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Soda in high end restaurant?

Is this frowned on?

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  1. DH and I have been to VERY high end restaurants and he ALWAYS asks for a diet coke. We drink wine but while I start with a cocktail he always starts with a diet coke (doesn't like diet pepsi so that diappoints lol!). If it's high end they just charge more lol!

    1. As a perk or penance of my job, I'm often eating out at high-end restaturants throughout the USA, Europe and Latin America. Personally, I don't enjoy the taste of most alcoholic beverages. I'll have an occassional beer or glass or wine, to be "sociable", but otherwise prefer the Diet Coke. In all of these restaurants over many years, I can never recall getting a strange or scornful look from a waiter. The other diners, now that's another story.

      1. As a big Diet Coke drinker, I have never encountered a high end restaurant (in the US and Canada, at least) that has frowned upon me for ordering a soft drinks. Most are quite cordial and, because they are high end, usually keep my glass full and the ice fresh.

        1. if sparkling water qualifies as soda, then jfood has ordered this around the world for 25+ years. There are times when he sees that "i ain't maxing the tip at this table" look from the waiter several times, but jfood just looks says thank you and starts to read the menu. Mrs jfood starts every dinner with a diet coke and that seems to elicit zero "bad" looks from the server.

          1. Most high end restaurants have a fully stocked bar, which requires sodas. It is only frowned upon when ordering something not offered by the restaurant. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a soft drink with dinner. Especially if you are the DD

            1. If you're in the mood for a soda, by all means have a soda. I'd rather have someone order a coke than ask me to recommend "a really dry red wine", but that's another post entirely.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                So, what would you recommend for a really dry red wine? :D

              2. Not that I've ever experienced. Typically DH and I are drinkers, but when I was pregnant I always ordered seltzer or club soda. I was never was given a weird look. Or caught an attitude from our server, even before I "looked" pregnant.

                1. I think the simple answer is no, it's not frowned on. Certainly not anymore.

                  Not so long ago, society dictated that restaurant meals be accompanied by an alcoholic beverage (or two or three). Changes in society--concerns over drunk driving (and the restaurant's potential liability), our recognition of the effects of alcohol on our health--have made non-alcoholic options quite acceptable in *all* sectors of the restaurant industry.

                  From the perspective of somehow failing to provide revenue to the restaurant and the related tip income to your server, I've never been made to feel uncomfortable about ordering a soft drink--or tap water, for that matter, which generates *zero* revenue for the restaurant and server.

                  Why should you feel any less comfortable ordering a $3 soft drink versus a $7 beer, $10 glass of wine or $12 cocktail than you would about ordering a $20 chicken entree when there's a $40 steak on the menu?

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: tubman

                    There is a difference between not drinking an alcoholic beverage (and most typically, drinking mineral water) and drinking fakey sweet stuff.

                    1. re: lagatta

                      half of the mixed drinks ordered in fine dining restaurants are fakey sweet stuff.

                      1. re: jpschust

                        interestingly, some fine dining places are getting away from commercial, hfcs sodas, at least in my area. it's funny to see how some people go absolutely ballistic on their server "what do you MEAN i can't have a diet coke?" it's like they think soda brand access is some inaliable right. like when dennis leary freaked out in the microbrew because he couldn't get a budweiser--

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          Even so, what about all the crazy "martini" concotions going on in so called high end restaurants.

                          1. re: jpschust

                            oh those are just stupid marketing schtik-- how to rip off tourists, etc.

                            1. re: jpschust

                              More and more often the mixers in higher end bars and restaurants are made in house with fresh juices and natural sweeteners.

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                Even fresh juices can have a rediculous amount of natural sugar in them- mix orange juice with just about anything or cranberry juice. Also, what about simple syrup? A staple of every bar.

                                1. re: jpschust

                                  How are natural juices and simple syrup "fakey sweet"?

                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                    Not fakey sweet, but super sugary and sweet.

                            2. re: soupkitten

                              Or a fellow traveller ordered a German beer in a wine cellar resto in Tuscany!

                              1. re: SusanSDG

                                See that makes perfect sense to me. Italian beer is not that great and not everyone enjoys wine. I was a little irritated at a wine bar/ restaurant in Tuscany that refused to sell soft drinks, but sold beer and spirits.

