When I go to a restaurant, there are a couple of things that really set the tone for me, and if they aren't "right", then I feel a little let down. So often, restaurants are judged simply by their food quality or freshness or their service. These things are important, yes, but for me there are other little things that sometimes go unnoticed.
Bread/bread service: It should be fresh, hot/warm, served with some kind of (room temp./soft) butter, good olive oil, or spread. Please, FRESH bread. I don't really care what kind (sourdough, french, italian, wheat, etc.), just serve it fresh! And keep it coming!
Also, salads, soups and sides should be just as good as the main or dessert. They should accent the meal and be given as much time and care in the kitchen as a steak or plate of pasta.
And please - GIVE ME MY FOOD HOT!
What about you guys? Is it bread? sides? ambiance? lighting? the comfort of the chairs/seats? music (or not)? the servers' outfits (I have actually heard someone complain about that...)
Another question I have is: when going to a certain kind of restaurant (Italian, French, Asian, American, etc.), is there a certain dish that you order just to be sure they are doing things correctly and authentically? (i.e. I always ordered something with tomato sauce/marinara/gravy at Italian places; to me, if that isn't delicious, it puts a big damper in the meal. If they can't get the basics down, then creativity really doesn't impress me much).