Someone in the comments of my recent post on Rogue 24 brought an interesting term into the discussion on foods and restaurants. He said:
No one has to eat (at Rogue 24) if they do not want to, and U.S. citizens are notoriously lazy diners and bad customers. Bravo to these folks for placing value on their offerings and inviting interested and serious diners to engage with them. Don’t like it? Eat elsewhere, simple as that.
The term that caught my attention? Serious diners.
Setting aside the gross generalization that U.S. citizens are notoriously lazy diners and bad customers, I’m curious as to what defines a “serious diner”? My next question is, unless you’re a chef or restaurateur, why is there a need to be serious about dining? Isn’t eating out supposed to be about, almost by definition, having a good time?
While I get (and practice) the desire to find good places to eat in order to enhance the experiences shared with friends and loved ones, at no point would I deign an evening ruined if the food or service was unmemorable, but the company and conversation wonderful. By my standards, a dining experience has less to do with the food you eat than it is the company you keep. The food can be important, yes, but is it the most important thing in regard to a dining experience? Good lord, I hope not.
Frank Bruni (of all people) brought forth a phrase yesterday which I think needs to be part of our every day lexicon – Unsavory Culinary Elitism. Bruni used it in a piece to lambaste Anthony Bourdain and his recent tirade against Paula Deen, but it fits here in this discussion as well. For the phrase “Serious diner” implies un-serious diners, and that these un-serious diners have some characteristic that makes them unworthy (or less worthy) to go to places such as Rogue 24.
This is hogwash. The only criteria to get into most any restaurant is the ability to pay for the meal and the desire to do so. What motivates that desire is inconsequential, regardless of whether one is a serious diner or not. Anyone who claims otherwise is walking dangerously close to the Unsavory Culinary Elitism line.
And when the end of the evening comes, regardless of whether you’ve spent $5 or $500 for your meal, if you’ve had a good time and can walk away without guilt or annoyance, it was money well spent.