The Wall Street Journal has an article about how restaurateur Donatella Arpaia is scaling back on her spending when eating out. Arpaia is co-owner of Anthos, Kefi and Mia Dona, three Manhattan restaurants I really like. I find it hard to believe that she might truly be thinking about how to spend less when she goes out. But the piece did get me thinking about myself and how I am very much what I consider a strategic diner, perhaps so much so that a friend has branded me a "food lunatic".
By strategic diner, I mean that I rarely dine out without carefully considering what I am dealing with on a particular occasion - price, wait time or reservations, best dishes, reputation and reviews, location, dessert options, atmosphere and dining partners. Thinking carefully about my meals is not solely for the purpose of saving money, but primarily to plan for the best meal possible every time I eat. And by doing so I am looking for the best value.
Friends often ask me for suggestions and I like to know at least some of their thoughts on what they are looking for - the end result is much more likely to be successful if I can tailor my recommendation based on some specifics.
Choosing the right place to eat seems like a complex equation but it's one that I have found produces more hits than misses. It's better than eating at the nearest generic New York restaurant. There are so many great ones out there still to be tried (I keep a list) that I don't want to waste my time ending up at a random dud.