How do you choose which restaurant to eat at ? Of course, the first thing you decide is what kind of food you want to eat, but then…. do you go to an old favorite ? Or do you choose a new place that you’ve just heard of ?
At different times in my life I’ve gone different ways…
When I was working in Lower Manhattan,for thirty years, I was only a 15 minute walk from Chinatown and I found myself going there for lunch two, even three times a week. ( The other times I contented myself with a slice of pizzza or a sandwich). Chinatown has literally hundreds of restaurants but ,after a couple of years, I found myself patronising one of a half dozen establishments over and over again. This happened without conscious thought. New Green Bo ( for the soup dumplings), Hau Se Sai, Sun Se Gai , Big Wong on Mott Street ( for the roast pork),Bo Ky ( for hearty Chiu Chow soups) Yuen Yuen and a couple of others whose names I’ve forgotten. And a couple which had no names ! To be sure , I’d occasionally duck into others that took my fancy ( Hong Ying on Mott was one ) but these were the ones I went to most of the time. There was a certain pleasure in becoming a ‘regular’ and being recognized as one by the waiters. I was thrilled when, three years after I retired, I went to New Green Bo and the lady behind the counter remembered me. After having tried most dishes on the menu at each establishment, I settled on a few favorites which I would order in rotation. This way I know exactly what to expect , and it was as comfortable as slipping on a pair of old shoes.
It’s strange how things work out. When I used to lunch out almost every day, I sub-consciously restricted myself to a few favorites even though there were plenty of other choices available. There was always tomorrow or next week to try something new. Now that I’ve retired and lunch out much less frequently I find myself hankering to try out new places rather than stick with the tried and true. When I do visit a new restaurant, I ( mostly) opt for dishes that I haven’t tried before. It doesn’t help that, in suburbia, restaurants are more uneven in quality. In these smaller establishments, particularly the ethnic eateries we prefer, the quality is very unpredictable and inconsistent. Cooks depart for better prospects, owners get tired of the hard work and sell out ,they cut corners to try and turn a profit, they get sloppy with success … any number of reasons why last month’s hit is this month’s bust. The only thing to do is to try something new.