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Asking for water at restaurants

When I go to a restaurant, I usually ask for water before ordering placing an order for drinks and food. I remember my first time when given the option of sparkling or still water, not knowing any better, I said, “still water is fine.” After having disappointing food, bad service, and an ass of a server, I saw a $9 charge for my lovely Italian Alps spring water. Being a student at the time and on a tight budget, I wasn’t too happy paying the bill. At another restaurant when my gf and I were given the option (remembering my first experience), I said, “I will have regular water.” The server gave me this condescending look and said, “Oh, ok.” His comments totally made me feel that I didn’t “belong” in the restaurant and just made me feel bad. Now if I were with someone on a first date or recently started seeing, I probably would have felt compelled to get the fancy water in order to make a good first impression. Regardless, my gf and I can no laugh about this, and now know to ask for “ice water” (sounds better than regular or tap water). I really don’t care to drop $7-10 on water personally. Has anyone been stuck ordering an expensive bottle of water? What are your thoughts?

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  1. I'm familiar with the "politics" of water service at restaurants, but I've not had a problem ordering "tap" water. My attitude is that if the waiter sneers, it's the waiter's problem, not mine. Of course, no one needs that kind of attitude when you're trying to enjoy dinner (and paying the bill for same!). There have been times when I prefer bottled water, and then, I always ask what is the kind of bottled water available. Far more typically, I'm fine with tap (in in nyc, where tap water is eminently drinkable....other locales may differ), and no one should be made to feel diminished by their preference.

    3 Replies
    1. re: 280 Ninth

      < I always ask what is the kind of bottled water available. >

      me too! Now, I don't mind paying for sparkling water at a restaurant if iti's the kind I want. But If I am offered Perrier, or Voss, I'd rather have tap water.

      Upon being told the house water was Voss, and then saying 'oh, okay well then I'll just have tap water, thanks". I have been surprised at the number of servers who have laughed and said "yeah, it's terrible, isn't it"

      1. re: orangewasabi

        Thank you OW. I thought i was the only one who has refused bottled water i do not like. I think Saratoga is the worst of the bunch, and I won't drink it, Voss is all about marketing (personally i am waiting for the article stating that XYZ resto is citing for re-filling Voss bottles). At least with Perrier, you have a chance for an individual bottle.

        It's getting to the point that i'm going to buy a case of the mini-Pellegrinos and bring one with me to the resto.

        1. re: jfood

          what waters DO you like, other than SanP?

          We're a water hhld, I like San Benedetto, my husband likes Gerolsteiner &Apollinaris.
          We can agree on Badoit but I like green he likes blue and we can't find either in NA though I hear AMI is distributing it.

          SanP is a great staple, though I once heard it was so popular because it has lithium in it -- which is just fine by me.

    2. I do not drink liquor or soda and also resent the exorbitant charges for bottled water. I order tap all the time and if the waiter gives me that "i have a cheap table" sort of look, I fulfill his expectations at the end of the meal.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        Great point. "Water Snobbery " is ridiculous. Fortunately, it hasn't hit Vermont on a wide scale basis as of yet.

          1. It's a silly trend around here too - apparently DC water's atrocious. I wouldn't know, I haven't croaked yet :D I hope you all realize that most bottled water is just tap water with a fancy label and big price tag. And most of the time tap water is actually cleaner. (Most of the time ... )

            My response when pushed? No thank you, I prefer tap water.

            1. When encountering a water snob server, I LOVE to respond to the sneer with "Oh, do you have a problem wrong with my preferring ice water?" at which point they backtrack to fakey niceness to reassure me that they would never think that way. I realize that all I'm going to get is the fakey niceness from this point on, but I don't really care what the server thinks of me as long as I get good service and he pretends he likes me when he's at my table. If I don't get good service, I have no problem asking for a manager and/or leaving a tip accordingly.

              1. waiter water snobbery is pretty silly, and sets a bad initial tone. if he's that worried about $7-$10 on a check, he has bigger problems. even funnier, because he's only making about $1.50 on the bottle, but the restaurant is making at least $6.

                my pet peeve is when i'm sitting/eating at a bar. if i ask for water, then my drink, at least 90% of the time, the bartender will forget my water. i've finally learned to make it a separate request from anything else. that cuts the "i forgot" to about 50%. it makes me nuts.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I completely agree. I've heard countless managers tell servers how much more money they make selling bottled water--an extra $1-2 per table becomes x/night and x/week--usually when trying to justify the hard sell on water. It's absurd. It's nice to offer bottled, as Bryan says below, and it's a shame when the guests get defensive when offered an actual choice (bottled v ice/tap), but hard selling water doesn't help anyone.