HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Bringing your own eating utensils ...

Ok, weird question ... any of you folks out there bring your own eating utensils to a restaurant (stemware excluded)?

I have an aunt who refuses to eat with those prickly, break-apart-before-you-use chopsticks that come pre-wrapped in an advertisement paper sleeve, and insists on bringing her own porcelain set.

To each her own, I suppose ...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I was gonna say, chopsticks are probably one of the few things you could bring in . . . aside from a good steak knife, but then in theory, you should be able to cut your steak with a butter knife!


    1 Reply
    1. re: TexasToast

      I sort of agree ... the splintery chopstick thing is sort of unpleasant.

      But at the same time, I wouldn't bring silverware to a place that used plastic forks just because I don't like plastic.

    2. At most Ethiopian restaurants around here, you are supposed to eat with your hands. You take some injera (flatbread), and use it to enfold and scoop up the stewed meats and vegetables.

      It works fine but you wind up eating a lot of injera. I like injera but I tend to get "injera bloat."

      So I bring my own fork, and eat the food with minimal injera.

      So far I have not been charged forkage.

      4 Replies
        1. re: Covert Ops



          Chopstickage (?)

          Strawage (?)

          And how about the Knork or the Spork?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Can't resist.

            Now that more and more wines are coming with screwcaps....... will restaurants be charging SCREWAGE?

            1. re: Midlife

              I have been charged for that, but then the wines usually came from the restaurant's wine list!


      1. I always carry a pair of the splintery wooden chopsticks, because the plastic ones most restaurants supply are round and slippery, and I wind up with half my food in my lap.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mnosyne

          I agree. I always take the bamboo ones when we're going for dim sum. I really hate those plastic ones.

        2. When the chopsticks are round, I just stab the sushi or pick it up and eat it . . . except at Nobu where one would get strange looks!


          4 Replies
          1. re: TexasToast

            actually it's perfectly proper to pick up the sushi with your hand and eat it.

            1. re: TexasToast

              In Japan, it's actually considered a major faux pas to stick one's chopsticks into food, especially rice. This only occurs at funerals, where a bowl of rice is placed at the altar with the chopsticks poked into an upright position. It's also considered bad form to hand food from one person to another using chopsticks since this is what is done with the bones of a body after it has been cremated.

              As choctastic notes correctly above, eating sushi with your hands is considered the proper thing to do in that country.

              1. re: bachslunch

                how would one properly eat chirashi then?

                sashimi laden on rice requires some sort of mode of transport to get rice to mouth. or are there special exceptions then? and then would that make chopsticks the least used utensils if you shouldn't be sticking them into food? this doesn't quite seem right....

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  Chirashi is not sushi, it's supposed to be eaten with utensils.

            2. i don't know if this should really be considered all that strange...

              most of the better japanese restaurants near me will hold a pair of proper chopsticks in a wooden box for you if you're enough of a regular. means less wastage of trees and ideal eating!

              1. i have a friend who's carried her own chopsticks around for years. It's about saving the trees. I think that's cool.
                ..bringing your own flatware b/c you're a germaphobe would be weird though

                1 Reply
                1. re: nychilanga

                  In that same vein, I really cannot stand when customers ask for hot water (to put their silverware in) or plastic utensils. The plastics are dirtier than the silver because they're not individually wrapped and just sit around without ever being washed and while the water is hot enough to kill some things that could conceivably be found on silver, unless one's going to put their plate/napkin/food itself in there, what's the point?

                2. A few thoughts...

                  1) I was once told it was considered impolite to rub wooden chopsticks together to remove splinters, that it was a sign of disrespect to the host that they were using cheap wooden chopsticks. I think this related specifically to Japanese cuisine, of course, since Chinese food rarely requires rule books, and I once asked the staff at the Thai place why they ate with FORKS (to which they replied, its faster - natch).


                  2) I also can't stand the big plastic chopsticks that most places use, they are annoying, and while I consider myself relatively well-versed in using chopsticks, I also find food harder to eat with these. However, some people make a "Big Fuss" over bringing their own chopsticks, taking them out of the case like they are unveiling golden treasures and all at the table should be awed. Sort of like those folks who sniff wine corks ostentatiously.

                  3) In a good restaurant, the silverware is supposed to be "polished" with a clean napkin (lets hope no one uses actual POLISH - yuck!!) to remove unsightly waterspots. And theoretically, the pieces with someone else's food still stuck to them should not make it to the table. Likewise, a server should bring silverware to the table, laid on a plate and wrapped in a clean linen napkin, and handle the silverware only by the handles.

                  Of course....

                  4) How many times do you see some busboy, who just finished wiping down a dirty table, picking his nose, running his hands through his hair, and maybe throwing out a dirty napkin he picked off the floor, who then grabs a nice fistful of silverware by the err... usuable end.. and .... you get the point... GROSS.

