Ask any person what their favorite restaurant is, or what their favorite dining experience has been…and be prepared for an outpouring of dialogue. This is one question that has proven to illict the most passionate of responses from the even the most unlikely cast of characters.
But what is it that defines a really great restaurant? A tricky and subjective question, no doubt. From my point of view, a great restaurant is defined by several criteria. For me, these are authentic food, a cozy, welcoming atmosphere, and service that makes you feel at home. I suppose that these rules might bend at times. For instance, if I were to take a trip to Miami or Las Vegas, my expectations may lean toward a trendier, more austere or trite aesthetic.
But for the long run, I gravitate towards the hole-in-the-wall place, invisible to tourists and passersby. It is that restaurant with the tattered curtains and heavy, peeling chairs hailing from decades well before the current that calls to me. The sort of place that invokes memories of scenes in the old Italian eateries from the Godfather. The walls strewn with photos and memorabilia that speak to the patrons, resonating with character. Telling the story of good meals and good memories gone by. Capturing the essence and personality of the collective staff and diners that have milled about over the years, leaving their mark as part of the landscape. It’s a history you can feel. This sort of place emits the feeling that the walls might actually be capable of talking to you.
It always strikes me upon entering such establishments that fall into this category, that the waitstaff are typically seasoned and perfectly in sync. Their veteran habits leading them to swivel and pivot effortlessly around the floor with gracious ease. I envision that they might be capable of serving a table blindfolded, as you watch their orchestrated moves meld together like a symphony of movement and service. It is apparent that they know the ins and outs of the kitchen, all of its processes and minutia, and each other’s idiosyncrasies for that matter…maybe better than some family members know of each other. A true thing of beauty.
So, here I set out to pay homage to the many establishments that have entertained my senses, as well as my palate. Please check back here regularly to read more about the many unassuming, and at times underestimated, restaurants that I have stumbled across and in my journeys and quest for delightful nourishment.