Our favorite economics professor C often talks about exploration versus exploitation (particularly when it comes to restaurants). His theory, which makes sense, is that when you expect to be some somewhere often, and for awhile, you should focus on exploring your options in hopes of finding the things and places you like even better than what you’re familiar with. The cost of taking a risk on something new isn’t so enormous if you have lots of time to try other things later.
The flipside is that, if your time is limited, he would argue it’s time to exploit your knowledge of the options, rather than venturing out into the unknown. It’s true that before leaving Boston, there were lots of things we still wanted to explore (two years wasn’t quite enough to do everything there is to do in Beantown) – but there was also plenty that we exploited (for instance: the scrumptiousness of the lobster sandwiches at Alive ‘n Kicking, the semi dark milk drinking chocolate at Burdick, and pretty much the entire menu at Strip-T’s).
So upon arriving here in Philly, it was officially exploration time. For the first few weeks especially, we ended up eating out a lot due to the postage stamp of a kitchen and the lack of AC in our temporary housing. During that time, we confirmed rumors that there are lots of good eats here in the City of Brotherly Love, and discovered lots of good restaurants (and fun neighborhoods). The tricky thing is that once you find something good, it’s hard not to exploit.
Our favorite discovery thus far (which has caused us to veer off-course from the season of exploration and begin exploiting already) is the salty-sweet Nam Salad at a little BYOB hole in the wall in West Philly, Vientiane Café. Vientiane is just down the street from where we lived the first few weeks we were in town, and it quickly became one of our favorites – possibly a soon-to-be weekly tradition.
Hopefully more accounts of exploration expeditions to follow in the coming months.
UPDATE: It was pointed out to me that I failed to mention one thing. While we are indeed fond of Vientiane (and that won’t change), it’s also true that we had an experience in which their patrons exploited the fact that my mom’s purse was on the floor next to her chair, and they absconded with her wallet. A few things we learned: 1) watch your purse at all times; 2) if your credit card is stolen after 9 pm, chances are the thieves will go to Walmart; and 3) don’t count on the Philadelphia Police Department to really care.