Dining Out Isn’t What it Used to Be


It’s been ages since the four of us have gone out for dinner, but finally the stars align and we decide to go out to celebrate some family milestones. We choose a restaurant with a good reputation that we’ve been to before and that works for all of our tastes.

Some of us have a cocktail, and we order two appetizers to share and four entrees. So far, so good, except Harriet’s cocktail, although drinkable, isn’t made the way it should be. That’s not cool, because it shouldn’t be hard to make a drink right.

The first app comes out. We approve. It’s one of those classics that’s hard to screw up. The next app . . . where is it? We wait, we wait. The restaurant isn’t busy. It doesn’t seem understaffed. But also: our waiter is no longer our waiter and someone else has taken over serving our table.

We decide they must have forgotten about the second app and we’re going to let it go because by this time we’ve been here a while and we want our entrees. Then the app comes. It’s disappointing. Shortly after our entrees arrive. One of us is happy. Three of us are not. It’s almost like the cooks tried not to flavor our dishes. Dull, dull, dull.

Soon enough we’re out of there, several hundred dollars in the hole.

I used to love going to restaurants, having worked in them for many years. I looked forward to seeing what they did well and even noticing areas that could use improvement. I especially liked to be delighted and surprised. That never seems to happen anymore, and we rarely go out now.

Once I had a fine cocktail in a fine restaurant. It seems like a long time ago.

I understand the pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry. I understand margins are razor thin and that it’s hard to retain staff when you pay crappy wages. But prices are sky high, the service often sucks, and the meal itself is seldom as good as what I can cook at home. What once used to be a favorite leisure activity has vanished.  

And this was no isolated incident. Last weekend Harriet and I were traveling and we went out to dinner with my brother and his wife in Crystal Beach, Ontario. The place was basically a pub and our expectations weren’t too high. But even without expecting a gourmet experience this place sucked all the way. The room was so loud I couldn’t hear the conversation. We waited forever for our food, and when it finally, finally came, it was mostly awful. The only positive aspect was that my brother picked up the tab (thanks again, Peter).

The next day, Harriet and I gave it one more chance. We searched on Yelp and Trip Advisor for a place to have brunch and ended up at Betty’s on Buffalo’s west side. I’m happy to report my faith is partially restored. On a beautiful day we sat outside on an awning-covered patio and had a wonderful meal. The service was attentive without being overbearing, the food was simple yet finely prepared, and the prices were fair.

But to me, this was an outlier. Who wants to try ten restaurants only to find one gem? Still, I miss the experience.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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