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Mar 10, 2001 02:56 PM

how to send food back?

  • m

what is the proper way to send food back? a while ago a friend and i decided to have lunch at boulevard. i ordered a steak, and asked for it to be cooked medium rare. unfortunately, it came to the table cooked medium. i didn't send it back; it was still a very good steak, just not cooked to my liking. this has happened to me in a few restaurants, and usually it's not that big of a deal. i am interested to know, though, what the etiquette is for sending back something like a steak that was not cooked to order. thanks for all your imput!


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  1. As a restaurant manager I think the best way to send food back is to call your server over, clearly and calmly explain the problem, and suggest what the restaurant can do to make you happy. In some restaurants the server be able to deal with the problem, in others he or she will have to get the manager, and you will have to repeat your situation to the manager. If your steak is undercooked, ask that it be re-fired. If it is overcooked, well done when ordered medium rare for example, request a new steak.

    That said, the distinction between medium-rare and medium can sometimes be very fine. It sometimes is a distinction without a difference. I think you were correct not to send back the steak you received in the case you cite.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Deven Black

      >the distinction between medium-rare and medium can sometimes be very fine. It sometimes is a distinction without a difference.

      Given this statement, how would you suggest we order steak so that we get one cooked to our liking? Are there other things we might say to the server when we order? I have often had a problem when I say medium-rare -- that doesn't seem to be defined very well.

      1. re: Nancy Berry
        Janet A. Zimmerman

        When I'm ordering meat at a place I'm not familiar with, I ask the waiter to describe their versions of rare, medium, etc. Since I like my steaks rare, my question is usually, "Are your rare steaks warm all the way through?" (I don't like a cold center). The answer determines whether I ask for rare or medium rare. To me, medium rare means that only the very center of the steak is red, and the rest is pink, so that's the description I'd give the waiter, and leave it to him or her to convey that to the chef.

        1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

          See? Here's what we are talking about. To me, medium rare is pink in the middle, rare red, and well-done (echh)grey. If you are that picky, I suggest you order on the side of rareness, and send it back for more cooking if you are unhappy. Nothing is as frustrating as a customer who splits hairs and sends a not-perfectly-done steak for a new one. You can tell a lot about a person by their attitude when the steak is not absolutely perfect. Of course, you are probably being grossly overcharged for the meat, so what the hell?

          1. re: Jim H.

            Interesting talk about steak doneness...has anybody ever been to Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida? It's a very famous steakhouse with the most amazing wine list (more than 7,000 individual selections & an inventory of over 500,000 bottles). They offer their steaks cooked to any of eight levels of doneness....not sure how they do that? Not an easy task.

            1. re: Gordon Wing

              If anybody's is a link to Bern's Steak House. It has a detailed description of all of the eight degrees of doneness that they offer....not sure exactly how they ensure the proper cooking but...this restaurant is pretty impressive. 65 page dessert menu!


              1. re: gordon wing

                Bern's is a must in Tampa. Ate there about 20 years ago, and it was the best steakhouse around. One of our crowd, a wine buff, read thru the phone-book size wine list and commented that some of the prices were less than his wine dealer. I am sure they have updated the list by now. My first reaction when entering was that I was in a Venetian bordello. Great steaks.

                1. re: Jim H.

                  Enough about steak and wine, Jim. Please tell us what you know about Venetian bordellos!

            2. re: Jim H.

              This is an ongoing argument with my boyfriend. I like my steak red in the middle but warm, which I call medium rare. I have found that most restaurants call this rare, so I will occasionally order the steak rare and get it the way I like it.

              He thinks this is just plain wrong -- that if I order a medium rare steak I should receive it that way, or send it back till it's done right. Furthermore, by ordering a rare steak and receiving medium rare, I am letting the kitchen think that it was a perfect rare steak.

              I have learned never to pull this rare/medium rare thing in Texas. The last time I did that, the steak I received was purple on the OUTSIDE. Ug. Maybe I'll just specify red on the outside, warm through from here on out.

              Blue skies,

              1. re: Catherine

                Your comments about ordering beef in Texas remind me of how colorful the language can be there. I was working a catered event and someone from Texas passed on the rare roast beef by saying: No thank you, I have a vet back home that can still save that piece! But he said it with a big smile! ( I think )

            3. re: Janet A. Zimmerman
              Brandon Nelson

              Good thread

              Restaraunts often define degree of "doneness" by internal temperature. It has little or nothing to do with the color of the meat. If you are unsure always describe how you want your steak. The kitchen wants to get it right in one go round, so your input is valuable.


            4. re: Nancy Berry

              I do pretty much the same as others. I tell the waiter I want the meat to be pink, not raw, and I don't care what they call it. It always arrives just the way I like it. I, too, have found that medium rare means very different things in different parts of the country. So I think if you describe the color you want that you will be satisfied.

              1. re: Nancy Berry

                Part of the problem in ordering meat to a specific doneness is that other than "rare" and "well" everything else is a matter of splitting hairs. As I travel I see different definitions of medium-rare, so I usually end up just describing what I want the meat to look like. Usually a good waiter can adequately convey this to the cook by either translating it into the local terminology or by just repeating the description I've requested.

                I once ate in a fancy coffee shop/diner place near the San Francisco convention center. I don't recall the name of the place, but their menu said something like "we know how to cook rare, medium, and well done. Here is what they look like. Order anything else at your own risk."

                1. re: Nancy Berry

                  The only way to get your steak cooked the way you want it is to describe the color and temperature you desire to the server, and MAKE SURE THEY WRITE IT DOWN. As a chef, I appreciate when a customer KNOWS what they want! Many people order MR when they really what MED, and vice versa. They following should help you out:

                  VERY RARE = Seared and raw
                  RARE = Red and cool
                  MR = Red and warm
                  MED = Pink and warm
                  MW = Pinkish grey and very warm
                  WELL = Grey and hot

                  For the best result, do not even say RARE, MR, etc . . . rather, when the server asks how you like it cooked just say "Red and cool." TRUST ME . . . I cook for a living!

              2. Not quite the answer you are looking for, but I have the same problem-it all depends on who's cooking, and what their ideas of rare, med. rare, etc are. I make sure I stress to the waitress when I order, that I want it med. rare-BUT, if there is any question, I would like it on the rare side of med. rare. I often order my steaks rare/med. rare, and explain when they ask which one I prefer.