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August 5, 2008

The Why You Eat Out Quiz



Wow. Such interesting comments from Piano Rob and Drew from Greektown under today's earlier post. I made a joke something to the effect that no owner ever told me his restaurant closed because his food wasn't very good.

I was thinking that was often the reason restaurants close. ...

I assumed that if the food is fabulous, people are going to put up with surly waiters, loud noise, long waits, terrible location, high prices, no parking...whatever.

I mean, isn't the food the main reason you go to a restaurant? Wait. I know the answer to that. The main reason you go to a restaurant these days is that you're too tired to cook.

But how important is food to you when you eat out? And I never imagined I'd be asking that question.

Rate the reasons:

* The food is fabulous

* It's something I can't make at home 

* I'm too tired to shop and/or cook

* I love the setting

* I feel like being waited on

* I want to socialize with family/friends 


(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer) 


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:05 PM | | Comments (36)


We decide to eat out because we don't want to cook (tired, too hot to fire up the oven, I didn't go to the grocery store while Mrs. Bucky was golfing because I had other, more important, things to do) or because it's some special occasion.

We decide where to eat out based on the food, primarily, and the setting, secondarily.

We eliminate from consideration places where we've had a bad service experience in the past or where we've heard about service problems from friends. (Thus, we wouldn't be going to Birches, in your fine city, even though we've never been there ourselves.)

I go out for food and drink I can't make or have available at home. I almost always choose a restaurant based more on what they have to drink. That is why many of our meals out are at brewpubs or places with imaginitive wine lists. Unfortunately I haven't found many restaurants that have interesting wines by the glass. The one exception is Isabella's with their selection of Spanish wines. I do need to try the Black Olive for their selection of Greek wines.

I eat out for the setting. Ambiance is key. I like to see new people in different settings, and I like to forget about daily routines.

1) I want to socialize with family/friends

2) I love the setting

3) The food is fabulous

4) I feel like being waited on

5) It's something I can't make at home

6) I'm too tired to shop and/or cook

Food. Everything else is secondary.

I'm too tired [lazy] to shop and/or cook and cooking for one is such a pain. Even grilling a steak is a problem since it takes an hour or so to bake a potato (please don't mention the microwave which steams the potato.) Now I can stop and buy a baked potato at Wendy's, but if I have to do that, why not just eat out? Its quicker than the stop to shop and then the time and effort to cook and clean-up. (Don't want to leave too much in the sink for the ants wandering around the kitchen to feast upon.)

Day in and day out, I tend to choose the place I go by what I want to eat. (E.g. pizza: Italian Gardens.) With so many of my 'usual' places closing (the Panda for wor shu op; Steak and Ale for Hawaiian Chicken) increasingly its the delivery menu. Actually, even when I want a more 'special' meal the where to go decision tends to be driven by what I want to eat and who makes it. (Again, if I really need dill dressing for my salad, its off to Café Hon.)

When I ask my DW what I should make and she answers "Reservations."

Actually, many times the decision to eat out is due to the fact that we are already out and by the time we get home it would be too late to start cooking. Where we eat depends on where we are, what we feel like having, and what is nearby. For example, Sunday we went to Arundal Mills Mall and since it was lunchtime when we left, we stopped at the Five Guys nearby.

It seems like there is direct relationship between my payday and what the Mrs. and I have. On pay day, it's petit louis. On the last day before pay day, it's tuna noodle casserole.

* I'm too tired to shop and/or cook
* I feel like being waited on
* The food is fabulous
* It's something I can't make at home
* I love the setting
* I want to socialize with family/friends

I have to confess, DH and I will go to local so-so restaurants sometimes just because we don't feel like cooking, don't feel like driving far, don't feel like paying a lot, and don't care about upscale. Sometimes we just want food, any food :-)

About 90% of the time, I go out because I want great food that is different than what I cook. The other 10% is because I can't or won't cook that night.

Of the times I go out for great food, about a third of the time I also am meeting friends. The rest of the time, I go alone, so the food and how I'm treated by staff are all I'm judging a restaurant on.

Too lazy to shop (I HATE my local safeway and dread going there) or too lazy to cook. Like RTSO, I find cooking for one to be an ordeal usually not worth the effort. Plus, I rarely have any food in the house except snacks, because I hate going to the safeway.

