In Richmond, I am a concierge at a luxury hotel and I am constantly hounded for restaurant recommendations. I don’t claim to have any expert opinion on restaurants or even food for that matter. My opinion is actually of little consequence. I simply try to put the guest in a place that they would enjoy.
There are older guests, most in there 60’s and 70’s, who’s opinions on style and class is very old world. They love golf, cigars, filet mignon and 14-year-old scotch. These guests, mostly white and overly tan, are used to lunch at the Palm in New York or D.C. So I send them to a Richmond equivalent, Morton’s Steak House is a safe bet or Bookbinder’s.
Then you have your young affluent crowd. The Internet poker types who love molecular gastronomy and mixology. If that’s not enough also they want a place with an artful décor, something hip with exposed concrete on the walls like some New York art studio. There are a handful of places I recommend for them, Balliceaux or the Roosevelt typically go over well.
But as of late I have been having more and more guests who are incredibly hard to please. They ask for strange things like a place where they can have dinner with their dog. They also come up with weird combinations like a place with Asian fusion food a river view and Jazz piano. While I would love to say, “Why, look no further than the Szechwan House Piano Bar!” I can’t say that because no such place exists. You just made it up.
It’s a funny phenomenon but there is a reason for the recent uptick in these crazy demands. The market for restaurants in most cities is saturated and so restaurants have had to carve out there own niche. There are many burger joints in this town but one opened up recently serving only New Zealand grass fed beef (I have had one of them and they are quite good). Some other restaurants have responded by making everything in house including mustard and ketchup, I was joking with one such small restaurant owner who said if it kept going at this pace she would have to start throwing her own pottery for the plates.
Restaurant patrons have responded as well by increasing their expectations for dining. ‘Why don’t you have an Asian fusion piano bar? You have a New Zealand burger place and two Ethiopian restaurants,’ they think to themselves. Because there are so many seemingly strange places to eat guests now believe they can essentially make up a restaurant and it will be there somewhere on the map for them.
So please, next time you find yourself in a new town and ask someone where to eat, keep it simple. If you ask for great Italian food, casual American or great seafood you will most likely get exactly what you’re looking for. But if you ask for the perfect restaurant that doesn’t actually exist you will be disappointed.