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Author Topic: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety  (Read 20833 times)

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Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« on: December 05, 2011, 11:54:47 PM »
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?


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2011, 05:10:05 AM »
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.


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2011, 05:29:07 AM »
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.
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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2011, 05:39:48 AM »
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.


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2011, 10:52:19 AM »
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 and here

^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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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2011, 11:38:16 AM »
I live in a village where there are Chinese and Indian take-aways within walking distance, but the nearest fish and chip shop is in the next village, where there are Italian and Chinese restaurants. The pub does traditional English food.

I'm half an hour's drive from Newcastle upon Tyne, a medium sized city where there is a huge range of places- English (especially regional), Indian, Chinese, Thai, African/Carribean, Mongolian, Iranian, Lebanese, Japanese, Turkish, Italian, Polish and quite a lot of "fusion" food. Plus quite a few others I've forgotten to mention.

Portions tend to be generous, but as they want people to have room for apetiser and desert, they aren't too huge. You do feel full after eating three courses though, except at A Taste of Persia where you feel completely stuffed and wishing you hadn't eaten so much. We have been known to skip dessert there!

Buffets are increasingly popular.

Menus vary in length too- some are only a page or so, others can run to several, especially if they have pictures.
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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2011, 08:48:16 AM »
In our NYC neighborhood we have a great variety of restaurants.  Just about every kind of ethnic food from Australian to Yemini is represented.  Most are moderately priced and quite good.  Portions can be quite large.

Many are take-out places and a few are what we call 'street meat' carts.  Take-out places may also have small, in-house dining areas. 

A bit further up the line are white tablecloth restaurants.  The places are quiet and tastefully decorated but still quite informal. Polo shirts and decent jeans are perfectly fine.  Prices for meals are  moderate but wine can push up the bill. 

Toward the top end are off-shoots of Manhattan restaurants that are both trendy and expensive in their original locations.  Here, in Brooklyn, the prices are a little lower and, unless you want a prime table for 8 PM, getting in and getting courteous service is no problem.  Again, the dress code is what has been described as 'stylish casual'.  You probably wouldn't be turned away if you arrived in shorts and a T shirt but a turtleneck or a polo shirt with chinos is better.  Portions in these places vary greatly with the restaurant.  All serve perfectly adequate amounts.

We also have 'small plate' restaurants where it's usual to order a flight of appetizers to share.  Depending on what you choose, the bill can be a bargain or a splurge.

Buffets, with the exception of Indian lunch buffets are rare.  Other Brooklyn neighborhoods have them but we don't.


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2011, 11:12:37 AM »
The Denver Metro area has approximately 2.7 million people, thus tons of restaurants.  Mainly chain restaurants that serve huge high calorie meals.  Mostly moderately priced American (burgers, fries, fried chicken etc), Italian or American Chinese and Mexican food. Privately owned Sushi abounds.  Can only think of two Indian places in the city.  Big menus.

High end places are usually fusion (french, south american, Asian etc).  Combo of many cuisines with small portions.  While formal dress isn't required it is severally frowned upon to show up casual. Only exception is in mountain towns where you can get a 4 star lunch in dusty hiking shorts. The menus at these places are very small. Sometimes only 4 main dishes that change daily.


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2011, 03:43:51 PM »
Midwest US (Missouri) here.  I've lived in a college town of 75,000-100,000 people (depending on whether or not the students are in) for 10+ years. 

Types: Middle Eastern; Greek; Mexican; Italian; Japanese; Chinese.  And of course, the diners, chains (fast food to steakhouses), BBQ, bar & grill, and sandwich shops. Not sure if it counts, but we have a few organic cafes popping up, too.  Oh, and one really cool trailer that sets up seasonally, serving 8 or so Jamaican dishes.  :P  As the student population grows and becomes more diverse, we see new types of restaurants open.  There is one regional (national?) chain that advertises itself as cajun/creole.  It's so horrible that thinking about it actually makes me sad (and ache for New Orleans).

