Which ten restaurants would you most want to live next door to?

Seherli Tandir, in Baku, Azerbaijan is now on my list, but let me first explain the criteria.  This is not about the best restaurants, it is about the ones that give you the most consumer surplus.  For most of the “next door restaurants,” as I shall call them, you want them to be inexpensive, to offer some healthy options, to satisfy some of your cravings, to offer unique dishes, and not to take too long serving you.

It is not a mistake, if you are visiting Baku, to simply have each and every one of your meals at Seherli Tandir — the other restaurants in town are dominated assets.

The menu allows you to order three different types of cherry jam.  Get the one in the middle, the sour one (don’t let them tell you that you should not be ordering a jam, and don’t put it on anything, just eat it).

Have I had better yogurts and rices?  Order the little dumplings with sumac (gurza), asking for yogurt sauce on the side.  The qutabs — thin breads stuffed with either pumpkin or meat — are the surprise knock-outs.  The soups, the stews, the dolmeh.  Did I mention the pilaf with the chestnuts?  The “tandir” bread-baking oven in the middle of the restaurant?

The typical entree costs about $4-6.  And the staff is friendly and helpful.

The restaurant is located in the old city, on the “restaurant street,” near four or five other excellent but nonetheless inferior options (when in doubt in those order dishes with pomegranate seeds).  Go to the tower, and start walking up to the right, maybe 5-7 minutes.  No taxi can take you there, as it is in a pedestrian zone.  Simply ask when you get lost, as the restaurant is quite famous.  You can’t make a reservation and may need to wait out in the sun, thus another reason why it should be next to my home

In general, Azerbaijani food lies in the space between Persian and Georgian cuisines, a double yum.

Which other restaurants should be in the top ten you want right next to your home? And why aren’t those restaurants simply the best period?

p.s. watermelon jam tastes better than you think.


1. Subway
2. Taco Bell
3. Ruby Tuesday
4. Mc Donald’s
5. Whitlows
6. Roy Rogers
7. Uncle Julio’s
8. Sweetleaf
9. Noodles and Company
10. Chik-fil-a

L’osteria francescana, l’erba del re.

In your exploratory journey, you were close to the Iran's border. But you didn't visit this country with many delicious foods. Really why?

Unfortunately it is nearly impossible for US citizens to obtain a travel visa in Iran except by special invitation or perhaps an organized tour.

I like Georgian food, but now I have been eating it for a few years I am not so excited by it. I wonder if Tyler excitement of this restaurant is simply the novelty of the food to him and if he did live next door he wouldn’t eat there very often.

"three different types of cherry jam"

No there's strawberry and two different cherries (going by the Russian names)
Many languages in Central and Eastern Europe make a basic distinction between sweet cherries (ciyelek / chereshnia on the menu) and sour cherries (visne / vishnia on the menu).
To Americans (and other english speakers?) they're just different type of cherries but others (that make the distinction) think of them as two very different fruits.
Where I live people are always astounded that I can't always tell the difference...

In German, a distinction is definitely made between Sauerkirsche and Süßkirsche. Which is reasonable, considering how different the sour and sweet cherries taste (there is also a color difference). And I know at least one person who basically only picks sour cherries, and has no interest in sweet cherries at all.

Nobody confuses cherries with strawberries, admittedly, but generally, Germans consider the two types of cherries to be distinct subcategories of cherry, and not really separate types of fruit.

"Nobody confuses cherries with strawberries"

Except for Tyler.....

"Germans consider the two types of cherries to be distinct subcategories "

Can you use Kirsche by itself?
In Poland people really do think of them as separate fruits that don't belong to a larger category (the roots are similar to Russian - czereśnia and wiśnia)

Yes, Kirsch can be used by itself - for example, Kirschwasser is cherry brandy (no word is really right - it is not a brandy nor a liqueur, though typically around 40% alcohol).

However, most recipes (and mainly menus) make a distinction, as the flavors are distinct enough to be noticed. And though fresh cherries are generally sold without being particularly labelled (probably because mainly fresh sweet cherries are sold), when you buy a jar of cherries, the distinction is always made.

It would seem that German rests between Polish and (American) English - the two types of cherry are treated as different in many contexts, but still are considered one type of fruit.

