Being a regular at a restaurant that consistently serves just so-so meals may seem completely nonsensical. However, there are some establishments I find myself frequenting, even favoring over places with better food, because of other virtues. Here are five features that I believe can redeem a restaurant with mediocre food.
5. Reasonable Prices. Sad but true. The half-pound swiss mushroom burger at Christian's Tailgate easily trumps anything on Burger King's menu. But I can't always justify shelling out more than $10 for a burger, so I settle for the lesser but still satisfying Whopper.
4. Plentiful Seating. When I lived in Jamaica Plain, my absolute favorite restaurant was Ten Tables. But, as you might have predicted from the name, getting a seat was often a problem. So, many a night I skipped that restaurant's innovative creations and settled for a pedestrian filet mignon and caesar salad at a nearby, much roomier chain steakhouse.
3. Extended Hours. Once upon a time a woman with a gigantic sweet tooth lived next store to a wonderful bakery that proffered delicious homemade cakes, pies and cookies. But this delightful little place was only open Wednesdays through Saturdays and closed by 4:30 p.m. So, the woman with the gigantic sweet tooth found herself buying pricier, processed baked goods from the cafe across the street, at first by necessity, and then by habit. True story.
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2. Great Atmosphere. I recognize this trait is highly subjective, as what constitutes a good dining environment may differ radically for any given person. For me, really interesting surroundings inspire me to accept comparatively uninteresting food. Chuck E. Cheese's may not have the best pizza, but you can't beat that ball pit. And the fare at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is rather expensive and bland; however, having a zebra or giraffe stroll by your table...priceless.
1. Terrific Waitstaff. Rude and/or obtuse servers can ruin a meal for me. I really appreciate friendly, reliable waiters and love it even more when they start to remember my usual drink or entree order. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name...even if you also know your meal isn't going to be transcendent.