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Not the dish you wanted!!

What do you do when you order something at a restaurant and you realize it's not exactly what you wanted? Would you return it and order something else? Would you simply leave it untouched and be angry about it?

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  1. Did they get the order correct or was it a mistake on the restaurant's part?

    If I order a dud dish and it comes out as described but not what I had in mind, I suck it up. If the restaurants makes a mistake, it depends on the severity of the mistake and if it's something I can work with or not.

    1. They got the order correctly but sometimes I realize it's not the dish I had in my mine or it just isn't fresh(like in salad)or the dish tastes just plain nasty.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Monica

        This is an overly long response to a pretty straightforward question, but it brings back a very strong and fond food/travel memory. Since I often sulk and pout when I don't get what I want, I sympathize with this plight. Several years back at little trattoria in the Trastavere section of Rome, I saw a pasta dish on another's plate. It was, I ultimately learned, a bucatini, and I love thick ropy pasta. But, the dish I ordered was not that - MY mistake. I ate it, and it was good, but I still sulked and pouted until my wife said, just order the one you want. So I did, and I ate both, and my mood vastly improved. So, my view is that, if it's your goof, you shouldn't send it back, but, if you really want what you didn't get, order what you want [and it's your option whether to eat both or only the corrected order].

        1. re: Wayno

          Yeah, eating well in Italy is such a struggle.

          1. re: yayadave

            Agreed. A tough job, but someone's gotta do it. I just wish it was more often me. Also, I like your idea about trading with wife, but in my situation, neither she nor I had the dish on which i'd had my sights.

            1. re: Wayno

              Oh, there is no question in MY mind that you did absolutely the correcto thing under difficult and trying circumstances.

      2. If the meal is ill prepared, there's room for discussion with the House. But if they bring what I ordered and it's well prepared and I just don't like it, my first move would be to try to trade with my wife. If that doesn't work, I would have them pack it up to take home and order something else. If that's out of the question for some reason, I'd just go with more soup, salad, and appetizers. And dessert! In other words, just suck it up. Usually, there's always another meal.

        1. I wouldn't return it, but I might order something else. The house shouldn't have to pay for your mistake, unless they're somehow responsible due to poor preparation. I don't believe a misleading "description" is grounds to return something to the kitchen, unless there is a surprise ingredient you literally cannot eat.

          1. This happened to me on Saturday. We were out for my stepdad's birthday and I ordered the crab cakes. When the dish arrived it was completely NOT what I wanted. For starters, I don't think crab cakes should ever be paired with mashed potatoes (like this one was). There was also only one giant cake and it was burned on the outside and filled with mostly diced peppers and very little crab. I also like to dip my crab cakes into something and this dish promised red pepper sauce, but the sauce was just a decoration on the plate.

            I sucked it up and ate it, but it was bad and I was very unsatisfied with the entire meal (for many other reasons). My only real recourse was to complain about the meal with my husband later (which was very theraputic, although it didn't make up for the lousy meal) since it wasn't the kitchen's fault that I didn't like their food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SarahEats

              Burnt crabcake full of silly fillers? Call me crazy, but it does kinda sound like the kitchen's fault you didn't like their food. I guess you couldn't demand a start over and order something else with the nasty crabcake taken off the bill, but this seems worthy of sending back. At least make my all-filler crabcake cooked, not burnt!

            2. This can be avoided by asking questions before ordering, and it may be an issue of communication between the back and front of the house, but I disagree that a misleading description is not grounds to return a dish. I don't need a novel describing every ingredient and prep/cooking method but if I receive something different from the description and I don't want it, I'll point it out and ask for something else. I once sent back a pasta "primavera in white wine" that came with a heavy cream and blue cheese sauce studded with bacon - not even close to the light veggie dish I was hoping for, and I hate blue cheese.

              1. My feeling is that if it's what you ordered but the dish just plain isn't good, why should you have to pay for a meal that the restaurant doesn't do a good job with? When you pay for a meal there's a reasonable expectation that the meal will be good. Maybe it's something common like chicken parmigania that you've had many times before and here it just sucks. Why should you have to eat their soggy/dry/overcooked etc. crap when you know what a good chicken parm tastes like?!

                5 Replies
                1. re: Rick

                  So if you go to a movie that you had high expectations but it turns out you think it is horrible should you get your money back?

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    Difference here being the movie theater didn't make the movie. The restaurant makes and serves the food so it's all on them.

                    1. re: Rick

                      I'll play along, get your money back from the studio.

