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Jun 8, 2011 08:15 AM

If you owned your own restaurant...

- What would you serve?
- How would you decorate it?
- What kind of music would you play (if any)?
- How would you instruct your front of house staff to interact with patrons?

This has probably been discussed in the past, but I thought it kind of timely what with all the restaurant challenge/makeover/startup funding type shows out there.

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  1. My gold standard for restaurant dictatorship was the Star Top Cafe, a long-gone Chicago restaurant helmed by the late Michael Short. He played whatever music pleased him at the moment and if you complained -- he turned it up. Nobody walked out -- because the food was great.

    11 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      Nice. Reminds me of this documentary I watched the other day:

      1. re: inaplasticcup

        Next time I'm in New York, I'd love to eat at Shopsin's. I saw the documentary too, and his huge menu is fascinating, but I think my wife wouldn't be up for the experience at all.

        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          I think I'd be simultaneously fascinated and depressed by that experience...

          1. re: inaplasticcup

            I've eaten at Shopsin's a couple of times. Definitely one of the more interesting places I've been to. One thing to note is that they're not in the same location as they were in the documentary - they're now in a little space inside a big indoor market. But the food was really pretty good. And we didn't get too much attitude from Kenny or his family - they asked us if we could really finish everything we ordered and we definitely did!

          2. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

            A friend of mine went after seeing it mentioned on the Best Thin I Ever Ate. Aaron Sanchez was speaking about the Ebilskivers and my friend had to have them. He took his wife and little son. He said he had never been treated with such disrespect and while he is not a prude by any means, he felt that the second they saw a kid with his mother in the restaurant every other word was an F-bomb or something worse. He said, he was tempted to leave, but felt that was what the owner wanted. He said the food, while good, not great, wasn't worth the crappy atmosphere.

            1. re: jhopp217

              It looks a little suffocating in there from what I could see in the film... But sounds like he cusses all the time regardless who's there.

          3. re: inaplasticcup

            Star Top was trending toward the upscale, so there were always older guys in suits there and Grateful Dead music cranking in the background was a little offbeat.

            1. re: ferret

              i know plenty of suit wearing deadheads

        2. No Substitutions.
          No more than 2 vodkas, no fewer than 10 gins.
          Music and Menu subject to daily variations.
          Food & Drink at proper temperatures - No more too cold salad or beer. No more too hot wine.
          Wood-fired oven.

          If I'm doing it, then I'm just doing it for love of the sport.

          8 Replies
          1. re: MGZ

            +1 on all of the above except the gin part. GIN. :|

            1. re: inaplasticcup

              Why, inaplasticcup, gin is how we Suthunuhs stay so good lookin'. We are well pickled.

                1. re: Sue in Mt P

                  Well then hog-tie me, plug my nose with a clothespin, and pour a fith uh gin down mah gullet, Sue!!!

                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                    Okay dahlin'. Shall we retah to the veranda?

                    1. re: Sue in Mt P

                      Only if you promise to undo the hogtie...

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        Why of course-why wouldn't I? I do believe it's time fo' a cocktail......

                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                          "Only if you promise to undo the hogtie..."

                          Heck, I thought that was part of the charm... ?


              1. Food wise it would be a fusion of French, Mex, Hawaiian, Vietnamese..
                It would be tons of fresh seafood & veggies and I'd have my signature vegan patty melt..
                I'd serve Hinano beer from Tahiti on tap and have watermelon cocktails and great wine.
                Lots of fresh flowers everywhere in a casual elegance..
                Music would be a blend of Hawaiian, 70's, Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra and I'd have my drum set to entertain the guests when the mood strikes..or when I feel like playing the long version of Freebird..
                ; )

                13 Replies
                1. re: Beach Chick

                  These are great. I love reading about the very personal touches people would put in their restaurant.

                  Is Hinano a lager? And howzabout some tall Tikis for those watermelon cocktails? :)

                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    woah thats so all over the place I think youd be out of business in a month

                    1. re: kpaxonite

                      I should edit my OP to read that I hope responses will be as fanciful as you please. We are, after all, fantasizing here... :)

                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        well if I opened a restaurant I would serve one or two things perfectly executed rather than a little bit of everything

                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                            1- Medium rare bavette served with asparagus coated in sea salt and sesame oil, miniature baked potatoes coated in soy sauce paprika cayenne and balsamic vinegar, and depending on the season corn on the cob or roast cauliflower

                            2- Grilled octopus served with mashed potatoes and Caesar salad

                            3- Poutine with super fresh cheese curds

                            1. re: kpaxonite

                              'woah thats so all over the place I think youd be out of business in a month'

                              ; 0

                              1. re: kpaxonite

                                I would hate to be your sommelier.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  haha well wines are quite limited by the monopoly in Quebec (although private imports are possible) but I would go with Osoyoos Larose (from BC) for the bavettte ....and there are some excellent whites from the Niagara region

                      2. re: Beach Chick

                        Please share your signature vegan patty melt!

