Saturday, 20 April 2013

Austin Food Reviews Start NOW

Austin Food Reviews Start NOW, I don’t know about most families, but many of my family events and fondest memories surround food. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Independence Day, Labor Day, birthdays, and plenty more all have the food element. When my family gets together we usually have at least one trip to a restaurant, and at least one barbeque, even in winter we grill. A family conversation rarely occurs without the comment related to a funny or fun happening when we were eating, or preparing a meal.

Because of this, and because of my well known fondness of food, I thought I would start reviewing some of the restaurants I go to, and contributing some of the family favorite recipes.

Austin has its own food culture. It seems that other people besides myself has a wide range of tastes and it's reflected in the variety of food establishments in our fair city. We have everything from down home cooking, to haute cuisine. We have a nice sprinkling of fusion food joints, and some very specific ethnic specialty eateries. Cafés are everywhere, and are as unique as Austin, no two cafés are alike it seems.

On my latest trips to favorite food places, I’ve found that owners have been revamping their menus to reflect the financial and health conscious times we are currently living in. It used to be at most mid-level restaurants you paid a hefty sum for a meal and you received enormous portions. A lot of press in the last couple of years has condemned the practice of oversized portions (I never minded much, the extra went into a box for the next day’s lunch). Critics have claimed that the larger portions encouraged overeating and has contributed to the over large person. Now, I’m no health expert, but I could see how this could be true. I tend to overeat myself when I go to a buffet…who wouldn’t? I have learned to stop eating before I start hurting though, so I guess that’s a step in the right direction, health wise.

Now on the flip side is the cost. Along with those huge portions, you got a huge check. And with the economy being the way it is, people just can’t afford to eat out as much when a meal costs 10 or 20 times as much as if it was home cooked. I mean, I’ve never earned a huge salary, so our restaurant trips weren’t that often, (maybe that’s why they are so memorable to us) mainly due to the cost of a meal. Prices have been coming down as a result of our national (worldwide) economic slump.

One thing I’ve noticed as a recent trend, not only have prices and portions been falling, but customer service has been improving. Now that these businesses are competing harder than ever for our dollars, they are working harder to make the experience better, in order to bring us back. I like that. Nothing is worse than an indifferent server. I’ve always tipped based on merit, and now that the price of the meal is lower I can tip better, if the service warrants it, and lately it has. My son who was in the food service industry recently, told me that his wait staff training included attention to the customer’s needs, emphasized frequent stops to check on the customer, and making the customers visit more enjoyable. That’s what I look for. If a server is genuinely interested in me, takes the time to check on me, offers me a doggie bag and a to-go cup, AND makes me laugh, he/she is the perfect server and deserves an extra on his tip. I have on more than one occasion, found a server that I like so much that I ask for them by name when I return to their particular restaurant. We get to know each other quite well and form a bond. They know what I like and they know how to treat me. I know what to expect and how to treat them. That in my experience makes a trip out to eat into an event.

It’s a good thing for a restaurant to know that we foodies look for excellent service, and respond to it. I’m glad to hear that owners and management have learned and has begun training wait staff in customer service excellence. Nothing is worse than bad service and bad food. I can get that at home!

So come with me while I do my Austin culinary trips to find the good, the bad and the interesting!

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