                    2. re: KTinNYC

                      Gigli bad or Showgirls bad? There are different degrees of horrible, for some I might just want my money back, for others pain and suffering kick in.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        Actually, I've asked about this... and if I had walked out sooner, the manager would have given me a pass to see another movie. The movie in question was "Robots", and I had a hard time believing the movie was almost over, as nothing had happened or looked as though it were about to happen! I asked my BIL, who was an assist. manager of a theater, and he said he'd handle such situations similarly.

                        If my food is horrible because the kitchen screwed up or is incompetent, you're darned tootin' I'll send it back. If it's something that I can tell is done competently and just isn't to my taste, no, I don't send it back. And, if the dish is not as described and in reality is something I would not have ordered had I known, yes, I will send it back.

                    3. You should definately return something that is not fresh or is poorly prepared, but as others have said, pay for it if it was a misunderstanding on your part. Or if the description does not match the dish.

                      1. If the dish is presented as described on the menu and you do not like it, it's your risk, but often the resto will be nice and prepare something else. Nice resto if they do this. But it's not a sampling menu where you pick what you want after its served.

                        If it is not prepared as described or it taste bad then this is probably a grey area on whose risk.

                        If its just not made as described on the menu then its definitely the resto risk.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          I just want to note that Aquavit in New York City once offered to replace a properly prepared dish that was not to my dining companion's liking (which was obvious because she had eaten about one bite). I thought it was a great gesture. Sadly, my companion decided to pretend to like the dish instead. Still, kudos to Aquavit.

                          1. re: AssociEat

                            Which is why Aquavit is always on most people A-list. Not only is the food and service great, they care about the customer, not only on the current visit, but the next and the next.

                            And they have one of the most beautiful rooms in the world.

                            1. re: AssociEat

                              Lucques in Los Angeles did the same thing for one of my dining companions not too long ago, except she took them up on the offer to bring her another dish and we all had a much happier meal as a result. I wouldn't expect any restaurant to go that far, but it is indeed great service.

                          2. If it's not *exactly* what I wanted, I'll probably suck it up. If the dish bears little resemblance to what I thought the description was, I'd probably say something.

                            I was at a restaurant in last year for lunch, and saw a listing for something like "Spinach and Mushroom Quiche," which to me, means eggs and cheese baked in a pastry shell with spinach and mushrooms. Something resembling that has been brought out every time I've ordered a quiche. In this case, I was brought a pile of onions (which I'm allergic to) in cream sauce over a flat piece of pastry. Couple of spinach leaves and mushrooms were mixed into the pile of onions.

                            I was contemplating the pile of onions and how they might be considered quiche, when the waiter noticed I wasn't eating it. After I explained the problem (and he noted that nowhere did the description mention any onions), it was taken off the bill and I was given a chocoalte croissant which I took to go.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sidwich

                              I don't know if a waiter is necessarily obligated to do this, but I always appreciate it when, with a dish that comes with certain expectations (like quiche), the waiter lets me know if it deviates from the norm. I went to a restaurant (Water Grill in LA) where someone in my party ordered clam chowder. the waiter let him know that the chowder would not be as thick as most clam chowders are and that it was more broth-like in texture. if I had ordered the chowder and gotten a broth-like chowder, I would've been disappointed with my selection but would not feel justified in doing much about it. thankfully, the waiter was gracious enough to inform us beforehand.

                              1. re: bijoux16

                                That's just smart on the waiter's part - s/he avoids complaints & unhappy customers.

                            2. In my bartending days, I had two customers that ordered a Grasshopper and a Rusty Nail. When I gave them their bill, they advised they were not going to pay as the drinks were nasty. Of course I asked how what I prepared was different from what they had had elsewhere, and they replied that they had never tasted either drink before....they just sounded "cool!"

                              I charged them anyway as I was not going to pay out of my pocket just so they could sample different cocktails to see if they liked them or not (this was in SC----the mini-bottle state where you have to account for each bottle of liquor that you open).

                              When ordering, I usually just suck it up or try to pawn it off to my husband, who will eat anything but Brussel Sprouts!

                              1. Well I went to Applebee's with my mom earlier this year and she ordered a dish that she did not like. Nothing wrong with the dish itself she just did not like the way it tasted. The waitress asked the problem when she saw the food barely touched and my mother told her the problem. She actually went and got a menu and told my mother to order something more to her liking.

                                1. This very thing happened to me Friday. I ordered a Whole Trout, but a fillet arrived. I was going to eat it, but as it was sitting in a pool of butter, I was picking at it when the waiter came by and ask how it was. I told him and he offered to get me something else. I agreed.

