Why Bother Ordering Fancy Roasted Chicken in a Restaurant?

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Roasted chicken is a reliable choice for the most finicky restaurant patrons.
  • Roasted chicken is a reliable choice for the most finicky restaurant patrons.
Last week, I had a lively discussion via Twitter regarding my friend Beth’s first trip to Lockeland Table. I haven’t been, but I tweeted, “Just don’t get the chicken. #badfoodie”

Whoa. Chicken lovers protested! And others thought I had some secret intel on Lockeland Table’s chicken. “Why? WHY NOT GET THE CHICKEN, LESLEY?”

I was merely referencing a “foodie” rule of thumb, one that not everyone is familiar with and one I realized I had seen written about with particular grace and efficiency recently in The Atlantic magazine. In it, Tyler Cowen, author of An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies excerpted his book in the article, "Six Rules for Dining Out."

The first rule: "In the Fanciest Restaurants, Order What Sounds Least Appetizing." Cowen goes on to explain why: It’s often what the chef can cook best. And the most mundane (roast chicken) is often there because it’s expected, not because it’s necessarily a great item.

In defense of Lockeland Table (and as Beth noted), they have included some very tasty-sounding side items with the chicken. And it’s not necessarily a fancy place. Though if going by the rules, one might order the catfish tacos instead.

Incidentally, when vegetarians browse menus, their version of roast chicken is the roasted portobello mushroom cap. While I appreciate a restaurant’s effort to accommodate those of us who don’t eat critters, I can roast a mushroom cap at home for a dollar. Why would I want to spend $14-$20 for someone else to serve one to me? I’ll answer that: I don’t.

This conversation among food bloggers, of course, provides a nice reference to a tip from one of the other rules, which is, if you’re going to visit a restaurant that has been hyped for whatever reason (celebrity chef, for example), do so as soon as possible.

“The famous chef, or some competent delegate, will be on hand early in the history of the restaurant to make sure it gets good reviews from sophisticated food critics and smart food bloggers; because the chef is famous, these reviews will appear quickly. Then everyone will want to go there, and the place will become a major social scene. The laughing and the smiling will set in. Beware! That’s when you need to stop going.”

I can't say that's untrue, though there are more than a handful of very good restaurants around Nashville whose quality has survived the hype and can be relied upon for an excellent meal with every visit.

Read the whole piece. It’s not only informative, but entertaining as well.

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