Something I've been meaning to do for a while is the Chowhound Rules of Thumb. These are various things about restaurants that will be true just about no matter what. Some time soon I'll make this a sticky article and put it up on the sideboard. And maybe I'll update the recent CDs, I keep picking them up and am about 15 behind. This list will most certainly grow with time, and feel free to suggest your own. If I like it enough I'll use it as part of the list.
#1: If a restaurant has a special gimmick, the restaurant will use that gimmick for all it's worth in hopes that you won't notice how bad the food is.
Corollary: If the restaurant moves in any way, whether it's because it's on a boat, or rotates at the top of a building, this goes double. Especially if it rotates at the top of a building.
Corollary 2: If they offer dinner and a show at the same time (such as Medieval Times does), the food will be industrial fare no better than from a Hometown Buffet.
#2: If there is an adjective as part of the name, such as "authentic" or "good", the opposite will be true. This goes both ways, I've heard good things about a place called Terrible's.
#3: Places that leave the cents off the menu (Filet of sole........... 23) charge 2 dollars more than they should for an entree.
#4: If jalapeño poppers are on the appetizer list, anything on the menu that could come from a bag in the freezer (i.e. 90 percent of the appetizers and at least half of the sides) comes from a bag in the freezer.
#5: Things wrapped in bacon taste really good. If the best praise you've heard about a restaurant is "The bacon wrapped (insert foodstuff here)" is AMAZING!" go elsewhere for dinner.