                                  I NEVER send anything back, with the very rare *pun* exception of when I'm served a hamburger or steak that is not rare. Even things that are truly nasty I don't send back. I generally feel if the food is bad my response is to pay and never return.

                                  But since this was not what I ordered, I felt it was reasonable to send it back. I like whole fish. I expected it to be roasted or grilled. I do not like greasy filets whatsoever.

                                  The whole episode has been bothering me, though. There appeared to be much consternation in the open kitchen, and I am friendly w/ the owner (fortunately not there for this incident). What do you think?

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: danna

                                    I think that if they ask you about the dish, then I am going to assume that they really want to know what I think about it, otherwise why ask. The reality is, most of them don't really want to hear anything but "it's fine" and seem shocked when I explain what I do or do not like about the dish and why. Recently I went to a decent upscale restaurant that advertised Fish and Chips. I even asked the waitress if it was really good fish and chips and she said yes. Now, in virtually every restaurant I've been to it's based, to some degree, on the English classic batter-fried cod or haddock. In this instance it was a few pieces thin of breaded fried flounder. The fish was good and fresh, but not what I expected or thought I'd ordered. I had no intention of sending it back, but I was disappointed and explained to the waitress what kind of fish and chips I was talking about. She (young thing) shrugged and said that that was what she was familiar with as fish and chips. I had to explain to her the difference and gently suggested that the next time someone asked about it, she should make sure that they understood how it was prepared since most people would think of the original version

                                    1. re: Ellen

                                      Ellen - I going to have to disagree with you in that "English classic batter-fried cod or haddock" is what one might expect to find most often, but in reality the range of "Traditional" English (original versions) of Fish & Chips is much broader. To give one example, at The Magpie Cafe in Whitby, England they list the following 8 as being "Traditional Fish & Chips" fishes:

                                      "Cod, Haddock, Plaice, Skate, Halibut, Monk, Lemon Sole, & Wolf"

                                      http://www.magpiecafe.co.uk (hit "our menu"


                                      I live in California and here are some I've found locally:

                                      Fish in "F & C" - Restaurant - Location
                                      Salmon - BBC Cafe - Beverly Hills

                                      Smoked Salmon - Big Blue Frog - Fairfield

                                      Halibut - The Queen Mary - Long Beach

                                      Pacific Snapper - 99 Bottles - Santa Cruz
                                      http://www.99bottles.com (hit "menu" - on 2nd page


                                      Tilapia - La Palapa del Mar - Long Beach

                                      Hawaiian Ono - Billy's at the Beach - Newport Beach

                                      White Fish - Tony P's - Marina Del Rey

                                      My Rule of Thumb - The more up-scale the restaurant, the less likely your going to find cod or haddock as the fish in "F & C". My personal preference is for Halibut F & C.

                                      1. re: JBC

                                        My point was more to the preparation based on traditional English fish and chips, which is batter based and typically uses a white fish similar to cod or haddock. I prefer that style and although I am aware that there can be many variations, in the Jersey/New York area breaded fried flounder has never been confused with fish and chips at any restaurant I've ever eaten in. I am not surprised that as the farther one gets from England, the more the preparation varies, but after all NJ is just across the pond.

                                      2. re: Ellen

                                        you asked her if it was "good". she said yes. you agree that it was good and fresh. do you have any idea how expensive and difficult to get cod is these days?

                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                          Yes I asked if the fish and chips was good. I've had very good traditional fish and chips in Cape May and Point Pleasant Beach. It did not occur to me that what they called fish and chips was actually fried flounder, which is usually called fried flounder in most NJ restaurants. I'm not in a position to debate the cost of cod or any other fish. This was a clear case of miscommunication, perhaps on both out parts. My point was simply to note that I didn't get what I expected and ate it anyway. I didn't blame anyone, I was just pointing out that it is possible to order one thing and get something completely different from what you expect. Wasn't that the point of this thread?

                                        2. re: Ellen

                                          You asked if it was "good", what did you think she'd say? Being really young, she probably doesn't even know what good f&c is. And even if she does and thinks what they serve sucks, how long do you think she'll last there when management hears that's what she's telling customers?

                                          It totally mystifies me when people ask a server what they like on the menu. Their taste is not mine.

                                          On returning things: only if it's prepared badly, spoiled, or not what the menu described. I just returned something called "mushroom risotto" because it was more like 90% corn - 10% mushroom, even though there was no mention at all of corn. So I felt totally justified in sending it back, not being in the mood for such a thing...ever.

