How to Choose a Restaurant?
Updated: May 23, 2018
We live in a world heavily influenced by the Internet, and we rely on the Internet to answer any question we have or fetch any information we need.
When it comes to restaurants, we read all kinds of good and bad reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Zomato, keeping in mind that they are all highly subjective. Some people have very high expectations, some people are easy to satisfy, some have traveled the world and want you to know it, some are forever grateful no matter what. Believe me, as a restaurant owner, I have come across all types, and 99.9% of my guests were wonderful people. Realistically, there is always a handful whose best trick is to hide behind their phone or their tablet instead of talking to the restaurant manager about their problem, which is usually minor in real life but blown out of proportions on-line.
What if you were in Seattle, Boston, Paris, Rome, or Barcelone, and you had no guidebook and no Internet? How would you choose a restaurant?
If you are looking for a particular food (Italian, Mexican, Japanese, etc), your task is quite simple. You go to the respective section of the guide book.
For more specifics on French cuisine (the differences between Cuisine Traditionnelle, Nouvelle Cuisine, Cuisine Moderne, Cuisine Gastronomique, Cuisine Familiale), please go to my blog “Not What You Thought?” - You will find all the clarifications that you need there. It is all sorted out for you.
If you have already set your mind on the type of food that you want to eat and now you want to make sure that the restaurant is a good restaurant, there are a few criteria that I would suggest:
- Check the bathroom – If the bathroom is clean, then the restaurant is well managed. The kitchen is likely to be clean as well and the rules of hygiene obeyed.
- Ask two questions:
1) - Do you bake your desserts from scratch right here? (Even if you are not going to have dessert, it is a good question to ask.)
2) - Do you make your own dressings and your own sauces?
Restaurants that bake their own desserts and make their own dressings and their own sauces are much, much less likely to buy processed food from the food distribution giants. They tend to understand the difference and fight for it.
You will be surprised how quickly you will eliminate restaurants from your preliminary list. In no time will your options be narrowed to a couple, and the rest will be up to you.
Ten years ago, you could not go to any deli counter, bakery, restaurant, café, caterer, open air market vendor, food truck, etc. in France without seeing the “Fait Maison” (“home-made”) sign. It looked good, sounded good, and it was comforting and encouraging. However, it was misleading. Because there was no regulation, anyone would proudly display the “Fait Maison” sign.
Fortunately, a decree was signed by the French Government in 07/2014 restricting the use of “Fait Maison”.
If you see the sign/logo on a menu, a website, a window, you can now trust its legitimacy and rest assured that the food was made from scratch on premise with fresh (not frozen, not bottled, not pre-packaged) ingredients.
If you are at a “charcuterie” shopping for a salad, watch for the “Fait Maison” logo. It should be placed next to each salad. If not, then the salad is not home-made. If three salad bowls out of seven bear the logo, that means that four of them are sourced out and three of them are made on premise from fresh produce.
If you are at a restaurant looking at the menu, you may notice the logo next to a few items only.
There cannot be one logo for the whole menu, unless the restaurant guarantees that they make everything (without ANY exception) from scratch. The logo must be clearly placed next to the item that it represents, leaving no room for confusion.
The law is enforced by government workers who will penalize any infringement. No warning. No second chance.
I know a lot of restaurant owners would start being nervous should our States enforce a similar regulation. I believe it would encourage and reward good ethics and hard work in a lot of restaurant kitchens across America, and that would be very positive!
PS / Bonus : last but not least advice
If you find yourself in a small town where you have two choices (one bad-looking café and one worse-looking café), you are very hungry, you are afraid of food poisoning, but you know that this is your last chance before the next town a hundred miles away, your best bet is to order some eggs. Have you ever happened to crack a bad egg?
You know instantly that there is a problem because of the horrible smell that comes out of that egg and starts traveling instantly. Even a bad cook in a bad-looking café would know ;