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Are you easy or hard to please when eating out?

I find that generally my husband and I are pretty easy to please when we're dining out. May not be the best meal we ever had but we can usually find a positive aspect to it and when we do, we'll walk away with that impression of the restaurant and not the negative one. (Truly bad service is a dealbreaker however.) A month of dining in Manhattan, Cape Cod and CT have confirmed that. I don't require anything close to perfection to have a lovely meal. I know, however, that there are plenty of people who are the opposite - my MIL is one, for sure. It seems no matter what they order, there's just something or everything wrong with it. I think it's more to do with basic personality types than the food itself. Glass half-empty versus half-full. I read some extremely knowledgeable people here on CH with very refined palates who like most of what they eat. And others who will find fault. Honestly? I kinda like *my* attitude better :) Any thoughts?
PS: This goes WAY out the window when it comes to food *I* cook! I'm hypercritical then.

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  1. Extremely easy. I rarely complain about anything. I could probably count the number of times on 1 hand. It had to be pretty bad for me to say anything. Even when I receive something wrong, I may something if it was dish I really couldn't eat but I still would be polite. I have a variety of friends and clients so more lunches than evening meals for me. It may be fast food, Applebees or similar, and late lunch at Olive Garden or a nice restaurant depending on who I was going out with. The last six months I haven't gone out that much due to family illnesses, but when I do, I usually just go along with the crowd. I too have some friends that will complain about everything, but most of my friends are LOW key and easy to please. One of my best girlfriends orders a meal, and by the time she explains all of her "I want this but not that, this on the side, no cheese, no this, no that, etc." She might as well just order a plain raw piece of fish. I love her, but she does drive me nuts. I just try to ignore and enjoy the dinner the best I can

    Besides with the economy, I have found that so many of my friends prefer cooking and having small get togethers at their homes. Me too.

    1. If I have more invested in a meal - it's expensive, or I've traveled a fair distance to get there, or I've built it up in my mind because of the recommendations of others - I am harder to please. If I don't expect all that much in the first place, it's easy for the meal to meet my expectations.

      1. It really depends on my mood. If I'm in a good mood I'm easy to please, if in a bad I'm not. I But I try to just enjoy the experience and not look for the negatives, and any negatives I find I try keep to myself (or at least wait until I leave) . My BF's father is hard to please so I try not to take him to restaurants that I have never eaten at or one that I really like. I don't like hearing complaining.

        1 Reply
        1. re: viperlush

          Good point when I go out with some friends I always let them decide because I know if they went to a place I would prefer some would say too fancy, not enough to choose from, too over priced, etc. So I just go where they like. A few other friends we all like good food so we decide together but then again depends what we are in the mood for.

        2. I think I'm pretty easy to please- but on the other hand, I have a major attention to detail so it is also pretty easy to displease me. However the areas of dissatisfaction will not carry over to the rest of the meal, ie; silverware that is old and tarnished at a high end restaurant. (Does that make me picky? This restaurant just never seems to have shiny forks and knives despite the $$$ they charge).

          When I dine out, I usually choose places with an expectation that the kitchen will put out something better than what I can make at home. This happens most of the time, and even though the service or the food may not be perfect, I still leave pleasantly satisfied. To me, every restaurant starts off at 100%, as opposed to them starting at 0% and having to "earn" their way up to 100%.

          4 Replies
          1. re: pinkprimp

            "To me, every restaurant starts off at 100%, as opposed to them starting at 0% and having to "earn" their way up to 100%."

            ******************************************

            I think that absolutely nails what *I* was trying to say and you said it way better. Although I mentioned CH, it's really the internal attitude more than anything else that I'm thinking of. If one starts at 0%, it's going to be pretty darned hard to "earn" enough points to get very high. But if starting at 100%, pretty hard to fall too low. If there's a service issue, it's unusual if I can't correct it with a gentle admonisment. If something isn't cooked correctly (and I mean incorrectly not just that I don't like their preparation) then I also will send it back. But that doesn't happen to me very often.

            As far as posting on CH about a restaurant, I give more credibility to someone who mentions the good as much as the not-so-good. I have a personal philosophy that too many people are quick to criticize and slow to praise --- about anything. Even though I will probably never go to any of the restaurants that jfood frequents, I read those posts occasionally because of the balance he brings to them.

