People today have such busy schedules that it’s become quite common for singles, couples, and even whole families to eat out. Thus, choosing the right restaurant or cafe it’s not something you should take lightly, especially when you’re hungry. After working long hours, of course, it’s always nice to eat out at a nice quiet cafe or a trendy restaurant simply because it makes a welcome change; plus, there are so many different varieties of food to choose from.
Because many cafes and restaurants are quite similar, it’s always difficult to tell the difference between the two. So I will do my best to highlight the differences between a cafe and a restaurant, and also how to choose one.
Cafe or “café” ,if you’re French ;), it’s a form of restaurant with an enclosed serving place, but typically with an outdoor section to allow customers to enjoy their food and drinks outside. Interestingly, the word “cafe” comes from coffee, and it’s easy to see why: they serve many different varieties of coffee to their customers. By da way, I’m a big, big fan of cafes.
A cafe typically refers to an informal restaurant where casual meals such as sandwiches and burgers are served to the public. Small, homey, some times noisy (but in a good way ;)) and no “fancy” clothing is required.
Even though, tipping waiters in cafes is optional, whilst it’s very common, and sometimes expected, to pay tips in restaurants.
Restaurant, it’s a somehow luxurious place where food and drinks are served to dine-in customers in a more formal environment. Restaurant meals are typically not “ready-made” meals: they’re prepared and served to customers after customers order from a menu. Today, there is a trend for restaurants to offer home-delivery of their menus; however, most people prefer the “old school” way and sit inside a restaurant, order from a menu, then wait for their meals to be prepared and served by waitresses or waiters.
Restaurants have a wider range of foods than a cafe place and also serve alcoholic beverages.
Some restaurants in France are known as Bistros, and this is an indication of a level of trendiness, or casualness. Even though many bistros are quite stylish and formal in the clientele they attract and the food they serve.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Restaurant or Cafe
So how do you go about choosing a restaurant or cafe? What matters most to you when you say you like that new place?
To be honest, I didn’t think too much about these questions until recently, when I had a culinary disappointment. I went to a very hip place known for stylish food presentations and elegant atmosphere, who failed to impress me – and just for the record, I’m not so picky ;). Or maybe it was the expectations too high… I do not know. But it is clear that De gustibus non est disputandum.
I liked the building very much, an old house, very nice renovated, with a good interior design that highlights the high and spacious rooms. On the other hand, the served salad was modest and a little bit pricey, taking into account the quality. So I went back to my favorite place, a restaurant not so fancy but with good food and reasonable prices, and I was left with the dilemma: after what criteria do I evaluate, after all, a restaurant or cafe? Are there objective principles or everything boils down to own subjectivity? So I have come up with my own “reasonable” criteria that stand behind my options:
Clean air / Non-smoking area
Maybe you will be surprised, but I hate eating in places where smoking is still allowed and there is not even a non-smoking room… I’m unlikely to go in. I have no problem with smokers as long as they don’t puff cigarette smoke in my nose when I eat.
Of course, the menu is the essential part when it comes to a restaurant or cafe. I try to eat healthy, so I usually choose light stuff, but even so I want my food to look and taste appetizing, and even a little bit of creativity doesn’t hurt. I used to order dishes harder to cook at home, but also soups and salads.
I don’t need huge portions, but c’mon, two wilted leaves and a tomato it’s not a salad, especially if the price is rude. I noticed that places offering huge menus with full of complicated dishes are avoided.
It’s a very subjective point of view that I find it hard to describe. I would say that it refers to how I resonate with the place. It is a mix of sensations, some random and purely subjective, yes, yes… I am aware. But I’m only human after all… it’s like that song 😉
Rude waiters … I think everyone has the “luck” to encounter that “waiter from hell” at some point. Waiters dropping menus on your table, “forget” to bring your order and overcharged, making facial expressions as if you were disturbing him. On the other hand, a great host can make a weak meal good.
Design and Atmosphere
Of course a successful design give the restaurant one a good vibe and a pleasant atmosphere, but if I have to choose, I will prefer to go to a place where food is awesome. I hate to find very extravagant places serving very poor plates. Generally, I prefer cozy places with personality, with “something” personal, but I never refuse a place just because it doesn’t look like in magazines, especially if the food is good.
Finally, the price. No matter how hungry I’m, I try to avoid places where the prices of simple meals are exaggerated. I pointed out simple meals. This category does not include fine dining restaurants, where ingredients and combinations are special. I am aware that good food costs, but often we not pay only for the meals, but their location, design or …. marketing.