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Jun 4, 2007 09:14 AM

Food Smuggling

My wife and I went out the other night for some pho at our local casino. We are regulars so after the confirming wink, the waitress put our order in as soon as we walked in. She brought the meal, a shrimp based pho for my wife, and a beef stew for me, both with no cilantro and with the bean sprouts lightly steamed on the side. And an empty side dish for my wife's smuggled kimchi.
This is routine for us and I normally don't even think about it anymore since all the places we dine out at turn a blind eye on her smuggled kimchi.
What made me think about it this time was the group of patrons who sat at the next table and wanted to order the "red salad" at the next (our) table. The waitress handled it very well with a small giggle and explained that my wife was allowed to bring in a dish for "health" reasons.

So, does any one else "smuggle" must have foods, condiments, etc, into their eating spots, or are we alone in this?

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  1. I rarely go anywhere without a sample-sized bottle of Marie Sharp's Very Hot Habanero sauce tucked into my purse, just in case I'm faced with an unbearably bland meal.

    1. I've smuggled in tabasco sauce in my purse. I like it on pizza, sometimes red sauce pasta.

      1. I have a small Perfex pepper mill. It fits in my purse and has good Tellicherry pepper in it. When I had to stay in the hospital after some surgery I insisted my DH bring it to me. So much institutional pepper is dreadful and even when a restaurant has those ridiculous mills they offer to pepper your food with, it still is not very good pepper.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Candy

          I like white barbeque sauce with my ribs. I basically cannot enjoy them without it. So I always take a small container of it with me anytime I am going to have ribs. I have never found this to be a problem. The waiters usually ask about it and how I make it, but I have never been asked to put it away. After all I am ordering all of my meal from them, just adding a condiment that they do not offer.

        2. I usually can be found with a small bottle of crystal hot sauce with me.

          1. "So, does any one else "smuggle" must have foods, condiments, etc, into their eating spots, "

            no. i don't. i've worked in restaurants all my adult life, and the revelations on here about this astound me.

            17 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Me too. I worked at a restaurant once that got shut down for a week for allowing a mom to bring cheerios in for her kid. I would never ask a place I liked to look the other way and jeopardize their business.

              1. re: mojoeater

                I'm really sorry... why did they shut down? I guess more specifically, who made them shut down?

                1. re: AnneBird

                  The Health Department. It is a very big infraction to have outside food or drink. Everything must go from one licensed food handler (meat purveyor, bakery, dry goods provider, etc.) to another. Anything brought in by a customer is illegal. This is a very common law in most municipalities.

                  1. re: mojoeater

                    Wine does not count? What about bringing own wedding cake or b-day cake to a celebration (with permission of management)? I have done this on many occassions-if the management permits are they flouting the law? This is very interesting.

                    1. re: Densible

                      husband brings a jalapeno or two along when we are in mexico which he
                      slices w/his leatherman and adds to what have you. He likes everything hot. Interesting how most of the clandestine-ness has to do w/pepper, hot sauce etc...

                      1. re: Densible

                        there was a recent "bring-your-own-cake" thread here, for which i'm too tired to search.

                        serving food from another source is against health codes. period. if it's contaminated, yet served by the restaurant, they are now responsible. most places do it out of courtesy, knowing bad cake is much less likely than bad shrimp. in short, yes, technically, they are flouting the law. just wait till somebody gets e-coli, though.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Seems a little extreme to me, and not all health codes are fool proof, or followed by restaurants as you should already know being in the business. You don't see employees reporting violations on a large scale, and I know as well as everyone else here that is privy to kitchen operations that health code violations are made almost everyday in most busy kitchens.
                          As far as someone getting e-coli, our own FDA, local health departments, food suppliers and restaurants can't save us there. I trust a homemade cake more than any commercial product.

                          1. re: Infomaniac

                            Yes. But none of that would be of much defense if you were defending yourself against a lawsuit.

                        2. re: Densible

                          i know in canada the establishment has to get an endorsement on the liquor license for the "bring your own wine" program.

                          don't know about cake- i'll ask my boss tonight if i remember.

                        3. re: mojoeater

                          Wow, that is interesting. What state is this in? Here on the west coast I always see people bring in food items for thier little ones, such as cheerios or another snack to keep them entertained/quiet. Also, an outside cake is very common as well.

                          1. re: justagthing

                            Both San Diego and San Francisco County have some of the most complex and restrictive, but workable, health code regulations in the nation. Unfortunately, the State of California has now gotten into the picture and is putting into place a bunch of rules and regs. that will override County rules and regs. I've got to go to a 5 hour training session this coming Wednesday to learn all about the new policies.

                            Hotoynoodle is right that a restaurant that allows outside food to be served exposes itself to liability complaints if the outside food is contaminated... and a growing amount of the food chain is, indeed, contaminated. Same for allowing clients/guest to take home left over food from a catering function.

                            While most of the rules and regs are designed to protect the consumer, like a lot of government policy and procedure, they go overboard to the absurd. Most health departments are more concerned with time, temperature, storage and potential contamination than they are cakes from Costco.

                            1. re: justagthing

                              Yes, it is common everywhere. It is also against health codes pretty much everywhere. Most restaurants will look the other way when you bring kiddie foods, and many will try to accomodate a cake with prior notice. But if there is a health inspector on premises who takes the codes seriously, that restaurant can be cited and even closed temporarily.

                              1. re: mojoeater

                                Wow, that is kinda sad b/c the at-fault person would be the customers. Sad that the restaurants would be penalized for what their patrons bring in. To me it would seem hard to regulate as an owner and to not offend the patron. Makes me think of the perfume post in a way.

                                1. re: justagthing

                                  I think it's safe to say that this is not a universal law. Where I work, we let people bring in whatever they want -- food for kids, treats from their gardens for the staff to try, wine... when my dad comes to eat, he even brings a pre-mixed gin and tonic (we don't serve hard liquor). I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be so lax about it if it were illegal.

                                  1. re: ctscorp

                                    I'd be curious as to what city and state.

                        4. re: mojoeater

                          That's ridiculous to say that because of someone bringing in cheerios the restaurant had to close for a week. Cheerios are made of Whole Grain Oats, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt and a few more additives. Pretty sure no where in the list of ingrediants does it say anthrax. What would you be charged with as you say below that it is illegal, Cheerio smuggling in the first degree?

                          1. re: rookcook1

                            Illegal as in against health codes, not illegal as in police action. Any food that is brought in by an unlicensed provider (ie: the customer) is verboten in most places. In the specific Cheerios case, the health inspector was being incredibly stringent and everyone was shocked. But it was perfectly within his rights to cite the restaurant for allowing outside food. It happened, whether we agreed with it or not.