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How to suggest another restaurant?

I'm meeting up with an old friend for dinner while I'm temporarily living in SF for the next few months. My original suggestion to meet in Napa, halfway for both of us plus several good restaurant possibilities. But she said she was happy to drive all the way to SF.

We've had a quick back and forth e-mail exchange regarding the restaurant. I told her I enjoyed good food and don't mind the type of cuisine and asked about her preferences. I guess we have different ideas of what constitutes good food as her response was to suggest we meet at an asian grocery store/shopping plaza in Richmond and eat inside there.

I'll be honest, I hate that idea. I was looking forward to an evening of catching up with my friend in a nice restaurant serving good food. Instead, I've now got this mental image of us sitting on some plastic chairs eating with plastic utensils as we're surrounded by hordes of Asian grocery shoppers.

My friend's e-mail ended with "What do you think?" So unless this asian grocery store plaza has an amazing restaurant (SF CHers could enlighten me here?), I need advice on how I should reply so I can suggest someplace else without offending her/implying that her suggestion is rubbish.

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  1. maybe the food plaza suits her budget? Or she doesn't know anywhere else in that area and it's a good landmark for her.
    She's asked for your opinion so give it! - but with a solid suggestion.

    1. You told her you don't mind the type of cuisine, which essentially let her pick, and probably gave the impression that you are ok going just about anywhere. If you had something in mind, that really was your time to suggest it.

      You probably shouldn't dismiss her idea based solely on what you think the place might be like, you have no idea at this point. You could just ask about the busy atmosphere from the viewpoint of wanting to catch up (aka being able to hear and not be overly distracted).

      The more you discuss and go back and forth on this though, you're making it more about the food / restaurant than you are about catching up with an old friend, which is really the point.

      1. a few thoughts in no particular order:

        a) the best way to say anything to a friend is honestly and directly.

        b) why do you assume her suggestion is rubbish, without having experienced the place first? maybe the food is amazing.

        c) what matters more, your friend or the food?

        d)it seems you left it entirely in her hands with no suggestions. if you had opinions they should have been stated at the outset

        1. You'll be able to talk and catch up without a bunch of formalities in the ordering, table decor or pressure of expense.

          You may also find a good place for snacks and groceries while living there temporarily.

          Do it.

          1. Do you have time before your dinner outing to go and check out the place she suggested? Or is it imminent? That's what I'd do.

            1. I can think of several really good restaurants and eating places in Asian shopping plazas in Richmond. including some sit down places, and indeed, some of them have some of the best food in the Richmond area (which is a convienent meeting place for someone coming from the north or northwest). plus you have an opportunity to shop.

              I'd post the name of the plaza on the SF Board and ask for specific recommendations in it and near it. You might be quite pleasantly surprised. Unlike some of the other posters on this thread, I suspect you can make it both about catching up and about the food, without having to suggest an alternative elsewhere

              1 Reply
              1. I would absolutely suggest something else. Regardless of how good the food might be at the shopping mart, it doesn't provide the atmosphere that you envisioned for catching up. Find a nice restaurant that better fits the bill. It doesn't have to be expensive, but at least you get a table and chairs, silverware, and service.

                3 Replies
                1. re: nedh

                  But why must it be the OP's "atmosphere that you envisioned for catching up?" Why can't it be the OP's friend's vision? What if the shoe were on the other foot and the OP suggested something more to her own liking and her friend went on some kind if web board and posted her reservations about what the OP suggested? Neither of them have a right or wrong suggestion; they both have their own ideas of what constitutes dinner and catching up. The bottom line is that they have to discuss this; no advice from us can help them.

                  1. re: nedh

                    I have the opposite take on this. If I'm planning to sit and catch up with a friend for several hours, I would want to be in a more casual setting than a nice restaurant. I don't want to be taking up a table where the restaurant is expecting to turn it a couple times that evening.

                    In a casual setting such as described by the OP, I would feel that I could linger for as long as I want. I could get up and order more food or drink if needed.

                    1. re: nedh

                      as I said in my post above, several Asian shopping plazas in and around Richmond, California do in fact have restaurants with tables and chairs, silverware and service (and even IIRC, tablecloths). I really think the hound should explore those options rather than assuming that the two are mutually exclusive.