                                1. re: viperlush

                                  I believe he did enjoy wine-this was more about him drawing attention to himslef and causing the server as much extra work as possible.
                                  OTHO, I dine with my teenage daughter and several times, I've seen our server nearly disappear after our drinks order to hover over a larger party that's ordering a bottle or more of wine.

                                  1. re: viperlush

                                    Viperlush, did your Tuscan wine bar sell mineral water? I would be VERY suprised if it didn't.

                                    It is entirely likely that the management didn"t consider cloyingly sweet fizzy drinks part of Italian cuisine.

                                    And in Italy, house wine is NOT pricier than soft drinks.

                                    1. re: lagatta

                                      Yup, sold water (fizzy and non). I think my main irritation was that the menu was in english. If a restaurant feels that they must provide an english menu to american's then they should also be willing to provide "american" beverages. Now if the menu was all italian and waiters spoke no english I would agree that they were trying to uphold the standards of italian cuisine.

                                      At 5 euro a glass for soda in Florence and Siena I was loving the 5 euro bottles/jugs of house wine.

                                      1. re: viperlush

                                        Sorry, I don't get the connection between providing an English menu to anglophones (not all of whom are American, obviously) and providing "American" beverages.

                                        You do mean that the resto sold water - I don't quite understand what you are saying.

                              2. re: jpschust

                                True. I feel the same about chemical and sugar-laden mixed drinks, with a pretentiousness factor thrown in.

                          2. I have never been to any high end restaurant anywhere, where my son could not order a diet coke...Every place has that...Frowned on? Nah...

                            1. why would it be frowned on to order something offered?
                              silly question.
                              what bothers me is how much ice bartenders (are told by management to) pack into the glass when a customer orders a soda. fountain soda is so cheap. most restaurants let staff drink fountain soda for free- yet they serve the customers the least possible amount.

                              21 Replies
                              1. re: excuse me miss

                                It tends to be an absent minded bartender thing- every glass not requiring one or two rocks, but requiring ice should be packed to overflowing if alcohol is being poured over top of it.

                                high end restaurants that provide fountain soda should provide refills for free.

                                1. re: jpschust

                                  truly high-end restaurants don't have soda guns. soda is served out of small individual glass bottles. the proportions are always right and it's never flat.

                                  america is the only culture where adults drink coke or diet coke with meals.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    If you want to taste what the correct proportions of coca-cola taste like go to McDonalds. I kid you not- they did more research than I even care to explain on providing the best taste of coca-cola in the best way.

                                    and the us is not the only place I've seen folks drink soda with meals- I've seen it in Europe and Africa.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                      Hmm. Not quite. Firstly, what do you mean by "America" - the US or the continent?

                                      It is not a matter of meals here, but of "high-end dining" - a very specific sub-category, subject to strict rules of protocol. Not my choice of milieux, by the way, even if I had the money - usually if I was in such a meal it was for work-related reasons. And I was glad to have a fairly good grasp of how to act - and this is only in a Western (North American, Southern tip of SA, European, etc) culture.

                                      In general (except for horror of chemical-laden soft drinks, or hard drinks for that matter) I'm not making any judgement, just reporting comments I have heard (especially when living in Italy and France) on how to "behave"...

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle


                                        jfood normally agrees with your posts but america is not the only culture that adults drink coke or diet coke with meals. Jfood has eaten on four other continents where Coke and Coke Light were ordered and enjoyed by fellow diners.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          my italian relatives and french and spanish friends insist soda with meals is for children. i've eaten in some pretty out of the way places on several continents and just do not consider coke with dinner at a restaurant the cultural norm anywhere but the united states.

                                          perhaps my eye is jaded, but i recall seeing far more beer and wine on tables than soda glasses. do people drink coke elsewhere? obviously. however i disagree it's as prevalent as it is in the u.s.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            Yes, I agree. But we must be clear about what we are referring to - sweet fizzy drinks such as colas, not "soda" as in soda or sparkling water. Obviously not all adults can drink beer or wine, or care to, and it should be clear that this is not the matter under discussion here.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle


                                              not to wordsmith but jfood agrees with this and it is a much different statement than your previous post. yes, there is a much higher amount of of non-soda intake than soda intake in foreign restos but "america is the only culture where adults drink coke or diet coke with meals" was a stretch. thanks for clarifying.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                i think i get what hoto means. countries like france (especially), italy, spain, etc are very much "wine cultures", while the usa- yes consumes and produces wine but it wouldn't be considered a wine "culture". it's like saying drinking vodka with dinner is russian culture. soda/soft drinks/pop etc is very much american culture. i pulled this off of wikipedia:

                                                "Also according to the 2005 Annual Report, Coca-Cola had gallon sales distributed as follows:
                                                27% in the United States
                                                27% in Mexico, Brazil, Japan and China
                                                46% in spread throughout the world"

                                                also some interesting stuff about the history of soft drinks if any of you are interested.

