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When you just don't get why everyone else raves about a restaurant

I can feel truly baffled when a restaurant at which I've had poor food or service on several visits is lauded as a terrific place by almost eveyone else.

There is a local Italian place that has okay food and the most unpleasant hostesses we've ever met. We've gone and stood for 10 minutes while the hostesses gabbed and left us waiting without so much as a "be with you in a minute". Yet the reviews and raptures for this place are effusive in their praise of the food, serivce, ambience, etc.

Why don't we have that "amazing", "superb", "boffo" experience so many others have? We're nice people. We like pasta. Yet this kind of disconnect has us wondering if we are from different planet than our neighbors and community.

Maybe we eat better than most people and just didn't realize it. We're not so old as to be from a more formal, genteel generation yet we expect to be treated politely and professionally.

Have you ever encountered this?

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  1. Yes, I've usually encountered this in places that serve huge portions--there's a whole crowd that loves places just because they give you a lot of food, forget anything else.

    1. Yes.

      There is a very popular, established restaurant in my area. It has been in business two or three generations and the food really is quite good but the hostess/owner is a complete and total bit@h.

      For years, I thought it was just us but have come to learn she is nasty to many people. This is not a cheap place either, it is at the high end of the price range and people travel from far and wide to visit.

      We continue to visit a couple of times a year because the food is consistantly good and our friends like it. The hostess/owner's behavior has become a joke between us.

      1. I usually experience this with high end chains. I'll go at the request of friends who really seem to soak up the see and be seen atmosphere, 20 dollar drinks and unusually attractive waitstaff. And since I'm at a place in my life where none of those things serves any purpose for me, I'd rather spend my dining out dollars at a place where the focus is on the food and an atmosphere conducive to the enjoyment of it.

        Different strokes, I guess. :)

        1. On the subject, it's important to distinguish between the truly baffling (you can't understand what's going on) and understandable differences (You understand why someone else likes it, but don't agree).

          In the case of the hostess, my first guess would be that the reviewers just aren't all that experienced. If you've eaten nothing but McDonald's, Burger King and frozen grocery patty burgers all your life and a 5 Guys moves in, you're going to think 5G has the best burger in the world. Same with service. For those that haven't experienced truly outstanding service, a mediocre one may seen like the norm/pinnacle.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ediblover

            Yeah, differing expectations and experience can make a big difference. If you have no idea what authentic Thai food tastes like, you may rave about a mediocre Thai restaurant because it's new to you, and you don't know how much better it gets. And if you're used to getting fast food from surly teenagers, a restaurant where they refill your water glass unasked comes as a pleasant surprise. And someone who values ambience, or portion size, or cheapness, over quality food will have very different favourites than most people on this board.

            The restaurant chain that baffles me is Cheesecake Factory. The food's not bad, but it's nothing particularly special, and comes in portions that could feed a small family for a week. The one I used to live near didn't take reservations, and wouldn't add you to the list until your whole party was there, at which point you generally spent an hour standing on the sidewalk in SoCal heat until you got in. And some people just loved the place - I never got it. In the time it took to get into the restaurant and get your food, I could make something at home that tasted better and was healthier.

            The other one that confuses me is the generic Chinese buffet. It's all you can eat and cheap, sure, but the food is generally seriously sub par. And a good portion of the food is about as Chinese as I am.

            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              ...exactly why I avoid Chinese buffets. There's one notable exception near us -- there's a steady stream of refills being brought from the kitchen during the meal service, so things are hot and fresh most of the time, but yes -- most of the time all-you-can-eat buffets are a study in mediocre, lukewarm stuff to just fill a hole when you're broke and starving.

              1. re: sunshine842

                Whoa, "Chinese buffet," like McDonald's Burger King, Coco's, and a "jab in the eye with a sharp stick," all carry about the same weight, and the same warnings.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Haven't been in a BK in eons, have no idea what Coco's is, and McD here in Europe can actually manage "not too bad" on occasion.

                  Haven't paid money for a poke in the eye with a sharp stick lately (nor tried to munch on one)

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    With that group, you are not missing anything, though my last experience with any probably goes back 30 years. Maybe they ARE better now, but somehow, I just cannot imagine it.

                    Hunt

          2. YES! I don't talk too much about that to the people that love the place. There's a restaurant that I HATE and most people love. It's not even Thai food even though it calls itself Thai food. BLEH!!! Terrible service. Big portions. Inauthentic, some places just pour sugar over Chinese food and then call it Thai but that doesn't make it Thai. But everyone thinks it's the best thing ever. I do think this is because people are not very educated about the food there and that it is the portions they love.