                        1. re: Windsor

                          Hey Windsor!
                          Rye bread with garden burger patty that is cooked in a skillet to brown up and cook first with some onions sauteed up with them and then build it up like a grilled cheese with buttered rye bread, cheese, garden burger, sauteed onions, another slice of swiss or cheddar (or you can use vegan cheese) and the other mate for the rye...grill that bad boy up and Viola, you have one of the best vegan patty melts..

                          I use some thousand island dressing to trailer park it up..
                          ; )

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            That sounds delicious, but in no way is it vegan. It's vegetarian. Vegans don't eat dairy.

                          2. re: Windsor

                            The burgers must be made from soy beans, harvested after Midnight, but only on the nights of the New Moon, so that they cast no shadows. Even cloudy nights would not suffice.


                        2. Can I post an addendum to your OP?:

                          - How much would you charge for X?
                          - How much would you pay your various employees?

                          (Those two questions are related, obviously)

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: DougRisk

                            Absolutely! Great questions. I'd add 'em myself if I could edit it. :/

                            1. re: DougRisk

                              As little as possible.

                              As much as possible.

                                  1. re: DougRisk

                                    As noted, I'd never do it for the money.

                                    1. re: MGZ

                                      Right, I sorta missed that.

                                      If I am being completely honest, my posts here should probably be ignored. Because, if I were a little meaner, I would attempt to thread-jack and get all posters to put forth there *realistic* fantasies, where things like costs and salaries (they would not need to be exact) would be included.

                                      1. re: DougRisk

                                        Why not start another thread? I think that's a worthwhile and very different discussion from this one which is more about the restaurant Utopia in our rich imaginations... Yours would be a much more practical and pragmatic discussion of the logistics of running the restaurant of your dreams. :)

                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                          I might. But, this thread should be allowed to run its course.

                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                              make your own eggs place; maybe with various staffed omelet stations with many stuffing options,i.e. seafood, veggies, sausages,bacon,pb&j,cheeses,herbs and a sides station w/ various breads and spreads, serving ever-flowing champagne and mimosas, coffee, tea,juices

                                        2. re: DougRisk

                                          I was offered the opportunity to open my own place a few years ago, basically just funding and faith in me. Ultimately, I declined. I realized that I didn't want my passion to become my business because eventually, my business would have to become my passion. And, that's no fun.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              The boyfriend and I had a like opportunity. Not funding, but an existing business on the cheap. I was working in the place prior to the offer, and I was not only a little burnt out, but really did not want to inherit a living restaurant, and then have to fight my way through the transition to make it my own. We have a decent chunk of change saved toward the thing, should we decide ever to do it, but I'm always thinking of how I was the one who dragged her heels, when push came to shove. I had damn good business reasons for doing so, regarding that particular place . . . but that wasn't why I suddenly became sleepless when it was a real possibility.

                                              It's fun to read these responses though. Good thread, inaplasticcup.

                                            2. re: DougRisk

                                              In my case, the two "Chef's Tastings" would run US $ 150 (6-course) and US$ 200 (10 - course), and the "Sommelier's pairings would be: US $ 50 for lower level for option 1, and US $ 100 for option 2. For the second tasting, they would cost US$ 75 for the first level, and US $ 150 for the latter. [See my post on the Chef's Tasting menus, elsewhere in this thread.]


                                    2. I've so thought about this so often. I do have a hard time focusing on menu items. Most people love Italian, its not my fave, but I'd make people happy with it. Through meeting many friends of different ethnicity, I have learned to cook their foods and I use my versions that suits my palate and strangely enough my family and friends all love it too. So the food would rotate with the season, and my mood. Upon coming in for your dinner reservation, I would love an area where it would be like stepping into an awesome lounge like area (not a bar) awesome sofas, pictures, and items that were interesting, like a world travelers lounge. Things that would peak their interest, maybe take a look at them out of curiosity. But dramatic, low lighting, and classy. Enjoying their cocktail while they wait. The music would be more interesting too, Natalie Cole, her dad, Japanese, Jazz, of course Frank Sinatra, etc, and easy listening. The staff would treat my customers with respect and kindness, friendly and be very prompt with fulfilling their requests for cocktails. I think they'd not mind waiting a little in that environment. I'd do anything to make their experience one they'd want to do over and over again. Oh and every one that worked there would have to be meticulous with hair, clean dress and the kitchen, all the dishes, wine glasses etc sparkling like stars. Well it might not appeal to everyone, but I appreciate these things when I go to nice restaurants. I don't tolerate snobbery - that's a deal breaker. If we are being kind, doing our best to take care of you, I would not let you come back.
                                      I have to say, I've eaten at some of the nicest restaurants and when you have people hanging out at the bar, leaning against the wall, it drags the restaurant down. Women are usually dressed to the 9's and in beautiful heels, and to stand for more than 10 minutes forget it. Or your forced to share a tall cocktail table with strangers that are drunk, and it just gets all distorted. So that's my dream, wish I had a few million dollars, I'd do it.

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        I think that, no matter the decor, the music, or the menu, a sincere desire to create a welcoming and appreciative environment for patrons always comes through (as does the lack of it).