            1. re: c oliver

              That's exactly our same attitude as well. Both of us are positive, upbeat people who laugh a lot. One meal isn't that important; not a life or death situation. I can't think of one horrible meal or experience we've had over the last 32 years. Yes, some meals weren't that great, but it was good to be out and have some wine and talk. I used to know (thank God: used to) someone like your MIL - it was a personality fault, nothing at all to do with the food or service. I think it had to do with attention and lack of self-esteem. Anyway, agree with your philosophy; we're easy to please.

              1. re: bayoucook

                Certainly with my MIL, like a little child she doesn't understand that *bad* attention isn't really what she wants. And low self-esteem? Oh yeah. It's almost as bad when she says "well, what are you having?" And then we have to tell her that she wouldn't like what we're having, i.e., too spicy, just a salad when wants to carb load.

                And, yes, bayou cook, a medium meal with good company trumps the good meal with only medium company.

              2. re: c oliver

                Hey C, I'd love to take credit for it, but that's what one of my favourite professors used to say at the beginning of the semester: "As far as I'm concerned, you are all at 100% right now. Keep it up by keeping up with the class." He is a wonderful, inspiring man.

            2. I would say I am much harder to please than I used to be because now eating in a restaurant is such a luxury to me! I far prefer to cook my own food and most times I can prepare something just as well, or better, than what I taste at restaurants -- and pay just a fraction of the cost.

              I used to eat in restaurants all the time when I worked a very high-stress job. i really enjoyed escaping to the atmosphere of a restaurant and I enjoyed having tasty meals prepared for me by someone else -- even though I loved cooking then, too, I wouldn't often do it during the week.

              1. I love going out to eat and am not difficult. After years of cooking for a large family, eating a meal prepared by someone else is a treat that I appreciate and feel excited about. It does not have to be perfect, although that doesn't mean that the cook in me isn't critiquing things in my mind. It's not complainy though, I'm just thinking it over. Doesn't spoil my enjoyment at all, it's part of the fun. Also, I'm not bad at ordering so unless something goofy happens, I'm probably going to have something good to eat.
                It has to be pretty darn bad for me to leave unhappy. Happens occasionally, but I can't actually think of an example just now so I guess it's rare.
                We have tightened our belts and restaurant meals are among the things I miss most.

                1. I'm easy to please, hard to impress. Give me good company and I can enjoy a meal at McDonald's. But if you want to lure me back... make my experience great... and ideally in my neighborhood. ;)

                  1 Reply
                  1. Hmmm. I'm not terribly hard to please but, given that we go out fairly often, I am picky about where I would return. For instance, we had an okay meal last night. Will I go back there? No., it was just okay.

                    1. It depends on who you ask as to whether or not I am hard or easy to please.

                      I think I am easy but with certain expectations, which if not met, are deal breakers:

                      1. Food should arrive at the table hot.(if it's supposed to be)
                      2. Service should be efficient. (Can tolerate a mistake, if acknowledged)
                      3. Did I mention, food should arrive at the table hot?
                      4. All diners should recieve there meal at the same time.
                      5. Please check to see if I need another drink.
                      6. Make sure hot food is served hot.

                      If you ask my teen-aged children, they would tell you I am hard to please because of above list.

                      I think my husband would abstain on the vote. (Have been married a long time.)

                      Having said all of that, if I am out with a group, company and friends trump all!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pesto

                        What do you mean by #2? If you come in at the same time as 10 other tables, I think you have to expect that service will be slower than it would be if you came at a less busy time. #4 also depends on the type of restaurant. In a place where sharing is the norm, like a Chinese restaurant, I don't expect all the dishes to come out at the same time.

                        1. re: queencru

                          Yes of course these should be viewed within the context of the restaurant, time and amount of customers.

                          #4. For example, when 3 diners receive food in a party of 4, and the 4th is sitting there waiting.Does everyone wait and let food get cold? Eat while diner 4 sits there? Doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is unpleasant.

                      2. I'm a miserable self-righteous obnoxious selfish curmudgeon who goes out of his way to make life miserable for everyone – fellow guests, the kitchen staff, and especially the wait staff. Nothing is ever good enough; I always send my food back, then complain about portion sizes, and I never tip anything.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Don't be so mean, you mean old meanie.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            the only post that made me laugh, but seriously...it's not that I'm hard to please...it's that I'd like to be in the kitchen watching and learning..and for some reason most chefs don't want me in the way.

