Being a European, travelling in the US a few times, I’ve learnt the following three rules of eating out:
1. Avoid fast food places at all costs – even if it means going to bed hungry.
2. If the place has “diner” in its name – most likely the food is good.
3. If the place has “family” in its name – most likely the food is good.
These rules work well in “normal” towns, the ones that are not likely to be visited by tourists. If you are in a touristy town, you may get good food in a fancy “European”-imitating restaurant, but your credit card may not like it that much, and the benefit to cost ratio is almost certainly low.
On this trip I did break rule 1 just once when I had a meal at McDonald’s but it was actually OK. I’ve had one meal at a “Tapas”-imitating place and it was awful. It was on the level of “almost impossible to eat”.
However, there might be other reasons to eat at genuine places. Today is a Sunday, and on page one of Sunday N.Y.T. there is an article about Donna’s Diner in Elyria, Ohio. That’s a town close to Oberlin which I could have gone through, had I planned the trip differently. Perhaps I would then have eaten at Donna’s. In the wake of the economic crisis such places may be struggling for their existence. So that’s one more reason to not to ruin your appetite at fast food chains or waste money in fancy places.