This is a question I have found myself asking quite a bit recently. Having recently moved into the area, and in search of something “not manufactured”, I have found it hard to find true authentic restaurants in Plano Texas. In a city that seems to be fueled by Starbucks, Brinkers chains, and other nation wide chains; whose passions seem to be marketing and not food, I find it difficult to weed out the few remaining Mom and Pop local restaurants. Who, unlike national brands, strive to deliver the best quality around. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with Chili’s, Bennigans, TGI Friday’s, and the like, I am just looking for something that wasn’t developed in a focus group.
When you go online, looking for local restaurant reviews, you get directed by Google to go to sites like City Search, trip adviser, and active diner. All sites that allow customers too fill out reviews of local restaurants. You would think that these sites would help when one is trying to discover local restaurants. But, I have found that generally these so called “reviews” are one liners limited to “This place Sucks!” or “It rocks”. Occasionally, for a particular venue, you may get lucky enough to find a review where someone had taken ten minutes and wrote up a decent critique. I understand that taste is subjective, and one man’s favorite is another man’s cringe, but I want to see a review that gives fair credit both too what a restaurant does well and what they don’t.
What makes a good review? In my opinion, a good review of an establishment, not only takes into account the building itself, but also the quality of its food, and the customers it attracts. You can have the hippest looking burger joint on the west side, but if your idea of a burger is frozen patties from Sam’s and micro waved bacon, then your created atmosphere is only lending itself to a false economy. That being said, I have the utmost respect for a place that seems warn, but serves Barbeque that will knock your socks off, (or any type of food for that matter). I search long and hard to find these places! Because, they put more work into there food than they do there “cool” factor. However, if the place is crawling with cockroaches and the bathroom resembles Seven Eleven’s, I am likely to think the food is prepared in similar fashion.
Also, contributing to a restaurants atmosphere is its customers, I understand most places, can’t choose who decides to dine with them and who doesn’t. However, if you decorate your place with the latest line from Ikea, and serve lettuce wraps with bean paste – you are going to attract a certain type of person. You will likely, not be a big hit with the local truckers union. (Maybe you will odder things have happened). Point is that the customers combined with the decor and the food all contribute too how a restaurant is perceived.
With only a small help from the Internet, I decided to go it alone. I started driving into every small shopping center in search of local Plano cuisine that excels at being original and authentic. So far, I have had some successes and some failures. But, I have found several Coffee shops that actually care about there quality and not about selling you the latest album release from John Mayer. Currently, I still seem to be missing out on what is great in Plano. Is it that Plano doesn’t have anything great to offer? I doubt it. Maybe, I just haven’t turned down the right street yet.