Posted at 06:11 PM ET, 10/14/2011

Inside the Dining Guide: What you said


Patrons dine at Palena Cafe, which scored high marks in Tom Sietsema’s Fall Dining Guide. (Matt McClain for The Washington Post)
The 2011 Fall Dining Guide included results from a non-scientific user poll. In addition to the statistical information, you told us why you keep returning to your favorite spots. As this selection of comments makes clear, the small things — a smile, remembering a name and even a dog — can matter even more than the food.

— Everyone knows my name.

— [The experience is] heavenly. Like they’re genuinely thrilled to see me and sincerely sad when I’m unable to make it in. I feel loved.

— Always welcoming, great ambiance, delicious food. ... The wine list is reasonable. The owners always stop to say hello when they get a minute, and the waitstaff recognizes us.

— They bring extra white rice with our entrees, because we always end up requesting it.

— The staff is very friendly, and the food is amazing and innovative. They greet us by name and accommodate us immediately. They also are very friendly to our less-than-ruly children.

— I love the fact that they bring out a Diet Coke with extra lemon every time.

— [We are] greeted with smile at the door, [they] ask about absent family members if we don’t come with the full complement, and they’ll stop by to chat for a bit if it’s not a busy time.

— The food is perfect for sharing.

— The prices are great, and the atmosphere is casual without being dumpy.

— Relaxed atmosphere, no pressure to turn tables.

— I eat beets now, because I’ve had them so well prepared [there].

— I don’t care for small talk, just good, consistent service and good food.

— I almost feel as if I’m walking into my living room, yet dinner or lunch is always waiting for me, and it is always exceptional.

— It’s where our 3-year-old asks to go when she wants to go out — not for the food, but to see her “friends.”

— Reliably good food, friendly staff, comfortable setting, good beer list, close to home, not too noisy.

— Feel like part of a family and a special community.

— It’s in my neighborhood, and the staff even knows my dog by name and greet him on walks.

— Not the best sushi I’ve ever had, but it’s good, reliable and perfect for a lazy evening.

— Love the diverse menu, which actually has new additions occasionally (unlike other restaurants we’ve sampled).

— Everyone knows me, since I’ve been going there for over 20 years. No special perks, except I can sit where I want, I don’t have to wait for my “party” to be complete, and my bloody mary gets an extra kick. Sure, the food is not terribly exciting, but it’s always dependable. And, finally, it’s close to my house.

— They are nice to me and my kid.

— The staff introduced my daughters to Japanese food and watched them grow up. On their birthdays each year, my daughters want to go there for family dinner. We aren’t Japanese, but we feel like it has been part of our family.

— The courses are perfectly paced, our wine glasses are never too empty (or too full!), and when we leave, my waiter gives me the double-cheek kiss the French do so well.

— [They] let me order stuff not on the menu — like fried spinach, which is usually a garnish, but is yummy.

— Location/happy hour plays a big part in the decision.

— On one occasion, they fed us even though they were closed in preparation for a large private party. We helped polish the champagne flutes.

— They have this amazing hot salsa. You have to know to ask for it, and it’s always on our table.

— We call and reserve a booth, and they recognize our voices before we say who we are; the booth is always ready. We walk in, and they bring my favorite wine and my husband’s preferred beer to our table as we sit down. We once asked if they could make an eggplant dish, and now there is one on the menu.

— They’ve become friends [that] I want to meet my family when they come into town, or who watch out for me when I bring a new date by.

— The server no longer needs words or a proffered menu to take my Saturday morning recovery order. He walks me to my table and wordlessly whips out his notebook to jot down my regular order, a large No. 6 [pho], iced coffee. Minutes later, the fragrant seat of basil and beef broth is wafting from a bowl in front of me. Saturday morning is looking better already.

— They know me and bump other people in line ahead of me.

— A regular can get a table when the restaurant is otherwise full!

— In the “rank the reasons” section, you didn’t include “convenient location,” but that’s my number one reason. That and good hours.

— We can easily walk down the street and have good food for not too much money.

— Familiarity with the menu, but with enough small changes to keep it interesting.

— One night when I was ordering some takeout, I realized that I had left my wallet in my downtown office. They were so nice and said, “No problem, we know you, just bring the money in when you can.”

— Their dumplings are the best on the East Coast.

— Like eating at home without doing the dishes.

— None of the staff insist that we order off the American Chinese menu, and they’re comfortable suggesting less-accessible dishes from the Chinese specials board.

— It is child-friendly without being a kids restaurant.

— Their pepper chicken has become comfort food to me.

— It is so nice to walk in and they ask how something that you mentioned to them a month ago was. [They] genuinely listen to us.

— They have a large clientele of regulars. We often show up and join other regulars at their table. Very rarely do just the two of us eat at a table by ourselves.

— They are wonderful to everyone, regulars and newbies.

— A friend invited me to the place, and I picked the mattar paneer because the description on the menu sounded pretty good: rice, onions, tomatoes and cheese. Ever since, I’ve been ordering that exact dish at least twice a month. (When they had to shut down for a few weeks over the summer because of a kitchen fire, I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with myself.)

— Please, I just friggin’ love it!

By  |  06:11 PM ET, 10/14/2011

Categories:  Restaurants

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company