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Mediocre dinners and diners

Anybody know of someone who is quite content with the contrived and the mediocre?

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    1. Personally? No. But the lots are full at Outback, Chili's, Red Robin and countless other spots near me, so they're out there in droves.

      1. I would say this would include most people I know. I would even say me sometimes, to a lesser degree. Content doesn't mean happy, and mediocre doesn't mean bad, so yeah, I've had my fair share of "mediocre" meals and been "content" with them. It's not like I seek them out, but sometimes depending on time and availability, it is what it is.

        1 Reply
        1. Most reasonable people who can't always afford an elegant and astronomically priced dinner

          4 Replies
          1. re: mucho gordo

            I take exception to that position. My wife and I go out a lot (it's just the 2 of us many nights during the week) and while we can certainly spend a lot at some meals, most are just good meals for a good value (local Thai place, local bbq spot, local Middle Eastern spot). Mediocre does not equal inexpensive any more than "good" requires a lot of money. You can easily spend $20/person at Outback or even Chili's. I can get a pretty fantastic Cuban sandwich for under $10 (under $7 actually) that will be both satisfying and really delicious. Or stop at any number of local spots for well-prepared and good quality meals.

            1. re: ferret

              yes, but for a lot of people spending 7 dollars at a minimum for every meal is not sustainable. People on assistance receive about half that much for a full day's sustenance. That leaves a many people who can't afford a whole lot more than that. Hopefully they are able to find food that is at least mediocre and nutritious and don't have to settle for bad.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                You're taking this in a different direction. I'm not making any judgments on anyone's personal situation, it's just commenting on seeing a full parking lot at Outback when the money can be more satisfyingly spent elsewhere.

            2. re: mucho gordo

              The cartoon didn't describe an astronomically priced dinner. Although I don't know how much (or if I'd enjoy) a 54 year old Cotes du Rhone.

              1. I usually find the contrived the and mediocre to be at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of spirit if not taste.

                1 Reply
                1. I would define contrived and mediocre as very different problems, often occuring at very different restaurants. Contrived is usually a restaurant that thinks it's better than it is, or one that's gotten obsessed with novelty over quality.

                  I do know people who, when given a choice, will choose to go to a place that has what I would consider mediocre and not very well prepared food - a friend of my mom's was raving about this amazing restaurant, and insisted on taking her there. Stringy over-cooked roast beef, pre-made grayvy from a jar, lumpy mashed pototoes and mushy overcooked vegetables. To her friend, this was a great, just like home cooked meal.

                  On the other hand - I find when you live in a big city with a diverse selection of good, affordable restaurants, it's easy to lose touch with the choices of people in other areas. If you grow up in a smaller town with little choice, sometimes Chilis is the *good* choice for a dinner out.

                  Actually, I wouldn't categorize places like Chilis or Outback as mediocre - they prepare competent, consistent, if unexceptional food. The mediocre scale goes *way* lower than that.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                    "To her friend, this was a great, just like home cooked meal. "

                    That, I believe, is the crux of it all. Whether Chowhound or foodie.

                    1. Sure. This morning I got an egg and cheese sandwich and an iced coffee. It was neither outstanding nor terrible. It was your basic egg and cheese sandwich and iced coffee that I ate at my desk at work. I wasn't expecting it to be much more than acceptable.

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        so..., you are quite content with the mediocre? Or were you just fulfilling your expectations?
                        Some Chowhounds seek out that egg sandwich at places that just might take them across town to get and still eat it at there desk. I'm guilty. There's a deli that makes great scrambled egg sandwiches across town from me. The local place makes a serviceable egg sandwich, but I take the trip for the deliciousness.

                        1. re: Gastronomos

                          Yes, there are places where the egg and cheese is a little better. But no, spending an extra 45 minutes on a rush hour subway car for slightly better bread doesn't appeal to me.

                          1. re: LeoLioness

                            what about infinitely better cooked eggs?

                            1. re: Gastronomos

                              They aren't anything I need to get up an hour early for and go
                              out of my way for on the subway at 8 in the morning on a Tuesday.

                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                I understand. I used to commute by train and subway to work. I was known to stop and jump off, grab something great and get back on. I found DiFara's pizza by this method.

                                But I had to chowhound a lot of neighborhoods and eat a lot of *whatever* to get to the gold. I didn't return to the mediocre for convenience. I found a way to get deliciousness somehow.