                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                          That's very true, but I thought we were talking about our dream restaurant and this mine. I've been to very nice smaller restaurants that do an awesome job, but the food has changed, and people are making less money, the economy has really put a big wet blanket on everyone's restaurant business. If you haven't noticed the quality of the food or the portion reductions, well I sure have. Not an argument, even if I had the restaurant of my dreams probably no one could afford to come.

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            I think I didn't express myself very well. Because I meant to relay that your desire to create a pleasing and welcoming environment comes through overwhelmingly in your post. :)

                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                              Nah, no worries, I just had back surgery, I still hurt like heck and I am a biache today.
                                              But I really do know what you mean, I have my little fave taquerias (i can't spell today either.) All's good.

                                              I looked at your blog, dang. You and I could really swap some war stories, or what I really mean Horror stories. Sorry, I know exactly how you feel, 10 years later and I'm still p.o'd I married a stranger/liar/..I'll stop here. But looks like your coming back, good. Here's the deal - we've wasted all this time on hate, worry, etc. and they didn't give us 10 minutes of thought & just went on along their merry way.. Forget all that crap, look ahead and realize that you're only 40! Very beautiful and have a lot to offer. Your recipes looked pretty good. I have a sugar cookie recipe that I think you might like or your kids anyway. Yours looked good but I didn't see a recipe so that I could compare. I make friends and cook with people from a lot of different countries. I'm learning Japanese right now and it is so interesting, I now know some of those secrets why we can't get our food to taste like theirs...hmmm.

                                              So, stop thinking about all that bad stuff, it's bad for your body. And If you can take this advise and I mean it. I only wish you good fortune from now on, keep your blog lighter. You are a wordsmith and passionate, but why write or include anything about a dumb *&*)^/ It will come to you, just watch. He'll get his, believe me, I saw it HAPPEN. God does a much better job at getting even with those kind of people than we could ever think of., trust me. Might not be tomorrow, not next year, but it will. ; )

                                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                                Thanks, chicklet! What a thoughtful response to my blog. I am grateful.

                                                I would love your sugar cookie recipe. I'm looking for a specially good one that turns out a moister/softer cookie rather than crunchy, if you've got one of those.

                                                I appreciate your advice about letting go. And though it might seem contrary to what you're suggesting, I've actually found that posting about it is enabling me to release the negative feelings faster than the forget-/forgive-ness I've been manufacturing for the past few years.

                                                But if you'll work with my stubborn nature, let's do swap recipes and stories (we can keep it to the positive ones).

                                                And my guess about the Japanese food? Whale sperm. :P

                                                Sending good wishes for your recovery. :)

                                                1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                  omg you are a handful. I've posted it before, they are soft and I made them for favors last summer. My sons came over and told me that everyone said they were the best cookies they ever had. There are two recipes one with butter, and one with shortening, and the shortening ones are the ones that everyone loves. Got that secret from a secret little boutique bakery. Sorry but they're good, you don't have to eat the whole plate, that's my theory..

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                    I'll take both! :)

                                                    I wanted to let you know that I did take your advice to heart. I started the blog as a way to regroup myself from the fallout and in the process probably ended up writing a few very personal posts that are uncomfortable (or even inappropriate) reading for some. I think you'll be glad to know that the last very personal one was, for me, a real watershed post in terms of moving past the most difficult of the issues I was facing. I am lighter as a result, and hopefully that will be reflected in my content. :)

                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                      You look to be an excellent cook, after seeing some of your photos, and reading the recipes. That's where you possible could pull some real healing. Share it - literally, you'll make some pretty good friends and talk out some of the garbage.
                                                      Sorry, been at the doctors most of the day will post the sugar cookies or search here tomorrow. : )

                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                        Chicklet, thanks again for your kind and gentle reminder to stay positive and focused. I've done a lot more thinking about what you said and am in the process of designing a new blog where I can occasionally write off (food) topic for the cheap therapy it provides. Going to try to keep the rh blog as food focused as a nonfocused person can. :P

                                                        I know in my heart you're right that the Universe finds a way to balance things, often unbeknownst to us.

                                                        I'll look forward to the recipe at your convenience. Sorry you're having to spend so much time with the doc. :(

                                                      2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                        Thought I replied. The sugar cookie recipe, I'll get for your tomorrow. I spent a lot of time at the doctor, driving (without meds- no dui for me thanks) and I was worn out. The sugar cookie recipe is called the fast sugar, and the slow sugar. Basically the same except the butter and shortening. I sure wish I could search for older posts easier, but guess that would take some doing or a magician.

                                                        1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                          you know what? i'm *really* glad chicklet made those comments about your blog, because if she hadn't, i wouldn't have seen this exchange and might not have ever known to head on over and check it out for myself...and i have to say i think it's terrific - entertaining, articulate and genuine. sure, positivity is usually more beneficial to all of us, but i'm also a big fan of keeping it real so your honesty is refreshing. bravo :)

                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            Thank you so very much, ghg. I'm really honored you took the time to read, and the feedback I've gotten from you, chicklet, onceadaylily and Phurstluv has given me the just the encouragement I needed at a point I was starting to doubt my progress . I am so grateful, and I hope you'll continue to find it a worthwhile read from time to time. I'm really tryin'... :)

                                                            1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                              you're quite welcome. and if you keep writing, i'll keep reading.