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What?! You no like?

Scenario: You recommend a spot to your friend, co-worker, boss, relative…They dine at said spot and say “they won’t go back,” “it was just ok,” or “you actually like that place?”

Your thoughts? I have to admit that I’m always left wondering: what happened? Does Aunt Bea have no taste? Was my boss difficult and demanding and just plain unappeasable(just like at work?) Was the restaurant a little off that night?

Or is it me??? Did I read the person wrong? Am I holding on to some oldies that aren’t so goodie anymore???

I reconize that restaurants are not one size fits all, and that in matters of taste, there are no rights or wrongs(well, to a point...anyone with a developed palate could certainly define SOME rights and wrongs)...

I love to hear about your experiences in the world of restaurant recommendations….

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  1. There is this little cafe nearby that I liked, so I took my friend there, and she liked it too. (My friend eats at a lot of different restaurants, and most are pretty pricey and adventurous. I consider her to be more of a CH than I am.) Then she took her co-worker for lunch there. That woman declared it "totally disgusting" after 2 bites and refused to eat the rest. Huh? Was she unreasonable, or what. I really don't know, but it made me rethink recommending anything to anyone, unless I know them extremely well.

    1. "...well, to a point...anyone with a developed palate could certainly define SOME rights and wrongs..."

      I don't think so. And if you look at the problems countries of the world are having (the US and Germany and other "technically adept" countries) just figuring out what a standard "kilogram" actually is then there is not a snow balls chance in hell that something like food (given individual taste buds and the cultural differences in what flavors and textures people are drawn to) could ever be objectively "right" or "wrong"

      1. People's tastes are so different.

        I have one co-worker who's a very picky eater - won't eat this, wont eat that. Forget it, don't ask, won't even TRY anything unfamiliar. Another coworker is also picky - but in the same way that I am picky - quality better be good and execution had better be good. I know fro experience that when coworker #2 recommends a place to me, I'll like the food.

        On my local chow board, I know which regular posters have a palate that will please me, and others whose recs I can safely ignore. I'm sure there are people on that board who don't care for what pleases me, too.

        1. It's the negative reactions that make me reluctant to make restaurant recommendations to anyone unless I know them really well. I know I shouldn't take it personally, but I feel so strongly about many of my favorite restaurants that I can't help but getting defensive when they get a negative review.

          1. It can also depend on the place. I recommended a good friend and fellow chef to one of my favorite mexican places. I forgot to tell him that it was for the chile verde. He ordered something that I knew to be a "miss"- the mondongo, which I don't like at all.

            So, sometimes you have to steer a little.

            2 Replies
            1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

              Ok, I have to ask...what is mondongo?? I've eaten in Mexican restaurants all over the planet (including hundreds in Mexico), and never heard of this particular dish.....

              1. re: janetofreno

                tripe stew. Mondongo is apparently closely related to menudo but more commonly found in the Caribbean...so you've basically heard of it (or a version of it) under a different name...

            2. I remember years ago recommending a small local restaurant to a friend where my boyfriend and I had enjoyed a great meal. We decided to take that friend to the restaurant for his birthday about 2 months later. The meal was NOTHING like the meal we'd enjoyed there earlier. Even I was disappointed. We chalked it up to a different chef.

              1. I love this post because it's such a dilemma all the time. Do I tell this one about this place? Do i take their advice and try this place, when they have had bad suggestions in the past? Obviously, we know our friends and family, but when talking to someone you just met, or a coworker who you don't socialize with, it's difficult.

                I'm generalizing and this doesn't include real foodies, but most people care about service way too much. It's the number one thing that they want when they go out. The second, sadly, is portion size. Even more annoying is third, they want speed. Price comes fourth and quality comes fifth. I will get people telling me I'm wrong, but this is chowhound, people taking time to read, like food #1. Most people like bland under seasoned food...want proof that I'm right. Watch the average table at any restaurant. 3 out of 4 people will add salt and pepper without even tasting it. A real foodie tastes it, and then decides if it needs to be enhanced. When they do this and the food is properly prepared it immediately becomes overseasoned.

