Anytime I eat out, I either experience something that I really love or don’t love so much and often wonder if anyone else agrees with my observations. I have shared a few here, cus I know you don’t have all day!
I would love to hear what your loves and pet peeves are about eating out and maybe I will dedicate a whole separate post!
1. Stinky water glasses:
I don’t know what ever compelled me to stick my nose in my water glass for the first time, but I do it at every restaurant and, unlike wine, you shouldn’t smell anything but air. I have been utterly turned off due to smelly water glasses on many occasions and at really nice restaurants to boot! It is not just water glasses that suffer this malaise but, beer, soda and wine glasses too, although it is harder to detect. And just in case you didn’t know, stink = dirty. I have one suggestion for restaurants: Use more soap and hot water. It’s crazy, but it works.
2. Sticky Tables:
Not all dining is fine dining, especially when it comes to sticky tables. When I wipe down my table at home, I give it a touch with my fingers to make sure it isn’t sticky and people aren’t even paying to eat there. Who wants to dine on the back of a dirty post-it?
3. Fake half and half:
Yes please, I would like a little cup of milky hydrogenated oil with a shelf-life of 100 years instead of a real dairy product. The disrespect to cows!
For real? It’s 2011.
5. Premature Dish Removal:
There are a few schools of thought on this matter, but I would just love it if a server asked if it is cool to remove my plate if others are still eating. Just the other day, I was dining at a fancy schmancy place that had particularly long rectangular booths with access to only one side and our Stepford waitress came by every 10 seconds and commanded me to hand her whatever glass or plate was not being used to the left of me. After about the fifth time, I was tempted to throw my entire body over the booth and yell, “No more! We want to keep all of these empty dishes at our table!! Stop the madness.
6. Forced Intimacy:
If you know me, then you know I love people and I love striking up conversation with my neighbors at eateries. What I don’t love is not having an option. Have you guys been to one of those hipster type o places where the tables are 5 inches from each other? First of all, this is exclusionary because it prevents anyone of booty-having heritage to eat there (that doesn’t include me) and secondly I don’t need my neighbor hearing me tell my dinner partner that I just undid my pants because I ate too much of that great calamari.
7. $30 Corkage:
Instead of expensive corkage, restaurants should add an automatic extra tip for the wine you brought or not allow people to bring wine at all. Perhaps they do this because many people are cheap and tip on the amount, not considering that they brought their own wine. This probably only applies to the Bay Area, where it is very common for people to bring their own wine to a restaurant that sells their own wine. The only restaurant group I know that NEVER charges corkage at ANY of their restaurants is Hillstone.
8. Plate on Plate Action:
I am talking about when they put the cute little cup of “jus” on your plate or a little fruit bowl on your plate next to your eggs. I think this one is strictly my Howard Hughes coming out and the residue of having completed the HACCP certification in culinary school. Plates can sometimes sit on counters and counters can sometimes be cleaned with chemicals. Have you ever had chemical poisoning from dining out? If all of a sudden you get hot, bloated, a headache and feel the urge to zip-line it to the bathroom, then congrats, you have!
9. Salad Bar/Buffet Debauchery:
I know this is more of a grocery store issue, but please God, give someone the wherewithal to invent something that will prevent the entirety of the salad tongs and spoons from falling into the salad accoutrements. I always grab the stuff in the back because people normally drop the bacteria-infested utensils towards the front. Do you see a theme?
10. Tude as in Attitude:
I am referring to anyone in the service industry who never looked the word “service” up. I know your job can suck, but dining out is about pleasure and happiness. I don’t need you to give me a warm hug or send complimentary dessert to my table, just be pleasant. Nasty customers will always exist and you are welcomed to do bad things to their food, but don’t take it out on me little lady/fellow.
11. Grilled bread:
We have infused your bread with charcoal or propane flavor at no additional cost. Really?