I go for the food, but atmosphere is a very close second. I would never go out because I wanted to be waited on. I hate being waited on at most places because I feel held hostage most of the time. I just want the food, the water I order with my booze, and the check without a ridiculous wait. Sadly, very few places can manage this.

I didn't go to the grocery store while Mrs. Bucky was golfing because I had other, more important, things to do
Like visiting the sandbox?

We plan to eat out and then decide where in the following order:

* The food is fabulous
* I want to socialize with family/friends
* I love the setting
* I feel like being waited on
* It's something I can't make at home
* I'm too tired to shop and/or cook

Sheesh--am I the only one who doesn't mind cooking? And yes, I can cook and blog at the same time. Dinner is being made at this moment.

I don't have much food at my house, so I eat out mostly out of necessity.

Outside meeting people, which creates its own set of criteria and compromise based upon who is going, food and atmosphere are tied for me. If you can get both, why would you bother with one that is lacking? Plus, annoying atmosphere will ruin even a great meal.

And the only place I will deal with sucky service is the Owl Bar, because the visual of the space just really does it for me. The actual service part, when it finally happens, is good. The problem is that, at the bar, it is supremely inattentive, at times to the point of being almost funny. There is no one else there, or maybe one other person, but you can't get a drink for at least 10 minutes. But once you do get some service, the drink is poured generously, and the food and drink orders are never screwed up, and the bartenders are friendly. Plus, most of the food is really good and reasonably priced.

1. I want to socialize with family/friends

2. The food is fabulous

3. I love the setting

4. I feel like being waited on

5. I'm too tired to shop and/or cook

6. It's something I can't make at home

I am single, so socializing is def #1 (plus I LOVE to eat). As far as cooking, I love to cook and will make just about anything from scratch (at least once), so that has little effect on me. As far as where I go out to eat, 99.9% of the time, it's money driven.

No, Dahlink, you're not alone. I cook well and prefer my cooking over most nearby dining establishments. We eat out/take-out every few months. When I don't feel like cooking, either we pop up to Overlea Diner, or get pizza from Gil's or subs from Pizza City.

Dahlink, I don't mind cooking, either. Even for one. I won't run the oven in the summer if I can avoid it, but it doesn't take that long to whip up a stir fry or something.

Then again, I do get serious stage fright cooking for other people. Haven't killed anyone yet, though.

Rosebud - that too.

Jon Parker nailed it in one. Good food is a must. Atmosphere is bonus, but not a particular draw.

There's little I can't make at home, or at least some substitute that I wouldn't enjoy more, so we'll just cross that right off the list.

If I'm too tired to cook, I'm sure not going anywhere, unless it's to the restaurant across the street for carry out. Otherwise, we call that delivery night.

Being waited on? Not in Maryland. This state continually astounds with its poor service. I've been known to get downright giddy and leave more than 20% for anything approaching decent wait service.

As for socializing, that's a rough one. For any set greater than my wife + 1 couple, the complete headache of organizing people increases exponentially. So while other people may enjoy it, I usually end up so completely frustrated that I regret just not staying at home with a nice glass of scotch.

Overall though, I find the answer tends to hinge on - Did I enjoy the complete package? Was the food great, was the overall experience entertaining, was the atmosphere cool, do I like the staff? If the answers to these questions is yes, then chances are that as soon I can find a babysitter, I'll be gracing your door once more.

Dahlink - Expect Bourbon Girl and me at your door soon for dinner.

All of the above. We're out because I want to focus on my company. (We're at my place because I want to show off my three cooking skills (cremated, slow burn, variation on white sauce)). Or we're out because, like car repairs and plumbing, sometimes it's just better to have someone who purports to be good at it do it while you sip vin.
Yo, Josh: ditto on service -- amazing.
But if it's a great restaurant, I want to be there because it hits all the notes, like a good roller coaster or motorcycle ride or movie or book -- and I want to share that experience with someone who I love or from whom I need a loan.

For me, I eat out for 3 reasons:

1) I can't make a particular dish (I can handle basic things in the kitchen, but am no means a chef)

2) I don't want to make the food (Sushi)

3) I don't feel like cooking (this mainly applies to Fridays after work)

Decor is secondary. It doesn't make or break a restaurant.

The wife and I will dine out, but for one reason. While I'm fairly certain it's not possible to burn water, I'm also fairly certain she's come damn close. That being said, we dine out when I don't feel like cooking.
As to where we go, the factors are as follows (in order of importance): service, proximity, price.

