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Things you won't order out, because you pretty much can make them at home ...

  • PaulF Sep 27, 2006 10:50 PM

Are there things you won't order in a restaurant, because you can pretty much make them just as well and just as easy at home?

I'll give an example ...

Lunch or dinner with my parents often is at a deli. And my dad gets mad at me for ordering a tuna sandwich on a toasted bagel.

See, I really like tuna on a toasted bagel. And he doesn't have a problem with the sandwich. What bugs him is that it's not that tough to open a can of tuna (probably the same brand more often than not as the deli) and toast a bagel and make a sandwich.

He thinks I'm wasting my deli-time by not ordering a pastrami or a corned beef because we both know I'm not going to sit at home and corn any beef or pepper up any pastrami. A trip to the deli, for him, is a chance to get a great deli sandwich and a tuna on a bagel is a waste of a deli-opp from his point of view.

I'm sort of that way with hot dogs. The HebeNats I grill or boil at home aren't all that different than the HebeNats served at a restaurant and if I want to go Hoffy or Vienna ... you get the picture. And I have the same mustard at home and can chop an onion or pop the top on the relish jar just as well as the chef can.

It's not exactly the same, I realize their are great hot dogs to be had out in the world and I do love hot dogs. But hot dogs to me are a destination food. "I'm going to Carney's for a hot dog." I really don't get hot dogs when there are hamburgers available. Yeah, I can make a hamburger at home ... but there just feels like more skill in the cooking with the burger and if I'm payin' I want that expertise.

(Oh, and when I do go for the dog, I don't want the same Heinz baked beans from a can that I can have at home thank you very much ... I'm in your restaurant ... cook me something, dammit.)

Two eggs any style: I never ask for hard boiled.

Anyone else ...

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  1. I rarely order eggplant parmesan out because it's never as good as what I make at home (if anyone knows an SF restaurant that doesn't drown the eggplant, let me know!). I'd never order, say, cereal at a diner, or granola and yogurt.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MuppetGrrl

      Especially boxed cereal. I could maybe see ordering a particular granola because it's made special at the restaurant, but who is out there ordering those little boxes of Special K?

      Frosted Flakes, maybe I get, because kids will eat them and so a coffee shop keeps them around. But who is ordering a little box of Total?

      Cereal was a great example (egg salad, too, in the post below).

      1. re: PaulF

        Someone who is travelling might order a box of Total/Special K.

        I rarely eat breakfast at home (I have yogurt at the office during the week, and on the weekend I usually have "brunch") so I never have cereal in the house. If I was having breakfast out and felt like cold cereal, I might order it (since I never have it at home). I think there are a lot of people who eat out because it's convenient, not because they want a "dining out experience," and so they order ... whatever is convenient.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Fair enough, I hadn't thought of that.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I'll second that. I'll eat things in hotels that I wouldn't eat at home (but that others might). Cereals and yogurts seem to come up a lot.

            TT

      2. Chicken, I can do chicken better than almost any restaurant

        4 Replies
        1. re: DiningDiva

          I agree - plus the fact that I eat a lot of chicken at home and want to try something more exotic at a restaurant.

          1. re: DiningDiva

            Bingo. Roast chicken, rotisserie style or whatever - I must have cooked a couple hundred. It's the last thing I'd pay $15-25 for in a restaurant.

            1. re: Mr. Cookie

              Try $40 at Zuni Cafe.

              1. re: Problem Child

                but that's for two, right? such a deal! the bread salad that's served with it is truly inspired, tho.

          2. Lasagna. I have never had lasagna in a restaurant that comes close to my mom's. I finally stopped ordering it several years ago because I was always disappointed.

            1. Sometimes I order things I cook well just to see how my home chefery compares - the two that come to mind are pasta carbonara and risotto. Other times I don't care if I can make it better, I just want it. (Like a hot dog or a burger.) More often then not, however, I prefer to order things that are too time consuming for me to make at home or that require special equipment (like a wood oven).

              1 Reply
              1. re: Grubbjunkie

                "More often then not, however, I prefer to order things that are too time consuming for me to make at home or that require special equipment (like a wood oven)."

                I agree. For me it's sometimes also special ingredients...I was thinking about this when writing a post this evening about a Burmese restaurant I went to today. The dish I ordered was easy to make and I could probably figure out how to make practically the same thing at home, but it would probably require some ingredients that I don't use that often, and therefore don't have on hand. But if I were to start eating these Burmese noodles very often, I'd probably try to learn the recipe and then just make them myself.