                            but, I keep asking!

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Sam, you could be the poster child for "The food was terrible ..... and the portions were so small"!

                            2. If I understand what you are asking, there is the social dining aspect of a meal and there is the Chowhound comment portion of a meal. As I eat, I note things to post later. This does not mean that I will spoil a meal for others by complaining repeatedly during a meal. If someone asks me how the food is I will be honest. If the waiter or maître d' asks me I may be much more measured in my response.
                              I remember a brother yelling at our, regrettably, lousy waiter. This did not help the mood at the table. Some of us wanted to slide under the table.
                              It also depends on your companions. Some want to discuss the food, the service, the atmosphere, the price, etc., ad nauseam. Some are really into discussing the nuances of the food and others just want to eat, and party, and some are even oblivious to the quality of the experience. Some want to see and be seen. I try to not let my criticisms negatively affect the meal for others. You shouldn't be complaining too much if you go to Denny's for a fast, cheap meal. It is what it is.
                              I rarely give waiters a hard time or send things back. This can hurt the mood at the table and throw the timing of dining and courses out of whack as others have to wait while your complaint is addressed. I think this is something you have to assess in the moment and decide how important it is and how it might affect others.

                              When I return to Chowhound it is a different story. Here I can be critical and objective. Reviews are not about how the party was gay, or the companions were fun. It is about the food, stupid!
                              I will have had time to reflect and even discuss it with my SO or others before I post. I do research and look up menus and history on the restaurant. Sometimes I even seek recipes, preparations and ethnic information for food I have had.
                              I want others to know what they might expect, good or bad. I tell it through my eyes and my palate and that is as good as I can do. Meals are rarely all bad or even 50% bad. YMMV, meaning "your mileage may vary". I think this is my way of saying that a restaurant can have an off night, be short-handed or have someone new or.... You could have a better or lesser quality meal than me, sitting on the other side of the table. The waiter might like you and not like me.
                              I also realize that even from the anonymity of the Internet, words can hurt. Still, do you omit negatives or just say nothing? I think not. These could indicate a pattern or trend of a restaurant becoming worse or better.
                              Lastly, some are more critical than others. I have a background in Engineering and quality control. I built instruments that people's lives depended on. I had a business for 18 years where I had to have a very critical eye and also I had to review up to 25 employee's work. I cannot just erase this aspect of my life. I can understand where some think me too harsh or picky. There is a common comment I see here: "Why should I be happy if they (the restaurant), cannot cook it as well as me? Some's expectations and experiences are different than others. YMMV.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Scargod

                                "I rarely give waiters a hard time or send things back. This can hurt the mood at the table and throw the timing of dining and courses out of whack as others have to wait while your complaint is addressed. I think this is something you have to assess in the moment and decide how important it is and how it might affect others."
                                ---------------------------------------
                                Thank you for eloquently stating what many diners miss. It really is the toute emsemble of the whole (as Peg Bracken called "everything") dining experience. Sometimes being dead right isn't worth the evening.

                                1. re: Sherri

                                  Very well said, with a crowd I rarely if never say anything unless I got a vodka tonic, vs a bourbon coke (ie), but rarely would complain. Alone or with a SO I may say something is it really was bad or drastically wrong, otherwise, agreed, Just grin and bear it to enjoy the night. I may however write a nice note indicating the problem and note that since I was with a large group I didn't want to say anything but noted the problems I experienced. Not being nasty or not asking for anything but a subtle indication that there was a problem. Sometimes that gets more attention then venting at the poor waiter/waitress or even the manager on hand that night.

                              2. Some days I feel like an ersatz judge from Top Chef or NFNS or something. And that's not necessarily comfortable. For me it's always a debate between my expectations, my hopes and whether or not I am being unreasonable.

                                My husband and I were out for dinner at a place we'd never been to before. My appetizer was wonderful. It was a pork belly on a marvelous kim chi and topped with a tempura oyster.

                                My entree, however, was a different story. It was a sauteed walleye pike with chippolini onions, fried leeks and dill cavatelli. the onions and pasta was excellent. I looked at the fish and saw that it was burned -- as in charred along all the edges. It was also under-seasoned and could have used a bit of simple s&p. I decided to not send it back just to be fussy and I proceeded to eat at much as I could.

