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Am I Just a Cynic or ....

Am I the only person who sees a crowded restaurant these days and immediately assumes the food is awful (and more often than not, I'm correct). I remember two decades ago if there was a wait in a restaurant, it meant the place was amazing. Nowadays, it seems if there is a wait, the food is average and bland, which is exactly what appeals to most. Obviously this is not always the case in places that are established, but there is a place near me (which will remain nameless) that is mobbed every night. People almost waiting in line at the door. I've been there twice and it's dreadful. The word on the street is it's amazing. The funny thing is there is a place around the corner that is empty that makes the exact same food, perfectly seasoned and it's bashed. I've come to conclusion that most people honestly don't know good food and that bland unseasoned food is more to the average American's liking. I'm not talking about true foodies of course, just "what sells" is usually mediocre to me.

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  1. I don't think "crowded = awful" is a general rule, but in my part of New Jersey, crowded non-American (and I should probably also include non-Western-European) often means bland and boring, as you say.

    1. You are just a cynic I think! The longest lines here in Austin currently are for Franklins BBQ and a Ramen Shop named ramen tatsuya. Both are out of this world delicious!

      2 Replies
      1. re: twyst

        twyst...while I can not speak for the restaurants you mentioned, you're example is perfect. Places that are deemed "great" BBQ in NY is usually awful and the tucked away places that nobody knows about are usually the better spots. Generally, when people rave about BBQ it's because of portions and rarely flavors.

        1. re: jhopp217

          Im in central texas, people dont line up for BBQ here unless its really good :P
          Its widely regarded as the best brisket in the country by many publications.

          http://www.bonappetit.com/magazine/sl...

          I definitely see your point though, I do see many crowded restaurants that just arent very good, but I see many that are amazing and deserve the crowd as well.

      2. Yes, I think you are. A crowded restaurant means a lot of people like it. You may prefer your taste to theirs, fair enough, but taste is often what it's about, and a public attitude of superiority in one's tastes, in food as in art and fashion, is the definition of snobbery There are other reasons, of course - fast food joints don't cater to gourmets, just those looking for something quick and cheap. But that isn't what you're talking about, is it?

        5 Replies
        1. re: John Francis

          "taste is often what it's about"

          Even on Chowhound, we get requests all the time for restaurant with a certain ambience, fun, music, attractive plating, a 'safe' menu for a group, plus all kinds of other aspects aside from taste. It seems to me most people just want to go out and have fun, and they are not putting emphasis on taste.

          I do not disparage restaurants because they are popular or not. Location, PR, tapping into the latest trend, are among many other factors that account for a restaurant's popularity.

          1. re: Steve

            That's especially true in Florida, I tend to avoid places with a view of the water but there are some notable exceptions.

            1. re: huiray

              My point exactly. Olive Garden, Red Lobster, TGIF, all those types. Then when neighborhood places open up it's the same. The worst thing I can ever hear is "tastes like my grandmother used to make." Most people have very skewed tastes when it comes to family meals, because of the setting. I had a friend tell me her mom used to give the sauce to the neighbors because it was so good. I tasted it and it was nearly inedible. The whole family, knowing I'm a snob, said "is that not the best sauce you've ever tasted." I just nodded....meaning it's wasn't

              1. re: jhopp217

                Yes, the Olive Garden two towns away from us is always packed for lunch and dinner. We always laugh about it when we drive by. To make it worse, there is a fairly good mom 'n pop Italian-American place about a mile away from the OG and I am afraid that they won't make it.

          2. Same reason why so many garbage Broadway shows are sold out. Few people know what's good.

            10 Replies
            1. re: beevod

              Broadway shows are filled with out of towners who come pick a show based on advertising. So many pick a show and a Times Sq hotel for "convenience" and never really see Manhattan.
              That being said: We rarely go to "popular" crowded restaurants. We love small, local, side street, neighborhood places and are rarely disappointed. Not that EMP, DelPosto, Jean Georges are not fabulous, it's just not worth our effort to make a res so far in advance etc..
              Then again, we love the tourists who keep the blood flowing in NYC!!

              1. re: Motosport

                Yes Motosport... lots of great neighborhood places in NYC. Why wait on a line?

                1. re: iluvcookies

                  We recently took an out of town business associate and his wife to Jean Georges on his company expense. The food was magnificent with superb service but halfway thru dinner I realized that they would have enjoyed dinner @ Katz's and a nice walk thru the LES better with a nice piece of Strawberry Cheese pie @ Junior's even better. A real NYC experience.
                  We had difficulty getting a cab so I suggested the subway. There was a mild look of apprehension from these small city folks. We led the way assuring them this is they way it's done.
                  Lo and behold @ the next stop a transvestite couple in gold lame' and sequins (both 6' +) get on and start singing show tunes. I told my friends I planned it and asked them to give the "entertainers" a few bucks. After all I put their fares on my Metrocard!!
                  He still talks about that experience a year later.

                  1. re: Motosport

                    Exactly why I love living in this town... you never know who you will meet on the subway :)

                    1. re: Motosport

                      Moto - I wanna hang with you and yours

                        1. re: Motosport

                          I love how interactive NY-ers can be, reminds me of the time I was walking on the UWS with a friend to brunch or a supply run to Zabar's and H+H, she was doing her best Shelley Winters impersonation and belted out "I always liked the word 'f#ck" (quoted from a spot on the Johnny Carson show) and a 6"+ transvestite (why are the good ones scary tall?) commented "ooh honey, the French you speakin' today!"

                      1. re: Motosport

                        Moto, I'm moving to NYC in the next 4-5 months. Will you be my friend? You sound like just the person I need to steer me right in getting to know NYC.

                    2. re: Motosport

                      Folks, complaining about tourists might be fun, but it's off-topic for Chowhound. Please try to keep the discussion focused on food and restaurants.

                  2. Well, I don't necessarily think the food will be awful, but when I see a place that is too crowded, I know that I will not likely enjoy the overall dining experience.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: iluvcookies

                      "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."