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Aug 19, 2006 06:59 PM

When -- if ever -- do you send food back?

I got a takeout meat dish recently that was gross: thick slabs of leathery, inedible beef. I ate some and threw about half of it away and would probably have sent it back if I was served that dish in the restaurant. Opinions? TIA

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  1. I have sent back the following entrees (that I can recall at the moment): A dish of rabbit that was all bone (I know rabbit isn't meaty, but this had no meat to speak off, and was cloaked in a thick sauce that disguised the fact); a cassoulet that had way too many breadcrumbs (about a cup more than it should have had, at a conservative estimate - it was inedible); steaks that are too well cooked (we always order steaks rare, so if they come out medium or medium-well, and it's a good restaurant, we send them back); a shrimp dish that tasted off; and some seafood crepes that didn't contain an iota of seafood (maybe the sauce was made with a seafood stock, but there was no actual seafood inside the crepes).

    My philosophy is that if I simply order incorrectly, and get something I don't really enjoy, that's my problem. But if they promise you something (even if it's only an implicit promise: rabbit instead of rabbit bones, steaks cooked the way you requested when they asked you how you wanted them done, an edible dish rather than an inedible one, etc.), then you are entitled to hold them to their end of the bargain.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Akatonbo

      in response to you comment about rare steaks... i'm not saying you're like this - but as a chef i've gotten steaks sent back which,upon inspection - are perfectly cooked! Only a few times, but me, the other chefs and the servers will inspect it - and see that, yes - it's perfect. All i can say is "One person's 'rare' is anothers 'medium'"

      1. re: chefinthecity

        You're right - I'm not like that. But I remember when I worked for Morton's in Hyde Park 40 years ago - one the specialties of the menu were a pair of filet mignon, which (this was the 60's, after all) people would invaribaly order well done. We'd warn them, but they'd insist. Then the fillets (which were small to begin with) would come out looking like little hockey pucks, and they'd protest. Then we got to remind them that we'd warned them. Diners have learned over the past 40 years, but I'm sure there is still a lot of confusion about what constitutes "rare."

    2. I agree, I pretty much only send something back if it's presented to be in a way other than I ordered it. A steak that's overcooked, a salad with the wrong dressing, etc.

      I do recall once send back a bowl of soup that was so salty it was inedible.

      Other than that, I assume it's my responsibility if I order something and it's "not what I expected" or I don't care for it. I can usually get by on bread or whatever's on my DBF's plate. I did order something that I really just didn't like once, I'm sure it was fine, but I basically misread the menu. The server noticed I was pushing it around on my plate and commented on it. I mentioned that I misread the menu and it wasn't really my cup of tea, but not her fault. She promptly took the plate, asked me what I would like and proceeded to ask if my boyfriend liked what I had ordered and she would bring it in a box so that it wouldn't go to waste. I ordered an app as a replacement, the first entreee was removed from the bill and she came back with it in a box. I thought that was very nice and unexpected. She got a really good tip!!

      1. Agree with the above. Have also sent-back over-cooked lobster, too expensive not to...

        1. The general rule is unless it's 1) not what you ordered; 2) not prepared as described, or 3) not prepared properly, you shouldn't send it back.

          Examples of instances of the above where I've sent back entrees include:

          1) I ordered a chicken dish and was given beef.
          2) Grilled fish came out pan fried.
          3) Medium steak was rare/ Pizza burnt.

          Of course, restaurants are free to modify this practice, and often do. E.g., "if you're not satisfied for any reason," so it's best to check with the establishment.


          1 Reply
          1. re: TexasToast

            Nicely stated. Although I actually like my pizza burnt, as long as it's not TOO burnt!

            My most recent example was, I ordered a falafel wrap and got served one with lamb in it. Good thing for them I'm not a vegetarian, I was just in the mood for some simple falafel, or I might have demanded more than just a replacement sandwich as compensation.

          2. Only when it's inedible, or when it contains something I (or my wife, since I'm the designated, um, Bass Pole, if you know what I mean, and I think you do) can't eat (allergies, don'tcha know).

            I seem to have the worst problem with soups -- if they sit and evaporate too long, they tend to get VERY salty. Most people are very understanding about this.

            I send back salads that have bugs still clinging to the greens.

            I don't send back steaks, but if they're overdone I call the waiter over and explain that I am going to eat it, but this was not done to my specifications. This makes the lesson get through -- the waiter or maitre d' can yell at the kitchen, but the food, which is still perfectly edible, is not wasted.

            I actually sent back my first bottle of wine the other night. There was a huge dent in the cork and the wine, of course, was vinegar. I sniffed it, took a minuscule sip, made a wry face, and shook my head. The waitress was shocked. "Didn't you like it?" she said. "No, it's gone off," I said. "Can I bring you another kind?" "Another bottle of the same will be fine, just let me see the bottle before you uncork it." She had no idea that wine could go off, so she learned something that night. I felt bad, because it was a $50 bottle of wine, but I wasn't about to drink it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I have to applaud your forbearance in the case of an overcooked steak - but really, it's not necessary - if my years as a waitress are any indication, noting goes to waste. The waitstaff will eat it (yes, shocking, I know, but not the worst thing that happens in a restaurant kitchen) or take it home for the dog (dogs are sentient beings and have to eat, too).