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Do you ever eat what other people expect you to eat? Order something just to make a good impression on your dining companions?

"Offensively bad article in New York Times!!" is the title of a post on another board that's gotten about 150 replies. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429536 That allegedly offensive article says "In an earlier era, conventional dating wisdom for women was to eat something at home alone before a date, and then in company order a light dinner to portray oneself as dainty and ladylike" and goes on to state that today a lot of women order huge steaks just to show the men they are eating with that they can be one of the boys. Now this got me to thinking that there are a lot of situations in which you might order something to impress, to fit in, or to avoid making waves. If you're invited to lunch as part of a job interview you probably should avoid any dish that might spill all over your shirt even if it's something you really crave. (Okay I used to get interviewed by stuffy white-shoe law firms and order street food I usually shun, like lox and bagels, just for the heck of it. But that's not good strategy.) And if you're somewhere west of the Mississippi and your pals take you to a barbecue shack of rural route 59, it's probably not the right time to ask if they have a mesclun sanad with some arugula. If you're with a group of Chowhounds in that east coast multi-ethnic paradise of Flushing, NYC and you suddenly are hit by an urge to try the fries at McDonald's to see if they are as good as they used to be when they were made with tallow, just put that urge on hold.

So... do you ever choose what you order in a restaurant in order to make a good impression on your dining companions?

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  1. If I am paying, I order what I want, including a beverage. If someone else is paying, I will get something less expensive and only water to drink. Not to impress, but in consideration. Usually I know their financial situation.

    1. With friends and family, I order a soup or salad, an app instead of an an entre and desert w/coffee. I love to eat but have a small appetite and am not fond of leftovers...
      Back when I was dating, I ordered the same way...I never saw the point in making an false impression. When I was younger, I would order a drink if everyone else did (even though I've never cared for alcholic beverages), now I usually just get water or soda (although I get ribbed for this all the time).

      If it's business or strangers, I order an entre. I'll get a salad only if others are getting salads/apps. Same rule for coffee and/desert. It's not so much to make a good impression and as it is to not be seen a 'difficult'.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kavikat

        If out on business, I order things that are easy to eat, not messy like spaghetti or stuff requiring my getting down and dirty like ribs or crabs.

        Like the others who have posted, I will take it easy on people if they are paying, especially if I know that they are on a tight budget.

      2. i'm frequently a guest at wine dinners. usually it's a set menu. but when it's not, i take into account what we're drinking, to better complement the wine and to show respect to the wine maker or vineyard owner, who is usually hosting the dinner. so i don't get oysters with australian shiraz or a ribeye with white burgundy.

        as already mentioned, i don't get spaghetti on an interview, or too much garlic on a 1st date, lol. those things are just polite.

        if people are worried they're being judged by what they order for dinner (unless, you know, it's like eating with diamond jim brady) i think they need either new friends, or a reality check.

        1. The only times I've done this have been when someone else is paying. If my boss takes me out, then I order something pricier than I normally would because he'll tell me to go nuts. Similarly, when a good friend takes me out for my birthday, I'll get something expensive alongside my alcoholic beverage that might not go with my food. I'm sure it'll change as I get older, but at this point, friends are still buying me strong cocktails or huge beers at birthday meals, even if it's way too much or just doesn't go well with what I'm eating.

          1. The situation does matter to me. If I am just meeting a new group of people (ie, friend's family, first time out with coworkers, etc.) I usually try to "fit in" with what I order. With old friends I could care less, unless they are paying. If I'm paying I usually splurge and urge others to do the same. Only live once...

            1. It's sorta tricky if you're on a job interview--I might be inclined, for instance, to get a beer with a meal if I'm with my husband or a friend, but that might not be the thing to do with a search committee. And my rule of thumb when someone else is buying is never to order anything more expensive than my host has ordered.

