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How many tries do you give a restaurant?

I read comments on the boards like "we went when they first opened and plan to try again in a few weeks..."

How many times would you give a place before deciding it wasn't worth it? How about if the establishment is new? How long would you wait before trying again?

Are there places that have a dish you love but hate everything else about the place but you still go?

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  1. Depends on my expectations and the egregiousness of the experience. We had a favorite Italian place that went above and beyond in all our visits over a few year period (over a dozen times). We then had two experiences within a 2-month period that were awful, both with respect to service and food prep. Had we not experienced the good visits we would not have given them a second chance. Needless to say we've never been back.

    1. For a new place, It really depends how egregious the errors are and to some extent, how convenient it is to me (I'm much more apt to give a neighborhood place another shot as opposed to a place that takes an hour to get to on the subway).

      If my complaints are along the lines of "oversalted" or "lukewarm" or "kind of overcooked", I might give that another shot and see if the kitchen works out the kinks. Ditto slow or spotty service. But if I straight up don't like my meal at all or don't think they use quality ingredients, then I tend not to bother with a second try unless I read about significant improvement.

        1. re: arktos

          There's got to be a thousand restaurants within a kilometer of my current location, and I have a large queue of places I've been meaning to try. So why put up with any failure?

          1. re: arktos

            I agree. One strike and you're out. I like to see good restaurants succeed, thrive and prosper, and by that I mean good food--at any price point. If you can't do that, get out of the way before you lose any more money and I waste any more of mine.

            1. re: arktos

              If I try a restaurant and the food falls short, I'm not going back.

              However, if I try a 'young' restaurant and the food is good but the service is a mess, I will usually give them a second chance because I am still hoping they'll fix that. I might feel the same if a few dishes were excellent but others weren't. But just bad food? I would never give that a second chance.

              1. re: Adrienne

                ' I will usually give them a second chance because I am still hoping they'll fix that'

                I can agree with that. Young eating establishments usually have 'teething' issues; that's why when they open, I'll wait about 6-8 months before I try them out. But If they don't have their act together by then, they probably never will.. hence, the 1-strike rule.

            2. In theory I think a restaurant deserves at least two tries, but it's really hard for me to go back somewhere if I think I'm going to be throwing my money away a second time. If I can eat for less than $40 or it's really convenient, I'll give it another shot or two, but if I pay $100 for dinner for two and it's terrible that's probably the end of it.

              1. There are many, many people who love a place because they know the waitstaff and proprietor, consider them friends, repeatedly frequent the place, despite the food. There's a place in town that has so many ecstatic yelp reviews that they serve "the best pizza in town..." - hardly.

                I think chowhounds probably think differently, the opposite almost. I can tolerate bad service because the waiter is new, but I go for the food.

                1. I'll give a place two chances.
                  If I have had a bad experience I won't even go back to the restaurant if they change owners and rename the place but keep the same "theme", seafood, Mexican etc..
                  I know that's not logical, go figure?

                  1. It really depends on the restaurant and whether the chef and management have prior experience, or if they are transitioning to a different genre from another.

                    I have noticed that with Chinese restaurants in my area, the golden rule is wait at least 6 to 9 months for them to fully ramp up, and I dub this "Chinese Restaurant Grand Opening Syndrome". There is a strong desire culturally for many to try spanking new places, but in these certain cases most tend to leave with disappointment. And this curse seems to hit every establishment in that area with one exception where one establishment pretty much hit the ground running (a major anomaly). Part of it the curse lies with execution and the other part is offering perhaps too much variety (ie everything looks good but you don't know what the strengths of the kitchen are....yet).

                    If I see three dishes or items on the menu in different categories (or subcategories) that could be used as a benchmark or taste test, that would be three visits of solo dining (unless I go with friends or family). That's assuming the place is affordable.

                    Otherwise it's braving the crapshoot, go by instincts, or do some due diligence and research before going to a restaurant I've never been before.

                    1. Twice usually. You always hope things improve.

                      1. It depends on the type of restaurant it is, for me. For example, if its an inexpensive Indian joint where we get take out, we might give it a second try (especially if some of what we ordered was OK and some was bad). But if it's an "expensive" place (for us, say more than $100 for a dinner out) then they only get one shot. We don't have enough money to be re-patronizing places that serve expensive, mediocre food -- especially when there are so many places in our city that we have yet to try.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: anakalia

                          I agree - it's about context. If you go to a Michelin starred place (or equally pricey establishment) and it's not up to scratch then they definitely shouldn't have another chance. If it's my local curry house, then I would go back.

