What is an ethnic restaurant anyway?
The discussion continues under the post on "upscale" ethnic restaurants, and it occurred to me that I use the term "ethnic" without really being able to define it.
For instance, we got a couple of good suggestions under the post that hadn't occurred to me -- Black Olive and Tio Pepe -- but I can't decide whether they are truly ethnic restaurants.
Is that precisely because they are upscale? I don't think so. ...
Yes, Tio Pepe serves regional dishes of Spain. But what it's best known for are its Continental dishes, which might be filet mignon in a wine sauce or soft shell crabs fixed some fancy but not necessarily Spanish way. I would label it a special occasion restaurant rather than an ethnic restaurant if I was allowed only one label.
Likewise Black Olive's owners are Greek, but I think of it as a seafood restaurant with Greek accents, not a Greek seafood restaurant.
I'm not saying I'm right in my perceptions, but I bet I'm not the only one who has them.
I also don't think of French or Italian restaurants as ethnic restaurants. Technically they are, but the term conveys to me cuisines that are less familiar to Americans.
Would you consider a restaurant ethnic if it's owned by an American even if the food is another country's regional cuisine? Are Baltimore's Japanese restaurants that are mostly Korean-owned somehow less ethnic because they are? What is an ethnic restaurant anyway?
(Seafood display at Black Olive by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)