Tyler Cowen, writing for The Atlantic:
When I’m out looking for food, and I come across a restaurant where the patrons are laughing and smiling and appear very sociable, I become wary. Don’t get me wrong. Having fun is a fine ambition, but it’s not the same thing as eating good food. Many restaurants, especially in downtown urban areas, fill seats—and charge high prices—by creating social scenes for drinking, dating, and carousing. They’re not using the food to draw in their customers. The food in most of these places is “not bad,” because the restaurant needs to maintain a trendy image. The menu will feature some kind of overpriced fusion cuisine, sponsored by a famous or semi-famous chef who is usually absent. There are worse places to eat, but if I’m spending my own money, I’ll usually give these a pass.
I also start to worry if many women in a restaurant are beautiful in a trendy or stylish way. The point is not that beautiful women have bad taste in food. Instead, the problem is that they will attract a lot of men to the restaurant, whether or not the place serves excellent food. And that allows the restaurant to cut back on the quality of the food.
Good advice, especially if you live or are visiting NYC. Also Cowen’s tip on choosing restaurants in Manhattan on the streets over those on the avenues is very accurate and also makes a lot of sense:
Manhattan’s avenues tend to have higher rents than its streets. Given the long, thin shape of the island, the north-south avenues carry more vehicular and foot traffic. That neat Korean place can make ends meet on 35th, but it would not survive on Fifth Avenue. No matter where you are, turning just a bit off the main drag can yield a better meal for your money.