A restaurant is more than its burger – and there are surprisingly many ways you can ruin your next meal. This simple check list is all you need to really know if the restaurant you’re planning to go to is as good as you think it is.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to know at first glance whether a restaurant is good or not. We all look for tell-tale signs of crappy food, terrible service, and non-authentic concepts – but it’s not always as straight forward as you’d like. But there are some things you can look for. Signs that this restaurant isn’t as great as it tries to look. Some of it is sloppiness. Some of it is a lack of focus. Some of it is just a restaurant trying to trick you into thinking it is something it’s not.
So as a service to all restaurant goers – we have compiled a list of 10 things to look out for when you make your next restaurant reservation.
1. New price, same menu
They have changed the prices on the menu by glueing the new prices onto the old ones or crossing them over and simply writing the new ones next to the old ones. This not only means that they are cheapskates, but more importantly, it shows that they haven’t changed the dishes on their menu for a very long time. The restaurant’s newest dishes have been outpaced even by inflation.
2. Spelling errors on the menu
No we are not here to throw shade on anyone who’s dyslectic. And the braised lamp dish does sound intriguing, but if they haven’t even got the time to proof read (or get someone else to do it for them) their menu, most likely they’re not proof reading your food either. Surely there must be at least one person one their staff who can read?
3. The bathroom is unclean
Not only is it disgusting, unsanitary and a bunch of other horrible things – but it tells a lot about how they treat the rest of the restaurant. If they can’t be bothered cleaning the restroom, we do not even want to think about what their kitchen looks like.
4. Photos of food in the window
We like food porn as much as the next person, but why would did they let their talentless cousin take the german-social-realistic horror photos they have on display in the window? So people can see how awful their food is? You know what, a biohazard sign would have accomplished the same thing.
5. Plastic food in the window
Nintendo and Sony PlayStation are cool, but not all Japanese inventions are awesome. Plastified food for window display falls in the significantly less awesome category. If they think putting their food in the window is sexy (which it isn’t), but they’re just too lazy to actually cook it – they should probably not own a restaurant.
Disclaimer – if it’s a Japanese restaurant, they can actually get away with this, even though they shouldn’t. So be a little careful with this rule if you’re hitting lunch in Tokyo.
6. Everything with everything
If the chef at this restaurant is one of those people who believes that every single dish should be available with shrimp, chicken, beef, lamb and fish, they are horribly mistaken. Every dish on the planet does not work with every single type of protein on the planet. Pick something!!
7. It has a celebrity chef name, but it’s in an airport
We understand, chefs also want to make some money. Fair enough. And honestly, we might go for it as well if we were in their lucky shoes. But we both know that “their” restaurant is really run by a large franchise corporation, and that the chef name behind it doesn’t care about those stale sandwiches it serves as long as the royalty cheques keep rolling in. We also all know it sucks.
8. Cuisine Confusion
Ok, so fusion cuisine wasn’t awesome, but even worse are restaurants who claim they can do it all. Want pizza? Got it. Sushi? Got it. Steak? Of course. Thai? Why the hell not! Ok so the chef might be talented enough to produce both a mean pizza and a nice phad thai, but that doesn’t mean they should. Would you want your OB/GYN to fix your broken leg (don’t answer that)? In food, you want to go to a specialist, not a general practitioner.
9. Luxury, fine dining or trendy in your name
There is a very simple rule here. If a restaraurant calls itself trendy, it is not not. And if they call themselves luxury, chances are they have fake marble in the bathroom. Luxury, fine dining, trend, hip, cool, gourmet and most other adjectives are about the experience you give your guests. They are not slogans, so stay away from any restaurant using them.
10. Reviews from 10 years ago in the window
Sure, we understand they’re happy the New York Times even know they exist. Or at least, that they knew ten years ago. But if they haven’t received a significantly better review since, most likely the restaurant is worse today than it was back then. And since the review wasn’t even that great in the first place, well…
Kalle Bergman is a food writer and media entrepreneur who is the founder of Honest Cooking and PAIR Magazine. As a food writer, his writing has been regularly featured in publications like Gourmet, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and Serious Eats. He is obsessed with simple food, more often than not from his native Scandinavia.