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Saying Goodbye to the Last Decade - How/What/Why/Where We Ate

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I'm keeping Wonton Amera all to myself.

Sell tough, chewy beef kebabs. Doner Shula’s.

Just don't have an MRI of your lower back; it's practically guaranteed to show other "issues," even if they may not be affecting other "parts."

On the other hand, I just looked at the eight places where I ate in December 2009.


“Proper” antiquated restaurants: Apiary, Seasonal.


Restaurants with a much more casual feel: The Breslin, Highlands, Northeast Kingdom.


Wine bars: Terroir, Ardesia.


“Ethnic”: La Superior.


Maybe things haven’t changed that much.

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ROI. Just dropped by a casual neighborhood wine bar. Two natural wines I want to try are $19 btg. I am well over $40 into this before I order some charcuterie. I will be out of here under three figures, but why wouldn’t I do a bottle of wine and a ton of cold cuts at home? (Because I didn’t plan is the answer, but one increasingly plans.)

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The big trends for me:


  • the chef-owner restaurant expanding into the local restaurant group (Momofuku, Joe Beef) and its related friend, the reproduceable casual restaurant (Bar Buca, Noodle Bar, Bouchon)
  • the scalable "high quality" fast food chain (Shake Shack, Sweetgreen, Blue Bottle) and probably with it economic differentiation in the fast food market
  • related to the two, the sweep of private money into restaurants (which isn't just about chains, but has also helped to propagate the SP style restaurant)
  • The homogenization of  restaurant and food culture  (Eataly, Shake Shack, Anson Mills products, every minimalist $80 tasting menu only joint, Neapolitan pizza, "[name of city's] Brooklyn")
  • Cool restaurants as anchor tenants
  • The general improvement of non-big city restaurant food
  • The amazing improvement in non-Western food and the continued development of "American" food
  • Better access to good products everywhere
  • Real estate costs

Some of this is inarguable a good. Shake Shack is clearly better then McDonald's, good coffee is available in most places, you can get a decent meal that reminds you of Contra in most cities, but investor return, and sacalability do seem to weigh heavily on the restaurant industry. The idea of a high end restaurant without major capital backing is gone, good restaurants look very homogeneous from place to place, more and more towns have "an Eataly" or "a Shake Shack". The boom in small chef driven restaurants from the last decade subsided significantly in the latter part of this decade (often because those very restaurants became mini-chains or restaurant groups). Everything is probably generally better, but there are also probably fewer exciting Western-style restaurants. 

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I've had to shop, prep, cook and clean all of my life so I have it down to an art.    I'm ashamed to admit that I take bad restaurant food as a personal insult.   If I've never been able to get away with turning out swill, why would I be happy to pay someone else to.  


Not signed "Poor Pitiful Pearl", but admittedly someone from a previous generation.

To me, the problem isn't so much bad restaurant food.  That's easy to avoid -- and when you don't, at least you can get good and angry without thinking about it.


To me, the problem is mediocre restaurant food.  The kind you can't say is bad, so you can't get so easily self-righteous about.  But it's still a total waste of your money.

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For anyone who cares, the Munich (where I moved a little over 10 years ago) version of this is: 


Much better low end: there are now really excellent places to get a well-made burger, artisanal pizza, "street food" style Asian. 


Very high end has also picked up the pace. When I moved here there was one ** and a handful of * places. Now there is a ***, several ** and many many *. Not to mention a lot of great places that rank a mention in Michelin/Gault. 


The midrange has always been well served by the better German pubs, but it is still hard to find mid range that's really compelling outside of German food. Basically for standard weeknight dinner, my litmus test is now: would I rather go there than Georgenhof?


Actually Georgenhof itself is a sign of how things have changed in Munich.  It used to be a fairly standard pub, but then the Lamy family took it over about 10 years ago. Now all the meat/dairy comes from local farms, the vegetables are seasonal, they organise cookie baking events for the kids, etc. etc. I gather it also got more expensive, but the neighborhood has also changed such that the place is always packed. 


Germany always had good bread, but when I moved here Hofpfisterei (organic German breads) was still relatively new, Dompierre (artisanal French bakery) only had one shop, and Julius Brantner opened up about a year ago (super duper artisanal German baker).  


It is also possible to buy organic in all supermarkets, while Bio Basic (an all-organic supermarket) is in every neighbourhood and always packed. 


When Eataly opened I thought it might take business from Viktualienmarkt but they complement each other well, and everywhere is always packed. Demand for the high end is evidently there. 


Germans are famous for being really cheap, and many still prefer to shop at Penny/Aldi/etc. -- I don't think purely income driven. But clearly a lot of people are prioritising food -- and where it comes from -- in a way I did't see when I first started coming here regularly in the early aughts. 

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Perhaps the most ironic story is how the SP restaurant of the 00s that grew salad greens on its walls and foraged wild turnips in prospect Park has been replaced with a restaurant that received a daily shipment from the lux warehouse and puts an ethnic skin on it.

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This year has brought more fabulous choices for dining out in the Kansas City area than I can ever remember. Sadly, we are already beginning to see some of them go away. I'm just not sure this area can support that many places with more expensive (by local standards) menus. But, we do our best to support the places we love and have had a great year of dining. 


On the home front, I cook less than ever. My hands are so arthritic now that any significant amount of chopping or slicing is too painful. My back and hips are also an issue, so standing for long periods can be an issue, though I had physical therapy a couple of months ago and am doing much better in that regard. 

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And yes, that’s entirely legitimate. But you know you’re going to get solid food, right? First example springs to mind for me is Mont Blanc 52. No innovation but they’ve been cooking that menu forever, there won’t be any mistakes, and it’s a lot of fun.


(Ukrainian Home, kind of, but it’s sort of straight-faced fun.)

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