                Here's a link to my post about Burmese tonight: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              2. Steak. If I were going to the kind of steak house where they have meat of a quality that's not really available retail then I would. But at the bistro down the street where I know it's the same steak as at my butcher -- no way. I'm almost the same way about burgers, except that I don't make french fries at home, so if I want a classic burger and fries combo, I have to go out. I suppose one could make the same argument for steak frites, except that it's kinda silly to buy a whole steak just for the frites!

                1. Pasta. Unless its: a) with some rare/unusual ingredients I can't normally find; b) a labour-intensive recipe, like homemade agnolotti; or c) the only veg item on the menu.

                  Toast, cereal or oatmeal.

                  Veggie chili.

                  1. pasta with Putanesca sauce

                    1. Really good question. There's quite a lot. Salmon. Most pasta dishes. Breakfast, period. Living in Berkeley, I can buy the best eggs, bacon or bread locally so I don't need to go to a resturant. Sometimes it's fun just to go out and enjoy the experience, but I do prefer to get food that I know I can't cook at home.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Glencora

                        I love cooking breakfast, but in a decent town, there's always someplace that has abfab breakfast dishes too time-consuming or resource wasteful to make at home. I'm thinking right now of a little coffeshop near where I live that makes perfect huevos rancheros. Why would I pass up the opportunity to enjoy that? Or the Cuban place that serves mango pancakes and yucca fritters, and huevos Cuban style. Unless you're Cuban, you just can't cook that stuff at home.

                        1. re: Loren3

                          Funny, but I think perfect huevos rancheros are very difficult to find in restaurants in the US, but very easy to make at home:which is what I usually do. solves my problem of having very definite feelings about what constitutes good huevos rancheros..

                      2. Ramen. I know, there's more to ramen in life than instant ramen... but I'm just sooo darn good at making instant ramen (been doing that since college) that I'm happy with my version =)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: dee

                          Please go try some good ramen, you wont be dissapointed.

                          1. re: MVNYC

                            I agree. A California chowhound who likes Pho (see dee's profile) should appreciate a good ramen restaurant. Note that ramen is a "noodle SOUP" and restaurant-quality ramen soup is difficult to make at home. The secret soup recipes are often what differentiate the great ramen houses.

                            I recommend checking out a good ramen house just to get some ideas for home-made ramen. I'd be surprised if dee's ramen includes chili oil, thinly-sliced pork, and egg.

                            1. re: HungryMojo

                              Ha ha... I HAVE gone to shinsengumi and foo foo tei, and I DO agree that they serve extremely good ramen. I'm not big on pork slices myself, normally, I order the Asari Ramen at Foo foo tei. I just don't think their price justify the difference with the one I can make at home.

                              My ramens doesnt include sliced pork, but it does include meat balls (bo vien), bok choy, and an egg slightly cook. I like the egg rather runny, so I crack it into the soup last before I take the ramen out of the stove, and be really carefully not to break the yolk until it's ready to enter my mouth... yum...

                          2. re: dee

                            I think the key ingredient of good ramen are broth and handmade noodles. The broth, i believe is made by simmering many ingredients for days, which is hard to re-create at home especially in small amounts.

                          3. Meatloaf. I make great meatloaf, plain and simple. I rarely order fried chicken or salmon. I do wonders with them too!

                            My friend always yells at me for ordering an egg salad sandwich though. It's just one of those things I'd rather someone else make. It is silly to order out though, I have to admit.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: rumgum

                              I love homemade meatloaf! I usually just wing it, but - what's your recipe if you don't mind?

                              1. re: rumgum

                                My dad would have the same reaction to egg salad that he does to tuna (see the original post).

                                Your friend isn't a 67-year-old guy named Howie living in the San Fernando Valley, is he?

                                1. re: rumgum

                                  Same here. I have never had a meatloaf at a restaurant that was any good. You just can't beat the homemade variety.

                                  1. re: rumgum

                                    Egg salad is something I like but I very rarely make it at home. When I have a sandwich it's usually because I want something fast and you have to plan for egg salad. Once it's made it's always better after it's been chilled and I don't usually plan that far ahead. That said, I don't often order it out either because nobody makes it as good as I do. :-)

                                    1. re: DianneF

                                      I wouldn't trust their eggs. Nor would I trust them to shell them properly.