                                The owner must have seen something about my face and he came over to ask me about it. I told him what I thought and he acknowledged that it was obviously burned. He offered me a new entree, which I declined, because I had already eaten most of it and then he comped the dish.

                                I'm never sure when to send a dish back because it doesn't meet my expectations or just grin and bear it --- it is what it is -- and not make a fuss. I would have no question if something tasted spoiled or under-cooked, but if a preparation doesn't delight me, I tend to just write it off.

                                1. I like to enjoy my eating out experiences. I enjoy the company and the opportunity for conversation. I like discussing the food we're eating. I try to to listen in to interesting gossip on the next table. Eating out is fun.

                                  That said, the more I eat out at the better quality of restaurant, the more critical I am of everywhere. This isnt really being critical about less good quality places but it is about poor value for money. And, more than anything, it is about when the place could and should do better.

                                  That said, it gives Mrs Harters and I even more to talk about. It also means that I've more to write about when I send a review to our Good Food Guide or when I post a review on a discussion board (sometimes Chowhound; usually a different site). So, even a bad meal has its good side.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Right there with you--nicely stated from beginning to end! :)

                                  2. I am easy to please as long as stuff is served as advertised, cooked as requested - med rare for example and service is polite and timely.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: rednyellow

                                      But sometimes things happen, so as long as they are your way you are happy but if things get screwed up and they apologize are you still ok with it. Restaurants don't work perfect all the time, very often they don't. You just don't see everything. Would you be foregiving?

                                      1. re: kchurchill5

                                        Of course mistakes happen, thats life. How they handle it makes all the difference in the world. I've even left a place happier than I expected because I felt like they really tried to make things right. I don't freak out over little things, but will over rude, or stupid behavior.

                                    2. pretty easy.
                                      i like to go early or really late so staff isn't stressed. i trend toward specialties and want to place the kitchen in the best light. i'll ask for wine recs and tend to go with them.
                                      at the end of the day, i want both the restaurant to succeed and my evening to succeed.
                                      it's a two-way street provided you choose wisely.

                                      1. If the food's delicious and brought to the table in the proper condition, I'm happy.

                                        1. Just read the postings about "Sauce", here in CT. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5245...
                                          I think this says volumes about how a good restaurant can perform poorly or have an off night. If the owner/manager is resting on their laurels the whole thing can go to pot.
                                          Personality sometimes has nothing to do with the glass sitting empty. I'm not lying... honest.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Scargod

                                            <<Personality sometimes has nothing to do with the glass sitting empty. I'm not lying... honest.>>

                                            Agree, and I know that about you. And I figured that out before I ever met you in person, which is why I read you. You are by no means a negative person, but a straight shooter and someone who, as a talented home cook, appreciates a good meal OUT. This may be part of why we've become good buddies.

                                            Some restaurants aren't worth the hype. Sauce is one example. My mom and I went when it was relatively new based on a fairly glowing review in The Hartford Courant and were beyond underimpressed--service, food, the whole enchilada.

                                            I understand restaurants can have an off night. I spent part of my growing-up years in my uncle's restaurant and, as such, have a better-than-average understanding of what goes on behind the scenes, what it's like to wait tables, tend bar, do dishes (yep, I did all of that before I was even old enough to work). But the bottom line (I think, anyway!) is this is a FOOD site. I get how it might be a drag to go out with friends casually who are never happy or complain constantly about a restaurant experience; HOWEVER, I don't think that's the same as going on Chowhound and writing a balanced, honest review of whatever you ate. I *appreciate* those reviews so much because I can't find them in the local paper anymore, and not everyone in my life is a Chowhound. Our local paper now prints some of the annoying "My meal was amazing!" comments (no details, just amazement, apparently) from what people post on the paper's website. UGH. Thank god for Chowhound and posters like you who take the time to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly--complete with pictures, no less, which are a PITA to download and post. I know, because I do it, too. Maybe one day we'll get a "he said/she said" restaurant review gig from all our "practicing" here. That or a cooking show. You in? :) XOXO, your food-lovin' friend, katwoman

                                          2. It totally depends on what I am paying for the meal. I've had some fabulous meals at dives that charged practically nothing...and was so very pleased. Left big tip. If I go to a top restaurant and the food is expensive, I expect top notch service and food.