HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Good food & Bad restaurant

A question to the church. This comes out of a decsion concerning Restaurant Impossible on another board.

If a restaurant had really great food but;
1- was in a bad area or
2- Didn't have the best service or
3- Didn't have the best appearance

Would you still eat there?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Sure. if the 'bad' thing wasn't overwhelming, sure. While not alone, for me food is the most important part of a restaurant's profile.

    1. As long as "appearance" didn't include being filthy, I would go to a restaurant that had great food but otherwise problematic....but it would have to be within walking distance of my house.

      1. Sure. Boston Hounds know that Southeast Asian Restaurant in Lowell, MA, has great food and all three of your undesirables. Last time I was there we sat at the window, right below the bullet-hole with the Scotch tape over the glass. Best Pad Thai ever. As for vermin, out of sight, out of mind. But if I see any critters, I won't return.

        1. As long as it is not dirty.

          1. Yes.

            1 - Not like I'm living there.
            2 - So it's a no/low tip. As long as the food gets to the table yummy.
            3 - It just becomes a "casual" place.

            1. Been there and done that, both in the USA and abroad.

              For many years there was an Italian restaurant in New Haven called Leon's on the corner of Washington Avenue and Daggett streets. The neighborhood had gone to hell. The food was still wonderful. They built a high wall around the parking lot, you pulled in, the valket took your car and you hurried inside quickly, feeling secure.
              Park on the street and use the street entrance? NOT A CHANCE, drug wars and bullets flying in the early 80s.
              Leon's later moved to suburbs and didn't survive. A family member reincarnated it on the Harbor a few years ago, but it is mediocre at best.

              Most patrons happily wait hours for a table at Sally's or Pepe's in New Haven, the service for non-special patrons may me gruff and lacking, but the apizza definitely worth it.

              1. Appearance and area woudl be irrelevent to me.

                I usually go to places where service is not "the best". It's implicit in the word that only a comparitive few places are "best". But "poor" service is likely to be a deterrent to me going back to a place. Of course, definitions of "best" and "poor" are individual matters of how we all see these things.

                1. I would. Like others have said, as long as didn't appear to be dirty.

                  We have a small breakfast / lunch spot near our house that is not "pretty". We drove by for years, never thinking to stop in. Instead we opted on the big "landmark" diner directly across the street.
                  One day, tired of the usual, we tried it. We've been regulars since. The tables wobble. the curtains are old, but the service is friendly and the food is great. The prices are terrific as well.

                  1. I thought the charter of this website would imply the answer is automatically "yes".

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: dump123456789

                      I didn't sign onto that charter. Did you?

                      And to answer the OP's question, I don't mind a little ugliness or rough service, but a dangerous neighborhood is a deal-breaker for me. There is lots of good food in this world, so I don't need to risk my life to find it.

                      1. re: Isolda

                        Chowhound Manifesto

                        Everyone has one in his life: the brother-in-law with a collection of 800 takeout menus, the co-worker who's late from lunch because she HAD to trek to one end of town for soup and to the other for a sandwich. Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice.

                        We're not talking about foodies. Foodies eat where they're told. Chowhounds blaze trails. They comb through neighborhoods for culinary treasure. They despise hype. And while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can't be fooled by flash.

                        No media outlets serve Chowhounds. They've never had a place to gather and exchange information. This discerning, passionate crowd has long been completely invisible and utterly disenfranchised... until now.

                        If you, too, fret endlessly about making every bite count; if you'd grow weak from hunger rather than willingly eat something less than delicious, this place is for you! Welcome to our community. Let's talk. Let's swap tips.

                        You needn't be an expert to participate. If you're less food-obsessed than the rest of us, but have a yen for egg creams, gazpacho, or Quisp Cereal, let the resident hounds guide you to the best stuff. Follow (and chime in on) the rollicking discussion -- featuring thousands of messages from characters all over the world.

                        1. re: dump123456789

                          You only have to read Chowhound for a couple of days or so (or even just this thread), to realise how much complete tosh that "Manifesto" is. The vast majority of posters are like me - living in the real world.

                          1. re: Harters

                            It's lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek - that's the point. "Manifesto" alone should give it away. I think this taps into something for the whole site - It's just food, let's not take ourselves so seriously. I mean, at the end of the day, this isn't the real world. It's a bunch of dorks arguing about whether a martini should have three parts vermouth or two.

