Good Day, South Florida Foodies!
While all of us do not generally go into a restaurant with intentions of actively critiquing it, we do always hope to have a great dining, lunching, brunching or breakfasting experience. But, how exactly does one guarantee a memorable, positive culinary experience? Thinking back to the best times I have had at restaurants, I am surprised by how much was based on what I brought to the experience, rather than by the restaurant itself. I have always been a proponent of the idea that great eating is something that changes a person in some way- making their day fuller or their palette more experienced. However, is the change something that is already instilled in a person before said culinary event? It’s like the age-old question: Which came first; the chicken or the egg? In this case, I am beginning to think that enjoying the chicken and the egg depends heavily on what culinary attitude one brings to the experience. If I were to narrow down the factors that have ensured great, memorable eats, they could easily be counted on one hand.
1. Having an Open Palette
Trying atypical items from a menu allows for an experience that never becomes dull. An open mind is an important thing to have when eating out, but an open palette is even more valuable. Being open to tasting new things and closed to monotony ensures a fresh and varying culinary experience. When eating out, I try to not eat the same thing twice, always asking for a new treat to taste. One of my favorite questions to ask is for the server’s favorite entrée or menu selection. Such a question usually has a two-fold result- the possibility of a new cuisine adventure, as well as a connection with your server. They feel more comfortable knowing they have a patron who cares.
Here are some other great questions to ask:
- “What dishes are most authentic?”
- "Which selections most resemble the originals?”
- “What entrée is most popular or most requested?”
- ”Are there any chef’s favorites?”
- “I would like to try something new. What do you suggest?”
2. Menus Have Many Things for a Reason
As important as it is to try new things, it is also essential to try many things to ensure a well-rounded dining experience. Imagine the great feeling you get when you have a wonderful entrée at a restaurant. Now multiply that feeling by three times when the same great-quality restaurant serves you not only an entrée, but also an appetizer, dessert and drink as well. I, on many accounts, have been a culprit of a one-item meal; however, I can truly say that my best restaurant experiences have involved tasting many selections from an establishment’s menu.
3. Mind Your Manners
One of the most satisfying aspects of dining out has nothing to do with the food itself. Great service is many times just as satisfying as the meal you eat. And I am a fervent believer in the idea that great service is a two-way street- a response to how much respect the patrons show. The magical words, “Please” and “Thank you,” work wonders when dealing with a server who has been on their feet hoping to serve pleasant patrons for hours. This is where something as simple as asking for a suggestion can go a long way towards establishing a positive patron-server relationship. I have been at a restaurant where a waiter made a complete 180º shift from cold and uninterested to warm and helpful after the words “What is your favorite appetizer?” were uttered. Feel free to transcend superficial relationship between you and your waiter, and prepare yourself to enjoy a positive experience full of great culinary suggestions.
4. Love the One You're With
The final and most important factor that goes into an amazing culinary experience is good company. Most, if not all, of my great culinary encounters have involved a group of friends and I having a great time. From my youngest years, great food has always gone hand in hand with spending time with family and friends. Maybe it is the positivity that my friends exude or maybe my family just brings me culinary luck, but I have seldom had a less-than-delicious experience at a restaurant when I’m with loved ones.
Open palettes, open stomachs, positive dispositions and great company seem to me to be the most important factors in a great eating experience. However, I am sure that I do not represent the final foodie word when it comes to the topic. What are your must-haves to ensure a memorable restaurant visit or culinary encounter? What are your culinary turn-ons and turn-offs? Or from the other side, if you work at a restaurant, what do you hope for in a patron?
Your Faithful Foodie Friend,
Patty the Intern