A bit more mysteriously, German does seem to make a distinction between two types of plum, but I still don't honestly know whether this is a regional difference in vocabulary, or an actual (if not precisely obvious) difference between Pflaumen and Zwetschgen. German wikipedia leaves it nebulous - Zwetschgen are technically a subtype of plums, but you often, though not always, see a difference made between these two terms. About the only concrete explanation I have been given (a bit south of this region is also known for Zwetschgen, including Pflaumenbrand - or plum brandy - which is made out of Zwetschgen) is that Zwetschgen are smaller than 'real' plums.

I saw lots of Zwetschgen in Franken, I assumed that it was a Bayerisch or Franconian word.

Came here to say this, but you beat me to the punch. The top pic is clearly strawberries.

There is a picture?

Why yes there is, and the typical translation error strikes again - clearly, the picture is worth more than one English word in this case.

2. Applebee's
3. Outback Steakhouse

Jeez, I can't remember any others, but I would recognize their signs from the freeway.

Jimmy Dean's, my blue collar friend

One place from my top 10 is the gyorsetterem (kind of a cafeteria style cheap palce) next to lehel ter in Budapest (specifically Pest)
The atmosphere is not great and the employees tend toward the surly if your Hungarian isn't up to the task (it's a busy place and they're always busy) but the food is cheap, plentiful and delicious in the way that only gloriously unhealthy food is.


There's an even better place in Buda but technically that's a bunch of different stalls with a common seating area.

One that said 'no economists allowed within 10 feet'

Or attractive women, as one noted food authority points out.

In about 1975 we had a Georgian restaurant just around the corner from us. Good food and good fun. They couldn't source Georgian wine so they made do with Bulgarian. Happily Bulgaria was producing a good run of cheap red at the time.

bill maher come doritos naranja

We were in Spanish Basque country this past May. Although the region is known for multiple Michelin star restaurants we found that Trikuharri tavern in San Sebastian to be wonderful. We had walked from our hotel into town and back again when we found this place. Food was excellent and inexpensive. I wish we had such a place here in Bethesda.

Nothern Spain is full of those places: Forever forgotten in food guides, but with outrageous quality and low prices. My favorite of the lot is in Tui, Pontevedra, right next to the Portuguese border. You will never find a bigger difference in food quality than Tuy and the tourist trap across the border that is Viana de Castelo.

Living next to a successful restaurant is in all likelihood is a horrid experience because of traffic, noise and vermin

That's why the answer is Chick-fil-A.

Incredibly delicious.... and you get peace and quiet on Sundays.

Yup, and Tyler's question thus creates some rather specialized, even artificial, criteria. The restaurant would need to be one that I like -- but that is not popular with other people. Perhaps Chicago stuffed pizza would therefore be my answer; IMO it's the best pizza in the US, but is generally unknown or unpopular outside of Chicago.

However, there's the danger that stuffed pizza might get "discovered" and then there'd be lines of people outside my home.

Tyler's question contains another artificial element, similar to the best-album-to-take-to-desert-island question: I'd take a boxed set of inferior music rather than a single album of superior music, just for the variety. Similarly if I'm going to be going to this restaurant often, I'd want a lot of variety. So a big buffet style restaurant might be preferable. Recently a huge Chinese buffet restaurant opened in my hometown and we pretty much always go there for family get-togethers because everyone can get whatever they want (including some non-Chinese food such as roast beef, sushi, etc.) and as much as they want.

However, in the spirit of Tyler's question for sheer consumer surplus I might opt for a Zankou Chicken. It's a rotisserie chicken chain in Los Angeles that is cheaper and faster than McDonalds, while having roast chicken that is as good as at fine dining restaurants, plus having a unique garlic sauce that is unlike anything I've seen anywhere else including Middle Eastern restaurants (Zankou is owned and run by Armenian immigrants and their descendants).

Some revealed preference: in grad school I'd usually get lunch from a nearby Legal Seafood. In those days they had a counter where you could buy your own fish -- and also order takeout. Their clam chowder is excellent but their fish chowder is other worldly, one of the best soups/chowders I've ever tasted. And in those days it was cheap at the takeout counter. However Legal Seafoods have become more upscale now, I don't know if they even still have that takeout counter and I expect that their prices are higher.

Yet more revealed preference: I actually do live above a restaurant, a Japanese one. I almost never eat there. OTOH, I do benefit from its presence because a local newspaper aimed at Japanese expatriates and Japanese Americans is distributed on the sidewalk outside my door. So I can grab that paper when I walk by, which I doubt would be the case if the Japanese restaurant didn't happen to be there.