                                          1. re: Leonardo

                                            I asked if it was really good fish and chips. I didn't know I had to explain what real fish and chips were. I never had to before. Chalk that up to experience. And I've often had servers steer me away from one dish towards something else without losing their jobs. It's their job to be aware that something the restaurant serves may not be what customers are expecting. As I noted, this was an upscale restaurant. I simply made her aware of that. I ate the food and tipped her well just the same.

                                      3. So, I wonder - does anyone actually ever ask a server for his/her opinion about a dish and then order it if he/she says they don't particularly care for it?!

                                        Anyway - I was at Chili's with my husband last weekend for a little break from all the shopping and he asked for a burger to be done "medium". The server was a nice young guy, who completely agreed that a burger should never be anything but "medium" and told my husband that it meant the meat would "have some pink" inside. YEAH!! Hubby was on the band wagon but, of course, the burger comes out and is bone dry. Granted, Chili's is not like a high end restaurant, but he sent it back. The server was so apologetic and another burger came out that wasn't quite medium, but close enough.

                                        I HATE it when that happens because everyone else's meal is ruined as well. BUT - when the server brought the bill, he said the manager comped the burger, which was something I really didn't expect for Chili's! We ended up tipping the server based on what the bill would have been had we paid for the meal, plus a little extra for his aggravation.

                                        I'm sure we'll go again to the same place because it is right in our neighborhood, but I think it'll just be a place to not order burgers and expect them to be cooked to order.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: BabyBee

                                          Gotta know where you are. I was sitting at the TGIF's in the Toronto airport and I ordered a burger med-rare. My ice tea arrives and I think to myself, "Are you crazy? There is no way these burgers are cooked to order. They come out as is-where is" In the end it was med-well, a little extra ketchup, smiled and caught my flight. It was on-time. That's what I was looking for.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            LOL!! I live in Melbourne, FL. Most restaurants don't even allow you to order a burger any way other than well-done. Chilis is one of the few that say you can have it cooked any way you like.

                                            It's certainly not a deal breaker for a return visit, but it can be a little frustrating when they actually spend time talking about how juicy and pink that meat is going to be - and then WHAMMO!!

                                            Oh well - there are always more important things to worry about, right?!!

                                        2. This has happened to me twice - both times the dishes were comped. The first time was ordering a lamb curry at a pub. The dish that came out looked, smelled and tasted like dog food - or at least what I imagine it tasted like. I ordered grilled fish and a salad instead, which was tasteless but not vomit-inducing.
                                          The second time was at an Asian restaurant, the special 'Mongolian Beef' described as being grilled. It was deep-fried and covered in a sickly, sweet, thick sauce. I sent it back since I would have suffered greatly had I eaten that much grease and such. I got something different, but in both cases my dining companions were mortified. I wasn't charged either time for the original dish.

                                          1. as a customer, it's just passive-aggressive to pout about your dinner. a restaurant wants you to be happy, so that you return in the future.

                                            if the kitchen clearly is at fault and the dish is badly prepared, you need to speak up. if you don't like the dish, speak up as well. there is nothing more frustrating to a server or a manager when the dish is consumed and then complained about.

                                            but when a guest says, "it's not what i was expecting," it always seems childish to me. a woman the other night, who was eating a very straightforward veal chop with mashed potatoes and spinach had that complaint. turns out she'd never had a chop, and was "expecting cutlets". she insisted on eating it, and i heard her complaining the whole time. yes, it was comped, and we sent her dessert too. that certainly could have been avoided by a conversation with her server. however, if it's an unusual presentation, the server should be proactive.

                                            i have been a guest at wine lunches or dinners when i've been given the wrong dish (clearly by server error). so as not to embarrass the host, (usually the owner of a winery, or the winemaker) and also not to impede the progress of the meal, i usually eat it anyway.

                                            1. Monica...this is a tough one. What happens to me a lot is not an outright error (as in I ordered steak and got pork) but that the dish is reallllly not what was promised. (Ever see that Sesame Street sketch where Grover is the waiter, serving the guy a club sandwich with pickle and olive and he forgets one element all the time?)

                                              For example, I'll order meat medium rare and it comes back medium. Or I'll order chicken cutlets and the cutlets are actually quite clearly chicken tenders. I never make a brou ha ha. Unless the food is rancid, I eat it, because I'm a wimp.

                                              1. monica,

                                                no matter what, don't be like someone i knew and demand a refund AFTER s/he has eaten one half of the food!

                                                one or two bites/sips should tell you if the food is horrible. you can't eat (all) your food and get a refund too.