                                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                                            In Mexico and most of Latin America, bottles of Coca Cola with foot-long straws are standard on most restaurant tables, including the pricier ones. Often a glass with ice is a special request.

                                            1. re: Veggo

                                              i know people who have gotten dysentery in nepal and hepatitis in belize, because the little glass bottles of coke were stored in a contaminated stream bed and/or ice. i still reckon that coke is available mostly for u.s. tourists. i doubt it's a sherpa's drink of choice with dinner.

                                              1. re: Veggo


                                                Considering that most Americans travelling abroad are wary of drinking the water (jfood included and uses bottled water to brush his teeth) it always amazes him that people would order bottled water, soda or hard liquor drinks with ice. Last jfood ckecked, ice is just really really cold water, the same they just turned down in the glass on the table next to the drink with ice. Go Figure.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  The possibility of contaminated ice has been a daunting issue for eons, but there are pockets of progress. Specifically and by example, Playa del Carmen now has a large commercial ice producer that uses purified water and supplies many (but not all) of the nearby bars and restaurants. Very few latin american restaurants have the equipment to satisfy their own ice requirements, and of those that do, not all use purified water, which is another expense. And you don't know for certain. My personal well-honed solution (and I'm returning to Mexico next Tuesday) : I carry a gym bag ( the infamous "green bag") pretty much with me all the time, which includes among other nesessaries, a 5-quart Coleman cooler filled with ice I purchased from a verifiable source. It's really not a hinderance at all; actually quite handy because it also hold various food and beverage items when I'm walking/cruising around.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    In resorts and cities in Mexico the ice is "safe", especially if you get barrel shaped ice with a whole in the middle. This indicates that the ice was purchased from a commercial ice maker and not made with tap water from the kitchen sink. Table water usually comes in a pitcher that has been filled from the large bottled water jug. If you don't see it being filled, don't drink it.
                                                    And on the original question, a diet soda with dinner is my preferred restaurant drink in Mexico.

                                                  2. re: Veggo

                                                    no insult to those places meant here but does that at all have anything to do with the sort of unwritten rule about visiting there "don't drink the water" ?

                                                2. re: jpschust

                                                  I don't like the taste of alcoholic beverages -- mixed drinks, wine, champange -- i just don't care for any of it. I order a regular soda if we're at a higher end restaurant and everyone else is drinkning. Otherwise, i usually just drink the water on the table (I don't care for Pelligrino and that ilk either!)

                                                  The South Asian cultures have no problem with people not drinking alcohol with meals.

                                                  1. re: kavikat

                                                    I do order the soft drink more out of obligation because I don't want "the look," when I order tap water, although I really have to get over it because why am I spending $3 more than I really want to just to appease the server?! Sheesh!

                                                  2. re: jpschust

                                                    i'm talking about just a glass of soda. with no alcohol. there doesn't have to be that much ice.

                                                    1. re: excuse me miss

                                                      What I was saying is that bartenders get in a routine of packing glasses full of ice because thats how you mix alcoholic drinks- that's often why it's done. Saving 2 cents on the gun doesn't happen all that often.

                                                      1. re: jpschust

                                                        i thought that too. but the times i've asked bartenders to put less ice in my customer's soft drinks i've been told "no, because management wants them packed with ice."
                                                        i guess i've just happened to work for alot of greedy owners.

                                                        1. re: excuse me miss

                                                          Wow, I can't say I've ever had that experience. Every time I've asked a bartender to do something they've just done it unless they don't have the ingredients.

                                                3. Its funny, when I ask for iced tea i never get any funny looks at a high end restaurant, but friends who order a cola or a diet cola sometimes do. In some people's mind drinking sodas (coke, pepsi, 7up, whatever) with good food equates with pouring ketsup all over prime rib. If you like it, order it. You are the one that is having the meal, your enjoyment is what counts.