                When I go out, I want a reasonably priced meal (for what I'm ordering - I have no problem spending $60 for a porterhouse at a fine steakhouse), that tastes great. I want something where when leaving I say "I wish I could make it like that."

                I'm going to give you examples of why this is tough with a group of my closest friends;
                Person A - can't suggest steakhouses because she likes everything well done. It's lost on her. Burgers too.
                Person B - hates everything he doesn't grill himself. Where do you suggest for that person?
                Person C - no matter how big the plate, he's done in 3 minutes. So obviously this person doesn't care if they are eating coq au vin or friend chicken.
                Person D - wants fancy all the time. But what if fancy doesn't mean good?
                Person E - has what I call the Irish palate. Mexican? Peruvian? Real Italian? And isn't expeimental.
                Person F - will eat anything, but if they don't choose the place will find fault anyway. This just annoys me.
                Person G - me, I will eat anything, try anything, and am willing to pay, but fi the food stinks, I will let you hear it, haha!

                1 Reply
                1. re: jhopp217

                  For Person B -- has he or she been to Korean BBQ? Because that is one place you can grill meat yourself on the table.

                  I agree with you. Everybody is different. People have different tastes and also have different ideas as to what constitutes a great restaurant. I remember going to a more upscale restaurant with a friend who complained that she would be just as happy going to a restaurant with $15 entrees, provided that there were "cool" looking people hanging out there. She said that she really couldn't taste any difference between the more expensive places from the less expensive ones.

                  I try to find out the person's tastes by asking them what restaurants that they like before recommending something. And if they don't like it -- oh well. It's not the end of the world.

                2. Taste is very subjective, and I am carefull when recommending restaurants, especially ethnic, steak houses or bbq places. I do not know if a the person i am talking to thinks Chipotle, or Taco Bell is good Mexican food, so I tend not to even get involved in a discussion recommending an authentic place & let them enjoy what they like.

                  The same goes for Chinese food. A person who enjoys PF Changs, or Panda Express will probably not be impressed with a top notch hole in the wall place with
                  a staff that only speaks Chinese.

                  I also am carefull with steak req's, people who enjoy Capital Grill, Ruth Chris etc. perhaps will not see the value, and price of prime, or dry aged beef being worth it..

                  Also bbq, especially in Chicago is tough, so many of the old school places here like Twin Anchors, Gale Street, and Carsons, are rib boilers, or bakers, and if someone thinks that is real bbq it is a waste of time recommending a place with a smoker.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: swsidejim

                    A few years back, I had a six hour layover in Chicago, and having heard of Carson's, decided to check it out. What a disappointment! Tough, chewy, no hint of smoke flavour, forgettable sides; on the plus side, I remember the service was friendly. Would never go back, though.

                  2. I don't worry about recommendations simply because there are no restuaurants on planet earth that are consistent with their food. A couple of months ago I had my first kobe beef burger and it was drop-dead fantastic! Went around recommending it to everyone. A few weeks later I had another. Different cook! 2 cups of celery salt and a cup of seasoning salt on one little burger patty is pretty gross, let me tell you!

                    I keep promising myself that "from now on" when the food is exceptional, I'll make it a point to find out the chef's or cook's (depending on the eatery) name so I can make sure he or she is cooking before I go again, but so far it's just a promise I forget to keep.

                    But I do try to preface my recommndations with something like, "The time I was there, the food was great but..." As they say, "caveat emptor."

                    1. Like many jfood believes in all you can do is try.

                      Is it a little upsetting when he recommends a place and someone does not agree after trying? sure. but that's life and you have to be true to yourself. Even when the person who disagrees is a true food lover, you take their opinion in stride.

                      Jfood has posted a few highly recommended places in CT on these boards. And one of the most respected Hounds has disagreed profusely on the recommendation. At first he took it personally, thinking how come he never likes anything jfood does, and he knows what he's talking about. Then he just moved on.

                      So if you make a recommendation understand that some may not like them, it's life. Likewise some will give you recommendations tha you disagree with.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        Jfood, don't you also think that some people, especially on these boards go out of their way to bash other people's recommendations. I find on these boards that people go out of their way to say negative things about places that 99% of humanity like. Oddly enough, it's rarely about the food. It's usually about service, ambience, wait time, or something other than what you went there for.

