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Do you go to restaurants and just order "snacks?"

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Because I want to try as many different things as possible, I sometimes do "snack crawls" and hit a lot of places but order a small thing and share. The places are always take-out places with or without seating. I don't go to sit-down restaurants and order a tiny thing to share because I'm afraid the waiters will give me dirty looks and we'll be taking up a table while ordering something very tiny.

Are there any posters out there who do these snack crawls at sit-down restaurants? Do you just avoid busy times? Do you leave a larger tip? Do you get nasty looks from the waitstaff?

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  1. "Snack crawls" I love that! I've never just ordered one but when dining out, in lieu of an entree, I often order a couple of appetizers and/or sides. I don't think I would just order, say, one appetizer to be shared. If I wasn't that hungry, I'd either do takeout or, if I wanted the 'Dinner out' experience, I'd order somethng small to share and an entree that could be packed and easily reheated for later consumption
    I wouldn't expect 'Nasty looks from the wait staff''regardless of what I did or didn't order. I tip based much more on service than the price of the meal, so I suppose I would leave a larger tip. I take peak Vs off peak hours into consideration only insofar as how it will impact on me. :-}

    1. I've never hit more than one place on a night but I quite often have several appetizers to share instead of one main each, depending on the menu (I often find menus these days have very few items and sometimes nothing on the mains list appeals to me but several things on the apps list do).

      I've never gotten dirty looks or even a whiff of attitude from a server for doing this.

      1. I just did this the other night. A gf and I went to three resto's and just ordered 2 appy's at each place and a cocktail. We tipped decently never got dirty looks and were gone within an hour at each place. It's actually something this gf and I do about once a month. It's fun, and when we can't decide what we want we search for it. One night we hit 7 places!!!! We were full and tipsy after that night!

        1. While I often do food crawls when visiting another city, the only time I have done a true snack crawl was in Barcelona, where the tapas bars are common, and people routinely do snack runs as a prelude to dinner. Otherwise, I too feel a bit strange about going to a formal sit down dinner place and eating a small snack. We sort of did it in NYC when we did a LES tour (as per RGR) and wanted to try some soup dumplings. We ordered one other dish as well, but we were a group of 6, and I think the waiter was not terrifically pleased with us, even though we left a big tip to make up for the small order. I don't feel like risking the ire of the restaurant staff, although I bet you could get away with it in many places without a raised eyebrow.

          I also find that my eyes are often too big for my stomach, and when I sit in a restaurant, I look at the menu and want to try more than one thing on the menu. As a result, I often find that I won't limit myself to a snack, and end up ordering a reasonable amount of food. If I am too full for more than a snack, I taste everything I ordered, and take home a doggie bag. I've gotten funny looks about that too. (hmm... another thread?)

          6 Replies
          1. re: moh

            "I don't feel like risking the ire of the restaurant staff"

            --why are so many people afraid of waiters? yes, they are there to maximize their income, but just be upfront that you'll be sharing a few things and moving on to the next place. however, i do think it's *wrong* (my bias, i admit) for a deuce to order 1 or 2 apps and take the table for the entire service. and yes, people do this.

            i'm in the business, as are most of my friends, so we stay connected by visiting each other on our off-nights. i'll have something small and a drink each place, and after a few plates and places, no more food.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Now that the economy is not as good and apparently people aren't eating out as much, while DH and I are still able to continue eating out, yesterday I said out loud, "You know, this is why places should be more grateful when I go there to eat." This wasn't said in an entitlement tone but more as in "I wish I could feel comfortable order two entrees among the three of us and splitting it." "I wish we could not order drinks and be okay." The thing with us is that we are fiercely loyal, and to me a good regular customer is just as good as an occasional big spender. We not only try to go back as much as we can, we tell others and bring others to places that treat us regular, not even extra special.

              I think part of it is just being uncomfortable with saying "no" and so many times.

              Would you like to start off with appetizers?
              (no)
              Would you like to order an iced tea, Coke, beer, or wine?
              (no, water for the three of us, please)
              Would you like our fine bottled water?
              (no, regular water would be fine)
              After taking two orders... "and what would you like?"
              (We're just going to share)
              After dinner... "would you like dessert?"
              (No, we're full.)

              We don't make a mess. We are quiet. We are very nice. We are polite. We don't return food even though once in a while we probably really should. We leave within 1 hour. We tip at least 15%. We don't spend a lot of money, but I think we're not bad customers.

              I'm not worried about something extra in my food. I guess I'm just a people pleaser and wish they didn't have a preconceived and wrong idea about us. I really need to lose about 50 lbs. and shouldn't be eating platters of food that are 3 times the amount of a regular serving, so that is the main reason I share. Killing me off early isn't going to earn them more money... but I suspect they don't care about that. Some of this is said tongue in cheek. :-)