                            And, to the OP, I always have before and I'm not gonna stop now.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              MGZ - the problem with Chowhound comes when it is taken seriously by some posters.


                        2. re: Isolda

                          I did. I assumed everyone else at least read it first. I mean that's what we do here -read carefully first, then respond, right?

                          1. re: MGZ

                            I came to this site because I love good food. I don't worship it, follow it, or seek to blaze trails for it. I just like reading about it for good ideas. Most of all, I like cooking and eating it.

                      2. It's called a "hole-in-the-wall"....eat at them all the time.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: monku

                          Gotta love the hole in the wall restaurant where the food is the thing. I've eaten in places where the food is eye-rollingly, orgasmically, slap-your-mama good, but the ambiance was awful. Hubby is the ambiance guy, and not a food person. Me? Just the opposite. Occasionally I've taken him to some places where the food is so good even HE can overlook the decor. The best part about the hole in the wall with great chow? The prices are reasonable. My kinda place.

                          1. re: sancan

                            My dad told me a long time ago "you can't eat ambiance".

                            1. re: monku

                              Oh, can we please trade parents temporarily? Just for a few meals? My parents don't love food. They love views. Views are expensive and frequently accomplanied by mediocre to bad cooking, usually of the seafood variety.

                              Whenever I visit them (Seattle area), I am guaranteed to have to eat at least one $45 piece of salmon or plate of crabs on Lake Union or Puget Sound.

                        2. A bad area would affect things. If I can't get to the restaurant safely (and I don't own a car, so I"m taking pubic transit) then I won't go. Good food isn't worth that risk.

                          Appearance isn't a big consideration, as long as the food is sanitary. Scruffy holes in the wall with fantastic food are a big favourite of mine, and are often great value for the money.

                          Bad service depends. If the place is cheap and has fantastic food, I'll be mroe willing to put up with indifferent service. If the service is truly bad (it takes forever to get food, the order turns out to be wrong, and the staff is rude when you point it out) I can do without even fantastic food. If the place is expensive, then I expect the service to be part of the package I"m paying for. Basically, if the bad service interferes with my enjoyment of the food, I'll go somewhere else.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                            A bad area would affect things
                            You're missing out, that's where most hole-in-the-wall gems are going to be found.
                            It's also part of the experience.

                            1. re: monku

                              There is certainly different degrees of bad areas... My office is in a "bad" area that is nothing of the sort, but gets a bad wrap.. Where as a couple places up the road I would never venture to get food, no matter how tasty.

                              Pizza Delivery guy gets robbed at least twice a week.. and thats Dominos imagine somethign good hahah

                              1. re: monku

                                There are different sorts of "bad." Bad can simply mean poor and decrepit, which is fine, or it can mean "people get shot here," which is not.

                                1. re: Isolda

                                  Exactly. For a disheartening number of people, "bad neighborhood" means "the people I see there don't look like me."

                                  In San Francisco, the canonical example of the place the OP described is Tu Lan. There's no argument about how awful the neighborhood is, or that it's a dive. The only arguments are whether the food is actually that great or whether it's (1) coasting on a reputation garnered more than 25 years ago when there were fewer Vietnamese restaurants in the city, or (2) attracting people based on reverse chic.

                                  1. re: Isolda

                                    There are different sorts of "bad."
                                    That's correct.
                                    I've been to three different Chinese restaurants in decent areas of LA where there have been shootings "in" the restaurant.

                                    If I go to a "poor and decrepit" area, I go only during the day time and aware of my surroundings and don't look like I've got $$$ signs on my back.

                                    There are robberies and shootings in areas you wouldn't beleive, if you knew you'd never leave your home.

                                    1. re: monku

                                      We live in the burbs and most would think very safe, BUT we ate in a Chinese place with our kids(that we frequently ate in) and a few minutes after we left, a "gang" held the place up shooting into the ceiling and robbed all the patrons at gun point. This was on a busy Friday night. Word was, it was to scare the owner into paying money but she packed up and left. You never know what will happen. I will go just about anywhere unless there is a very high crime rate. You just have to be very aware.

                                  2. re: monku

                                    If getting mugged, having to have someone escort me home, having to dash into a 24 hour convenience store to phone someone to come get me because I'm being followed by a creepy guy who is making inappropriate comments, or having to repeatedly explain that no, I'm not going to have sex with someone for money is part of the experience of good food, I can do without it.

