As far as I can tell, the original usage of
cuisine probably would’ve been better described as a “genre”. Sometimes it was a cuisine in the actual sense of the word, such as
japanese; sometimes it was a characteristic dish, such as
sandwich. Sometimes it was a special term that implied something about the ambiance, such as
steak_house. But it was only a matter of time before mappers ran into restaurants that defy categorization. In most places, there are no regulations to prevent a restaurant from serving up dishes from multiple cuisines or multiple kinds of food.
cuisine=ice_cream;burger is a good example. In the U.S., it most likely refers to the classic genre of fast food restaurant known for its burgers and frozen treats (ice cream, milkshakes, frozen custard, etc.). Example chains include Dairy Queen, Culver’s, Braum’s, and Foster’s Freeze. Many of these chains have both a burger and a milkshake or ice cream cone in their logo, so you know they’re both important. To an American, a “burger and ice cream” joint conjures up an image of a walk-up window, greasy burgers, and soft-serve ice cream piled high on a cone or sundae. On an
amenity=restaurant, it could be a diner like Steak ’n Shake or Johnny Rockets.
On the other hand, a mapper could pedantically use the same value on a burger joint, such as McDonald’s or Jack in the Box, that happens to sell ice cream on the dessert menu or as part of a kid’s meal. I think some mappers have attempted to use
cuisine in this manner, with the goal of making it easier to type “ice cream” in the search bar and get results if you have a desperate craving for ice cream, even if it comes from a sit-down steakhouse.
To complicate things further, eventually people in America or Japan needed to make finer-grained distinctions within their respective cuisines. After all, when you’re in Japan,
cuisine=japanese isn’t especially descriptive – ordinary people want to know whether the restaurant serves ramen, sushi, or mochi. That value matters a lot more in countries where Japanese cuisine is not the norm.
There’s probably an interesting cultural commentary to make about the prevalence of a country’s stereotypical cuisine within that country (sorted by the
cuisine value’s global prevalence):
I realize I’m making gross generalizations here. Obviously there isn’t a one-to-one correspondence between countries and cuisines. But notice how Britain, where
cuisine tagging started, has never really gotten the hang of prepending
british to every
cuisine tag that isn’t from another part of the world. I don’t think this is a knock on British culinary taste;
fish_and_chips is quite prevalent both in the UK and abroad.
food:* to answer the question, “What can I order here?”, can take some of the pressure off
cuisine, so that we can refocus it and use it solely to categorize restaurants by cuisine. It also gives mappers the opportunity to describe the menu in more detail, if that’s really what they want to do.