I feel pretty much this way about our family's favorite local ice cream shoppe. It's good (as you said, ice cream is hard to screw up) but it's actually NOT the best ice cream / frozen treat in our town.

This place is only open 5 days a week, May - Sept. But it's got plenty of local charm (outdoors only, plenty of seating, pleasant to stand in line and chat up your neighbors while you wait) - and it's cheap! A good value for the money.

By contrast, there's another local place that regularly wins awards. They have amazing frozen treats and are open ~10 months of the year... but it's tiny, and cramped, keeps weird hours in the off-season, and it's relatively expensive. That one's a special treat for our family, maybe just 1-2 times a year, rather than a fun place to go hang out and probably run into some friends.

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We've recently moved from Seattle to a middle sized town in Central Illinois. As we navigate our town and nearby small towns, we're careful how we review small businesses. We don't want to drag a small business down, but we also want to be honest in our assessments. Mostly that's just voting with our dollar, and maybe after a few years those disappointing places will be charming institutions that we love.

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My little retired men eating out group is at a McDonalds in the AM. Purely the social interaction and location brings us there. The group has been going on over 20 years. Many more alumni than participants now but we look out for each other and by extension many other neighbors.

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I wonder how many of the people leaving reviews for places like this personally know the owner, and maybe see the review as a way of saying, "hey [owner], I had a good time at your restaurant, and I wish you luck with your business."

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Aug 7, 2023·edited Aug 7, 2023

Could it be that, because you've traveled so much. seen so much, and tasted so much, that your palate and tastes have become elitist?   To use your own analogy of how a person always has a soft spot in their heart for their mothers' own cooking – well, I'm sure there are scads of restaurants who could make spaghetti, or goulash, or chili better than my mother, but there was something to KNOWING that she loved you, and took the time and added that love in order to make it just right, and just for you.  

It's the same thing with local restaurants.   Maybe they're not worthy of Michelin stars, but perhaps they ARE head and shoulders above anything else in the local area ... and that's all the locals have to compare it to?   Sure you can go to a McDonalds or a Red Lobster or an Applebee's and get a good meal, but it's going to be the same meal you get wherever you go, whether it's Wilmington DE, Wichita KS, or Walla Walla, WA – but if you want a burger cooked just the way you want it, with that secret blend of spices cooked into the patty, and maybe share a little bit of snark with the waitress, then the only place to do it will be Fred's Side Street Diner.

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No, I wouldn't say so. I'm not comparing these places to the best you can get anywhere; I'm basically comparing them to places I remember as a kid or that I go to now - local places in other areas. I actually don't really like "fine dining" - I like unfussy, ordinary food. It's more this thing I've seen especially in my hometown/county where new places will come and go all the time, everyone says they're amazing, they're not that good, and then they're gone.

We used to have a little diner right on Main Street, for example, gone. A place that grilled giant franks on buttered buns, delicious - gone. But I've been to that *kind* of place in many other towns and I like them a lot if they're good.

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