Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dining Out

I’m sure that like me, every resident in this area that ever comes into contact with visitors has to answer the food question. “Can you suggest a good place to go for dinner?”

Sure, I’ve sent the wrong people to the right places before, but I try not to do that anymore. I now ask questions like, “What sort of food do you enjoy?” Then my response is generally, “that’s disgusting! How can you do that to your body? Maybe you should eat one another!”

No, actually I don’t say that at all, but I am hesitant to send anyone anywhere. Restaurant dining is a testament to just how much the human body can endure. The preparation of the food is usually very unhealthy, which is the reason it tastes so good. Besides that I have known many people in the industry and I sincerely question their commitment to sanitization. Fortunately most food gets cooked at a very high temperature which lands things in our favor once again.

I stopped making dining suggestions after I had a visit from my mother. I wanted to take her somewhere where the food was excellent, fresh and well presented. One thing this place always did was place nasturtiums, an edible flower, on the plate. Nasturtiums are soft and have a sweet peppery taste. I was trying to convince my mother to try one. As I placed one in my mouth to show her it was totally safe, she pointed out the window to the garden where the restaurant owner’s Scotties were out in the garden pissing on the nasturtiums. I have not returned since, and I tell this story to anyone who ever brings up the name of this place.

I suppose one makes a leap of faith when dining out. Eating is a very personal thing. When you think about it you are going to a place where people prepare things that you put inside your body. Most people don’t even like it when a degreed medical practitioner with sterile gloves places a tongue depressor or a dental instrument in their mouth, and here they are totally trusting of some guy with a high school diploma (maybe) who is handling stuff with their bare hands that will not only go into your mouth, but will reside in your body for a day or so. If you are unlucky it may be in your body only a half hour… Don’t talk to me about oysters.

So what are my present rules about dining out? Never eat anywhere that has a very large sign. The best places usually have very small signs, and the best have no signs at all with their business name on it.

Next, if the food is at least interesting the restaurant gets three chances. If the staff doesn’t recognize me after three visits I don’t return. Recognition may seem petty, but this tells me that the staff turn-over rate may be high. If so there are problems going on that I am not seeing on the surface as a customer. Also, it tells me that they don’t care about regular clientele. They are just there to feed-em and street-em.

Lastly, I tip 20% when the service is acceptable. Rarely have I ever had to tip below that rate, and if I do I can tell you I wouldn’t return for their two other chances. I have only walked out from one Bistro in Astoria from lack of good service, better put, and blatantly rude service and general inattentiveness.

Out of all the places to eat here there are only three that I will go to on a regular basis. For breakfast I enjoy The Columbia Café. For lunch and dinner I enjoy, T-Paul’s Urban Café. Also for dinner I go to The Hong Kong. That’s the short list.


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