Portion Size: Usually each entree is enough for two meals.  An appetizer can be a full meal by itself.

Menu Variety: Most places have at least three pages.  The wine/beer/specialty drink list is usually a smaller, separate booklet.  The independent shops tend to be 1-2 pages.

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri.  While the restaurant scene represents a variety of ethnicities (everything above, plus Vietnamese, fusion, etc.), there is a neighborhood called "The Hill" that is where Italian immigrants settled.  It's a very close-knit, warm, friendly community with the absolute best Italian food (fine dining to extremely casual, room-in-someone's-house dining).  Wander into any restaurant in that neighborhood and you'll be blissfully stuffed with portions of the "enough food for an army" variety. 


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2011, 04:28:17 PM »
The Denver Metro area has approximately 2.7 million people, thus tons of restaurants.  Mainly chain restaurants that serve huge high calorie meals.  Mostly moderately priced American (burgers, fries, fried chicken etc), Italian or American Chinese and Mexican food. Privately owned Sushi abounds.  Can only think of two Indian places in the city.  Big menus.

In Boulder County, there's Himalayan restaurants aplenty. I'd never seen one before moving here, but they generally serve Indian, Tibetan, and Nepalese food (which, near as I can tell*, are all fairly similar).

There's also a lot of brewpubs in Colorado - last I heard, CO was 2nd only to California for state with the most breweries, and is home to the Brewers' Association and American Homebrewers' Association, so there's a lot of people here who like their craft beer. Some of the brewpubs are chains, like Rock Bottom and BJ's, but there's also plenty of independents - one of my favorites is a BBQ place in a little mountain town called Nederland. There's also a good supply of gourmet food trucks - we had one (Salt Box) at my office today that serves fries so good I all but have to lock myself in my office to avoid gaining weight off fries alone.

*I'd had plenty of Indian food before moving here, but never Tibetan or Nepalese.
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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2011, 05:48:37 PM »
Here in Charleston SC, being a tourist town, you could probably eat out every dinner for a year and not duplicate a restaurant even once.

The downtown area is where the majority of the high end restaurants are. I have only been to a few of them, but most of them give quite healthy portions.

The more casual places would be Mexican, Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, local ethnic foods such as Gullah cuisine, soul food, French, Cuban, tons of BBQ joints, German. And, being a port city, we obviously have about a million seafood restaurants. We also have all the usual chain restaurants-Applebee's, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback, etc.

I would guess that within a ten mile radius of my house there are at least a hundred restaurants, not including the fast food joints and sandwich shops/delis. Most places give pretty generous portions. We southerners love our food!

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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2011, 08:34:16 AM »
Here in an average-sized New Hampshire city (pop. 27,000) we have one Indian, one Thai and 3 or 4 Chinese restaurants. Tons of pizza places--there's a university one town over and a lot of students live in my city and commute. One really good sub shop that's been there for decades and a couple of new one. Several chain restaurants.

What we seem to be big on is good coffee shops where you can get a good cup of coffee and breakfast or lunch. We don't have a lot of independent restaurants that serve dinner--there are a few, but not many. But for breakfast or lunch, you can take your pick from several good places. For "fine dining" most people drive half an hour to a larger city with a big choice in restaurants.

We have one place that serves middle eastern food--it's a gas station with a small take-out place attached. But the food is really good.
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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2011, 03:03:58 PM »
Here in the Seattle suburb area, I'd say the single most common restaurant type is a teriyaki joint.  Some are probably chains, but most are (I believe) independents).  There's one in almost every strip mall.  Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and sushi places are pretty common as well.

And of course you can find coffee huts everywhere - little stand-alone huts set up in parking lots that have drive-throughs on one or sometimes two sides, that also sell pastries and occasionally more filling breakfast foods or hot dogs.

