My favorite restaurant of all time is not exactly the most glamorous place. Phoenix Garden, a tiny restaurant on the ground floor of an apartment in midtown Manhattan, has just enough room for eight parties to eat at a time. The exposed brick walls are not very appealing, but the sizzling beef and crunchy noodles served are as authentic and rich in flavor as any five-star Chinese restaurant out there.
Hole-in-the-wall restaurants are simply the best: they offer amazing food along with a unique experience often steeped in history. St. Louis's own U-City Grill, which still only takes cash, is considered to be one of the best least-known restaurants in the country.
Even though you may be tempted to eat at the most blogged about restaurant, or the place that has a trendy interior and a huge waitlist, here are five reasons why you should seriously consider trying out some off-the-grid eats.
1. No one else knows about it
Perhaps the best part about eating at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant is that it's your own little place. It is not overhyped or where everyone else has eaten, so you can ensure that the quality of food or service doesn't drop with over-popularity. Eating at this little hidden gem will feel as if you are in on a huge secret that is (almost) too good to share.
2. The thrill of finding a good unknown restaurant
There's nothing better than knowing you found a delicious restaurant without any help from Yelp or an Instagram food account. At first glance, you may have second guessed where you decided to eat lunch, but after one heavenly bite, you know you have hit jackpot.
3. It's not too expensive
Another huge plus of lesser-known restaurants is that the price is usually pretty low because there is not a huge demand for the food. Also, because the inside is often not the most appealing architecturally or design-wise, the prices would not be so justifiable if they matched or exceeded those of a trendier restaurant nearby.
4. It ups your cool factor instantly
Telling someone about your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant makes you feel like an instant in-the-know foodie. It takes an exceptional palate to recognize good food without a Zagat rating, of course.
When you bring friends to your favorite up-and-coming restaurant, they will most definitely be impressed by your ability to know what to order.
5. The food is consistently good
Because hole-in-the-wall restaurants don't have huge demand, they must be consistent in the caliber of their food. They must be able to please their small but loyal following whenever they come, because this is what makes them so good. You can always count on a good meal, and that keeps you coming back for more regardless of the restaurant's general lack of notoriety.
If by now you aren't convinced that the best place to eat is the restaurant in the sketchy-looking building on your way to work, then you're missing out. Hole-in-the-wall restaurants represent the democracy of the food world—it doesn't matter if the restaurant is in the trendiest neighborhood or has the most lavish decor.
What matters most is simply how good the food is. So go out and be adventurous... who knows, maybe you'll find the next best place just around the corner where you least expected it.