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Microwaves in restaurants: discuss

Went out last night for dinner at a place with $15-20 entrees. I ordered a fisherman's pie (like shepard's pie but with creamy fish and veg instead of lamb/beef), and while we were waiting for our food, we heard the distinctive ping of the microwave. Sure enough, when our food arrived, my mini-casserole dish arrived hot around the edges, and ice cold in the middle. I sent it back, heard the microwave again, and when it arrived back it was merely warm in the middle and screaming hot at the edges.

Am I the only person who gets pissed off by this? Like, if I wanted a microwaved entree, I would buy a goddamn Lean Cuisine and save myself the money. Or am I just a food snob?

My thinking is that they should have the potatoes in a hotel pan, hot and ready to go (their mashed is on other menu items), and then heat the fish-veg-cream mixture in a saucepan... assemble, and flash under the salamander (which I saw!) to brown the potatoes. Is that too much to ask? #@$%!!!!

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  1. That's maybe too much to ask if you're paying less than $6 for dinner. At the price you paid, you're perfectly in the clear to expect more.

    This probably happens a lot more than we realize with fewer tell-tale signs--but if the temperature of the food is not consistent, it's not only that a microwave is being used, it's that your food isn't coming out right.

    Just tell everyone you know about the problem. Maybe mention it to the manager.

    1. A microwave in a convenience store makes sense. One in a real restaurant (not a fast food one) does not make sense. Even when I go to a fast food place for a burger, not often, I specifically tell them I want it fresh - not microwaved. I can microwave at home for a lot less money than $15. You are right to be pissed!

      1. I had to laugh at your Lean Cuisine sentence, but I completely agree with you. If this is their standard, I would not return. I would have said something to the manager and asked for the check to be voided and then left.

        3 Replies
        1. re: rockandroller1

          I had 2 in mine. My wait staff used it to warm up brownies and desserts if customers wanted them hot and coffees when the customers didn't think their coffee was hot enough.

          I used the kitchen one for melting butter and chocolate when baking the desserts, otherwise it was rarely used except when we had some mad customers who really thought their eggplant parm wasn't hot enough - trust me they were already mouth burningly hot but maybe with full dentures ............., or for very last minute customers when the soup had already been switched off from the warmers.

          1. re: smartie

            In your case, that is perfectly reasonable. Otherwise, I don't get it.

            1. re: smartie

              I'm with you smartie. Those are the only times a 'wave should be used!

          2. I totally agree with you.
            Oddly enough, back in my waiting tables days I once had a customer yell at me because the restaurant did not have a microwave. She wnated a bottle heated for her baby and asked that I place it in the microwave for her. She became so angry when I told her that restaurant did not have one. In my head I kept thinking, "isn't not having one a good thing?"

            5 Replies
            1. re: Honey Bee

              I have worked in places with no microwave, the baby bottle scenario is easy, bring a wine cooler or large bowl of hot water, immerse baby's bottle and warm. The old fashioned way!!!

              1. re: Honey Bee

                Where I used to work, this happened a lot! the baby bottle thing... the hot tea... the soup... the most common question was, "well... can't you just nuke it for a minute or two?" and I would say, "I'd love to, but unfortunately, we don't have a microwave." People were usually shocked, or angry, or both. I'm with Honey Bee... I thought no microwave would be a good thing.

                1. re: Honey Bee

                  same happened to me Honey Bee! the lady almost physically attacked me, tried to push back into the kitchen to see for herself-- it took me, 2 servers & a mgr to get her back to the table. her party of 14 (not counting the infant) stiffed the server and left a note talking about the "lying" staff & that it's "impossible" for a restaurant to operate w/o a microwave!!!

                  new parents-- your server can heat up your baby's bottle in a container with the hot water used for tea/bev-- don't assault the cooks!

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    That is totally outrageous! I would never assume that a microwave was on hand for MY convenience! That is called poor planning on her part - maybe it was those post pregnancy hormones kicking in!

                    Before I had a microwave, with my first child, I would warm it exactly the way you suggested.

