Friday, April 06, 2007

Dining in the City

As a bit of a foodie who has lived in New York City for upwards of 2.5 years people have started to expect me to recommending restaurants. This is very dangerous as I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to dining in the city. When I have visitors in town or friends asking to meet up I am filled with a sense of dread knowing that soon, I'll be asked for a restaurant suggestion. I have no suggestions. There are about 5 NYC eateries that I really love (Caracas, Otto, Sala... perhaps there are only 3) but my desire to expand this list makes me hesitant to do too much revisiting. So when it comes to planning a night out I'm usually left wondering if it's ok if I just offer to make dinner rather than deal with the stress of picking a place to dine.

Typically when faced with the challenge of choosing a restaurant (or any other challenge) I turn to the all mighty internet to solve it for me. I obsessively search chowhound and citysearch for places in the right neighborhood and price range but this quickly leads to feeling overwhelmed. There's really no way to use either of these tools if you don't know what you're looking for. I usually come to the keyboard with very few specific needs (yummy, won't result in a bill that makes me gag) so there's no narrowing of the vast selection.

There are something like 8 million restaurants in the city (or perhaps closer to 18,696). Visitors seem to think that the vast number of eateries must make picking the dine of the day a simple task but this is far from the truth. More restaurants means more places I haven’t been to or heard about. And knowing there is always another option 100 yards in any direction can easily suck one into a quest for the ultimate meal. As Amy and I have discovered on many occasions this pursuit usually results in failure when starvation forces you into eating at the next place you see no matter what. I mastered the art of restaurant recommending in exactly one local. In my home town there are probably 10 places to eat that do not have drive thrus. In that climate I can easily provide a run down of the pros and cons of any available kitchen. I only go back twice a year and I’m still practically an expert – give me slim pickin’s anyday. (If anyone is driving north form LA on 395 and looking for a good burger gimmie a call)

I take restaurant recommending very seriously, especially if I’m being expected to dine there myself. I want very much to pick a place that lives up to every diner’s fantasy but I also want to go somewhere new. This makes recommending with confidence all but impossible. Part of my need to recommend well boils down to being too hard on myself. I feel like if I pick a dud I will be personally responsible for ruining everyone’s night, wasting their money, tarnishing their image of New York and possibly causing their death should food poisoning set in. This kind of pressure is apt to turn a girl into an anorexic hermit.


court said...

Nothing to do with the blog, though I do love reading it! Have those photos arrived yet? Im beginning to hate Royal Mail!

Happy Easter


themikestand said...

This is why it's good to have a list of "good places to get a _____", (fill in the blank: steak, taco, lobster, tummyache...)

The only drawback being that not everyone wins at any particular establishment, but at least someone does!