                                      TT

                                  2. Pasta in general is better at home except in restaurants very dedicated to fine pasta. Most other restaurants pre-cook their pasta and reheat it, so pasta is invariably never better than merely OK (restaurants try to compensate with sauce, but that really doesn't work).

                                    Soups (especially with milk) that are difficult to hold over heat in their ideal form (clam chowder, the traditional thin style) are better at home; restaurants have to compromise by adding binders/thickeners to keep them from separating. These soups really should never be held over heat.

                                    1. Pasta.
                                      Bruschetta.
                                      Most chicken dishes.
                                      buffalo wings.
                                      caprese salad
                                      crab cakes.

                                      all wayyy to easy to make at home. when I go out, I want something I couldn't/wouldn't make at home. (atleast 80% of the time =)

                                      1. cream of broccoli soup, chicken parmesan, corn on the cob, brats,

                                        1. On thge flip side, try as I might, I never can make a great Chicken Marsala and, while it's not adveturous, sometimes that's just what hit's the spot--so I order that at restaurants where I know it's tasty.

                                          1. Italian food in general - I hate paying 15 bucks or even $5 for that matter for pasta with sauce and any variety of cheese/meat/veggie. What a total rip off! But perhaps this is due to my italian upbringing that I feel comfortable making my own sauces and meats etc.

                                            Whenever I go out I will always vote for asian food because I have less experience in that cuisine at home.

                                            1. "house salad" --I refuse to pay $5 for a bunch of ripped up iceberg lettuce with a side of dressing and a few carrot shreds on top.

                                              Yogurt and granola is also one of those things I can't justify paying someone else to assemble.

                                              1. meatloaf & meatballs

                                                1. For people who said pasta probably have never tried the pastas at Babbo, they have simply the best pasta and I couldn't think of replicating them at home.

                                                  1. Quesadillas

                                                    1. Except in very good authentic Chinese restaurants - pretty much most of the Chinese. They always serve the same 10 dishes anyway, just switching up the protein here and there.

                                                      I concur with breakfast. $12 for scrambled eggs and toast is just not worth it. (however when i was in Asia they had some awesome breakfast buffet there, another topic though...)

                                                      Risotto never taste as good in restaurants as at home. Plus they charge an arm and a leg for what's basically rice cooked in stock. Same goes for pasta, unless it's handmade.
                                                      Most of the soups in restaurants are also not as good as homemade, and they charge $5 for a tiny bowl, which I find insulting, so I never order that except in good Chinese places which serves in huge bowls.

                                                      And finally, pretty much anything at Applebees/Olive garden/Fridays - you get the idea.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: zorgclyde

                                                        there are so many different types of chinese food from different regions... i ate chinese food everyday until i went to college and still never get tired of it.... many of the dishes served in the restaurant are very hard to mimic as our stoves will never produce so much heat...

                                                      2. Sushi (altho I rarely make it home). Any comfort food (eg sukiyaki, meat loaf, korokke...). Anything I typically make with leftovers (hash, fried rice). I also never get sticky rice dishes at dim sum houses, 'cause I make naw mai fan all the time.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                          I also agree with Sushi. I make it about once a week at home. You don't get the variety that you can at a Sushi Bar, but the cost is so much less. The last time I had about 1/2 lb of chutoro for around $20 and for the same price you'd get 4 slices at a restaurant.

                                                        2. Sometimes it's just as much about convenience and "atmosphere" as it is about whether you can make it yourself at home.
                                                          Some delis make a great bagel with tuna, sure you could make it at home, but it probably tastes better with company in a restaurant, served to you and without you worrying about the clean-up.
                                                          I very rarely order grilled cheese in a restaurant, but I have had delicious ones in a restaurant - just the right thick challah, gooey cheese, etc. - particularly your deli-type restaurant.
                                                          Also, if you find yourself at a business meeting/breakfast and you want to order yogurt and granola and fruit and be healthy, why not?
                                                          The test for me is more about whether it's going to be good. Hence I wouldn't order the spaghetti that's on the menu at a deli or the "american" food at the back of the menu at a chinese restaurant. But if I think it's going to be a good representation and it's convenient, I'd order whatever I want, regardless of whether I can make it at home.

