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I eat out a lot, and I enjoy it. In fact I prefer it. Being able to enjoy different ambiences and different tastes, and having someone else wait on me and clean up after me, makes eating out fun. Apparently, I am not alone. Even when the economy suffers, the restaurant industry remains strong. I have commented on how restaurants are becoming the new “anchors” in today’s shopping centers. So some random thoughts on food and restaurants:

• Ethnic cuisines just have more taste.

• First there’s Asian food. I think I could eat Asian every day. A staple is Pad Thai. Just my personal preference, but the best Pad Thai in Cincinnati is Bangkok Bistro, Wild Ginger or Uncle Yip’s. But step out of the box and eat Kim Chee – try Sung Korean Bistro in downtown Cincinnati. They have really good Bibimbab too, as does Suzie Wong’s.

• Mexican food is tricky. I love fajitas (everything tastes better in a tortilla) and done well Mexican food is great. Done poorly it ends up all tasting like beans. Try Mazunte for authentic Mexican. Also, try Nada which I heard the Owner say is a Mexican restaurant not trying to be a Mexican restaurant.

• Of course I like Italian, but it all depends on the sauce. I have to say I was just at Ciao Italia in Longboat Key, Florida. They may have the best Lasagna I have ever had – in part because their sauce is so good.

• Is Yelp reliable? I am never sure whether the reviews are real, or by employees or competitors. Or are you better off relying on food shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives when travelling?

• One word – Goetta?

• Another rule of mine: Add sour cream to anything and it tastes better. Really. Try it.

• Is it me or have wait people been trained wrong? I thought correct service was to not clear someone’s plate until everyone was done. Otherwise you are rushing those who haven’t finished their meal, and that is rude, and is BAD service. It seems like restaurants today have trained their wait people to believe the opposite: that it is GOOD service to remove someone’s plate as soon as they are done even if everyone else is still eating.

• I used to think the banana might possibly be the world’s most perfect food. But I might have to give it to the avocado.

• Donuts are my big weakness. Have you had a deep fried donut from Wyoming Bakery? What about a grilled cheese donut from Tom + Chee? These are bucket list items.

• Seafood is interesting because of the different textures. Raw oysters are definitely an acquired taste. While I love raw oysters, I still remember the first time I ate a raw oyster and the gagging sensation it brought on. Calamari can be weird for some, at least the tentacle part. Steamers (steamed soft shell clams) are my absolute favorite (c’mon, more than lobster?). But the combination softness of the belly and hardness of the neck do cause problems for some. I have never been able to figure out why you can’t get steamers anywhere but the northeast.

• What is the real life cycle of a chain? TGI Friday’s has defied all odds by managing to stick around for 35 years – amazing. For any chain, it is extremely hard to maintain a high level of excitement. Besides keeping the concept fresh, they have a management issue. The local restaurant has the owner on-site, involved in all aspects of operations. A chain has layers of management, none of whom are “owners”. I have often thought that a chain should eliminate middle management and have high priced GMs with incentive bonuses tied to profits so they are incentivized like an owner.

• I understand the need for a restaurant to charge a mandatory tip for large parties. But when I see a tip automatically charged, I am less inclined to add more even where the service is good. I would usually give MORE if there is no tip automatically included.

• I do think everyone should be required to work in a restaurant before they are allowed to eat in one. Conversely, just because you have eaten in a restaurant does not make you qualified to own one.

• Thai Tuesday in Wyoming is a great thing. The wife of the slain owner of Cosmic Pizza cooks wonderful Thai dishes available for take out on Tuesday nights. The death of her husband was tragic and the community came together to help her, including setting up her dinner business. The folks who came together and helped her have done so much without publicity and their selfless work is so admirable. It is worth ordering just to help her – but the food is really good too (have I mentioned how much I love Asian food). You can order at littlethaicosmic@gmail.com and you pick up at DiStasi’s Restaurant and Banquet Center, 400 Wyoming Avenue in Wyoming, Ohio. You need to include the dish you want (it changes weekly) and the time of pick up.

• On a related note, I normally pick a restaurant because of the food, atmosphere and service. But personally knowing and liking the owner helps too. Dino DiStasio owns Gabby’s in Wyoming. Dino is a great guy who does so much to help the community (including making his Banquet Center available for Thai Tuesday) that you want to go to his restaurant just to support him. Valuable business lesson here – it actually pays to be nice because people will prefer to do business with people they like.