There is a major dilemma faced by travelers around the world. You’ve just arrived into town after a long day of traveling and your stomach is growling. Because you’re in unfamiliar territory, you’re not ready or willing to settle for the first place you see. Menus line the sidewalk, and you scan each one for plates and prices that suit your fancy. It’s best if you have something in mind that you’re craving, but that’s not always the case. Once you’ve found a menu that has an agreeable item on it with a corresponding agreeable price, do you sit down and dine at that establishment? Or do you peek around at the view, ambience, waiters, and current patrons and their plates. Of course no one wants to be the sole diner in a restaurant because that probably means their sole sucks.
We tend to think that the more popular the place, the better the food. While this is true nine times out of ten, that one odd time happened to me this morning. In order to prevent this from happening to you or your loved ones, I’ve put together a list of five fundamental exceptions to the rule of More is Mejor*.
- Instinct Says No Even When Stomach Says Yes –Trust your instincts. Even if you see a bunch of people in a restaurant and you’re starving, don’t force something that doesn’t feel right.
- The Diners Don’t Look Like You –This happens a lot when I eat at a rest stop diner. I see tons of other people enjoying their food; however they all look like truck drivers. On the contrary, if I’m walking by a café where young professionals are sipping cappuccinos as they fire away on the free wifi, I know I have a good chance of liking the place. Same with if I see shirtless surfer dudes like the ones I encountered above. Surfers need substantial portions as do I.
- The Host/Waiter is High, Drunk, Creepy or any Combination – This is where I went wrong this morning. Ever the naive, sober person, I simply thought the waiter had a screw loose. Turns out he had been to last night’s rodeo fiesta. Furthermore, he told me all about it over my breakfast. He literally sat down at my table and watched me eat. As Stephanie Tanner would say, “How Rude.” (Note: if I had followed #2 and recognized that the other diners looked like they were wearing the rodeo, I would have gone elsewhere.)
- Exiting Diners Don’t Have Doggie Bags –This is a tricky one because sometimes it means that the food is so good that it is consumed on the spot. Which is why it’s necessary to try to guess where exiting diners sat and determine how much of their meal they left behind. If it’s just a side of coleslaw, that’s fine, but if it’s a good chunk of steak, that is a huge medium-rare red flag.
- Balloons Abound – At the sight of balloons you should realize that some sort of celebration is taking place, and you weren’t invited. Never try to break into a restaurant that is closed to cater a private event. You will get thrown into jail or they’ll play pin the tail on the imposter. There is no party favor in either outcome.
If you can think of any other exceptions to the rule of More is Mejor, please let me know as I have many meals in foreign places ahead.
*Spanish word for better.