There are three main facets to the typical restaurant experience: ambiance, meaning the overall feeling of the place; food (obviously); and service.
A good restaurant scores with all three on a reasonably consistent basis. Sometimes, of course, some aspects of a place are so pleasing that its failings can be overlooked. If the food is exquisite, you might forgive a certain dowdiness of décor, or if the view is stunning, that overdone lamb chop might not seem like such a tragedy. (These are the best restaurants in the world right now.)
And of course, even a very good restaurant that generally ticks all the boxes can fall down occasionally. Though in such cases, the management or staff will usually do whatever can be done to make things better.
Still, going out to a restaurant for the first time, even one that gets good reviews, can be a chancey proposition. You won’t know how good (or bad) the food is until your first few bites – but aspects of the ambiance and service (and hints about the food gleaned from the nature of the menu) can provide warning signs that you’re probably not going to have a pleasant experience.
What to do when these signs are apparent? If it’s logistically and socially possible, just leave. Say you’re sorry; make up an excuse about the babysitter; just get out. If this isn’t possible (you’re embarrassed to make a scene; you’re somebody else’s guest), make the best of it by ordering as little as possible and avoiding potential trouble spots (supposedly “fresh” seafood, overly complicated dishes). Then eat only what you want, pay the check, and get out of there as soon as you can. You can always stop for pizza on the way home. (If you’re lucky, you might be near one of the best pizza places in every state.)
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