                  5) Being obsessive-compulsive, its difficult enough to eat out in a public place (think, Adrian Monk on TV)....however, I close my eyes and pretend I DONT KNOW WHAT GOES ON IN RESTAURANT KITCHENS. That goes for the silverware, AND the food too.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Sethboy

                    I guess this answers my question from the first time I ate in an actual Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. Everyone looked Asian and spoke only Chinese, yet all the waitstaff, when they sat and ate together, used only forks. We thought we had stumbled into some kind of conspiracy to confound the tourists. . .

                    1. re: Sethboy

                      Um... Thai people eat with spoons... the forks are just for pushing.

                      That said, I keep a pair of chopsticks in my briefcase. Not because I need to whip them out in a restaurant, but because when I travel for business, sometimes I get my food to go (to eat on the airplane) and they forget to give me cutlery -- or worse yet, the cutlery isn't allowed on board. Nobody has an issue with chopsticks yet, and there's precious little that can't be eaten with chopsticks or no utensils at all.

                      1. re: Sethboy

                        There are plenty of rules for eating Chinese food (see the movie Joy Luck Club). But few Chinese restaurants use disposable chopsticks. Thais don't eat with chopsticks, they use fork and spoon.

                        As for busboys or anyone else grabbing the business ends of utencils in a restaurant, that would be the last time I go to that restaurant.

                        1. re: PeterL

                          >>Thais don't eat with chopsticks, they use fork and spoon.

                          I have heard this before, but I always see Americans eating with chopsticks in Thai restaurants! So is this an affectation? Something Americans expect to do in an Asian restaurant? Because if it's not done in Thailand, why do Thai restaurants even offer chopsticks?

                          1. re: Neely_Ohara

                            Some Thai restaurants are a combo such as Chinese and Thai. Not sure, but maybe that is an account for it. Also, wondering since Chinese food was the first of the asian ethnic foods that really went mainstream, maybe the general public assumes that all asians just do this...not sure...just food for thought.

                            1. re: Neely_Ohara

                              Something Americans expect to do in an Asian restaurant? IMHO, yes/

                              Because if it's not done in Thailand, why do Thai restaurants even offer chopsticks? Most likely to please American patrons who expect to eat with chopsticks in Asian restaurants.

                              1. re: ClaireWalter

                                My travel guide to Thailand discussed this. Apparently chopsticks are used only for foods that have a Chinese influence, and the "eating tradition" carried over with the cuisine influence. But food that is not from a chopstick using cuisine uses spoons, and you use your fork to push the food onto the spoon. It's actually much more efficient than using a fork, with rice, some sauce, etc. I even eat my Trader Joe rice bowls like that now. (I'm sure for a lot of people this was an obvious approach, but hey, better late than never!)

                        2. I keep a zip lock bag in the car containing knives, forks, spoons, soup and teaspoons, plus chopsticks and two large tea towels (from Trader Joes) plus another bag for the dirty cutlery and some wipies.

                          When we used to go to the late Aladdin (now Darya) at the corner of Westwood and Olympic, the cook would cry out, here are the ladies with their own forks. Beats plastic any time.

                          The big tea towels are a must if one is munching in the car otherwise its all day with a spot on your shirt.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ZoeZ

                            I rarely travel without my Central Market care package containing much of what you listed above ZoeZ. And one time, at a famous 24 hour pancake house in Texas (no, not THAT one), my dining companion whipped out the Purell stating that "these menus are filthy, you never know what kind of disease you can get from them, I saw it on 60 minutes."


                          2. I'm BIG fan of marrow, whether veal osso buco, lamb osso buco or marrow bones (which we had great ones (bison) in Denver a couple of weeks ago). We've learned that almost all restaurants have no proper marrow spoons and will give you a cocktail spoon or knofe and tell you to use the reverse end.
                            We travel with our own marrow spoons (and even here in LA) and we get the last little dab of marrow from the bone with our narrow scoops - yes, we are compulsive about this. I think this would be limit of what we would do.


                            6 Replies
                            1. re: TomSwift

                              I have the same problem here in NYC of all places, so I've been shopping around for at least 2 marrow spoons, but all I can come up with are the antique ones from the 1700s and the modern silver plated ones that run about $50 each. Any suggestions as to where I can buy some reasonably priced ones?


                              1. re: bednarchik

                                You bet. We got ours from Sur la Table, a specialty cooking store here in SoCal. They were $12 each. They are stainless, not silver or plated. I'd guess that they have a web site. Good luck.

                                1. re: TomSwift

                                  Thanks for the lead, unfortunately, like all the other places that I've tried, the spoons have been discontinued. Thanks for the help - I'll keep looking - there MUST be something here in NYC!

                                    1. re: justagthing

                                      yeah, yeah, it's been 4 years since you posted this and I finally got around to answering you. Thank you SO much for the lead. They are really nice spoons and my husband and I love them. It was a bit more than I planned to spend, but they are worth it! Thanks again.

