Keller.

    I go to those tasting events, and it all seems so boring, so done, so copied, so mainstream. There are places that wow me, but not the places everyone expects to wow me. I don't know if I'm answering your question, but yes, I think it is possible lose interest.

    I'm not sure it's outgrowing your favorite restaurant, I think your taste buds are just more refined, perhaps; or the chefs are trying to hard to be clever and its not working for your palate. I find the whole scene here a little stale.

    The last few times I was really wowed was at a dinner for Bon Appetit where Keller, Trotter, English, and Cat Cora all cooked one meal (for the most part, it was truly spectacular). I finally went to Mozzarella Mondays at Jar and absolutely loved it. But all in all, not one place has bowled me over, although a few dishes here and there have. There are places I still need to hit; Urasawa is at the top of that list. So hopefully I'll outgrow the funk I've grown into, too.

    1. Bob's Big Boy used to be my favorite restaurant.

      Big Boy Special, topped off with a slice of cheesecake (and that yummy red strawberry topping).


      Now, not so much.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        lol. I know, I know. It's not so much about palate. Just sheer disinterest in everything going on. The same old blah blah blah. Bob's Big Boy. That's funny. :) I used to feel the same way about the House of Pies.

        1. re: missredbeet

          yes!! And my favorite restaurant used to be bob evans. I had a big thing for pancakes -- but I think I loved pancakes so much because it brought back warm family weekend memories....maybe now that I have a family of my own and i'm not in my 20s and wandering anymore, I don't yearn for the comfort like I did. It's goofy, but I just tied the food so much with the memories.

      2. i still love grace, for sure. the problem is that they don't change their menu enough. for me, it's not about outgrowing it but getting very bored. i only go once every couple of years, when i can introduce someone new to it who will appreciate it and see it thru their eyes.

        1. Definitely, people are fickle and we constantly crave new experiences. It's also the fault of the food "scene" --when the experience gets old, the food gets stale, no matter how delish it may actually be.

          That said, nostalgia plays a big part of holding on to the comfort foods. You'll never outgrow these preferences, no matter how questionable they are (I mean, c'mon have you REALLY tasted a Dodger Dog?).

          1 Reply
          1. re: ozzygee

            You're right. Nostalgia. Is that why i still like (and craveeee) hamburger gravy?

          2. When I lived in Durham, NC, Magnolia Grill was within walking distance. I was one of the locals who frequently arrived before opening to be seated without a res near the bar. I NEVER, in my five years there, ate a meal I didn't like. Some I loved, some were merely good, but nothing disappointed completely. MG had a weekly menu, and the choices were seasonal.

            1. I was recently thinking the same thing-

              all these nice restaurants trying to outdo each other with wilder and weirder combinations.......not appealing

              everytime I have been to Jiraffe lately, they have the same specials

              just give me some nice fresh sushi, some fresh pasta and pesto, a well-seasoned fresh fish, a juicy hamburger (without bleu cheese)

              1. Maybe Grace had an "off" night?

                When I travelled a lot (read younger & single), I too ate out often at many of the finer establishments. However, my most memorable meals were those which involved a complete experience...it was something in addition to the meal that CREATED the memory or an emotional experience.

                But that's just me. All of the nice meals CAN run into each other. The comfort foods you mentioned give you a certain emotional satisfaction that you're not getting with restaurant fare.

                So trying eating at McD's a few times...I'm sure that joy and pleasure of eating will return. ;)

                1. I know exactly what you mean about eating upscale. I can only do so much of it and I get bored. No matter what cuisine they are pretending to emulate, most of it tastes the same and share the same food trend of the momemt.

                  One year it was skate, another fiddlehead ferns. The latest rage is huckleberries ... and it gets boring. It all tastes the same after a while. I appreciate the craftsmenhship, I appreciate top quality ingrediants,but it all tastes so similar.

                  This year I've been eating low on the hog and it has been exciting and interesting. Not that it is any more delicious than upscale, often not, but I'm not bored. I wonder WHY all the fancy-dancy chefs won't explore so many more interesting dishes. Probably because no one would order them.

                  As to outgrowing food, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Though I'm a real fast food fan, I'm not so intersted anymore. I'm outgrowing it. Why should I eat some boring, salty burger when there is usually some cheaper, better, more fascinating mom and pop nearby. Some restaurants change. I was such a Marie Callendar's fan, but when they were sold to a mega-corp, the quality died.

                  My theory with downscale food is that it has to be delicious. Upscale people for the most part won't bother with it. Working class people demand flavor for their bucks or they won't patronize a joint. I lived in a very blue collar town in Connecticut that had some of the most amazing food. When my factory working dad took us out too eat, his buck had better be spent for something that was amazing and better than what could be made at home ... and it was.

                  1. I think if you've been traveling and eating at a lot of nice restaurants, then it's pretty easy for your palate to become jaded. Everything does start to taste the same, and you're going for a bigger and bigger wow factor to impress. If you don't go out for a month and make dinner every night you'll just be happy you don't have to wash dishes.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Amuse Bouches

                      Now THAT'S the truth; I know, having been cooking day in & day out for weeks after a pampered vacation dining experience. But, when you dine out, you still want it to be better or at least as good as what you would have made! Also, sad to say some of our favorite restaurants do go downhill.

                      1. re: Babette

                        I've been cooking at home a lot lately (well, just this week) and it's been so fantastic. I hate the dishes, but I'm exploring my own ingredients, tastes, etc. Creating new things, following recipes on others. It does make it harder to dining out, in some ways, however. I never want to order something I can make better at home. It's the biggest disappointment, and often with a higher price tag.

                    2. I love eating street food when I travel. It has so much integrity, heart and soul. I always remember that stuff more than the fancy hotel fussy food. Like the perfect pad thai on a banana leaf on a Bangkok street. Or these memorable little rice balls, purchased from a hill tribe woman in Pai, mixed with a freshly pounded chili and cilantro paste! I could eat that stuff every week. Restaurants are loaded with so much emotion and expectations: they are set up for disappointment.

                      1. Great food is never boring. Trendy food is, after a while.

                        "My appetizer choices will include tuna tartare, tuna sashimi or tuna tataki. If by some astonishing quirk of providence there is not any raw or extremely rare tuna on the menu, there will be some other uncooked fish — sea bass, yellowtail or Arctic char — and the odds are 50-50 that it will wear the voguish tag of crudo.

                        "The list of available meat entrees will surely include duck, probably include beef short ribs and possibly include a Niman Ranch pork chop, unless it includes a Niman Ranch rib-eye or Niman Ranch lamb. The list of available seafood entrees will include monkfish or branzino, unless it includes loup de mer, which is just branzino by a French name. ..."

                        --"Looks Like Diversity, but It Tastes Like Tuna," Brank Bruni, The New York Times, 10/20/04