              But if you're ordering something to convey an impression that you're something you're really not (like in the article you referenced, someone ordering a salad because they're afraid a man won't like a woman who actually eats; or eating a steak to give a different message), ultimately you'll find yourself with a dilemma: on what date do you let the person you've been seeing know who you REALLY are? Or do you become one of those people like we hear of now and then, for example, a woman married 50 years and her husband has never seen her without her makeup?

              I once heard a story about a fellow at a lunch job interview who was turned down for a job because he salted his food before he tasted it. That's the other side of the issue, but still...I could never work for someone like this because I'm a little bit lunkheaded when it comes to the subtexts and hidden meanings of things. I don't know how to play the games.

              1. No. I order what I want to eat. Though the nice outfit and possibility of spills scenario might make me think twice.

                1 Reply
                1. re: odkaty

                  Pretty much with you on this one. I order what I like and might, maybe, possibly, consider whether what I'm ordering will end up on my shirt....but its not likely, I'm more apt to just be careful when eating and get what sounds good. Good table manners will get one past pretty much any dining scenario.

                2. Yes. Business meeting with new client.

                  1. If some one else is paying, I keep it within a budget. As far as WHAT I order, I really have a hard time with that. If I am with a girl pal and she wants steamed chicken while I want the pan fried oysters, I tend to cave and become bitterly resentful when eating some tasteless boring thing. No more!!!
                    If I am on a date, I don't hide the fact that I like weird food. If the guy cant stomach raw fish, dim sum or Vietnamese food we are going to have some major conflicts about food and shouldn't be eating together in the first place.

                    1. I would order nothing more (or less) that what I preferred to eat. I treat food like wine in that the best meal on the menu isn't necessarily going to be the most expensive. If someone is taking me out for a special occasion, I, again, will chose what interests me. I don't get soup to nuts when I pay for my own meal, so I wouldn't change that just because someone else is paying.

                      As far as ordering to impress, anyone who would base their feelings toward me on whether I chose the fois gras or the chicken noodle soup is not someone I would like to spend any time around.

                      At the end of the day, preferring a plate of onion rings over an ounce of the finest caviar is not an indictment against someone's character.

                      1. LOL...your story about ordering lox and bagels during the interview lunch reminds me of the boyfriend I had once who really wanted to go to Berkeley instead of Stanford, much to his parents chagrin....so when he wrote his entrance essay it was about how the Robber Barons ruined California....

                        But I digress. I go to a fair number of business dinners while traveling, and I am always a little surprised at the behavior of some of my colleagues. There are definitely those who take advantage of the host's generosity by ordering the most expensive menu items, liquors, and wines (and usually too much of the latter two)......My strategy is NOT to order to make a good impression, but rather to order in a manner such that I don't make the opposite impression.....

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: janetofreno

                          I watch most when someone else is paying or if it's with people I don't know real well. If someone else is paying, I'm likely not ordering the $60 steak even if that's what I really want.

                          If I'm with a new group and everyone is just having sandwiches, I'm not going to order an app, entree, dessert.

                          If I'm with good friend or family and we're all paying for ourselves, I'll order whatever I'm in the mood for.

                        2. I like to cover the table with food when I'm buying. But when I'm treated to dinner out, conscience dictates that I alter my food order in favor of thrift. ( Unless it's one of my golf buddies suffering from a vulnerable moment of largess.) It's tough to pass up that 3" filet Oscar.
                          If it's a social setting ( I don't do interviews anymore) I often jockey to buy a wine for the table unless it is clear that the host wants to do the whole shebang.

                          Sidebar: rural route 59? Was that a lucky guess, Brian S? I lived right off 59 for 5 years, in Lufkin. (It stretches from Texarkana, to south of Houston) One of my business partners there, actually the one who ridiculed me the most for wearing the pink golf shirts I mention in the companion post, laughed so hard when he discovered a tube of anchovy paste in my fridge that I thought I might have to give him the hemlock maneuver. That died-in-the-wool Texan thought anchovy paste was the ultimate girlie food. But he never got to eat my death-by-garlic Caesar salad, poor redneck. I got him back; he just never knew it.