Or: The Basis Of A Good Dining Experience According to Me
I’m too lazy to do research into AAA’s Five Diamond awards/ratings…I just know they give restaurants and hotels diamond ratings based on…criteria. In short, 121 hotels and 63 restaurants throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean received a Five Diamond rating in 2014…of 58,000+ approved and diamond rated establishments. That’s 0.30%. (To actually be educated, you can read about the winners and criteria on the AAA website).
I was thinking about this all when V and I were at the BSBR on Saturday night for dinner. (Unfortunately our #1 pick for dining that night, The Treehouse, was pretty full).
Fortunately for us, we got seated upstairs at BSBR along the edge of what is difficult to describe so here’s a picture:
Essentially, the upstairs has a big chunk of the floor cut out, overlooking the dining room downstairs, with fencing and tables around the perimeter. It was a pretty neat view (and a very ‘intimate’ feeling as all of the tables around the edge were for two people only).
For atmosphere, this place got a 4/5. The only place I can think off of the top of my head that gets a 5/5 is The Velvet Tango Room (Columbus Rd). I could sing the praises of this place all day long but I won’t today. With the 4-piece jazz band and the couches in the back…this place hits the mark for me.
A second criteria for me when evaluating a dining experience is water service. General service, whatever. I don’t mind waiting for food. As someone who downs water with meals like a hippo in the desert, I however, don’t like when I have to wait for more water to come. Lager and Vine (Medina Square) definitely get’s a 5/5 for me in this respect. During lunch one time the waitress brought me TWO glasses of water and continuously filled them so I was NEVER without a half or full glass. That’s good water service, friends. Other places, like the Flying Fig (Market off W25th) put water out on the table (they had their’s in old liquor bottles) for patrons to refill their own glasses as needed. Again, this gets a 5/5 (but now in the same way as a good waiter just coming over to your table). A side note on the Fig though, I would not recommend their God-awful eggplant sandwich for brunch (*barfs in mouth just thinking about it*)
After water service, naturally bathroom (location, cleanliness, etc.) come in to play. I Hate with a capital H, hate to look for bathrooms in a restaurant. I always feel like the other patrons are secretly staring at you as you move across the dining hall mercifully looking for the loo. (Sad/fun fact about me, in any restaurant that I go to, I look for the bathroom like some people scope out emergency exits as soon as I sit down). So places that have signage or easily accessible bathrooms top my list. Then we factor in cleanliness and cool factor. Yes, cool factor. South Side (W11th) has an insanely dim, black tile (marble?) bathroom with little tiny pin overhead lights. I won’t spend too much time thinking about what they’re trying to hide with the darkness in there.
The fourth criteria I hold for a good dining experience is music. Which I guess you could put under atmosphere but really, it’s a standalone category here. Two places that stand out in my mind are 1) The Black Pig (formerly on W25th, now on Bridge) that was playing Muse and Radiohead the first time I went there and it was EXACTLY what I wanted this night. (I was, admittedly, also drinking and when I drink I tend to prefer more chill alternative music) and 2) Holy Craft (formerly on W6th, it has since permanently closed *sobs uncontrollably*) which played popular alternative music from a few years ago (think Passion Pit and MGMT and Miike Snow).
The final criteria is, naturally, food and drink. What awesome atmosphere, water service, bathroom, and music without good food and booze? V took me to Chez Francois (Main St, Vermillion) for Valentines dinner last year and that place is a 6/5. It’s amazing. From the Cream of Dubarry cappuccino with roasted red pepper espuma amuse-bouche to the Chocolate mousse parfait five courses later and all the wine and champagne in between, this place is just everything a girl could want. And it’s definitely everything you’d expect for a four-star restaurant.
If I had to pick an overall 5-Diamond As Awarded By Me establishment, it would sadly have to be Holy Craft…which closed last month. As a non-beer drinker this place with their $8 flights and 40 craft beers on tap was my favorite grounds for beer-experimentation. Factor in the great bartenders (thanks blonde-haired hipster who made me the liefmans fruitesse and pear cider concoction of my dreams), clean everything, alternative music I actually like, and the ‘Fish on Chip’ (which was the only dish in CLE I’d actually go back for). This place truly was my favorite place to eat, drink, and be on the weekends. (I almost cried when I saw they were permanently closed).
A close second is Crop Bistro (W25th). I took V there for his birthday and fortunately, personally knew one of the waiters so for service it’s a 5/5. It’s also located in an old bank so it gets 5/5 on atmosphere and the food was literally second best only to Chez Francois. The deviled eggs literally just…oh my god my mouth has never had deviled eggs so good. I regret getting the half instead of full order.
And that’s that, friends. Any other criteria I’m missing?