Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 3+
Everyone has a regular restaurant, a place they patronize repeatedly because the food is good enough to eat again and again. Most likely the food isn’t spectacular–just good–because regular restaurants are the kind of place you go to at the last minute, or when you just want to sate your hunger, or because there’s something for everyone in your family on the menu.
Carmelita used to be that place for my family. It was the place where the kids didn’t have access to chicken fingers or greasy fries; the place where they’d actually eat their vegetables with pleasure. Over the past eight years, we’ve gone there anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen+ times a year–enough visits to see the restaurant through several bad nights and even a couple of rough patches.
Well, their latest rough patch has been going on for quite some time. Soup–once marvelously fresh purees with intense flavor–are just blah. Salads are no longer balanced and composed, but over- or under-dressed. Pasta–once the best in town–is a clumsy affair, with vegetables cut too large and sauces that barely add flavor. I used to describe Carmelita as “one of the best restaurants in Seattle, that happens to be vegetarian.” Now I’d call it just another vegetarian restaurant–with all the attendant problems that label usually implies.
After six visits in between January and August of ’08, I decided to give up for awhile. A friend of mine, whose taste I trust and who is also a longtime devotee, noticed the same problems. She emailed me excitedly in September, to tell me she thought the place was back on course. She then emailed me again in October, to warn me that it was bad again. “I’m on the verge of giving up,” she admitted.
Once a restaurant becomes a regular habit, it can be hard to stop eating there, even when things no longer taste so good. A long-term relationship with a restaurant is kind of like marriage: You know that if you stick it out, things are bound to become better again.