I've read many comments on various forums waxing poetic about privately owned restaurants and taverns. The writers like them better than chain restaurants.
I wish I could say the same. My experience has been the following:
1. Is there some kind of unwritten universal law that they must have dark paneling around the room? I can hardly see in some of these places! Yesterday evening I walked to the one down the street from me, and since I sat by myself, I brought a book with me while I waited for my meal. I had to use a little flashlight to read!
2. The place is always a little dingy in the corners (maybe that's why they're so dark?). The bathrooms are cramped, poorly lit and bare minimum clean.
3. The food is heavy and sits in my stomach.
4. Even though smoking is forbidden in most of them anymore, that doesn't mean that some of the patrons don't reek of cigarette smoke.
5. Many of the patrons, both male and female, seem to have small vocabularies. Their favorite word starts with the letter F and they use it in every other sentence as if they don't know of a more suitable substitute. It gets very tiring to hear it over and over.
Obviously I have not found the appeal of these restaurants. You're probably thinking I was in a small-town bar last night, but this was a city restaurant on a main street!