What makes something The Best? Is it the best because it's been compared to others and really is, in the end, The Best? Or is it the best because it's your favorite? Or is it the best because you really like it, and everything else is just meh.
Sometimes I think about this when we figure out where to have a meal. For me, value has a lot to do with what makes an eatery great. Note that value includes not only good food but also good service. The more expensive the meal, the better experience I demand. If that's not the case, I'd rather spend less. When we go out sometimes in the Albany area, I think: Will this be better than Ala Shanghai? At Ala Shanghai we may only spend $25 for the two of us, even with leftovers. And it's fresh, delicious food with big flavor and lots of texture. It's hard to get a better bang for our buck with a sit-down restaurant. Of course, you're not always in the mood for soup dumplings. Or maybe you are.
Take it over to my birthday, where we enjoyed the tasting menu at the Wine Bar on Lark. Now, it certainly wasn't $25 (although that was the wine pairing price--a STEAL), but it was truly phenomenal. Chef Jason Baker created such a personalized, thoughtful menu where dinner truly was the show (it took a few hours, which allows one of you to maybe drive home). Even at more than 6 times our Ala price point, I was happy with the value we received. I couldn't repeat that experience frequently, but you see what I mean.
So. Is the Wine Bar my favorite? Is it the best? What about Andy's Subs Carmen's Colossal or the 42nd Street--I truly love eating those sandwiches, and they are $8 each. What about Ala Shanghai? Or Karavalli, where I have an addiction to the Bhel Poori. Or All Good Bakers, where I feel like I'd sell my kidney for a warm savory scone.
To wrap up, if I feel like I could make something better at home (and I'm not a tremendous cook, but I'm okay--particularly with breakfast) then I will not be back to that restaurant. Or if another restaurant does it way better (I'm looking at Ala compared to the purported "Chinese" "restaurants"--quotes necessary to denote the ick--in the strip malls near our house, where the food is plentiful and SUPER cheap but you'd rather not eat it). If I think I've had better at a lower price, I won't be back. But if there's value, you'll be seeing me again.