Frugal economist and foodie Tyler Cowen shares in this article on The Atlantic, his six rules for dining out. Some seems somewhat obvious, such as avoiding places with "the Beautiful, Laughing Women," but I never would've guessed that, when in a fancy restaurant, to "Order What Sounds Least Appetizing." Some great advice if you love eating out.
When I'm out looking for food, and I come across a restaurant where the patrons are laughing and smiling and appear very sociable, I become wary. Don't get me wrong. Having fun is a fine ambition, but it's not the same thing as eating good food. Many restaurants, especially in downtown urban areas, fill seats -- and charge high prices -- by creating social scenes for drinking, dating, and carousing. They're not using the food to draw in their customers. The food in most of these places is "not bad," because the restaurant needs to maintain a trendy image. The menu will feature some kind of overpriced fusion cuisine, sponsored by a famous or semi-famous chef who is usually absent. There are worse places to eat, but if I'm spending my own money, I'll usually give these a pass.
If you are going to visit such restaurants, go during their first few months of operation. The famous chef, or some competent delegate, will be on hand early in the history of the restaurant to make sure it gets good reviews from sophisticated food critics and smart food bloggers; because the chef is famous, these reviews will appear quickly. Then everyone will want to go there, and the place will become a major social scene. The laughing and the smiling will set in. Beware! That's when you need to stop going.