                                    2. re: bednarchik

                                      Couldn't you use the paddle end of cocktail forks?

                              2. do you whip out your chinese chopsticks in chinese restaurants and japanese ones in the japanese restaurants? otherwise, isn't it a bit rude to bring out the wrong chopsticks?

                                i don't bring my own utensils, and would feel offended if someone brought their own to my house or even to the restaurant... its almost as saying their utensils that they supply aren't good enough for your taste.... if you are not well versed in let's say chopsticks, you can ask for a fork and they usually have forks, just like with ethnic restaurants that eat with your hands, they usually have utensils if you ask

                                1. I always bring my own pre-packaged set of plastic utensils to the restaurant I go to every day for breakfast ;-)

                                  Melvin Udall

                                  1. At our favorite Japanese restaurant in Seattle, Nishino, they kept personal chopsticks for the regulars along with personal sake cups. I always thought that was a very cool touch.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                      Do they wash them? How do they keep them straight? A place in Portland does this too and it makes me wonder...

                                    2. Wasn't that a Jack Nicholson phobia in "As Good As It Gets"????

                                      1. A very environmentally sound practice. The use of disposable chopsticks has caused a huge problem because of the amount of wood needed and a number of forests destroyed. So bringing your own chopsticks is like bringing your own grocery bags.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: PeterL

                                          speaking of destroying bamboo forests, I can't remember if it is Japan or China, but they are now charging a surcharge for disposible chopsticks for that reason.

                                          1. re: justagthing

                                            Is bamboo a renewable resource, or is the maturity cycle prohibitive?

                                            1. re: Hue

                                              good question, truly not sure of the answer here, just heard about the surcharge, so I am assuming it is similar to any paper product that is not recylcled. Cut a tree, takes decades to replace at the same size.

                                              1. re: justagthing

                                                maybe there is more to it than this, but at least at a
                                                naive level bamboo is one of the fastest growing
                                                plants ... as in +1ft/day potentially.

                                                1. re: psb

                                                  interesting, good 2 now, but maybe it's a waste issue???? guess i will have to google

                                                  1. re: justagthing

                                                    bamboo is a very fast growing plant. my understanding about the surchage was that use was simply outwieghing availability as people were very frivolous about it's use. considering the scale that we have to look at in asia, billions of people, and chopstick use being that much more in north america... i can see that planting may not be making up enough for our processed disposable sticks.


                                                    1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                      thanks for the link, i thought it was about the trees, but I also like that the children were very much involved in this...

                                        2. I used to have an auntie who brought her own chopsticks to a family-style Chinese restaurant when we went out to eat. The standard offered chopsticks were non-disposable bamboo, but she preferred using her own sterling ones; I don't recall objections from anyone present. She just had to remember to take them home.

                                          1. This may be a growing trend - i saw a lovely set on the reusable bag website - http://www.reusablebags.com/store/tog..... wanted to buy them for myself, just don't think I would use them that much. If I ate at a lot of places that used disposables I would totally get them. :)

                                            1. well I suffered a stroke and am now paralyzed on my left side so I can't cut up my food. and being 35 don't want my dining partner to do it. I just purchased a special fork that will allow me to cut my own food but after reading some of these responses not sure I want to call attention t myself by pulling out utensils or heaven forbid offend anyone.by being independant. just venting.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: kensethchic17

                                                sorry to hear of your ailment...personally I would never look down upon a person that brings there own..we don't necessarily know the reason as in your case and many are too quick to judge. Something about the splinter in anothers eye, but can't see the plank in front of them...

                                                1. re: justagthing

                                                  well thats nice to know you wouldn't look down on other people and judge them but we would be naive to think it doesn't happen.. I myself have never been vain but since my stroke I've become self conscious so I guess I have something to work on too. and i/ will continue to use my fork I happen to enjoy dining out one of the few pleasures I still get to do. . thanks for the responses

                                                2. re: kensethchic17

                                                  kensethchic, I understand that you are just venting after reading all these posts -- that is perfectly understandable. I also pulled up your profile and notice that you are new to Chowhound -- stick around -- there's a lot of good stuff here, despite all the judgemental posts you'll see! Some (many) people here can be pretty elitist, but many, many more are helpful and friendly and offer fantastic information.

                                                  And please keep bringing your fork to restaurants -- sounds like a very useful device!

                                                3. While I do not do it, with chopsticks, I often wish that I had.

                                                  Being a rather "ham-handed" Westerner, without great chopsticks skills, I hate the commonly provided versions. I have several sets of heavy plastic (look like ivory, but are not), that have good balance, and then a nice roughness near the tips. They do now bow horribly, like so many inexpensive plastic, or many wooden versions, so I do not have to constantly rotate them to just the right orientation.

                                                  If your aunt likes her's, then I would be glad to see that she takes the time to bring them along.


                                                  1. I hate eating with plastic at lunch so I carry a cheapo set of cutlery I bought at Walgreens. If I lose one, I'm out .59.