When it comes to food, my will is weak. And when it comes to great food, I pretty much lose all control: “Hello, brain? Stomach here. Why don’t you take a little break? Yeah, I’ll be taking over for a while.”
All it takes for a restaurant to get me coming back again and again is to offer One Great Thing. This is a dish so singular and—dare I say it?—addictive, that once I get a notion that it’s what I feel like having today, wild horses could not keep me from it. Nothing else will do because once my “crave” button has been pressed there’s no turning back.
If a friend is near or an out-of-town-visitor is in the house, he or she will be dragged along. That’s because a restaurant that has One Great Thing becomes part of my local must-see landscape, an exceptional experience I can’t wait to share, as worthy of showing off as a museum, monument, or natural wonder. I’m not exaggerating when I say that a great dish is like one of the Wonders of the World, inspiring pilgrimages from near and far. After all, the pyramids at Giza are just big piles of rock when all is said and done. But the world’s best rhubarb pie, warm and sweet/sour, with a scoop of hand-churned vanilla ice cream on top? Well, that’s a different kind of wonder.
And that’s my point: the One Great Thing does not have to be fancy or pricey or precious. It can be as easy as pie or as complex as a seven-layer chocolate/hazelnut cake. A restaurant’s signature dish, the one people can’t stop talking about, can be as Canadian and homey as poutine, or as exotic as a steamy bowl of Vietnamese pho.
What makes a restaurant’s One Great Thing rise above all others is no big secret: quality and consistency. If it tastes amazing every time, I’ll keep on coming back, zombie-like, until I’ve had my fill. There are burger joints galore, but what makes me seek out the Best Burger in the World (or at least in my neighbourhood), is those little touches that make a big difference. Like the quality of the beef and how it’s seasoned and seared, the way the fresh bun is toasted on the griddle, and the way the patty is topped with perfectly caramelized onions and thick slices of smoked bacon. (Oh, gosh. Excuse me while my stomach drives me down the street to devour one of these right now.)
See? That’s what I mean. The mere idea of deliciousness is enough to start a chain reaction that ends with me wiping my smiling lips after a wonderful meal and finally being able to regain control from my stubborn but discriminating stomach. My craving has been satisfied. Until next time, that is.