                    1. re: danhole

                      yes i really think there was *something* amiss with the woman, not my issue though, she was just rude and in everyone's face!

                      unfortunately a lot of people think restaurant kitchens are "just like theirs at home, only bigger" complete w microwave, when it's not necessarily true. as to the "microwave for customers' convenience" issue, there *was* a microwave in the prep kitchen area (on a different floor), but it was used for 1 purpose only: to defrost preservative-free organic tortillas-- must be kept frozen and thawed as needed by the dozen and a micro is the ONLY way to deal with them w/o them sticking together or disintegrating-- anyway, the point is that the micro was kept absolutely clean, organic, & vegan-- taking someone's baby bottle that's been all over goodness-knows-where and placing it into a clean kitchen appliance, or even bringing it into a clean kitchen space, is just gross & would bring everything to a halt while we clean & disinfect. . . it seems like restaurants sometimes get it from both directions! LOL!

                      but if i was the op i'd be ticked off too, & i wouldn't go back to the restaurant. probably won't have much luck w mgmt either, if the kitchen staff doesn't care about the food, the mgmt is obviously taking the route of as little work for themselves as possible. . .

                2. the only time we ever use a microwave in our restaurant is to warm up plates. otherwise it is never used. unless the staff wanted to microwave something they brought in to eat. but they rather just cook the food on the grill for whatever they feel like having that day.

                  1. I do not see a microwave as a bad thing, as a heating device. But like any equiptment, it can be poorly used.

                    Not that I wouild ever order a possible to pre-cook fish dish in a restaurant; nor within that price range, but I have ordered potpies at diners for lunch. And they are often re-heated in a micro. Makes sense, to be honest.

                    But I do hate the not making sure they do it right. I once called the waitress back to the table after my lasagna was served (it was lunch, it was a diner, I was paying $8, I did not remotely think they were making it for me) and while I had my finger solidly and totally stuck in the middle of it...I said this is COLD!

                    A) I knew I got a new serving, B) I made my point C) yeap it was worth it, the food is great, the portion is huge.

                    1. just curious, has anyone had bad experiences with the food after complaining ? sometimes i hesitate. had a chicken which was kinda raw at a resto recently, sent it back but was very polite since i was almost afraid it may come back contaminated.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: foodwich

                        I grew up the business, NO way, no how did I ever see that. I know folks think it happens, but to be honest, food tampering is a criminal offense.

                        1. re: Quine

                          I've never seen it happen, ever in 13 years! People like to joke about it, but very, very, very few would ever do it! If they would, they should consider a new job...
                          and yes go to jail!

                        2. re: foodwich

                          In my time as a cook yes, I unfortunately saw food being treated in such a way that I would not treat it at home (e.g. dropped on the floor and right back in the pan--EW!!), but never once did I see a colleage try to "punish" someone for returning a dish by making their food unsafe.

                          1. re: Olivia

                            thank you for all the replies to my concern. the idea of it came to me from an acquaintance who used to wait tables and suggested that this happened. since i tend to be very ocd wondered about the truth of this.

                        3. Microwave "ovens" are a tool like any other in the kitchen. They perform certain tasks very well and other very poorly. The microwave manufacturers made a serious mistake when they began calling them ovens thereby setting themselves up for the inevitable comparisons to a traditional oven.

                          They biggest problem with microwave cookers is the fact that most people who use them don't know that they should almost never be used at full power, just as you would seldom use your oven at 550 degrees F and expect excellent results. All units have a variable power setting that should be used for most functions.

                          They can be used for steaming corn an the cob and other vegetables, melting butter and chocolate, sweating onions and garlic in oil or butter, making scrambled eggs without additional fat and many other functions.

                          To scorn a restaurant for using a microwave is silly. It is but one more way of applying heat to food to enhance flavor and texture and if used correctly can be a useful tool in any kitchen.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ishmael

                            You make a good point ishmael, I have to admit that. I guess then my point is that a microwave wasn't an appropriate way to heat my particular meal, in my opinion.