                          But then it also depends on what constitutes 'bad' - our local Vietnamese restaurants and Chinatown have notoriously bad/rude service, but this is forgiven because of the quality of the food - I forgive them, others may not.

                          1. re: anakalia

                            I completely agree. I expect a high end restaurant to have it together, and won't be returning to spend my money there if I have a bad experience.

                            I think it's also about the level of error -- was something left to sit a bit too long on the pass before being brought out, or was it something that was frozen and then zapped back to life? I'll give some basic errors a second chance. I never go back to a place where the food is just terrible.

                          2. If it's my first visit and I don't like it, I have to hear several good reviews before i'll go there again. If I've gone there many times and they have an off night, I'll chalk it up to an off night.

                            1. If the food is bad I generally won't go back unless there's some convincing evidence to change my mind. If the food is good and the service bad, I'll go back again, but if the service is bad twice, I'll probably skip it.

                              Where I am now, finding restaurants is not a problem, with the exception of some specific types of cuisines. So if I don't like that place, I can walk five minutes and try another one.

                              1. Depends.

                                We enjoy visiting different places so don't often return to very many. For most, one "not very good" experience is enough for us to know we're never going back. On the other hand, we've been to this local bistro place about four times. It's not at all good, but it's one of the few places near enough to walk to. Oh, and it's cheap.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Harters

                                  There used to be a Mexican restaurant near my last house that filled that bill perfectly, Harters. It was okay, cheap, and close. Sometimes that's a good draw, when it's late and you're hungry.

                                2. Usually at least 2 times before I decide a "bad" place is not worth it.
                                  But first impressions die hard, so if I have a really bad experience the first time round, it'll certainly take quite an effort to go back.

                                  1. Depends.

                                    If I went to the Thai place down the street from my house and had a bad experience I would most definately go back. It is a place I go to all the time, see it as a good value, and convenient. It would take a long string of bad experiences for me to stop going there.

                                    On the other hand...if I go to a "destination" restaurant where I need to make reservations days in advance and possibly a hotel reservation, they are on a much shorter leash. There are too many options in Portland, OR for me to go back to a place that may have had an "off night".

                                    1. Mostly Once....Sometimes twice.

                                      1. Unfortunately for us, where we live, it's sort of a "beggars can't be choosy" situation unless we want to drive an hour or so to get to an area of the city that is flush with restaurants.

                                        If we were to get a new, nice, restaurant close-by (not a chain or fast food), first I'd faint, then when revived give it several chances if the food were at least *good*.

                                        We have one "Authentic Italian" restaurant just blocks from us, but we won't eat there because they use horrible processed stuff... nothing fresh, do not even spell "antipasti" correctly, and the waitstaff are all teenyboppers that can't get anything straight. We haven't been back to this place after just a couple of tries, in spite of its convenience, because we know the quality is never going to improve. It's not expensive, as the 3 of us can eat there for ~$50, but it's not even worth that even with our lack of choices.

                                        We usually spend ~$100 for our weekly dining out and I do expect at least a minimum level of quality and service.

                                        1. New place - bad service, give another try, bad food, never again
                                          Place we've been to and have enjoyed - either bad service or bad food, we'll still give it another try, if the experience is the same, we won't go back unless we hear from people we know and trust that things have changed

                                          there's a Thai restaurant near us, the service was HORRIBLE and most of the dishes were "meh" but they had the most awesome "moon dumplings" as an appetizer... we'd go and get those ane one or two other things, (their yellow curry was pretty good)
                                          then they took the moon dumplings off the menu... no point in going there at all anymore

                                          1. I am willing to give a restaurant the benefit of the doubt if it is inexpensive and within walking distance of my apartment or office. That said, it's rare that a subsequent visit does much to change my opinion.

                                            If real money or real effort is met with disappointment, I'm not going to bother with a second visit. This city has far too many restaurants for me to be able to justify wasting time on the bad ones.

                                            1. Unless they punch me in the face as I leave and overcharge me, I generally give a place 3 tries. The first visit with an air of hope and optimisim, the second with a sense of fair play and mild stoicism and the third with a feeling of desperation and simmering rage. Then I give up.

                                              3 Replies
                                                1. re: montrealeater

                                                  > Unless they punch me in the face as I leave and overcharge me

                                                  So if they punched you in the face but the price were fair ...

                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                    If they punched me in the face, the price was fair and the food was awesome, I might consider going back. But not if the food sucked.

                                                2. It depends. If it is a new place and the first time is a wow but the second is a dud, I may give 2 or three more shots. If it the meal was bad but i felt that i may hve ordered wrong,then 1 more shot. Sometimes i can be a bit adventurous when ordering and i will give the place a pass when it was me that was over-reaching. However if i have to send something back then i will never pass through the doors again.

