in praise of good (but not great) food

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For the record, the stuffed avocado at Trudy’s is great!

A friend recently posted on Facebook that a reservation to newly opened dipdipdip shabu shabu, the latest offering from the Tatsu-ya Twins, requires a 30-day wait. I went to dipdipdip’s website and confirmed this obervation (although “reasonable reservation” may have been more appropriate since after-10-pm slots were available whenever [but that’s the same as “closed” for us old folks]). The only reason the month-long wait wasn’t longer is because that’s as far as their reservation horizon stretched. It could easily be two (or three) months.

I haven’t tried dipdipdip yet, so I don’t know that it’s great, but the odds are high. Waits at their other eating concepts are also long, even at their fast-casual spots, where a long wait in 100-degree southern-exposured sun for a steaming bowl of ramen is the rule (one time we purposefully went while hurricane remnants blew through town anticipating no wait; alas, we still had to suffer the elements, this time Jim-Cantori style).

Great food is, well… great! Transcendentally delicious, border breaking, and experience expanding. It’s also, typically, expensive and time-consuming, often requiring a carbon-emitting trek across town, a hunting and pecking for parking, and–more and more–navigating gape-jawed, phone-fumbling bachelorette blondebots. Even over-achieving lo-fi food, such as Ramen Tatsu-ya or Trudy’s, can require an hour wait for a $10 plate with quite a din at dinner.

Speaking of Trudy’s, a friend and I used to imbibe there weekly to catch up, but as the wait crept up to an hour and a table discussion required a shouting match, we found a nearby alternate. The food wasn’t nearly as good, and the margaritas were fair-to-middlin’. But there was no wait, no screaming, and no hungry hordes with delirium tremens glaring through the glass wondering when you were going to flip the table. Service was friendly, and we had the pick of the litter as far as indoor and outdoor seating and server. So this good (but not great) place happily became our new regular retreat. My friend was sadly electrocuted in an apartment pool some ten years ago, but the bride and I continue the tradition.

Good (but not great) means that we don’t have to forage far for food, don’t have to wait, and don’t have to look at the menu since we usually get the same damn thing every damn time (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). There are familiar faces there (we know the owners/managers) if not familiar faces among the clientele, the other good-not-greaters.

I imagine we all have these stalwarts of the stomach in our culinary repertoire. May they continue to earn enough eaters to stay in business, but not so many to require a wait and hustle.

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