                                                  14 Replies
                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    It is like pouring ketchup on a fine meal. Not because it isn't booze, but because it is full of sugar and assorted ****. That said, restaurant staff is there to please the customers, not give them a lesson in culture.

                                                    1. re: lagatta

                                                      "culture"? huh?

                                                      before you get lot's of nasty-posts, please tell us that you do not believe that it is culturally lower on the food scale (pun intended) to order a diet coke/pepsi versus a scotch/whiskey with a meal.


                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        While I by no means think it is "culturally lower", I too don't understand the appeal of drinking diet coke with a meal simply because I don't think of the flavor and sweetness of it as going with the food. If I'm not drinking wine, I'd rather have water. But, that is just a personal preference. I also don't enjoy drinking coffee all the way through a meal, but some people do.

                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                          You can order whatever you want, and no wait person should even flinch. But I think all that carbonation fills you up, and the same with coffee, so you run the risk of being full and not enjoying your meal.

                                                          I find that a little sparkling water or just plain water help me enjoy the food more, and the right glass of wine is the best enhancement.

                                                          1. re: brendastarlet

                                                            Indeed, though take my fiancee for example- she's trying to cut back her alcohol intake, doesn't drink coffee and sometimes wants caffeine. We eat at a lot of high end restaurants, is it wrong for her to drink a soda to caffeinate? I don't think so. She doesn't get huffy if they don't have soda, but that said, no fully stocked bar is without some form of cola, diet cola, citrus soda, soda water, tonic water, etc.

                                                            1. re: brendastarlet

                                                              brenda, sparkling water is carbonated!

                                                              1. re: SusanSDG

                                                                Right - but a lot of sparkling waters are much less carbonated than club soda, coca cola, etc. I remember reading that, supposedly, Perrier in the U.S. is more carbonated than Perrier sold in Europe, "because Americans like more carbonation."

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  I am not entirely sure that's true. Granted this was a long time ago, but when I went to parts of eastern Europe in the mid-'90s that had coke and other drinks that were far more carbonated than anything we have here. I drank the sparkling water and it was pretty intense.

                                                            2. re: MMRuth

                                                              Of course I don't think it is culturally-lower to order a diet crap with a meal than any form of hard liquor (yecch), and people may have better reasons to do so (one friend I know who is a recovering alcoholic, and never got into mineral water) but I am rather purist about dining in fine restaurants, and yes, I see wine or some form of water as the only acceptable beverages. Of course here I am talking about western food, primarily of French or Italian derivation.

                                                              Of course as a waiter I'd keep my mouth shut about people's food preferences (see no cheese with fish in Italian cuisine thread).

                                                              1. re: lagatta

                                                                Forgot to specify - because it should go without saying - that the default beverage that must always be on offer is plain tap water. Plain tap water is a perfectly-acceptable beverage with anything, low to high-end.

                                                                1. re: lagatta

                                                                  As mentioned by other posters I think whatever you want to drink with YOUR meal should be acceptable. However, I am in the category of Hound's that believes certain drinks will diminish or overpower a meal. I was recently reading a James Beard memoir where he wrote that he never understood why, as a child, people would try to make him drink milk with his meal, it simply ruined the food experience for him. I found this funny as I remembered my Aunt always giving me milk at Sunday dinner, and I would claim I was allergic, when in fact I couldn't stomach the thought of milk with say lasagne for example.
                                                                  I will often order a pre dinner drink, sometimes even a froo froo martini or mojito or something. However, when it comes to my drink with my meal I pretty much have to limit it to any fizzy water, wine, sake or depending on the cuisine, on rare occasion, a beer.
                                                                  So I can see where some high end restaurants may think it odd to order a soda with your meal, but I definitely do not think it is an American or "lack of culture" issue.

                                                                2. re: lagatta

                                                                  lagatta, is the "no cheese with fish in Italian cuisine" thread in this forum? I searched, but could not find.

                                                                  ETA: Never mind. I looked in your profile and found the link to the thread in General Chowhounding Topics.

                                                                3. re: MMRuth

                                                                  There is nothing to understand. Some people like it.

                                                          2. High end restaurants have soda because they're there to please the customer. Always remember in any establishment that you're a paying customer you're always right except if you order white zin. Don't ever let the stigma of a restaurant intimidate you remember if not for you the place wouldn't be open.

