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Rank these in order of importance to you when dining out

- plating of food
- atmosphere / ambiance of the restaurant
- neighborhood where the restaurant is located

1 to 3, with 1 being the most important.

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  1. For a quiet "special" dinner out with mrs. al b. darned:
    1 - atmosphere / ambiance of the restaurant
    2 - neighborhood where the restaurant is located
    3 - plating of food

    For a casual "lets eat out" night:
    1 - neighborhood where the restaurant is located
    2 - atmosphere / ambiance of the restaurant
    3 - plating of food

    In all cases tho, all here take second place to the quality of the food. If the food sucks, none of them matter because we're not there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: al b. darned

      Generally speaking, I completely agree with your rankings. The way that food looks on a plate is far less important to me than how long it takes me to get to the restaurant and how I feel once I get there.

      However, the only time plating becomes a serious issue for me is when it impedes on my enjoyment of the food. If soup is served bowl difficult to eat out of, if plating decisions make crunchy food go soggy - basically if it effects the way the food tastes or how the food gets to my mouth - then it can become a very important issue.

    2. you left out the very most important. taste. plating is somewhere in the billions for me. and number two is nice people working there.

      1. Neighborhood counts most, but only as a factor of proximity to home.
        Atmosphere matters a little, but only to the extent that there is a purpose to the meal.
        Plating doesn't matter at all

        1 Reply
        1. re: MGZ

          1. The food has to taste good. I don't really care about the plating.
          2. The people have to be nice and seem to care. I don't like pretentious staff that feel like they are doing you a favor by letting you eat there.
          3. I like to go out to eat things I don't make at home, so ethnic restaurants, especially cozy mom and pop spots are my favorite. And they are hard to find!

        2. Neighborhood. I'm stunned that so many start up restaurant owners that go quickly broke have never heard a very very simple phrase and believed it: 'Location location location'. It doesn't matter if the chef has four m stars. if the restaurant is in a location where no one feels safe leaving the cab to get into the restaurant well then that restaurant will fail.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Puffin3

            Not true at all especially for first world urban locations. If the food is good enough, plenty of people will go to neighborhoods that they otherwise would never have gone to. When enough of that happens in a specific neighborhood, the whole character of the neighborhood can change. I've seen that happen in NYC. You're Canadian I believe. Have you gone to Joe Beef? Its was not located in the most happening of places but its packed every night. First time I went to Montreal, we went for dinner there. As we were going down Rue Notre Dame, I was wondering where the hell is this place located? One of my favorite restaurants in the world. If the places you refer to went broke, well the food didn't justify the journey. But if the food does, people will come.

            1. re: Puffin3

              If you're talking about extremes, yes neighborhood matters a great deal. I'm not going to a place where I need to wear Kevlar just because it sells ethereal fried chicken. But very, very few restaurants fit that description.

              1. re: Puffin3

                I think neighborhood matters - but not because of safety, but rather convenience. If I have to travel 20 minutes vs an hour to get to a restaurant, the restaurant an hour away needs to be pretty good to just even get my attention. Whereas the restaurant down the block needs to be not terrible to get my business more than once.

                1. re: Puffin3

                  Couldn’t disagree more - one of the best restaurants I have been too is in the worst part of that town yet they have a month long waiting list to get into. Other equally seedy places have been stupendous all around the world.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    Sometimes locations means more than whether the 'hood is good or bad.

                    Sometimes the location may be in a very ritzy part of town, but it's just not a good place to have a restaurant -- either because of foot traffic, competition, demographics, etc.

                    We've all known *that* place where a restaurant seems to shutter and a new one takes its place every 6 months or so.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Kind of like putting a restaurant in a subway station?

                      "Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3 star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimage, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro's sushi bar."

                      1. re: RetiredChef

                        Great point and I totally agree that location isn't as important as people think it is.

                        Peter Lugers Steakhouse in Brooklyn is another example. While the location has improved over the years, in the 70's and 80's you wouldn't find me walking in that hood looking for a cab.

                2. I'm sure every one has gone to a 'fancy' AKA expensive restaurant and been served crap and everyone has gone into some little hole in the wall and had excellent tasting food.
                  If you want to enjoy an excellent reasonably priced dinner served by people who are smart and CLEAN! give 'The Cactus Club' a chance in Van. or Victoria.

                  1. None of these things matter much compared to taste. You can serve me gorditas on a paper towel; as long as it is delicious, nothing else really matters. If I were to really place a premium of any of these ancillary factors when choosing a place to dine, I would say neighborhood is the most important since travel time and ability to get reservations can affect dinner time significantly. Plating comes next and ambiance a distant third since more times than not I'd rather be eating in a delicious hole in the wall anyway.

