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Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety

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Outside of fast-food chains, what types of restaurants are commonly found in your part of the world?  What are the portion sizes and how extensive are menus?  Does it vary by type?  The USA varies by area, but I will speak for New York City.

Types:  Everything.  We have ethnic restaurants all over the city which vary in formality, "Continental" (meaning Eclectic) which also vary in formality, pubs, steak and seafood houses, and brightly-lit informal diners that have menus that are 10 pages long and are typically open 24/7.

Portion Size:  In formal restaurants (in which gentlemen must wear jackets and ties) portions are moderate, but in most others they're huge.  In diners it is not unusual to get an entree that could be divided into three meals.  Per the thread about taking food home, kosher delis make single sandwiches with almost a pound of meat.

Menu Variety: Varies all over the place.  Diners have menus that are 10 pages long and often serve anything at any hour.  Most of the ones in my area have several lists of ethnic foods on their menus.  Ethnic restaurants typically have a few token plain items on them, but otherwise stick to their national cuisine.  Their menus are 2-4 pages long, not including the wine list.

Finally, what is the most popular ethnic cuisine where you are?

I think that the most common ethnic restaurants here are kebab-pizzerias, there are maybe two or three in my area (what we call a suburb, but isn't really by American standards, apartment blocks built in the middle of a forest in 1970s with a few thousand people) and we have no other restaurants here (except for Subway). After that probably Chinese and Indian. There's maybe one Nepalese and one Thai restaurant and a few real Italian places but not that many (this is an international town for Finland which is to say, not international at all). We don't really have the diner type restaurants, the only equivalent usually just serves lunch (to construction workers and taxi drivers and such). There are a few chains, biggest of which is SOK which owns all sorts of restaurants (and department stores and hotels and gas stations and grocery stores and a bank and so on), from "Italian" to "French" to "Spanish" to "Tex Mex". I'm not much of a foodie and don't mind eating there though they are rather impersonal and bland. There are also some slightly better places (not necessarily more expensive) that usually serve sort of modern, international (of no particular ethnicity) food and maybe steaks (but they're not taken as seriously as they seem to be in the US). One I enjoy is one of the oldest restaurants in the country and is housed in an old basement (they have this sort of food, I don't know how to classify it). There are maybe two or three very good restaurants, or so I've heard. They're the sort of places whose menu consists of maybe four things, all including snails (or so say my prejudices). There are a few restaurants that are also bars and serve food that's slightly better fast food, like hamburgers and have huge portions. Otherwise I don't think that the portion sizes are large, I don't eat very much but most of the time have no trouble finishing my plate.

One specialty of my town is restaurant ships in a river that runs through the town. Some of them are more like night clubs but some have very good food. I ate the best lamb last summer (though it was a bit painful to eat a heavy meat dish in very hot weather, air conditioning isn't particularly common here), in a restaurant ship (or maybe it's a boat?) that specializes in local food.

Tucson has tons of Mexican restaurants, most of which of course serve variants of tacos and burritos.

There are quite a few Chinese, Middle Eastern, fast food, steak houses and sandwich places (I love Beyond Bread).

Ethnic includes: Indian, Punjabi (with a wonderful lunch buffet), a Bosnian restaurant that I really need to try, Polish, Ethiopian- just about all except German.  I don't count Amber's. 

Portion sizes do vary.  There's a Jamaican place that has a lunch special that is just the right size. 

The thing I love most is that even in the nicest restaurants- there are, I think, 2 or 3 exceptions- you can go in there with only a clean shirt and pants and feel welcome. My dad and I went to an expensive (for Tucson) steakhouse for my birthday and there were people seated prominently and with no issues who wore tee-shirts and shorts.  No one cares as it's just too hot for most of the year for anyone to care about dressing up to go out to eat.

In my medium-sized, nondescript town in Hertfordshire, UK, there are Chinese, Thai, Indian, pizza and Italian restaurants in particular.  There was a Mexican place, but it's now a steak house.  Probably one or two kinds, but we don't eat out particularly often so I don't know for sure.  Most pubs serve food, which will generally be of the 'British' kind, eg a carvery, shepherd's pie, fish and chips etc - and somewhat to my surprise there are two pubs that offer Thai food.  There are a Chinese and a Thai restaurant in the middle of town that offer a buffet at a fixed price, so essentially portions are whatever you want - there's also a mixed cuisine restaurant with a buffet on the same system, so that one of you can have curry, another Chinese and someone else a roast or pizza.  Useful if you don't fancy the same thing...

There are quite a lot of take-aways, too, from fish and chips to Caribbean. 

As for portion sizes, well, they seem reasonably comparable to me.  I have found that very high cuisine does come in tiny portions (google The Fat Duck!) , and I certainly wouldn't describe anywhere here as being in that class.  I dare say a meal in a smart Italian restaurant wouldn't be quite as filling as a meal at a pizza place, but there's not a huge difference.

I did go to a restaurant in NYC called 'Southern Hospitality' (I think); my friend and I ordered a one-person meal which was a selection of different meats, if I remember rightly that meant pork ribs, braised steak (omnomnom!!) and chicken, and we couldn't finish it between us.  I've never been offered anything quite so huge here—although there may be items on the menu that are *enormous*, they advertise themselves as such, rather than simply turning out to be too large for one person to eat.

Northern Ontario here, city of about 100k :)

Types: When I was younger it was predominately fast food, pizza, American-style Chinese, Finnish, Italian restaurants and a couple of steakhouses/chain restaurants. It's grown a lot since I was a kid- we now have 4 sushi/Japanese restaurants, a large Indian buffet, Lebanese, some more traditional Chinese/Vietnamese places, a Thai restaurant and a couple of Jamaican takeout/small sit in places. 
The "fine dining" restaurants are either "Canadian", Italian or Steakhouses. We have more "bistro" style sandwich and coffee kind of places than I remember too. Finnish and Italian restaurants still dominate the non-chain/fast food scene.

The main specific "local" scene is the Scandinavian breakfast-diner as seen here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hoito and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCMPa1huoQQ

^That's the more "famous" one, although there are several other similar menu'd places around town- typified by simple decor, all-day breakfasts, Scandinavian specialties and basic cooking.

Portion Size: You won't go hungry, but it's definatly not what I've seen across the border in the US in terms of over-sized. The Finnish breakfast diners tend to have the largest portions- the last Mojakka (kind of a clear beef stew) I ordered came in what looked like, no joking, a ceramic mixing bowl.

Variety: Most menus tend to be oversized here- one now closed restaurant had, IIRC, something like a 15 page, small-type menu. It was crazy, and probably why the food wasn't terribly good. Only the slightly more "hipster" sandwich/independant small restaurants trend to one page menus.


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