                                                            1. Oh yeah, if you're in a place and they bust your chops about ordering soda it's not a high end place. They're just pissed you're not spending as much money as they'd like you to.

                                                              1. Sorry - I should have asked this in my earlier post about ordering a soda at restaurants out of obligation... there's three of us in our family. We really should be drinking water more because of health reasons, but I feel funny when we all three "order" water. Sometimes one of us will order a soda or an ice tea - then we can't sleep that night! My question is whether you think this is just in my head and to just get over it or whether there is some "obligation" to order a drink or two. Otherwise, from Denny's to The Dining Room, I'm back to water. :-)

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: boltnut55

                                                                  My friends and I often just get water when we go out to eat - one of my friends almost always gets his with a slice of lemon, and it has never been a problem.

                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                    I always order water as well and have never had a problem. I will occasionally drink juice but I tend to drink water most of the time at home and don't feel the need to order something I don't really like out of obligation.

                                                                2. There are, of course, also dietary considerations. A diebetic may have to avoid sugars in alcohol and and juices. Delta Airlines used to have what they called something like a "quick service" beverage service on short flights between Atlanta and Florida. The flight attendants would come through the cabin with a choice of Coke, cranapple juice or lemonade - no water or no diet soda. After a few complaints from those on restrictive diets, they changed this policy. Any high-end restaurant should be well aware that there are many people on restrictive diets and should bend over backwards to accommodate.

                                                                  1. My teenage son still waxes nostalgic about the green apple soda that he had at Chez Panisse a year and a half ago. IMO, most restaurants don't consider how creative and tasty non-alcoholic drinks can be...

                                                                    1. the waitstaff might frown but the accountant loves it, as soda (especially from the gun) is arguably percentage wise the most profitable item on the menu.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: byrd

                                                                        High end restaurants should serve it with the bottles. I love the glass coke bottles.

                                                                      2. Well, it doesn't matter unless you are doing the frowning. No polite person ever makes or implies a negative comment about another person's dining choices at the table. A rule that needs strong reinforcement these days.

                                                                        As it happnes, many people take medications for which alcohol is either contraindicated or unwise. (Just think of all the people who take a lot of acetometaphine alone!) And then there are many people in recovery. And others who simply want something non-alcoholic for dinner.

                                                                        As for me, if I drink alcohol within 3 hours of going to bed, I will get up in the middle of the night and have very disturbed sleep thereafter if at all! I know many people like me in that regard. So I don't drink any alcohol after the early evening. Midnight on New Year's Day is my lone exception, because the night of sleep is already shot!

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                          I thought it was clear that this was not a discussion on not drinking booze - doubt very much that any sane person would say one must imbibe in fine-dining restaurants or anywhere else.

                                                                          1. re: lagatta

                                                                            Sadly that isn't true. People are pressured to drink alcoholic beverages all the time in business meetings, in social gatherings, at private parties, and in restaurants. However subtle the pressure may seem to people who do drink, it is much more obvious to those who choose not to.

                                                                            I agree this post is not specifically about drinking booze, but it is hard to discuss drinking other beverages without touching on the all too prevalent "presumption" that the alternative is indeed an alcoholic beverage. If this were not the case, then why would this topic keep veering back to the booze/no booze topic.

                                                                        2. When eating at a nicer restaurants I usually go with sparkling water - The wife on the other hand will drink the sparkling water but also orders a Diet Coke

                                                                          The thing is we don't drink and sometimes I feel like we're being looked down on when not ordering booze so the sparkling water is kind of a compromise between us and the waiter as in...ok we don't drink but I'll pay $7 for some water - When we get that "Oh...you're not drinking" look I usually respond with "We may not drink but we do know how to eat well"

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: hncreature

                                                                            Why are people so concerned with how they look in the eyes of the server? You should not feel obligated to get something you don't want--ever! You don't owe anybody any explanations why you are ordering what you are ordering. Your reasons are none of their business. You are the customer you are choosing to spend your money on their establishment. If I don't want booze -- I'm not going to get it. The same goes for paying $7 for wate-- I'll get it if I want it. It has nothing to do with looking cheap and everything to do with getting my preference at that time.

                                                                          2. Drink what ever you want, especially in a high end rest.