                        1. re: jhopp217

                          In FFD County CT there seem to be more shills than bashers and then there are the posters that jfood wishes they would just keep to themselves, nothing second-hand is any good, and they believe that restaurants need to be exacting as brain surgeons. Plus the "how dare they do this" scenarios are great reading.

                          But jfood is pretty good about sorting the two into the good and the bad buckets.

                          1. re: jfood

                            Couldn't agree more with you jfood. It seems like there are people who go to a highly touted restaurant EXPECTING TO BE DISAPPOINTED! I think it is just so they can come to forums like this and complain. Kind of a twisted psyche to drop $200 for dinner hoping to have a sub-par experience.

                            I think there is that segment of the population that believes anything popular can't possibly be good.

                            1. re: newJJD

                              I guess I'm strange. When I go to a restaurant that has been highly recommended by someone and the food is bad, it doesn't occur to me to blame the restaurant. I just assume the person who recommended it has damaged taste buds... '-)

                      2. There are two things I never recommend - restaurants and holiday destinations. Fraught with danger both. I tell folk of my experiences and leave it to them to decide if they like the sound of it enough to go and try. I do not do "You'll love it there...."

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: fussycouple

                            Interesting observation on a site like CH filled with food and resto recommendations...

                        1. I've been on both ends of this, and so I can empathize. I think part of it has to do with tone. If I gush about a restaurant and and recommend it to someone who ends up not like it as much, of course I'm going to feel bad about it, but being told "Hey, we tried your restaurant. We liked the food, but we still think our favorite is xyz", is fine by me. And heck, then I'll ask them for their "favorite place" and try it. (Especially with Indian food; I'm always looking for new places to try. . ..)

                          However, if someone is like, "Omg, this is the worst restaurant ever. How can you eat at a place like this?"-- well, first of all, I personally would never say something like that. If I don't like a place that someone recommends, unless I have a really horrible meal and everything is bad, I'll just say, "It wasn't my cup of tea" or say something like my frist example. I think "You actually eat at this place?" is kindof rude. Luckily, none of my friends are like that.

                          But the restaurant rec. business thing is so personal. . . if food is as important as it is to me (and for most people on this board, I know it is!), it's almost like exposing my soul in a way. . .especially my really favorite restos, since I "like" a lot of restaurants, but "my favorites" are you know, like a top 5 list.

                          I even find this problem when I'm going out w/ people, too. Like I was on a sort-of-date with this guy once, and we went to some trendy restaurant. I didn't like it one bit. Highly overpriced for mediocre food. If I had paid for it, I would've felt more comfortable about saying "oh, I didn't like it so much", but since he had paid for our meal, when he asked, "did you like this restaurant?", what was I going to do but say, "Yeah, my meal was really good" and thank him for the meal? (Even if it was the most overpriced salad I've ever seen?)

                          So in general, I tend to not recommend unless I know them well, and if someone at work makes a restaurant rec that I end up not liking-- well, I just tend to take it w/ a grain of salt. But one time, one of my friend's parents were in town, and I made a restaurant rec., which they actually tried, and enjoyed (or at least he told me they enjoyed the meal) and raved about it, which of course, made me feel good.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: anzu

                            Based on the reactions (some questionable) to a restaurant I recommended here, I would never do it again, for sure.

                          2. Every week for the past few years, my friend and I have gone out to dinner and a movie, and every week we end up at one of the same 2 Chinese restaurants or the same 2 diners. I have tried on many, many occasions to steer him in a different food direction, with pretty dismal results. 'I don't like Indian. There's too much cheese in Mexican. Thai? What kind of food is that?'
                            On 2 occasions I did manage to get him into other restaurants. At one place the service was terrible (they forgot our order, though we were the only people there) and at the other, there was a brand-new chef and the food was less than stellar. So now to him I have lost all credibility in restaurant choices, since obviously my favorite places to go have bad food and bad service, and he would never consider going back to give them another try. And so we eat Chinese or diner every. single. week.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: marmite

                              you are a good friend, marmite.