                                                  However the rules are different for an old favorite that is the downslide. I will try as long as I feel the kitchen is trying.

                                                  1. If I have a really bad experience, I email the restaurant and explain what happened. If they contact me, usually with a GC to try it again I will give it a second chance. If I don't hear from them they will never see me again. I figure if they don't care enough to have me as a customer, so be it! Many other restaurants around.

                                                    1. My mother was quite the operator. We took her to dinner for her birthday at a restaurant that had ridden high in the locals' eyes for many years. We had reservations for 7:00, and were seated fairly quickly, but around 8:30 I called the waiter over and explained very quietly that we'd been there an hour and a half, most of that waiting for our orders to arrive. He looked alarmed and shortly after dinner arrived. It was good, not great, my mother told me she couldn't eat her steak- no idea why, it wasn't bad or tough or anything, but apparently she called the restaurant the next day and told the owner that she couldn't eat her birthday dinner (I"m guessing here, but I'd also bet on it for the sob story I know she was capable of). Shortly afterward I saw a gift certificate for $50 from that restaurant plastered on her refrigerator with a magnet. I was furious but never said anything. Glad I didn't say anything, because she died not a year later, but unfortunately that and other tacky needy things are what I tend to remember about her.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                        Trust me, if i complain about a meal to the restaurant it is the real deal. Mothers are Mothers for better or worse!!

                                                        1. re: Mother of four

                                                          She'd have no problem complaining about anything real or imagined she thought would get her a freebie. And it got worse as she got older. Once I ran into her at a grocery store where they had a platter of little meat cubes out for sampling. She ate seven or eight of them, threw the toothpicks on the floor, and ate a bunch more. Oh- and never bothered to buy any of whatever it was she was gobbling down.

                                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                                            LOL!!! Guess I should be thankful for small favors...mine was far from great, but not that bad!!

                                                      2. Somebody else mentioned convenience---that's usually the deciding factor for me. If I have to drive for quite a while, it's one strike and you're out. But any place near my home (bonus for walking distance) gets two, maybe three tries.

                                                        1. Golden question for me is, "How well could I make this at home?"

                                                          If a place makes a mistake that I, a non-professional and a relative beginner, never make, then there's no way I can go back. The higher the price, the more I expect. So, the expectations for a high level place is along the lines of, "I could never make this dish this well." If they fall short of that, that's fine. But, I still expect something in the entire course to make an impression. Just impress me once so that it gives me hope.

                                                          1. If the service is good but the food not so good I might try again if people I trust recommend a place.

                                                            But if the service is bad, I'll never be back.

                                                            It's funny, I can think of one time when I broke that rule. There is a restaurant in my neighborhood called The Wood. It's walking distance to my house and has a menu that looks good to me. The first time I went, the hostess was rude and made us wait so long we left without even eating. But I wanted to like this place, so we went back. Again, we were treated so poorly prior to even ordering that we left again. So -- I broke my "no going back if the service is bad rule" and had bad service a second time. I don't even know if the food at The Wood is any good and I'll never know. (There are a lot of places I can go where the people are nice.)

                                                            1. It depends. Most places a couple of times, tops, but there's a non chain place literally half a block away, we've tried it every few years and it's always been horrible but they are still in business and we're always hopeful.

                                                              1. It depends on the problem.

                                                                Bad food= forget it! I'm not going back.
                                                                Bad service= Depends on if I can get a different server.
                                                                Bad booze=Not only am I not coming back, I'm not paying my bar tab! LOL

                                                                1. For me, it's usually "one and done". With SO many places to choose from in my area, that's the only chance they need to satisfy me.

                                                                  I might make an exception for a place that came very highly recommended but maybe fell a bit short of the hype...I'll sometimes give them one more shot ordering something off of the chef's selections for the night since that would supposedly showcase the kitchen at it's best.
                                                                  But to get even a second shot, a place would have to have been VERY highly recommended.

                                                                  There's just too many great places in the area I live in to waste time or money on a kitchen that just doesn't do it for me on the first time out.

                                                                  1. When I was a restaurant critic, the paper had us make two trips, each with one guest. If the
                                                                    experiences were drastically different, a third visit was allowed. This seemed to be a good
                                                                    system at the time, but of course I was on the paper's nickel. If I'm paying my own way, I
                                                                    usually will not rush back but will probably give them a second chance eventually, especially
                                                                    if I've heard good things about the place. Unless I know the chef and/or owner or something
                                                                    similar, I will not go to a place until two to three months after it has opened - or received a
                                                                    rave review somewhere.