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Overrated Restaurants vs Bad Restaurants

Here's a bit of word play for you, stemming from an discussion on the LA board about the Worst Restaurants in LA. Naturally, some of the usual suspects are brought up, usually chains or old grimy shacks, but every now and then someone responds with a fairly well-heeled establishment.

So I'm here to discuss the notion of a restaurant that's bad vs overrated. I think there's a marked difference between a restaurant that's overrated and a restaurant that's bad. I think Matsuhisa is overrated but it's far from bad. I think Domino's Pizza is bad but no one rates it, let alone overrates it.

Disappointment is a phenomenon that exists on a person-to-person basis, stemming from their own Expectation.

Being a bad restaurant is intrinsic to the restaurant, stemming from a lack of Quality.

And being Overrated is when your Expectation doesn't meet the actual Quality. A restaurant you know nothing about can't be Overrated (no Expectations), nor can a restaurant that doesn't exist (no Quality).

So a question for my fellow 'Hounds is this: does the fact that a restaurant is overrated lead you to calling it bad and vice versa? Or do you view a restaurant in two separate ways?

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  1. I believe The Cheesecake Factory manages to accomplish both...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Leper

      I agree 100%. Cheesecake Factory achieves the Daily Double in this regards...

    2. But how can you be disappointed in Cheesecake Factory unless your expectations are high? Is it because of its perceived popularity? If so, shouldn't that only affect your Expectation once, since the fact that the restaurant is intrinsically Bad alters how you perceive Cheesecake Factory _in spite_ of the popularity?

      And actually, in my case, I had lofty expectations for Matsuhisa here in LA, expecting it to be on the order of Spago or Lucques. It failed to deliver in that regard, but then when I stopped to really think about the various recommendations on the Chowhound board, no one has ever said "OMG you HAVE to go to Matsuhisa!" No one was trumpeting it up, and I think my expectations were raised unfairly. So in true honesty, I probably shouldn't be calling it Overrated. (I'll stop doing so from this point on.)

      But then again, Faulty Expectation is still Expectation. You can be disappointed whether it was justified or not.

      Again, it's a matter of semantics. It's hard for the believe that Cheesecake Factory is overrated by the simple fact that I've never seen anyone recommend it. If everyone is calling it overrated based on the actual crowd, I would counter by saying "Perhaps they're not 'Hounds"

      5 Replies
      1. re: SauceSupreme

        you have never seen anyone recommend it...? Check some of the posts on here that rave about Cheesecake Factory, and its huge portions & "great" items on the menu.

        1. re: swsidejim

          Okay, I'll grant that for other boards. The LA boards is staunchly anti-Cheesecake Factory, especially for their cheesecake. Kind of funny given that their corporate office is located here (down the road from my office building, no less).

          1. re: SauceSupreme

            I went to Cheesecake Factory one time, and was not very happy with the visit. The food was poor, and the service if possible was worse. It seems to be one of those places you either love or hate, and I tend to wonder about the folks who love it.

            1. re: swsidejim

              The only expectation I've had for TCF is that dinner for two is enough to feed Darfur. Otherwise it's just TGI Friday's in a bigger space.

          2. re: swsidejim

            I agree that it's overrated. The menu and portion sizes are huge and for that reason, people are more able to find 1-2 things they like than they would be able to at other restaurants with more modest menus and portion sizes.

            I don't think a restaurant has to be sophisticated to be overrated. At the CF near me, the line is almost always an hour + to get in and for the quality of the food delivered, I think that helps in putting it into the "overrated" category.

        2. i'm in the restaurant business. i'm much more likely to say "i didn't like it," rather than "it's bad." taste, and yes personal expectations, are too subjective.

          1. "Disappointment is a phenomenon that exists on a person-to-person basis, stemming from their own Expectation." This thread almost seems like it should be on PhilosophyHound rather than ChowHound. But I like it.

            Not all expectation is faulty expectation. Some expectations are reasonable, such as those derived from misguided hype and positive reviews. Here in San Diego we have a major problem with overzealous reviews and overpriced restaurants, the latter of which is what bothers me most. If I wanted to capitalize on people's desire to feel sophisticated (at the expense of eating food that actually tastes good), I'd open a restaurant here, because it seems people will eat at and rave about any new restaurant as if it were The French Laundry. Generally speaking this does not include the people reporting on SD restaurants on ChowHound.

            1. I agree that expectations can negatively impact a restaurant experience. Sometimes unrealistic expectations are created by reviews and hound-like forums. In that regard I think it's very important to be wary of scoop junkies who are over-eager to be the first to report on a restaurant "find." However, some places also create lofty expectations themselves, even if it's a simple as super high pricing or ridiculous reservation policies. I also tend to agree that experience is subjective, but there is no question there is a lot of "bad" food out there maquerading as high-end cuisine. I mean, a dry pork chop is a dry pork chop, no matter what your personal food biases.