do you stay away from empty places?
Do you steer clear of restaurants with not too many customers.. can you think of any places where the food is great but they just can't seem to get clients to come in?
Dives always have a problem luring customers. But incredible treasures can be found therein. Usually they don't get the money to fix things up - or to move- until they've developed a following, which may never come.
No, I don't steer clear. There are a couple of spots I can think of right away in my area that are wrongfully unpopulated--an Indian place with a fabulous lunch buffet, and an wonderful Ethiopian restaurant in the back of a somewhat seedy bar. Oh well, more for me, I say (as long as they can stay open, anyway).
When I am in a (really) foreign country my standard rule is that if the locals are lining up to get in, there must be a reason. I have done pretty well by this rule.
I am pretty adventurous and get punished and rewarded at times. The best Indian that I can find in Toronto still is Exotic Indian near Albion and 27. Never anybody in there but amazing. I think you have to be a bit adventurous.
I think the OPPOSITE rule works for me in the USA: if there's a line, it has to stink on some level. Either it's a gutbucket trough like Texas Cheescake Suppository or a hip, new, trendy place that all the beautiful people have to go to because the snob tastemakers say it's fabulous.
It depends. We have two favorites that are exceptionally good but quiet at times.
Our first trip to a favorites of the local Chowhounds was on a Saturday afternoon. It was very quiet but the food was fabulous. Since then, we treat ourselves to the special service a small, chef-owned place can give you when it's quiet.
We have just scheduled a series of Saturday lunches with friends there so they too can enjoy it and so we can help build a little business for this gem.
The chef says he opens because he has to be there anyway to prep for the busy night ahead. If he has a few customers it's a bonus.
Our favorite Indian restaurant does a massive delivery service but is often fairly empty because of its low traffic location. Again, this is a tiny, family owned place and once they get to know you, you are treated as welcome family members.