November 14, 2005

A restaurant experience.

Ever go to a restaurant where you're the only customers, and the restaurant is really good and the people are so nice that you feel for them so much that you kind of wish you'd gone somewhere else? What if no one else is there because on other occasions people have had that experience so they don't go back because they don't want to feel sorry for the nice family that runs the place? I'd name the restaurant, but I'm afraid it wouldn't help them!

26 comments:

Art said...

Are you afraid to name them because if the next time you go there and it's packed, you'll become obsessed over whether your blog is reponsible?
(The converse would be not mentioning them because if you did and went in and there was still noone there..you would worry noone was paying attention.

stoqboy said...

I went to a place in St. Petersburg, FL, A Taste of Europe, owned and run by a Hungarian couple. My wife and I were the only two in there on a Friday night. Food and service were great, but we felt awful the whole time. We had no cash, and they didn't take credit cards. We tried to give them our hotel address and such, but they said no you'll come back and pay. We paid them next day, but when we went back the next year, they were gone.

Ann Althouse said...

Art: I'm afraid of making people avoid the place.

Rick Lee said...

There was a Seinfeld episode about this situation.
-=-=-=-=-
THE CAFE

(Episode 24): From his apartment window, Jerry spies a little cafe that does not seem to be doing any business. Jerry feels sorry for the Pakistani owner and offers him some advice. George concocts a scheme to have Elaine take an IQ test for him. Kramer tries to keep his mother's ex-boyfriend's jacket, because he meets many women with it. Air Date: 11/6/91

Ann Althouse said...

Rick: Oh, yeah. I wasn't thinking about that one, but now that you mention it, it's a reminder that trying to help might only hurt.

Robert said...

You're overthinking your role in the cosmos. Post their name and address and a comment along the lines of "what a yummy place to eat" and then let causality proceed along its merry path, unhindered by Althousian considerations.

Causality doesn't worry about you; you're allowed not to worry about causality.

Dave said...

How many restaurants are there in Madison?

chuck b. said...

Ann, I've read your post three times and I definitely have no idea what you're talking about.

I wish I could find restaurants where I'm the only customer! That's like a fantasy come true for me.

Do you feel sad for the proprietors because they didn't have more business the night you went? That seems unlikely. I'm nonplused.

Ann Althouse said...

Chuck: Yes, I felt bad for that. Why is that hard to understand?

Joseph Angier said...

I understand your discomfort in an empty restauarant, but I'm not sure you're right about not naming them. My fear on entering an empty place is that maybe people are staying away for a reason ... and that I might want to save my money as well. On the other hand, if I'm told that it's actually an undiscovered gem, that would give me an incentive to frequent it ... with the added benefit of cheering on an underdog.

Eli Blake said...

Hey, it may not be that bad to be alone.

When I proposed to my wife, it was at a Chinese restaurant. I bribed the waitress to slip the proposal into a fortune cookie.

At the moment my wife opened it, there was no one else in the restaurant (other than the waitress who was watching us) and I had the ring out. It was a better experience because we were alone.

As for the concern that if they are ALWAYS empty, they may go out of business, you may as well name it. If they are that empty, the odds that someone who is contemplating going there tonight will read your blog about the great food and decide to stay away because it is empty are vanishingly small, compared to the odds that someone from your community who has never been to the restaurant before will read it and want to check it out.

Although, I have to admit, there has been once or twice I've walked into an empty restaurant, and immediately wondered whether it had been cleared out by Ptomaine poisoning, and looked around nervously to see where they displayed their food inspector's permit.

Gerry said...

I'd follow roberts' advice. Maybe even do it subtley to not tempt the winds of fate-- wait some time, take some photos, post them while saying that you ate in this wonderful restaurant called "yadayada."

Or make them up a blogad and give it a free month-long run.

HaloJonesFan said...

Yes, if they're depending on word-of-mouth advertising, then refusing to use your mouth to make words isn't going to be helpful...

Also, don't feel like they are embarassed because of low turnout. They're probably more like, "jesus CHRIST why won't someone COME EAT HERE! ANYONE!"

Hamsun56 said...

If I read this in a novel, I would think that the uncomfortable empahty that the protagonist has for the owners of the restaurant relates to something in her own life.

Mehera said...

It's not that I like crowded restaurants, but there is something wierd about eating in an empty place. It's like eating out has an energy to it, and that energy has something to do with having other people around. If it's a good place to eat then maybe someone just has to help break the ice. And maybe your ability to get people's attention could actually do some good. I know I would try it on your recommendation--but I'm a long way from Madison.

Sarada said...

The only reason I dislike eating at a restaurant in that situation is if the owners hover. Usually they manage not to hover, and give us free dessert as well. Then I tell all of my friends about the great restaurant that I ate at, and don't tell them we were the only ones there.

anselm said...

Is there any more appropriate situation to name the restaurant? You like it, and they could use your good word.

It's clearly different from Seinfeld sticking his nose into the proprietor's business. Plus I think everyone is curious.

jeff said...

I think the only time I ate at a restaurant like that was just before I left Hawaii (reassigned to Germany) in December of 1990. There was a place called "Crab Factory Sada" that I'd always wanted to go to - they advertised that they brough their crabs in fresh daily from the Pribilof Islands.
So one day prior to going to a concert downtown, I decided to eat there.
I got there before it even opened.
I ate probably a good 2lbs of a variety of crab. And loved it all.
And I was still the only customer in the place when I paid and left.

chuck b. said...

I would have just assumed it's a slow night or something. Or that people would have come earlier or later that night.

Christy said...

Happened early one Sunday evening at my favorite restaurant in Baltimore's little Italy. My sister and I were the only people downstairs although we heard a party was going on upstairs. Turned into a fabulous evening. Our waitress was also the barman (and the only person we laid eyes on) and when I said that I didn't like Merlot, she saw it as her personal challenge to find one that I liked. She returned time and again with a new bottle and fresh glasses. She failed to find a Merlot I liked, but we had a thoroughly delightful evening.

Pedro said...

Name the restaurant. I guess you don't want to because you fear other people would avoid it for the same reason you felt uncomfortable. However, 1) it is very likely they would not have gone in anyway and 2) if they were to stumble upon it, they would see it empty and would probably still avoid it if eating at empty restaurants mad them uncomfortable. I can't see how naming them could hurt the restaurant.

peter hoh said...

Eating at a restaurant, I don't want to be ignored, but I also don't want to be the center of attention.

One of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants is always crowded. I love eating there. Once at lunch, I shared a table with another guy who was also eating alone.

There's another Vietnamese restaurant closer to home -- probably just as good -- but too often I'm the only one there. So I only use that place for take out.

tcd said...

Maybe you were at the restaurant during off peak hours. Maybe the restaurant does most of its business during lunch and you were there for dinner? It's possible. There's a very good Thai restaurant that I go to for dinner and it is mostly empty when I get there. However, I know that they do a brisk lunch business because my sister goes there for lunch every week and she says it is always busy at lunchtime.

Ann Althouse said...

TCD: I've been there other times when it is busy, like on a weekend night. We went on a Monday night. Maybe that's the worst night -- lots of restaurants choose to be closed that night. I think it's a particularly good night for eating out! I mean, you have to eat every day. Why not pick a down day to go out?

tcd said...

Very true, Professor. You almost always get better service when the restuarant is not too busy and your food is less likely to be served cold.

Curue2005 said...

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Thank you
Dan