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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?

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  1. 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.

    1. 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).

      1. It depends on the type of restaurant. A sushi bar with no to few customers is a bit too risky for my tastes and digestive tract. I also am relieved to see when dining in an ethnic restaurant people of that ethnicity eating there, its sort of a community seal of approval.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chilihead

          good point about the sushi bar..

        2. 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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: seymourcat

            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.

          2. 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.


            3 Replies
            1. re: BostonZest

              So are you going to share both of these little Boston-area gems? :-)

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Trattoria Toscana on Jersey St. in the Fenway and Indian Samarat on Mass Ave between Comm and Marlborough.

                1. re: BostonZest

                  Ahhh, you've talked about Trattoria Toscana before, I think. I'll have to remember it. Thanks!

            2. If you saw my post on UK/Ireland from yesterday I said that in the flat we had rented was a guest book for comments. One guest raved about a little hole in the wall place in Kensington Church St. called Dinos. We walked past it daily and and had looked at the menu and thought ho hum and also what kind of Italian place does all day breakfasts? One exhausted evening we thought oh what the heck lets gve it a try, it was just around the corner and a short walk and that was about all we could manage. The place was not full by any means but boy were we surprised. It was terrific. That taught us a lesson!

              1. I like empty places. I eat a lot of meals alone - my job often calls for long lulls in the afternoon, which affords me plenty of siesta time to find a restaurant, eat, drink and read - and I prefer quiet places. Some men just can't believe a woman would dine alone, and the busier the place, the likelier one of those types will be around and force their company upon me.

                I've eaten a lot of great food at establishments that don't fill tables. Unfortunately I usually never get a second visit because they are out of business my next time around.

                1. One of our favorite places is usually empty every time we go. It's a wonderful place called Thai Pepper. For those of you who are in or near Newhall, Ca.. Please try it, we don't want it to go under!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Flour Child

                    I love Thai Pepper as well! Its the best Thai option in the area, the specials at lunch are a great deal! $5.95 for rice, entree, salad and a spring roll!

                  2. I seem to be the sole dissident here....I almost always avoid empty places unless they've been high recommended by someone else already. The reason? Same as the sushi bar. Vast majority of the time 'quiet places' food just isn't that fresh or that good. This is really problematic for things like Chinese, where even a slight compromise in quality really shows.
                    I know there are many nice places that are quiet - one of my former favorites used to be that -alas it closed- but for me it's not just worth the money and stomach to be that adventurous (I do have sensitive stomach and tight budget). If I see the place has stayed in business for a while then I may give it a try then.

                    1. I'm thinking, is the question steer clear given no prior knowledge? Some of my favorite places can be empty, but so far as I can remember I had some reason to go there in the first place (probably CH recs). I wish my dining budget allowed for reckless experimentation...

                      1. Boy, I sure do wish that BostonZest would share his/her places - an Indian restaurant and another completely unidentified place... my stomach's demanding an answer!

                        1. Rarely. Occupancy means nothing.

                          Empty can mean a huge take-out / delivery business. The restaurant might do most of the business as a caterer. Time of day / day of week could be a factor.

                          Lines out the door don't mean good food. It could be cheap. It could be near work places. It could be coasting on reputation. Could be a good location. Says nothing about the food.

                          Also an empty place usually makes the food to order. It is not pre-prepped or sitting on burners.

                          There was on place I wouldn't step in the door because it was huge ... maybe 100 seats ... and at most 1 or 2 customers at any time of day and any day of the week.

                          Then there was a local review about the Peruvian chef there. I'd place good money that I'm the only person who actually walked in the place because of the review. It just has an abandoned look to it. Anyway, some of the best fish tacos I've ever had.

                          Made me consider a Chinese joint I've never seen anyone at ... except it seems it changed owners and is now Japanese ... and people were going in.

                          I love going to empty places and sitting near the window. Suddenly people stop and look at the menu and consider stopping in ... if one person goes, others follow.

                          1. I can think of many great places that are usually empty, at least during certain times of the day. Like some other Chowhounds, all things being equal, I usually prefer a quiet place to a raucous one. Empty places with high overhead don't last long. There might be some correlation between high-end places that are empty and low quality, but it certainly doesn't work for less expensive restaurants.

                            1. There is a Thai restaurant in El Cajon that I love but is virtually always empty. Of course, the Subway right next door is usually hopping. I just chalk it up to the theory that there is no accounting for taste.

                              1. Sometimes brand new restaurants can be totally empty, even if they're great. Particularly true of places that don't use the PR machine and prefer word of mouth. I'll always try a place at least once -- there's a so many exceptions to rules of thumbs that while they're useful on average, they're never work all the time.

                                1. For the longest time I thought the local fish market had a small dine in following..that most just came to buy fresh. But then I returned one night and had to decide if it was worth the 45 min wait! Turns out..I was the last to know their evening menu was the big draw :)

                                  1. To be perfectly frank, I don't trust the people in a few cities in which I've lived to know good food when they eat it. So yes, I go to empty places. . .in fact, I can name a couple of places (of course, they're all closed now, obviously) in which DH and I were the only people there on several occasions.

                                    There are few things I enjoy more than being the only diners in a small Italian place where the old woman who owns the joint also does all the cooking AND all the serving, and comes out to talk to you about the "old country."

                                    1. To me, it all depends on how the restaurant smells when you walk in........