The only reasons for me are:

Something I can't or don't want to make at home.

They make it really, really well.

Service? That can only be a negative, as in the food being very good, but the guy acts like it's a favor to bring it to you, and even then makes you wait a long time to get it.

We eat out for a lot of reasons...

The Boy and I love to cook, not feeling like it is rarely the reason we go out. We live in a college town, so if we are feeling lazy, we order in... the ultimate act of sloth.

We go out either because we want a nice evening not parked in our (mutually dining-table-less) livingrooms, or because we're celebrating something, or because we want a specific food from a specific place. (Most recent example: Hummus at Lebanese Taverna in Silver Spring. Nom nom.)

Also it's an excuse to look pretty and be all schmoopy. I refuse to be one of those recluse couples who is dating but doesn't go on dates.

I don't eat out much down here, but when I'm back in Baltimore, pretty much every night. Its a treat for me and the fiancee; we go to places that have foods we don't make at home and we like the service.

Plus, when I'm up there, gotta have some crab cakes! nom nom nom

Piano Rob--you and Bourbon Girl? Just give me 24 hours notice, please! (Somehow I didn't think you two would hit it off ...)

* The food is fabulous
* I want to socialize with family/friends
* I love the setting
* I'm too tired to shop and/or cook
* I feel like being waited on
* It's something I can't make at home

And if I could find all of these things in one place, I would likely never go anywhere else. Especially if that place was within a 5 mile radius of where I live in Timonium, the land of restaurant destitution.

My computer at work lost my info and I only just noticed, so I've been Anonymous yesterday and today.

PRob - get with me soon on dates to show up at Dahlink's for dinner, okay?

Didn't you say you were having dinner somewhere interesting tonight? How was it? I would have shown up at the Trattoria since y'all are there every Wed., but I figured tonight was an exception.

Dahlink - do you have Maker's? Or do we have to bring our own? :)

Notice is given, Dahlink

Um--Piano Rob and Bourbon Girl, we'll have to reschedule for next week, okay? Tonight is the fabulous finale of "So You Think You Can Dance" (yes, I admit it, I'm hooked). And tomorrow night we are going out to celebrate many years of marriage. This weekend we have guests. But when you come, you can bring the Maker's!

Bourbon Girl - I have a feeling that Dahlink will forever have a reason to reschedule us for dinner at her place. And what's with the comment that you and I wouldn't hit it off? Hello - you can sometimes find me at the bottom of a manhattan at the Owl Bar; isn't that enough for hitting it off?

I was at IXIA on Wednesday for their "blind tasting" event and I was there on a gift certificate. I had never been there and it was a lovely experience. I don't think I'll be back because I know I cannot afford it. I loved the ambiance and even though we were seated near the door it was not distracting. I was amazed at the number of 20-somethings who were dining. (I never ventured into the lounge although I should have; it looked as funky as the lower level restrooms.) The way some of the patrons were dressed (shorts, flip flops) interested me.

The meal began with an amuse bouche. I cannot tell you what it was (besides tasty) because the food deliverer was very soft-spoken and I hate to say "what." It was a small slice of crusty toasted bread with cheese and tiny tomatoes. The appetizer was, I think, risotto in a brown sauce. The entree was baby lamb from New Zealand that was cooked rare - delicious. I didn't care what I looked like as I gnawed on the bones. Finally, dessert was heavenly. Peach ice cream over fresh peach slices with whipped cream; I wanted seconds. Our waiter, Russell, was attentive but not intrusive. We were never rushed; in fact, I was surprised to note that we had been at table for three hours from start to finish.

(A week in the Adirondack woods without cell phone or internet ... and no DT's! Back to civilization [Cambridge "Our Fair City," MA] if not yet home.)

I go out to eat:

1) When I am on the road, though this trip the only two meals were Sunday brunch at the Algonquin on Lake George and Thursday lunch at a terrific new "Caffe Rustica" in Lake Placid. My knife roll and a couple of good pans make good traveling companions.

2) When I am doing business (mostly lunch) especially recruiting and coaching.

3) When we are celebrating some family event and it seems right to do something different.

Taste triumphs over every other consideration -- but I'm luckier than most in having a handful of very good choices that are a 10 minute walk or less from the office.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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