Ever choose a restaurant based on ambiance and clientele not food?
My shameful Chowhound secret is that I sometimes do. I normally don't admit it even to myself but if Cantonese Restaurant A is normally filled with boisterous, laughing Chinese families celebrating and Cantonese Restaurant B predominantly caters to solemn non-Chinese American foodies, I'll dine at A nine times out of ten even if the food at B is slightly better. Likewise a mournful empty dining hall will seldom claim my attention just as, given the choice, I prefer weddings to funerals.
What about you? It's true confession time.
Here's my dirty little secret: We (hubby and I) used to frequent a little dive back in our home town. It was located in a shopping strip, had very mediocre steaks, fries, that sort of thing, but get this....real cloth napkins, very subdued lighting (my pet peeve is overhead lighting!), and great mood music. It was quiet, too. You could hear yourself sawing through your steak.
"Afraid of butter? Add more cream." -Julia Child
Yeah..... There was a little chinese place in Toledo we used to go -- the food was, at best, mediocre.
But.... you could see into the kitchen from most of the tables, see everything being made, and the owners were there all the time and always offering "taste this, try that", and perfectly willing to go off the menu if it wasn't busy. And it was almost always quiet and dark and peaceful
And they were beyond kid friendly -- most of their clientle seemed to be older retired folks, and when we ate there the first time - while I was pregnant -- you would have thought I was the queen of england, they were so wonderful..... And then when we went back with the bebe, we were always welcomed with literally open arms - the wife swooping in to rock the baby while we got settled, and always bringing little dishes of this and that "Eat this, good for you to make milk for the baby", and for the bebe when she got old enough to start gumming things.
The food was nothing. But there was such a welcoming spirit, and such a kindness from an experienced mother and grandmother to a hesitant new mother, that I can't even capture it in words.
Brian, when I read the title of your thread, I thought, "Well of course not!" but then thought again--"Well, of course!" When I travel and can't know about the food, I always opt for what doesn't look touristy and for places filled with your boisterous, laughing locals of any kind.
Yes, all the time when entertaining clients.
Sometime you NEED a restaurant that is either (1) quiet (2) well-maintained (3) has professional service (4) in a convenient location or a combination of all 4.
Such is life.
This really shouldn't be a confession, or even a dirty little secret.
Just a fact of life -- oftentimes people go to restaurants not necessarily for the food, and in those times the food is more often than not a mere afterthought.
Not instead of the food, but certainly along with the food. The ambiance, the service, the music, all matter to a good dining experience. And, certainly, the ambiance at restaurant A can overcome the food at restaurant B in some circumstances.