Contrary to the outside belief that New York is a cold, isolated city of 8 million people, the reality is it’s really nothing more than a small town. If you’ve been around (the block) long enough, everyone pretty much knows everyone. You’re bound to run into people or be seen by people you know (or know you) no matter where you go. Since most of us dine out at least 3~4 times a week, restaurants essentially become an extension of our living rooms. They are family, lovers, and maybe even a bit on-the-side. Or even on-the-side of on-the-side.
In order to maintain a happy, full stomached NYC life, the key is to know how and where your loves (restaurants, that is) rank in your heart, and how to properly manage each relationship. And being the global rats that we are, many of these relationships end up stretching across the bridges and tunnels to LA, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Europe and beyond. Here is…
DineGirl’s Guide to being Disloyally Loyal
Believe us when we say that years of field experience, hard boozing, dining, schmoozing, a few heartbreaks and many many air kisses have been a part of this research project in order to provide this valuable insight.
Understand also that if you’re new to a restaurant or a restaurant group, you’re probably not likely to get the choice tables right off the bat. It’s the real life equivalent to a ‘day of’ reservation at Dorsia. Cue the cackle on the phone. Just ain’t gonna happen. Over time, as you frequent the establishment consistently (this is key), make it a point to get to know the hosts / owners / managers. You will see the relationship blossom naturally. Tip well, mind your manners, treat the staff with respect and you will make a good impression. Also, make sure you are being valued in return. Why keep going back to a “hot spot” that only gives a shit about your Black Card, treats you like crap and serves up mediocre food? Good restaurants value their customers (they remember the names of regulars), and will make each visit an enjoyable one.
1). KNOW YOUR CORE !! Good relationships take time, effort, and a lot of patience.
A handful of good core relationships will be the foundation to a fruitful life spent feasting. Know where and who you want in your core, and treat these apples as if they were your babies. These spots should stand the test of time, feel like home, and keep you coming back year after year. Timeless, elegant, welcoming and special. True gems these are. Value the core.
2). MAINTENANCE : It’s hard yet enjoyable work.
You wouldn’t let your car go for 100,000 miles without an oil change or tune up. Similarly, don’t let your food foundation turn into a jalopy hodge-podge mess of random spots. Key to maintaining your core is consistency. Minimum once a month visits for your #1’s, and every so often for the other core guys. This will also evolve naturally.
Now that you’ve established a core, here’s how to Cheat Like a Pro!
3). MONOGAMY IS BAD : “When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.” Mae West. On the upper east side you’ll find old grannies frequenting equally tired old spots 5,6 nights a week. This isn’t because the food is that fabulous, it’s because the restaurant is on the block and part of the co-op. It’s important to venture out of your comfort zone and seek out some spice and thrill on a regular basis. After all, variety and curiosity are what broadens one’s horizons into new cultures and culinary experiences. Hopping on a plane with a passport is also part of this process.
4). KNOW YOUR FLOOZIES : One and done’s are ok.
So you ventured out and the new place sucked. No love lost here. The twisted logic is that knowing what was bad about a new place will make you appreciate what’s great about your core places. Was it a bad attitude, tired vibe, crappy service, predictable menu or uninspired wine list? Knowing what you didn’t like about the person, I mean restaurant – (just kidding!) will mean avoiding the same traps and pitfalls in the future. Set your own standards for next time, which means time and money saved. And if it was indeed a great experience but just not inspiring enough for round two – that’s A-ok as well.
Just because you’re buddy buddy with this guy, that guy, and everyone in between doesn’t mean that anyone gives a shit. We’ve all got notches on our belts, a Rolodex to match and are in the same rat race hustle. While dining at one spot, don’t openly talk smack or name drop other spots in that obvious way. Appreciate places for what they are, and never point out what they are not. And if it’s not meant to be part of the core, refer to (4). Restaurants keep tabs on everyone, and yes they are listening into people’s conversations, taking notes and will remember pretty much everyone who steps through their doors.
6). ON-THE-SIDE, and ON-THE-SIDE of ON-THE-SIDE : sounds complicated, but not.
These are spots that you frequent sporadically and have some connection to – for whatever reason it may be. They require a small level of maintenance but aren’t necessarily long term apples since chances are some won’t be around in a year. Best to enjoy them for what they are. The “on-the-side” types usually have just one or two appealing things on the menu that keep you coming back, and the rest is just eh. Hence the mild interest level. Maybe they do a good martini on a rainy day or have a nice oyster happy hour. And sometimes that’s all you’re in the mood for. “On-the-side” of original “On-the-side”s refer to diluted versions of the OTS. For example, your original OTS martini spot may reside all the way downtown, so the OTS-OTS would be the somewhat acceptable place in midtown which fills a void but isn’t a full “fix”. And so on and so forth.
7). DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS : shhhh…..
We know a vegetarian who enjoys the occasional Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern. His soul weeps inside but somehow he still manages to wake up the next morning. It didn’t kill him! A miracle! On route back from a boozy business trip to Minneapolis, one of the best experiences for Dine Girl was a perfect Big Mac, fries, and a ‘strawberry’ shake from a long lost friend with golden arches. Whether it’s politically incorrect foie gras, or the questionable dive bar chicken wings, we all have our vices. These dirty little secrets are ok on that rare occasion – just don’t tell anyone and continue to pretend it never happened. Again.
This guide could go on and on, but we’ve outlined what we believe serves as a roadmap for dining out with purpose. With the right attitude and approach – everyone is happy, no one gets hurt, we’re all well fed, and the revolving doors continue to twirl as they await the next batch of hungry hungry hippos.
DineGirl’s Disloyally Loyal Guide strictly pertains to the rules of dining out. DineGirl is not responsible for what happens to anyone who applies the above rule set to other aspects of life. Results of such behavior include – but not limited to: rotten core, no apples, and loss of respect from society (ie. Louis Winthorpe III : “No one wants your drugs here Louie!”). The worst case scenario – a potentially empty stomach, table wine and sharing Buster’s dog bowl and bed.