What Makes A Good Restaurant (Interview with Robert Bates)

For this blog, I talked to former chef, Robert Bates, on what he believes makes and breaks restaurants. He grew up in New York, but has lived most of his adult life in the Bay Area, Bolinas and San Rafael. At 65 years old, he now cooks in a kitchen for a rehab, which is less stressful then what he used to do ten years ago, working and managing hectic restaurant kitchens.

“I first decide on whether or not to go to a restaurant by looking at the appearance of the building is in. If the windows are dirty or if the building is obviously being neglected in any other way, I refuse to eat there. I believe the appearance of a restaurant reflects how much time and care they put into their food as well. I do not want to feel like I’m eating improperly cooked food  off of dirty dishes,” Bates said.

“Next, I look at their menu. In my opinion, restaurants that have too many different, unrelated options, are not usually very good. Like if a restaurant serves Italian, American, and Chinese food, and does not focus on one type of cuisine, then I immediately know the quality of the food is poor,” he continued.

Another important factor that people tend to overlook when deciding if a restaurant is good or not, is the wait staff. Bates said that he believes that waiters and waitresses should always be trained properly so that they are knowledgable and polite to the customers. “One of my biggest pet peeves is when a waiter does not know what goes into the food when asked a question about different dishes” Bates said. “It also bugs me when they take away my dish too quickly or before everyone at the table is finished, it makes me feel rushed and I find it incredibly unprofessional.”

When I asked what his favorite restaurant in the Bay Area was based on these expectations, he said, “Spiazzo in West Portal is by far the best. They are tidy, with great food and the best staff.”

Robert Bates: (415) 302-2951


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