                                Now I drive a lot. I drive nearly 60 minutes each way to grab a breakfast worthy of the trip. Yep. 60 minutes each way for a breakfast worthy of the trip. There are four diners on each corner around here. One worse than the next. Busy as they are, with lines out the door at dinner time, which peaks around 4pm-5pm... there are many who are content with mediocre for sake of convenience.

                                Even with eggs, yes, eggs, if the dozens of local diners suck at cooking them, I'm going elsewhere.

                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                    While I enjoy the sentiment and when time allows I love to search out great chow but I am more than just me. I have a husband, a child, pets and a full time job. Sometimes there priorities that are greater than driving 2 plus hours for "good chow".

                                    That said driving 2 plus hours for a world changing egg sandwich could be the great start to a family road trip and quality family time. However sometimes you need to just fill a need, not a want. I make an awesome egg sandwich so that would be my first choice. But give us a late start in the AM and the choice is to go to work hungry and/or send your kid to school hungry or stop at a serviceable place along the way-you make choices. Doesn't make one less of a 'hound.

                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                      I wasn't trying to say that anyone is less of a hound cause they eat the mediocre, even regularly. we all do. content with it or not. that was the question. I was just suggesting that there are times that the Chowhound in me, and I hope all of us, comes out and we do our thing. maybe not on this particular Tuesday morn, but maybe tomorrow? maybe that egg sandwich, since it was mentioned, IS important. Maybe it was mentioned for a REASON. maybe.

                                      I make that 60 minute trip each way no more than once a week. I Chowhound the rest of the week. I do return to some better-than-usual places but I keep trying new places. Most suck. That's just a fact. I spend time and money seeking these places out. I get more than my share of mediocre and a whole lot of really sucky crap.
                                      If I'm cooking at home, which is often enough these days, the kids are getting home cooked food. I find it, for us, better than any restaurant or food service place makes around these parts and too bad we are all always in a rush and the kids do get a cold bowl of cold cereal for breakfast many mornings. I am guilty though, of going an extra block to buy that ingredient I want or that something even slightly better, or a mile for that sandwich that the guy next door just can't get right.

                                      Happy Chowhounding!

                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                        I guess in where I am different is that I *am* content with that less-than-mindblowing egg sandwich we picked up on our way. Our hunger is satisfied, we have the fuel and the energy to get through our morning. Why not be content? Why bemoan the fact it was not the best thing we ever ate? Life is too short for regrets about a less than stellar chow. So yes there are the occasional times and situations when I am content with just ok.

                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                          foodieX2, I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I agree with you 100%. My original post was a question, here on a site called "Chowhound", asking, "who is quite content". You state very real facts and are correct. But this ain't a general "there are the occasional times and situations" question. It's a question about being, "quite content". You don't write about your experiences as being, "quite content." Just "content" with the situation. Fair and true, for us both.

                                          BTW, just curious, do you "Chowhound"?

                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            No sure what you mean by your last question?

                                      2. re: foodieX2

                                        I hear a new thread calling....

                                      3. re: Gastronomos

                                        Where are you getting your breakfast and what are you ordering, Gastro? I rarely get a breakfast sandwich these days, but if it's that good, I'm interested.

                                        1. re: EM23

                                          this ain't about sandwiches. the sandwich was an example made by LeoLioness. since you are a fellow Lawn Guylander, breakfast, sandwiches or otherwise, can be had at Maureen's Kitchen in Smithtown.

                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            Ah, yes. I have not been there in ages, but agree that it is a good spot. Thanks!

                                            1. re: EM23

                                              that's breakfast. got a good lunch spot? thanks!

                                        2. re: Gastronomos

                                          It's a balance of costs, monetary and otherwise.

                                          Driving 45 minutes for an amazing lunch? That's not such a brilliant idea when you're at work and have a 1 hour lunch break, and that amazing lunch will get you fired.

                                          60 minute drive for a fantastic breakfast? That's two hours driving that you won't spend on other stuff. If you've got lots of time, that's fine. It's also fine if you personally prioritize amazing eggs over things like spending time with family, having a clean house, sleep, or whatever else it is you give up to get that time. But not everyone will make that choice. For that matter, I don't have a car, so that 60 minute drive could be 3 hours on public transit for those same eggs.

                                          Think of it this way - you could ask why people don't spend three hours every night cooking an amazing multi-course gourmet dinner. Yes, lots of people like amazing multi-course gourmet dinners, but most people don't like them enough to quit their jobs to have enough time to do it, or to eat at 10 pm every night and spend all their non-work waking hours cooking, to the exclusion of everything else.

