Survey No. 4: Dining Out in the Bronx

Let's walk a few blocks away and have ourselves a number six combination dinner (shrimp in lobster sauce, fried rice, and an eggroll). That scenario for a family dinner out in the Bronx virtually dominated our responses. Of course, not everybody ordered a Number Six, but dinner at the local neighborhood Chinese restaurant seems to have been de rigeur. It certainly was the dining out routine for my family. What was also part of that routine is somewhat awkward to talk about. My mother typically used a term for Chinese restaurants (and laundries as well) that was without question a racial slur. I honestly believe, however, that the term was so embedded in Bronx culture and slang that she had no idea of its real meaning or offensive nature. Anyway, getting back to the topic here, there wasn't much of a selection back then, compared with what's available today. No one seems to have eaten Indian, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, or even French! And come to think of it, remember when Chinese was just "Chinese"? There weren't any Szechuan or Hunan restaurants around until the seventies.

As usual, I leave it to you to render your own analyses based on the returns. Thanks to everyone who participated.

The total number of unique, usable responses was 112.

When you lived in the Bronx, how frequently did you dine at a restaurant with your family?

Only on special occassions4439%
Once or twice a month3935%
Once or twice a week1615%
More than twice a week87%

What type of food did you usually eat when you dined out?


The "others" were German and Spanish.

Where was the restaurant that you usually frequented?

Right around the corner3128%
In the neighborhood4238%
A short ride away2724%
On the other side of the Bronx65%
In another borough22%
Out of town22%

Compare the experience of dining out then vs. now.
(Multiple answers were allowed, so the sum of percentages will exceed 100.)

that agreed
Eating out was a special occasion then, but commonplace now.8576%
Eating out was commonplace then, but a special occasion now.54%
It was more of a hardship to eat out then.6962%
It's more of a hardship to eat out now.43%
We got more food for our money then.5448%
We get more food for out money now.54%
The food was better then.4641%
The food is better now.1614%
The service was better then.6356%
The service is better now.109%
I preferred eating home then.2522%
I prefer eating home now.3834%

Since you've left the Bronx, have you ever gone back to eat there?
(Not everyone responded to this question.)

ResponsesPercentage (of responses)

Do you think local Bronx restaurants were different from local restaurants anywhere?
(Not everyone responded to this question either.)

ResponsesPercentage (of responses)

Of the specific restaurants named, a few were mentioned more than once. They are:

As far as the reasons most of you felt that the dining out experience was better in the Bronx back then, I can summarize it easily. Most people mentioned the friendly, personalized service we received in those days. "Your family was treated like guests at someone's home"; "the food was prepared the way we liked it". Perhaps the most enthusiastic description of the experience came from someone describing Paul Daube's Steakhouse on Courtlandt Avenue. Here it is, verbatim:
Our steakhouse certainly was different. The steaks were great. Celebs were always dining there. And atmosphere...well, let me tell ya. Sawdust covered the inelegant floor; red and white checkered tablecloths clothed the tables; a pot-bellied stove sat in the midst of the diners and when it rained, tables with patrons were moved to avoid the drips that cascaded from its leaky roof. All that, and, oh those steaks!

Thanks again for participating. Our next survey topic will be Going to the Movies.


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