                    2. You told your friend upfront you were fine with any type of cuisine, not that you were fine with any environment. Since your hesitation now is based on the latter, not the former, I see no reason why you shouldn't ask her if the atmosphere at the mall might not be private/quiet/special enough for your getting reacquainted.

                      1. I've had some wonderful "catching up" opportunities within Asian shopping centers; completely sit-down affairs with attentive service and great tea. If you're concerned about ambient noise or distractions, ask your friend what her experience has been. Perhaps you could counter with one or two budget-friendly options with the sort of atmosphere you were seeking?

                        1. If you really don't want to go there and you're willing, you can tell her that since she's doing all of the driving, you'd like to treat her to a nice dinner somewhere to celebrate the occasion of catching up.

                          Maybe you can still go to the market to walk around and shop before or after dinner.

                          1. This may sound complicated, but the best way to suggest another restaurant is to suggest another restaurant.

                            1. rworange tends to do his research pretty thoroughly and I'd have no problem trying this place:


                              1 Reply
                              1. Friend wants to do some grocery shopping at the Asian supermarket which is why she picked the place - she doesn't have an idea of where to eat and was just planning on picking someplace random after she was done. I wanted to have a nice Sat night dinner with my friend, not feel like I'm being sandwiched in between her errands. We both have multiple dates available to meet up so it's not like this was the only time she had open. Budget is not a concern on either side. I've not read anything on the SF Chowhound board about great restaurants in Richmond so if there are places, then please post about them!

                                I'm in the Bay area temporarily and my friend knows this, so I think I'll use that as an excuse to suggest we go to a specific restaurant that CHers have recommended. There are still loads of those places I want to try, including several options in Berkeley so I'll throw those out and see what she says.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: SeoulQueen

                                  For starters, there is the Saigon Seafood Harbor by the Ranch 99 in Richmond, (which is where I am guessing she wants to shop). Here are the reports from the recent Chinese New Year's Banquet a big group of Chowhounds had there:


                                  Definitely CH recommended.

                                  I assume you know that Berkeley is further from her than Richmond, if Napa was halfway in between you. Based on that, I'd cut her some slack, particularly if she has chosen the location in part because she wants to take advantage of the Ranch 99 or similar while she is in town. I certainly would in her shoes. Sounds like she is a hound also!

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    When reading the OP, my first thought was exactly this and suggest often as I live in Napa and offer to meet friend from San Francisco; meet at 99 Ranch and eat at one of the MANY great restaurants within the center, several of which are quiet with tableclothes and a great place to catch-up.

                                    I think the OP would be pleasantly surprised if s/he queries a little deeper about what the OP has in mind.

                                    1. re: CarrieWas218

                                      i kind of agree. but also, the OP and his/her friend seem to have different tastes/sensibilities, but i think the OP would enjoy the Richmond mall, even though it is not the atmosphere he/she is looking for. If the friend knows the mall well, she can pick a good place. i've been in there at least a dozen times, but only eaten there twice and once was a fail (can't even remember the place.) if the OP knows the friend is really into food then he/she should try it. if the friend is not, and the OP knows she is just looking for something convenient/cheap, then the OP should assert his/her own choices.

                                  2. re: SeoulQueen

                                    Let us know how it works out SeoulQueen. Sounds like the kind of dilemma I'd get myself into. Since it's going to be on saturday night, having to make a reservation at a nice place beforehand might work in your favor.

                                  3. This is an easy one - tell her the truth!! Ask her what type of places there are to eat at the shopping plaza, and if she says there's a great foodhall/formica table Chinese place/Thai food hole-in-the wall, then tell her exactly what you've posted above - that you pictured a nice catch-up with her in a quiet place where you get to be pampered by good service and nice food as a treat. Then ask her if that is okay with her budget-wise. If you phrase it like that and put lots of smiley faces in the reply, she'll understand that you aren't rubbishing her idea - you just had something different in mind.
                                    Why don't people just talk to each other? My friends and I always do this when we eat out - someone makes a suggestion and if other people aren't happy with it we tell the person why. No-one takes it personally because eating is so subjective. It's called communication!! :-D

                                    1. First I would double check on what the shoping plaza really is offereing. Also if your friend has some personal attachment on chosing this place, just leave it go...

                                      What I will sometimes do is bring up a "phantom" review... For example.., "Hey I hear that "this place" was really good and I been watnign to try it ...