                                    Decrepit looking areas with people who don't look like me aren't a problem. It's a minimum 10 hour plane flight to find a neighbourhood filled with people who look like me anyways.

                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                      Yes, there are some limitations.
                                      There are many places I go and I'm the only Asian person there.

                                2. of course... they're the best value... plus most of the time, they keep out the riff raff... i.e. money diners... unfortunately they don't have the same effect on bobo's.

                                  1. I know the popular answer on this board would be automatically YES... However, bad service can really effect how I enjoy my meal. THis could be personal defect on my end, but if service is bad I cannot enjoy my meal. I am not talking slow service, I am talking bad

                                    Take out was been my solution to the above issues.

                                    1. 1-3 don't bother me. Call me a lush, but my only hang-up is the lack of a liquor license, which means that I consider many holes in the wall lunch-only zones.

                                      3 Replies
                                        1. re: yumyum

                                          You would know.

                                          That adorable but IIRC short-lived place in Chinatown, the one with the head-on quail—I think it was quail?—where they let us have wine under the table being a fine exception to the rule.

                                        2. re: tatamagouche

                                          I will say I have not returned to some places for lack of any variety..... there is a small bar/rest that has decent food but such a weak list of beers / liquor I just can't find myself to keep going there

                                        3. 1. "Bad area" is a pretty subjective term. There are certainly some streets in my own city I wouldn't feel comfortable walking down alone at night, and there are people who aren't comfortable in my neighborhood. So that gets a "it depends". Not having a car, for me, a "bad area" is more likely to be one that's inconvenient to get to.

                                          2. I am fine with not having the best service. Flat-out bad service is another thing.

                                          3. Appearance definitely matters least to me. I can appreciate it when it's good, but don't miss it at all if the food and service impress me.

                                          1. just had this experience over the weekend!

                                            went to a wine bar & the food was goooood. i had a great piece of chilean sea bass and salad but the server was a total jerk. he gave us a hard time (i didnt put the dirty forks on the table), seemed annoyd anytime we called him over, was rude & short the entire meal, no checking in on us & when we payed the check - he grabbed it from us and muttered thanks as he was already running away checking his tip.

                                            bottom line, not going back thanks.

                                            while food is the main component, it is not the only one. i want a good MEAL not just good food. good food i can make at home :)

                                            1. Chez Julien is in what's now (or was in '91, at least) a kinda bad part of Paris. When we were leaving the manager called a cab for us; the cab operator said they could not pick up four passengers, but only three. The manager informed him that they WOULD pick up four, or else forget about getting called again. Found out later that a Paris cab officially holds just four persons, including the driver, but the restaurant manager was not going to let us walk.

                                              So, yeah. Out here in LaLaLand there aren't many good places to eat in truly shaky parts of town. That's excepting holdouts such as Langer's, home of the world's greatest pastrami and across from what was until recently Drug Dealer Central, which is why Langer's quit being open around the clock. Now they open at 7 and close at 4 … but I do go there.

                                              As for the other "problems", such as shabbiness and sloppy service, I guess I'm more tolerant than most folks because I feel right at home in some places I've read scathing reviews of, based on some perceived hygiene issues. A genuinely old smalltown cafe, complete with staff that seems to have been there since before WW1, is my idea of a good time if the food's still good, even if the windows are dingy and the toothless waitress keeps forgetting your toast before it gets cold. Real filth and genuine rudeness are another thing entirely, and I refuse to believe that good food is impossible in such places.

                                              1. I constantly seek out places like this.

                                                1. I don't usually go to restaurants in neighborhoods where my safety is in question. I will, however, eat at restaurants with terrible service or don't have "the best appearance." I often go to restaurants where I barely speak the same language. Come to think of it, that makes up about half the restaurants I frequent.

                                                  1. I've been reconsidering the bad service part of this question. If it's a fairly cheap place I really don't expect much in the way of service. But if I'm putting down serious cash, I want it all to be a pleasant experience so incompetent service maybe, nasty service, forget it.

                                                    1. Yes, if:

                                                      - it's still accessible by transit and not actually dangerous;
                                                      - the service isn't rude or downright careless (ie, about food allergies), just spotty;
                                                      - it's not dirty.

                                                      There are too many good, pleasant restaurants nearby to waste my time and money on a place that fails to meet even basic criteria.