This evening we have a pan seared Dorade with a lemon grass foam and chorizo puss. Does foam really bring that much to the table? It is like a “cheffie” parlor trick taken too far. As far as I am concerned, we should return the foam to coffee and raves. I’m like the Archie Bunker of the food world.
Gratis – that’s Spanish for Free!
1. Free Water:
I wrote a post a while back about the Natura water system because I was so very excited that restaurants were able to serve up smiles with the simple act of not charging for purified sparkling and flat water. It has been over a year and I still want to jump for joy at Delarossa when they bring me my very own beautiful bottle of sparkling water for free!
1b. Free Sweets:
I can remember the handful of times over the years that I got my check at a restaurant and found a little teeny cookie, truffle or anything sweet for free next to or on top of the bill. We are all kids on the inside and this is not only a strategically brilliant time to give a customer something for free, but it is a no-brainer. When I was but a pup, my mom used to force me to go bra shopping for three hours, but it was all worth it because these painstaking outings sometimes ended in a Monte Cristo Sandwich at the restaurant inside the now defunct Buffum’s department store. Even though the Monte Christo was as close as I had come to lust at age 7, what I remembered most was these cute little mint sticks that were covered in chocolate that always came with our bill. A similar free treat can be found today at the Bistro at Nordstrom’s and they are even better! They also have the most luscious crab bisque ever.
2. Warm Bread:
I can say “no” to cold bread, but I can’t keep my hands off that soft and warm center of some beautiful warm crusty bread. Yummm. Better yet, serve it cold.
3. Clean Bathrooms:
If the eyes are the windows to your soul, then the bathroom is the window to the cleanliness of a restaurant. The last thing I want when I am in sensory food heaven is to walk into a smelly bathroom with overflowing trash cans. I LOVE clean bathrooms in restaurants and don’t even get me started on good lighting!
4. Large Purse Hooks at the Bar:
It is super thoughtful of restaurants to provide purse hooks and even nicer when they are big enough to hold your purse.
5. Small Desserts:
Sometimes I don’t want that tower of chocolate cake, but I do need a lil something sweet to finish the meal and I love it when a restaurant offers petite sweets like warm cookies, macaroons or a smaller version of tiramisu on their menu. So nice.
6. Seeing the Action:
I dig restaurants where I can experience the action in the kitchen. Eating at the bar is a great way to eat a popular place without reservations and let’s you see the dishes coming out to tables before you order. Unfortunately, like booking emergency exits seats, the word is getting out, so hurry up and snatch up those bar seats!
7. Restaurant Butter:
The reason fancy restaurant butter is so darn good is because it contains a higher fat content than grocery store butter. I like to spread some of the almost white and dense butter on a piece of crusty bread and sprinkle a few crystals of sea salt on top. It is an experience. If you want to have that experience at home, try unsalted Plugra butter.
8. Sea Salt:
I really dig restaurants that serve sea salt in a teeny bowl for customers to sprinkle with their hands. I am a bit of a germ freak, but nothing can grow in salt, so it is the one time I don’t care about people’s grubby hand germs. The other times include street food and orgies.
9. Small Plates:
I have sung the praises of small plates before and I love dining out with friends and trying a bunch o different dishes. This is something that time consuming and expensive to do at home, unless you have a pot luck and who uses that word anymore anyway?
10. Charcuterie and Cheese:
Many restaurants have embraced charcuterie plates, a.k.a fancy cold cuts and it rocks! Sometimes all I need is glass o wine, a little salami and cheese and maybe a cornichon. Don’t you?
12. Happy/ Semi Flirty Servers:
I am not saying that I want the waitress to sit on my husbands lap while she takes our order or for that strapping young waiter to pull a Chippendales on me, but it is nice when servers smile, laugh and call you miss, instead of mam or card you when you order wine. I nominate Shelly from The Woodhouse on Fillmore as my favorite female server and for “male category”, it is a tie between the crunchy guys at the Jane counter and all the bartenders/servers at Amelie. They all make me smile every time.