Today, San Pellegrino and Restaurant magazine unveiled their annual list of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Considering their varied locations, highly competitive reservation spots, and steep price tags, it'll be a while before I cross most of the restaurants off my list — but hey, a girl can dream. Are you in the same tough spot? Then, in the meantime, take a virtual tour of the world's top 10 restaurants, where you can feast on all the avant-garde cuisine with your eyes.
Think eating out nightly and watching episodes of Kitchen Nightmares has given you a grasp on what it's like to run a restaurant? Then think again: owning a restaurant is serious (and tough) business. While the tough landscape is nothing new, you might be surprised to learn what factors are directly related to success — and which ones aren't. At day three of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, a number of culinary heavyweights came together to demystify the biz: New Orleans stalwart John Besh, Top Chef and Chicago favorite Stephanie Izard, Portland restaurateur Jenn Louis, and Miami mogul John Kunkel. Here are five points they hit upon that might surprise you.
Restaurateurs are, first and foremost, businessmen.
Kunkel shared one revelation: "A line out the door does not guarantee a profit." Understanding a balance sheet, on the other hand, might help. "I opened a restaurant . . . by basically pulling a Ponzi scheme on myself," he told the audience only half jokingly. The biggest amateur mistake is "not knowing all the costs that go into opening," Izard said. Or for that matter, the amount of work: "I have no other hobbies," Louis admitted. They all went by the wayside once she committed to opening her own restaurant.
Juggling more than one restaurant can be hugely complicated.
Izard, who has just opened a second spin-off restaurant, Little Goat, put this out there: "It's hard at restaurant number two, learning how to divide your head, when you can't do all the details. I don't know if I'll ever get to that point where I have more than two [restaurants]. I'm kind of a control freak." On the contrary, Besh pointed out that "to go from one to three restaurants is more difficult than to go from three to nine. You have to have managers that understand it, get it, and have the soul." To keep everything consistent across his Louisiana restaurants, Besh has implemented across-the-board rules. "You have to create a standardization of everything," he said. One way he does it is by sharing information with other similarly sized restaurant groups elsewhere in the country, like the Philadelphia-based Vetri Family or Chicago chef Paul Kahan's One Off Hospitality Group.
Local and sustainable is not always practical.
"Farm-to-table is not always possible," Kunkel admitted, explaining that there's a tightrope to walk between top-quality food and what the customer perceives to be a reasonable price point. "There is a balance between providing the absolute best product as a restaurant and . . . staying in business."
If you love to dine out on the weekends but are also trying to lose weight, the answer doesn't have to be depriving yourself of your favorite entree and opting for a naked salad instead. Before you order your main, here are some easy strategies to ensure you're able to enjoy your meal without wasting calories.
Eat something healthy at home: If you're going to an overindulgent dinner, do it the smart way — have a healthy snack before you go so you can enjoy your meal without stuffing yourself because you arrived famished. A cup of yogurt with berries, a handful of nuts, or fruit with a few pieces of cheese are all enough to keep you satisfied so you don't overdo it at dinner.
Nix the bread basket: Some people trying to lose weight would rather not have a mountain of empty carbs staring them in the face before the food arrives. If you're of the "out of sight, out of mind" set, nip temptation in the bud by asking the waiter to not bring the bread basket out (or grab one piece and tell them to take it away).
Drink a glass of water: Water is a great way to sate hunger for a little bit, so if you feel like your grumbling stomach is becoming part of the dinner conversation, ask your waiter to bring you a glass of water as soon as you sit down — you'll be less apt to order every appetizer on the menu if you've filled up on water.
Choose healthy: If you're ordering an appetizer, make sure you pick the best one. Go for brothy soups that fill you up without draining your calorie bank, grilled meats instead of battered and fried, or healthy salads. Making smart decisions at the start of your dinner allows you to have more wiggle room later on (like, say, when dessert time rolls around!).
In the past year, there's been significant growth nationwide in the number of fast-casual eateries, from burger joints to healthier comfort-food fixtures. The latest craze we've noticed hitting this scene? Asian-themed chain restaurants.
Chipotle could've tackled a number of ethnic eats, so the Mexican chain certainly caught our attention when it unveiled its plan for ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, "inspired by the traditional shophouses through Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam." Then we raised our eyebrows when a former chef at San Francisco's renowned Slanted Door restaurant opened the first of what will be several Bay Area locations of Asian Box, a healthier riff on Asian street food.
Meanwhile, Canada-based Wok Box has been preparing to bring its stir-fry boxes and curry dishes to the western part of the United States this year. And just this week, a former Hooters chef announced his new venture, a minichain of Atlanta-based Latin fusion restaurants bearing the name Taqueria Tsunami.
Regardless of where diners are in the country, it's clear they're on the lookout for the explosive flavor combinations that come from Southeast Asian cuisines. Are you excited at the prospect of more Southeast Asian cuisine in your neck of the woods?
Photo courtesy Sonya Yu for Asian Box
The weather's getting warmer here in San Francisco, which means we've got a few things on our minds — mainly, how to enjoy the outdoors with bike rides, trail runs, and leisurely patio brunches.
When it comes to that last part, however, it's all about indulging the right way. While you may want to eat and drink everything in sight, there are still ways to have your cake (or French toast or cocktail) and save a few calories here and there, like skipping the breadbasket or drinking water in between your glasses of wine.