                                          Or another example - I love good Mexican food. Getting good Mexican food, where I live, involve flying to another country. And yes, I've asked Mexican ex-pats where they recommend, and their answer is that they don't. So sometimes I go out for not-so great Mexican food because it's what's there. [I could cook it at home - if I could buy the right ingredients, which I can't]

                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                  I’m with you there. Sometimes you choose among what is readily available. It could be time constraints. You don’t feel like go the extra distance for what you’re having. Or, the meal just doesn’t make that much difference for you at that time.

                                  1. re: mike0989

                                    Quite. Convenience does matter, and it matters often.

                                2. Most people -- think sitcoms with canned laughter.

                                  1. Contrived for me is the hamburger joint that all of a sudden starts serving chicken and fish. Billions and billions served.

                                    Mediocre is a place that doesn't have any regional specialties, or prices themselves at or below the median income for the local economy. The definition of the home of Darden. Central Florida.

                                    Or your suburbs. :-)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                      I'm quite content with this thread.

                                    2. Yes, my mother. My late father. All of their friends. Not everyone thinks that every meal has to be orgasmic. I don't eat out much so I do want very high value for my money but they ate out all the time and were happy with the local diner or chains. Chacun a son gout.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                        seems like we're surrounded by them....

                                      2. If every meal is exceptional and wonderful, then when does a great meal remain special? Sometimes , you just want something that is good enough and that provides a comfort to your senses . Then when you eat something fabulous, you really enjoy it even more. For instance If i am going out to a fabulous dinner , i will have a simple average lunch ., maybe even mediocre .Too much of a great thing can reduce the impact of great.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: saltylady

                                          perhaps you have a point. but if you eat a simple lunch, why can't it be delicious?

                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            Most people won't eat anything they don't find delicious. I don't care how simple; if I don't like it, I won't order it. There are plenty of things that are both.

                                        2. The Olive Garden I pass on my way to the highway is always busy and on weekend nights it is packed to the point of a line out the door. I live in an area where average food is good enough for most and it is next to impossible to find really high quality restaurant food on a regular basis, whether or not it is a donut, sandwich or a splurge meal. Thus, we eat at home during the week and out only on the weekends, when we have time to drive somewhere good.

                                          1. Sure, it all depends on WHY I'm going for mediocre or sub-par.
                                            Take coffee--I am totally fine with drinking instant coffee or a nasty convenience store coffee...if I just need a quick, cheap caffeine hit.
                                            But, if I go somewhere that should have a good, barista-pulled shot & end up with burnt crema or something less than great? Not so much. Refunds or remakes, as I paid for the good stuff.
                                            Also, am I out to see an elderly relative? That mediocre diner is her nostalgic place, so we smile & go. Are we out on a nice date? I want quality.
                                            So...yeah. I suppose sometimes I am :)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Ama658

                                              "...am I out to see an elderly relative? That mediocre diner is her nostalgic place"

                                              I too Have to eat at that "mediocre diner" sometimes. But as we "smile and go" I am not "quite content" about the food as I am about the visit. Not the same thing with that "elderly relative" who IS "quite content" with the "mediocre diner".

                                              A recent post of mine about the elderly and it's results:

                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9178...

                                            2. Sometimes its just food. Tonight the mr was out at a meeting, so it was me and toddler spawn. So we had leftover grilled hot dogs, she had some leftover blue box and I had some salad, and all were happy. (and I had a dark n stormy:), she had milk) Food doesn't have to be all exquisite and "foodie" and unique to be satisfying to the diners. Yes, I know many would consider my dinner to be contrived and mediocre, but it fed us, and kept my kid happy in her high chair for 20 wonderful minutes. (followed with a cup of organic applesauce) The don't serve that an any of those fancy places. Piece of mind for Mommy,

                                              1. "the modern food industry has made our need for good food almost inconsequential by making it cheap and plentiful, and disguising the true cost."

                                                1. That could easily be me.

                                                  I like to try new recipes at home. Very many of them turn out to be mediocre and are not worth repeating.

                                                  I have similar experiences with restaurants. In the last 5 years, we've eaten at 300+ restaurants, most within a 60 minute drive from home. When it comes down to how many we really want to go back to, it's around 30 - but I don't regret the other 270, most of which were mediocre.