                    1. Assuming that good food is a foregone conclusion in this scenario...

                      1) ambiance
                      2) plating
                      3) neighborhood

                      If by neighborhood you mean the look and feel of the area versus the distance from home. There are so few neighborhoods in my area that make me feel truly unsafe or uncomfortable.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                        Assuming that good food is a foregone conclusion in this scenario...

                        Thank you. I thought that was just assumed and understood.

                      2. Plating. Schmating.

                        1. How does it taste?
                        2. Is the restaurant quiet?
                        3. Prompt appearance of the server when I'm ready to pay the check.

                        3 Replies
                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            That would be true for many, but that wasn't the question.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              Plating schmating

                        1. 1. atmo/ambience--by a long shot

                          2. neighborhood--not a huge consideration

                          3. plating--really couldn't care less; as long as everything is not slopped together, I'm alright

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                            What if the "neighborhood" was 42 miles away? Oh, yeah, you're in Texas.

                            1. re: MGZ

                              ... or if it's in a really bad part of town with no convenient public parking?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Depends upon HOW bad. I'm not going to a joint where gang-bangers are camped in front of the place, or panhandlers are accosting you upon entrance and exit, but such places are basically unheard of in my part of the world.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  That, I'm fine with. It's the "How do I get home safely and legally after a big meal and a few drinks?" that concerns me.

                                2. re: MGZ

                                  Basically correct. I'm used to driving long distances, and indeed, have been known to travel a good 40 miles for an excellent meal.

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    We drive 200 miles to the nearest good restaurant. There are zero anywhere even remotely near where we live.

                                  2. re: MGZ

                                    I drive 39 miles, 4-6x’s a year for Pho passing by at least 20 other Pho places because it’s that good. I also drive 41 miles for the best breakfast in town. And just last weekend I went 75 miles out of my way for the best Gyro known to man.

                                    If food is important to you than to drive 42 miles is nothing.

                                    1. re: RetiredChef

                                      42 miles from me is Manhattan, so I'll take a train for something special and not have to consider the impact of a cocktail on my driving. The world is much smaller here than out West. I do, however, agree with your basic point. I flew to San Francisco mostly so I could try Pliny.

                                3. If I'm paying a fortune at a 3 Michelin star restaurant, plating matters. If it's more casual dining, I don't really care. Neighborhood is only important if the neighborhood is obviously unsafe. Ambiance is really only important if I'm out for a "romantic" evening or am spending a ton of money - otherwise I'm just as happy to eat at a hole in the wall if the food is good.

                                  1. Taking the good food and service as unspoken,the list.
                                    #1 atmosphere,under an awning in the rain OK ,tiny tables and sardine packing not as OK
                                    6'6" husband doesn't fit everywhere.
                                    #2 plating of food and #3 neighborhood might not matter at all,rarely does

                                    1. Neighborhood (by itself) doesn't matter but it's location does. Unless I am traveling, I tend to mostly go out to dinner when I don''t feel like cooking. So, it tends to be a last minute thing/cell phone call or text......"Where are you at? Lets go grab some wine and food in 30 minutes". So,

                                      2. Atmosphere
                                      3. Plating

                                      If neighborhood means something other than location, then:

                                      1. Atmosphere
                                      2. Plating
                                      3. Neighborhood

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        My top 3 Criteria for a great food experience are
                                        1 Quality of the ingredients and preparation, of same
                                        2 Same as above
                                        3 " " "
                                        One of my best experiences, ever, was sitting on an upside down 5 gallon bucket, on a run down debris strewn beach near Cienfuegos, Cuba, eating fresly caught Wahoo and spiney Carib. Lobster. using a large tropical leaf for a plate, no forks or knives and drinking the local, cheap, beer. Followed by fruit, (Mangos, Gayabas and Oranges) soaked in rum, also the cheapest local brand.The cooks were local guys who knew how to cook!!!Everything was beyond superb.

                                      2. I've cheated and only skimmed the answers above.

                                        1. Quality of food (I think we all agree on that, whether it is relative to price or not)
                                        2. Quality of service. For me it doesn't have to be sophisticated, but attentive and prompt are important
                                        3. Neighborhood and Ambiance trade places as al b. mentioned, depending on the type of meal.
                                        4. Plating of the food is the lowest, assuming some care has been taken. I don't want my peas and carrots buried under the mashed potatoes.

                                        With all of them, type of meal or restaurant has some impact on that. if I'm getting a $5 plate lunch my expectations are a lot different than if i'm paying $40 ala carte for a piece of fish. In all cases it better taste good, better be served by someone with a basic level of competence and social skills, and shouldn't look yucky.