                                                          1. There are quite a few things I avoid in restaurants, or, rather, quite a few restaurants I avoid. I can cook really well. I like doing it. I have gotten to know good butcher, good cheesemongers, good fishmongers, the local farmers market etc... Given that, I can cook all but the best French or 'new' cuisine. So, if I am going out for French classics or for new-French, it is going to be a meal at a really well reviewed place (usually, therefore, expensive) or somewhere where I have read a menu and I have seen something new or original.

                                                            This also applies to the ethnic cuisines I can cook well. For example, I can outdo many an Indian granny so I only go out for really good Byrani (its a bit of a pain to do) or some other destination reason.

                                                            However, I happily go out for Japanese as its hard to do good Japanese if you don't do it often. The number of specific ingredients and bases is too high. I would have start everything with making dashi -- whereas I have lots of homemade french stocks and bases in my deep freeze.

                                                            I guess it boils down to the fact that I want something new or unsual when I go out. So, I go out for types of food I don't cook, or can't cook at home.

                                                            1. Shabu-Shabu. It's so easy to make it at home and to add different ingredients than what you get at restaurants. It's also much cheaper and a lot better than most places.

                                                              1. Cause I live in NYC and see lots of trendy chinese resturaunt round soho ie 'Rice', order chinese sausage with white rice and charge like $6 for it.

                                                                1. Honestly this is a dessert but cupcakes. I have been to every cupcake place in nyc and nothing beats mine or my mom's.

                                                                  1. Roast chicken, scrambled eggs, salmon.

                                                                    1. Steak. That's what the charcoal grill in the yard is for.

                                                                      1. Anything with chicken, and anything which is just a pasta dish.

                                                                        Maybe i'm just cheap, but I can buy chicken at a $1 a pound sometimes, and make a great meal out of it. I'm not going to pay $17 in a nice restaurant for chicken. Same idea with pasta. The meals which I find expensive and troublesome to prepare (but that I love) are the ones I eat out. The thing that most ends up fitting that bill is scallops, or any kind of fish in a good sauce. I'm just not that good at making them.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: DanielleM

                                                                          You're not cheap. I totally agree. I think people who eat out a lot forget how inexpensive groceries can be. Even good organic veggies and meats are so much less than prepared food in a restaurant. Of course, they're are plenty of things that I can't cook at home and I am happy to pay for someone else to do it for me.

                                                                        2. Steak (ribeyes are my fav) and/or pasta. I cannot see paying 25.00 for a steak (or more) when I can make it as good or better at home for $14.00 (or less sometimes). I also make great pasta with marinara and meatballs. I never order that when I dine out. I always want something I probably can't make or don't want to make at home...like sweetbreads. Hmmmm.

                                                                          1. I ONLY order out things like Nepalese momos or street food. Momos because they're so much work that you loose your appetite while making them and then they all get gobbled up by your guests because they're so good. Street food because of inherent goodness. Everything else I do at home.

                                                                            1. Tonkatsu
                                                                              Inari..it's never as good out as it is using my bachan's recipe.
                                                                              Udon

                                                                              1. Japanese style Curry - my curry is so much better than any restaurant I've ever had it at, so I just gave up on ordering it. Curry is like that though, one of those things people make the way they like best.
                                                                                Red Meat Sauce for Pasta - My mom's signature dish, so no restaurant will ever taste right or decent to me.

                                                                                1. I never order cornbread in a restaurant. They never get it right and too often it has been junked up with sugar and flour. That is not cornbread, that is cake, all it needs is frosting.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Candy

                                                                                    bravo!!hear, hear!! so glad to hear someone else say that--I call it 'Corncake'

                                                                                  2. I never order Oatmeal at a restaurant...$6.00 for oatmeal is beyond expensive.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: PastryLover

                                                                                      Agree. And most breakfast places in NY use 'Quick' oats - bleh!

                                                                                    2. Pasta. Spaghetti. those Noodle shops drive me crazy. Do people really pay $6-$7 for a bowl of spaghetti or mac & cheese? Gimme a break.

                                                                                      1. lasagne

                                                                                        turkey stuffing (too sage-y)

                                                                                        vegetables of almost any kind

                                                                                        'comfort food' dishes

                                                                                        garlic bread

                                                                                        "gourmet" popcorn--give me a break, that stuff is awful! boxed crackerjacks have 10 times as much flavor. Had some of that toney choc-drizzeled flavor and ugh--threw it away. so disappointing.

                                                                                        meat gravy or au jus

                                                                                        cuppa coffee

                                                                                        hash browns

                                                                                        corned beef hash