Hmm, thinking about it some more a very high quality bakery that serves breakfast might be really good. A place to take guests in the morning, and (if they stay open late enough) a place to get bread etc. on the way home. The Old Town Bakery in Pasadena was my favorite, but it fell victim to rising rents decades ago. Europane in Pasadena is well-liked but isn't as good; ditto Grand Central bakeries, a regional chain in Seattle and Portland, and various other bakeries that I've tried in Pasadena and Portland.


Chicago stuffed pizza such as Giordanos
Zankou Chicken (but it'll attract crowds)
Old Town Bakery or closest equivalent (also attracts crowds)
Big Chinese buffet (also attracts crowds)
Legal Seafood takeout counter (probably doesn't exist anymore)
Japanese restaurant (the one that I actually live above -- but don't go to)

Americans also make a clear distinction between sour and sweet cherries. Sour cherries are used in cooking (such as cherry pies) and sweet cherries are for eating raw.

Watermelon jam, at least the Albanian version, is terrific. It's made with skins only, and it has whole pieces (as opposed to the mushy paste of other store-bought jams). I hear that the watermelon pieces are soaked in whitewash paint, to make them maintain their form better.

Habesha market in Washington DC. All their dishes are 8 out of 10 in quality, and they have a kintot for 20$ with 4 dishes perfect for two people. 1 out of the 4 is usually 10 out of 10 but it is impossible to know which in advance. In the 10 because the food is consistently good, lowish cost, and on average is better than any other ethiopian restaurant I've been to. (Ethiopian food in my preferred world is a once-twice/month meal as it is unlike anything but ethiopian food)

Chik-fil-A first. Then in no following order:

Subway, NY style pizza restaurant, Olive Garden, donut shop run by Vietnamese, Five Guys, Starbucks, Chinese restaurant, and a kebab place. I would include Inn-N-Out burgers, but fries are terrible and I used to live next to one, and the area smelled like hamburger grease.

Why are so many people picking fast-food places? You already live so close to them!

Karim's, Delhi
good, local Szechuan restaurant, Chengdu
good, local Thai counter, Chiang Mai
good, local taco stall, Mexico City
Phoenicia Diner, New York
good conveyor-belt sushi, Tokyo
hole-in-wall Cuban espresso counter

I love cooking, so next door I'd want the few faves I can't make myself:
1) Pizzeria -- Good Italian's not hard but only the pros can make a proper pizza
2) Spanish/Portuguese -- I can never get the green sauce right, and tripe is so labor intensive
3) Oyster bar -- have you ever tried to shuck those suckers?

Oh, and I almost forgot the most useful -- a good bakery. Give me nice fresh bread and I'll happily serve as "Sandwich Architect," as Subway calls them.

I think this is a good answer for most people, if they thought about it. I belatedly put it #3 on my list, because LA's Zankou Chicken provides the most consumer surplus and Chicago stuffed pizza would hopefully not result in crowds and noise.

Thankfully, I don't live next door to ANY restaurant!

New York System Hot Wieners but for the smell. http://www.olneyvillenewyorksystem.com/

American Junkie in Newport Beach. It's a terrible place, but the only house next door to it is an 8 million dollar waterfront compound with two docks.

When I lived in New Orleans in the 1980s, within one block I had a Steak-N-Egg, a Greek bakery, Schweikhart's (sp?) drug store lunch counter, Streetcar Sandwiches, and a Popeye's. Life was good. Jack, the local tomcat, was well fed.

Artizen, an offshoot of James Beard nominated (for desserts) MW Restaurant in Honolulu, located in the Hawaii State Art Museum. It’s been 3 years of gratitude for downtown and Chinatown cubicle dwellers. The menu usually offers, besides 3-4 elegant MW pastries, set items such as: Mochi crusted opah (a lovely white fish), furikake ahi plate, kalua pig tacos, chili bowl made with short ribs-ground grass fed beef-Portuguese sausage, fried chicken and eggplant w sweet n sour sauce fried shallots basil and peanuts, Chinese 5 spice fried pork chops w fried onions and red jalapeños, a very good poke bowl (pronounced correctly and enhanced by furikake rice and banchan) and a knockout bento box (Kalbi fried fish of the day jidori chicken Portuguese sausage and banchan—and a couple more including a serious burger. $11-15, breakfast too w equally creative soul food. Drawback: no dinner service. Portions allow leftovers for TV snacking later on. Come try

I live five minutes away from the original Taco Bamba location. It is everything you need and never disappoints. Their huevos rancheros is one of the the purest comfort foods I know.

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