                            2. On the other end of this there are some people that I will absolutely not take recommendations from. Many of my in-laws equate cheap and large portions as good as in Golden Corral has a great Monday night special or Ponderosa's NY Strip special is excellent.

                              I'd say just realize that not everyone is a chowhound and that what you think of as a great place might be weird/odd/too expensive for what you get etc. compared to what they like.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Rick

                                I was going to post this as well. I am of Italian descent and I don't mean my great great great grandmother was from there, my dad was born there and so I have experienced great home cooked Italian food all my life.

                                I have pretty much never take the recommendations of anyone regarding Italian food unless I know what they consider to be "good" Italian food and I feel likewise.

                                1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                  I have a funny view on this, and believe me this is not a knock on Italian people, or Italian food. I for the most part think almost every Italian restaurant i've ever been to is overrated. I mean, there are better sauces, and better dishes at one place or another, but basically, I've had just as good foor paying $12 for a dish at a "dive", as I have paying $30 for the same dish at a rated restaurant.

                                  Here's another thing, and this in no means is saying authentic Italian cuisine isn't absolutely to die for. I've found that if I had to rate the 10 worst Italian dishes I've ever had, they were all made by Italian grandmother's. Sometimes slaving over a pot for 6 hours adding dashes and dollops doesn't always equate to good food. Sometimes you just have to let the flavors meld. Overseasoned food can be just as bad as underseasoned food.

                                  I get very nervous when someone says "this place (or "my mother or grandmother") makes the best sauce. Even worse when they call it gravy, haha.

                                  Seriously, taste is subjective, but there are times when something is just bad!

                                  1. re: jhopp217

                                    Maybe you just haven't been to the right Italian restaurant. I think in some parts of the country you just aren't going to get authentic, good Italian food no matter how expensive or highly rated the restaurant is.

                                    Don't even get me started on people who call sauce gravy.... :|

                                    1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                      What's wrong with calling sauce "gravy"? Most of the Italian-Americans I know call it gravy.

                                      1. re: southernitalian

                                        No one I know calls it gravy. To me, it sounds like a watered down, inauthentic way of talking about sauce.

                                        1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                          In the NYC area, you'll find lots of people refer to it as gravy. Older people (50+), for the most part. Or they'd refer to it as "spaghetti sauce" regardless of what kind of pasta it was served with. But just as many people call it gravy or even "Sunday gravy".

                                        2. re: southernitalian

                                          Ok, I've debated this before, but here's the deal. Sauce is pretty much any liquid, or semi-liquid that is used to enhance the flavor of a dish. So basically it's a condiment in the truest sense of the word. Gravy is made from meat drippings and has some starch added to give it a denser consistency. By these definitions a marina sauce is a sauce. A Bolognese is a meat sauce because it is closer to a ragout. It's actually an italian version of a ragout. Ragouts were originally made to be dishes as of themself, but a bolognese is made to accompany pasta (therefore it's a sauce).

                                          Now if you can explain to me the difference between a ragout and a stew, we'll make a great team!

                                          PS. Call it whatever makes you and yours happy, just don't try and get me to call a sauce "gravy."

                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                            My Mother In Law, (Italian, born and raised on the East Coast) and her family all call red sauce gravy. They also call pasta macaroni....thought it was strange at first but after years of going to, "Sunday Gravy" I call it gravy now too.

                                            1. re: bubbles4me

                                              I stopped watching a while ago, but remember the early Sopranos episode when they are in Italy and Paulie hates the authentic Italian cuisine and remarks "hey, can I just get some macaroni and gravy." Classic!

                                2. Thanks for posting this, Bunnyfood. Your post and the responses to it are a good reminder (to me) for why we ought to try and be gentle to one another on these boards.

                                  I agree with you that certain things are objective (i.e. the other day, I recommended Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on the NYC board and someone mentioned that they didn't like the texture of the ice cream there -- completely valid criticism). But above a certain level, how much one likes very good restaurants often has to do with how closely it conforms to one's tastes. That's why I tend to have greater respect the opinions of posters who say "xyz was not / was to my taste for a, b, and c reasons".