Seattle and the bigger suburbs have every type of food if you look for it (I've had Moroccan, Turkish, tapas, Tex-Mex, nouveau Mex, Thai, various flavors of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese, Lebanese).  The upscale places I know of serve mostly American standards like steak and seafood and there appears to be no dress code at even the priciest restaurants - you see people dressed up to go to the opera or theater as much as you see people in jeans and t-shirts (summer) and fleece (winter).  Actually, the jeans crowd might just be going to the opera/theater too.

There are some popular local chain places as well as national chains.  Portions range from just enough (the upscale places) to 3-days of leftovers (Claim Jumper, Cheesecake Factory).  Food menus as well as wine, beer, and other drink menus vary by place - in some restaurants their drinks menu is as long as the regular menu, and the wine list can be far more extensive (for bottles - per glass lists are pretty short usually).  Someone already mentioned, the fancier/trendier restaurants tend to have shorter menus with maybe up to 10 app/salad and 10 entree choices, some change seasonally depending on how much they use locally grown produce.

The ethnic food restaurants have longer menus especially if they combine multiple cuisines in one restaurant.  For example, "Middle Eastern" restaurants will have Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, and other regional dishes in one menu.  Some Asian restaurants offer pho and sushi and Thai and Chinese options together.

And now I'm hungry.   :P


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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2011, 01:37:24 AM »
Small island town here, population on the road system about 12,000.  We have restaurants come and go.  Currently we have:

A Mexican restaurant, been around almost 40 years, a common choice for business lunches; owner is from Sonora and knows her stuff.
An "American" restaurant/sports bar ("American" meaning burgers, pasta, steak, local seafood, and  big salads with meat), about 30 years old.
A Chinese-American place called the Peking-Sizzler that may be the oldest restaurant still open in my town.  Lovely soups, ultrathick shakes.
A Japanese restaurant just upstairs from the Peking-Sizzler and run by the same family; specializes in bento-style meals and classic sushi and sashimi.
Another Japanese restaurant that does more noodles and innovative sushi.
A sort of Japanese-Chinese-Filipino place.  Haven't been there in a long time--their won ton soup was made with canned beef broth, ick.
The restaurant in the local Best Western, known for its classic French and American dishes and fresh bread.
A burger joint at the end of the road called the Roads End.
Another burger joint about a third of the way to the end of the road.  Both are--it's hot, it's correctly made, and you won't get sick, let's put it that way.
A brand-new place halfway to the end of the road and attached to a new development of tourist cabins.  Offers innovative fusion recipes, such as the ingredients for pirok (a savory fish pie from Russia as reimagined by local Native Americans) done up in a spring roll.
At the other end of the road, there is yet another burger joint in the VFW clubhouse.  The Elks have one too and the Coast Guard has a restaurant for personnel only on the base.
A teensy little place, drive-thru only, specializing in El Salvadoran cuisine, and usually hopping.  (Pupusas with red-hot coleslaw!)
A new Thai restaurant called Noodles--I think it's a franchise.  The last tenant was a Mongolian Barbecue.  Good luck to them.
A Greek and Italian place that is extremely expensive but popular.
A coffee shop that does breakfast and lunch courtesy of a French chef who uses as many local ingredients as possible.  Out-of-this-world food.  The other coffee shops use canned and frozen this and that.
A little local pizza joint that is carry-out only but delectable.
Another pizza joint on base, open to civilians--okay.

I think I got them all.

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Re: Restaurant Types, Portion Size, and Menu Variety
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2011, 07:03:57 PM »
Melbourne is known for its food. We have an eclectic range of restaurants, including Chinese (naturally), Indian, Greek, Italian but also Spanish, Turkish, middle eastern, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, African, French, and many others. And of course Australian, which is a fusion of many cuisines, depending on the chef. We have Mexican restaurants but they're generally not very good by American standards.

The bolded are the most common.

Portion sizes in general are medium. I certainly notice the large portion sizes when I travel to the States.  People can fit in 3 courses (though I usually have 1 or 2).