Many of us have a tried-and-true way for being smart while we dine or drink on the town (if you don't, here are some calorie-saving ideas for the next time you eat out). Tell us, what's your favorite strategy for saving calories when you go out?
Source: Flickr User tedeytan
It took me almost a year, but I'd like to think I now have dining out with my 11-month-old down to an art form. High chair, Puffs, and a clean surface are immediate necessities, but there are a handful of items that I now consider my restaurant lifesavers. If you dine out as often as my hubby and I do (usually with a very hungry baby whose desire to eat never ceases to amaze me), consider stocking your diaper bag with the following five items, and believe me, your dining experience will go much more smoothly!
- Clockwise from top left
- Pampers Disposable Bibsters ($2–$8): Your place mat is eco-friendly, so go for ease with these bibs. Available in three sizes, they have their own fold-in pockets that catch spills and solid foods and a leak-proof liner.
- Phil & Teds MeToo High Chair ($50): You don't get more portable and easy than this high chair, which weighs only two pounds but can hold a child of up to 33 pounds! It folds flat to fit into your diaper bag and is supersafe thank to vice clamps, an aluminum frame, and a five-point safety harness.
- Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened Mini ($13): Not only is this snack bag supercute, it's also washable, making it the perfect, space-conscious way to tote snacks, including fruit.
- Skip Hop Bento Mealtime Kit ($24): While a bit more expensive than many snack carriers, this is a diaper bag must have. The 14-piece kit comes with containers that can be used separately or clicked together and are the perfect size for toting baby food and finger foods. The insulated cooler bag and reusable freezer pack make packing up quick and easy.
- Tiny Diner From Summer Infant ($9): Though disposable place mats are nice, this is a more eco-friendly option that has some awesome extras. It rolls up for easy storage, five suction cups hold it securely to the table, and it also has an outer scoop that keeps food off the floor.
Any parent who's ever wrangled their kids into a restaurant has faced the dilemma — teach them table manners or surrender to the power of the iPhone, iPad, or other tablet of your choice. According to Nielsen, in tablet-owning households with kids under the age of 12, 70 percent of children use the device. Of those parents, 41 percent say that they use their tablets to keep their kids entertained at restaurants. We want to know — do you bring the tablet to the dinner table, or do you encourage your kids to partake in conversation?
Let's face it: dining out is a totally subjective experience, and I've often wished there were hard and fast rules in place for issues like splitting the bill or whether coat checks should be mandatory. The question du jour? Whether it's OK to bring a birthday cake to a restaurant.I've just turned 30, and I'm celebrating by having dinner with a dozen friends at a small, family-owned ethnic restaurant. It feels apropos to have a cake for the occasion, but since the event takes place at a restaurant, I worry that the whole cake-and-candles thing could not only be disruptive, but also put a strain on the restaurant.
Guidelines on birthday cake etiquette seem to vary. Some restaurants are happy to do it; some request a call ahead; many other high-end establishments charge an (often pricey) cake-cutting fee. Still, others think it's a practice that should be cut out entirely. "I'm always baffled by people bringing their own cake. Do you bring your own steak?" one commenter asked rhetorically on a discussion board about the topic.
I want to hear what you think: if a restaurant doesn't focus on dessert, is it OK to bring your own birthday cake, candles, and lighter to dinner? What do you think of a per-person plating fee? Please weigh in below.
To kick off the third morning of the NYC Wine & Food Festival, four of the industry's top tastemakers, restaurateurs Mario Batali and Marcus Samuelsson, TV host Andrew Zimmern, and Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin gathered for a panel discussion to talk about what makes the best restaurant experience.
They all had plenty to say about the state of dining — especially the jocular Batali. Here are just a few of his one-liners.
- On turning tables: "We have loud music at Babbo while you're eating soigné food. From 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. we turn it up and make it faster to get people out of there."
- On tables in New York: "The beauty of New York is, even if five million people on Yelp hate me, there are still eight million left."
- On how far the industry's come: "Thirty years ago, restaurant staffs were people who just got out of jail or people who'd just gotten out of the military and were on their way to jail."
Keep reading for the rest of Mario Batali's restaurant zingers.
Many new and popular restaurants do not accept reservations. While I understand an establishment's motivations for not taking reservations (it's more convenient, cost efficient, and eliminates the issue of no-shows), it can be incredibly frustrating as a diner to want to eat at a trendy establishment that is known for its long wait. As an avid girl-about-town, I've devised the perfect plan for minimizing the wait. Here's what you do:
- Research the eatery before you arrive. Some places don't take reservations, but they will let you call in advance and add your name to the list. If that's the case, call up to two hours before you want to eat and politely give the hostess your name.
- Go earlier or later. Show up at the restaurant about 15 minutes after it's opened; chances are they won't be full yet, and you'll be able to enjoy a meal without having to wait. The opposite option is to get there on the later side: after 9 p.m. You'll miss the dinner rush and hopefully be greeted with a shorter line.
- Be prepared to wait. Don't eat at a hot spot when you have a limited amount of time to dine. Got to be someplace after the meal (the theater, a party, a sporting event, etc.)? Then, select an eatery that can get you in and out quickly, not one that has a long wait.
To see the rest of my tips, keep reading.