Upscale Restaurants

I have been thinking about this for awhile but last night’s experience sealed the deal.  This fall, we had dinner at a handful of restaurants that are definitely overpriced with the hope that the experience and the food would be worth the cost.  It wasn’t.  All of them were disappointing except for one, The Grill.

The type of restaurants we frequent just don’t excite me these days.  I keep trying to articulate what it is.  They all seem the same, the food is ok, not great and the experience isn’t that interesting.  At the Grill, the food isn’t OMG but it is solid and some of the things on the menu are certainly amazing but it is all about the experience.  The experience is incredible.

I happened to be on the lower east side this weekend, where small ethnic restaurants rule, and the majority of them get high scores on Foursquare and other places.  The reason is the food is really good and the experience is fun, gritty and the price is in line with that.   My only wish is that these places took reservations and made the experience longer.  When we go out with people, you want to have a few hours to talk and drink but it is tough to do when you aren’t at a semi-fine dining restaurant.

I feel as if we are going to see a shift in the restaurant scene.  The waiting in line is just not a good look so I’d love to see someone create a restaurant with good food, a great experience, the right price and the ability to reserve a seat….a solid wine list would be an added bonus.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Agree.I find myself more and more, liking casual and healthy and fun with interest.Butcher’s Daughter touched on it then lost it with the LA version I think.This has already happened with the wine world with shorter lists, artisanal selections and just a different brighter, less alcoholic approach to raising a glass.Problem is–especially where we live in Tribeca–there isn’t much though a new chef for Racines on Chambers has me hopeful as that is my local hangout.

    1. pointsnfigures

      And places where the sound isn’t deafening. I am getting old-“Get off my lawn”

      1. awaldstein

        Lots of great audio tech to adjust this of course.Use it!

  2. William Mougayar

    I’m with you 100% there. Been dining a lot around the world this year and we don’t skimp on that part, yet overall, as if the experiences have gone down a notch or 2 from Paris to New York and in between.Few real chefs are still in their own kitchen, and fewer are able to keep the quality high when they are not there because they are trying to get big and forget what brought them initial success.Can’t remember which famous French chef said it, but a good chef is when you can’t tell the difference whether they are in the kitchen or not when you’re having your meal.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Good quote. Very few chefs can do that

  3. pointsnfigures

    check out, some good places there depending on the city. I was at a dinner party and we had this exact conversation. Is the small plate thing done? How about sharing plates? It does seem like costs at many establishments went way up, while the food quality is meh and there isn’t much differentiation from place to place.

    1. AMT Editorial Staff

      Agree on the “differentiation”. We find that “ownership groups” have many restaurants and while the menu/decor/vibe change, all the food tastes the same!

  4. LIAD

    fun gritty and cheap – seem diametrically at odds to advance reservations and multi-hour dining experience. I think it will be hard to marry both experiences.

  5. AMT Editorial Staff

    We were just having this conversation 2 nights ago. We were entertaining guests in town. We wanted a view spot, good food and an ambiance that supports conversation. We picked a place. It was fabulous. BUT, it was more about the “experience” as you say. The food was solid. Nothing blew us away, but the menu was very well balanced for all types of eaters, the wines by the glass were favorites AND most important was the service. It wasn’t just “good & attentive” service; it was “willing” service. The answer to menu questions were automatically, we will do what you would like so you enjoy the food. A simple request for extra raw red onion was met with a smile and a quick return. Questions were answered, water glasses filled etc., Having excellent service makes the night. We’ve been to places with more “chef driven” food, and often the servers act like they are doing you a favor by helping you. A request for “light on the sauce” is met with a snobby stare, or a “body sulk.” Get over it. Who is tipping? Who is paying the bill? Grant it, the place we dined at wasn’t moderate, but not super expensive either. Apps $9-$15 and entrees $28-$35. And a view.

  6. leeschneider

    Had a rare dinner out with my wife a couple weeks ago (2 little kids will squash the dinners out). Could have gone to any restaurant in the city. Decided on a small neighborhood place a stone’s throw from our apartment – fun, good to great food, and price in-line with the experience – just as you described. Solid wine list and they take reservations! The thought of the long fine-dining experience didn’t seem to jive with where we are at these days.

  7. JLM

    .What you are describing is the collision between the FOOD and the EXPERIENCE.When Katrina hit New Orleans, there was an influx of talent into Austin which drove the food and the dining experience up a couple of notches. Now, it has been absorbed, diluted, and dumbed down.There is a degree of pretentiousness which has crept into dining out which tries (and fails) to put it on the top of the mountain. Every night is not a solar eclipse. Can’t be.You have to find a couple of “local joints” upon which you can depend.There is one I’ve been going to for almost 40 years in Austin — Texas French Bread. It is owned by a Harvard trained securities lawyer. Maybe that’s what it takes.What is also a phenomenon is there are good “foodie” cities which have continued to get better and better — Charleston and Savannah, as an example.I am headed to Savannah and NYC for a month of so and I will be testing my thesis.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  8. Neil Marchand

    I think there are some wonderful places in the city that fit the billing. Restaurants such as King, Pasquale Jones, Cervos are places that I’ve been to recently where the food, wine and ambiance all felt on point and authentic.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Those are good examples for sure

  9. Marilyn Machlowitz

    Extremely valid point. Rosemary’s on Greenwich would be even better with reservations. So many food experiences to enjoy in different ways–DeKalb Market in Brooklyn is fun for a food hall. Uncle Boon’s sister is fun for a very casual spinoff. James Beard House- fun and learning & fab food. and the trend-let of not replacing your silver all the time–the places that give you a drawer of flatware or a wooden block of flatware (Albin and Adam ? in Stockholm). Stuffy, stale & overpriced—doesn’t make the cut.

  10. kirklove

    11 Mad worth it? Only fancy place I have an inkling to experience.