What's your favorite food?
Every so often someone will ask “What’s your favorite food?” either as an ice breaker or if I’m traveling somewhere and asking for a recommendation. I think this is a terrible question. The intention of the question is good, the person asking the question genuinely wants to find something that another would enjoy (or at least not find offensive). But I believe the question isn’t clear enough. There are too many different types of “favorite food”, instead we should be asking one of these questions instead:
What would you travel 45+ minutes to eat?
There are some restaurants, meals, or genres of food that I would absolutely travel more than 45 minutes in a single direction for. Either because of the experience or the execution of the food. Personal examples of this for me are1:
- Uchi (restaurant) - I’ve had great experiences with their course meals at the restaurant and would be pretty confident that traveling that far would be worth the travel trade off. I can get a similar type of sushi and sashimi where I live but would travel for the next level up of execution.
- Cinzetti’s (format) - Cinzetti’s is not going to be given a Michelin star for their cooking, it’s not much different that a decent Italian restaurant in a large town. However, their format of “all you can eat” with interesting internal decor would be worth the travel for me.
- Pho (dish) - Pho is a dish that I enjoy and appreciate the difference in execution and mastery of different aspects. I’d be willing to travel a long way for an exceptionally good Pho.
What could you eat for the longest streak?
”Comfort food” is another way people ask for food preferences, or “what food reminds you of home”, etc. I think in this realm the question is: What could you eat for the longest number of days straight before you got sick of it? This may be a more akin to our childhood-style favorite food, one that our parents would make all the time… or one of the few dishes we were willing to eat.
Similarly to the travel question, this could be answered with a specific dish, restaurant, or format2. The answer to such a question would be the least offensive dish for the respondent or possibly one they’re able to appreciate differences in. For me:
- QDoba (or Chipotle, restaurant) - I could probably eat at either of these fast-casual mexican food restaurants for at least two months.
- Meatloaf (dish) - After maybe a month I’d get tired of this meal; can be flavorful but not overly so
Your birthday party wouldn’t be complete without ______ (food)?
The final aspect of “favorite food” is the case of special treat foods. Dishes or restaurants that you couldn’t eat consistently because it would either ruin the food for you or simply couldn’t handle. These would be something that is a special treat on your birthday celebration. Something you’d specifically enjoy or appreciate. Mine would be:
- The Rio (restaurant) - Decent food, fine atmosphere, good offering of dishes but doesn’t rank at the top of the list for any of individual category. However, it’s been a staple of events for me and my family and it would take a massive error for me to have a bad time there.
- Creme Brulee (food) - I really enjoy a good creme brulee but would lose the charm of the dish if I had it two days in a row. Yes, it’s more of a desert but I don’t think I have a specific dish that fits into this category.
I believe that these are better prompts to figure out somewhere that a person would enjoy eating or to solicit recommendations. “What’s your favorite food?” or “What’s the best food around XYZ?” is simply too vague.
All of these are reasonable guesses at time of writing, facts and circumstances may have changed ↩
Buffet would be a bit of a copout here but is technically correct answer, like asking a genie for more wishes. ↩