              1. re: boltnut55

                "I think part of it is just being uncomfortable with saying "no" and so many times"
                boltnut, You should keep in mind that it's the job of the Server to ask all those questions. If he/she didn't, it would be considered poor service. EG: How would the Server possibly know that 3 of you were planning on sharing 2 entrss unless you made that clear?
                I think you can avoid the repeated questions by simply informing the Server that you are only planning on ordering and sharing _______ and will not be ordering dessert or coffee/tea. Also keep in mind that many restaurants charge a 'plate sharing' charge that sometiimes is close to the price of the lowest priced entree, so you might want to check. For a couple of dollars it might be more financially advantageous for you to order that entree and just take it home. We noticed that the all-you-can-eat salad bar at a local restaurant we like, offers full dinners, including, apps/soup, salad bar, entree AND dessert for about $3-4 dollars more, so we often order a dinner and take it home. If you don't want to eat it, perhaps you have a pet that might appreciate a treat.:-}

                1. re: boltnut55

                  boltnut,

                  First, you should't feel bad about what others think of you, especially when it's part of their job to make you feel GOOD about your experience. I recently had a fun experience, where I took my 16-year-old niece and her best friend to a somewhat distant shopping mall for the day, and we ended the day at a "nice" restaurant , my treat. We had a 15-minute wait, so I was able to get us a couple of menus to look at while we waited. We decided to do all apps instead of meals, to enhance the fun factor. So once we were seated, in order to obviate all of the usual questions, as soon as the waitress came to our table and asked us what we'd like to drink, I said something along the lines of, "We want to have some fun tonight, so we're going to share a whole bunch of appetizers instead of ordering dinners. The young ladies will each have the salad, I'll have the soup, and we'll share A, B, C, X, Y, and Z. I think that's more than enough for all of us. And what would you ladies like to drink?" Since this was not the usual order, I felt this allowed me to set the tone by answering all potential questions up front. I'll often use this strategy if we're deviating from the "normal" ordering pattern. Even if it's to say up front, "He's (DH) really hungry, but I had a late lunch, so I'll just have the soup tonight" so that there are no awkward questions along the lines of "aren't you having dinner tonight?" If you state your intentions up front, I find it makes for a much smoother evening. Good for me, good for the server. And never any attitude. Of course, I always leave a good (20%) tip!

                  1. re: boltnut55

                    boltnut--
                    for the many years I waited tables I always felt that I'd rather have pleasant people who ordered what they wanted and tipped fairly than unpleasant guests who spent a fortune. Though many servers have to ask the questions, there are plenty who are thankful for your pleasant demeanor.

                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                    "--why are so many people afraid of waiters"

                    Hotoynoodle, it is not a question of being afraid of waiters. When I go out to eat, it is because I am looking to enjoy myself. The last thing I want is to have my evening ruined by attitude from my waiter because they feel I am taking up space and not ordering enough. I am happy to say that I have rarely encountered this problem, most of the times waiters are very professional and very pleasant. But every once in a while I have an unpleasant experience, and it ruins the evening. So I figure, why tempt fate?

                2. I first heard about this concept from a restaurateur who described a night of wandering from place to place in NYC, visiting old friends and checking out the food.

                  My husband and I loved the idea and adapted it. For us, it is a matter of eating out more often by eating less each time. And, we do it in top restaurants.

                  No one has specifically mentioned doing this at the bar. That's our usual choice. To a bartender, I would think the food order is a plus, not a minus.

                  I'd be upfront on your snack crawl, and say that you are visiting a few "wonderful places" in one evening. Those in the industry do it themselves-- they should understand.

                  We also try to take home things that will not suffer from being reheated. When torn between two menu choices, I often opt for something I know I can have for lunch the next day and then choose an extra items to add to our selection.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BostonZest

                    I agree that the bar is the place to do it. Bartenders love diners- it ups the check a ton and usually takes no more time than a few drinks does.

                    1. re: BostonZest

                      BZ we share the same philosophy. With so many places to try on "the list", I find this approach to be a great way to try places I hear about on CH. I do opt for the bar/ bar area first, but if a deuce is my only choice I make my intentions known to the server up front, but certainly I wouldn't linger for the entire service.

                      This has become my preferred method of grazing and then based upon my adventures, I will suggest to my usual dining posse, that we hit a particular place for more of a main event. Agreed also that if you are at the bar/ bar area, the addition of food is seen by the bartender/ server as a plus.

                      the Boston restaurants are very accommodating to this style of dining , but I can't speak for other locals.

                      1. re: Food4Thought

                        Another vote for the bar route. That's usually the way we check out a new restaurant.

                    2. more germane
                      do i really care if a waitstaff gives me dirty looks?

                      restaurants are a service industry. they exist to serve you what you want, not what they want.

                      eat whatcha like enjoy it and stop worrying about what others may think

                      1. friends and I often just go for cocktails and nibbles. great way to try a lot of good stuff.

                        1. Yeah - as much as I can. It's a great way to sample a lot of places when exploring. I do that at sit down places too, although I may ask to sit at the bar if there's one or get it as a take out. I leave a standard tip based on the quality of the service.

                          1. Thanks for the responses. To clarify my post a bit, I don't have a problem with ordering a bunch of appetizers in lieu of a main course but face some trepidation ordering one appetizer or sharing one appetizer. While some may not give a damn about pissing the waiters off, I'd rather not chance having an extra something in my dish. And there is something to be said about common courtesy.

                            And I do agree with those that said it's good to explain my situation to the restaurant prior to ordering. I've sometimes gone to restaurants asking if I can only order dessert (that should be the equivalent of ordering an appetizer) and have been turned away because they need the tables for people who are ordering more food. I think that's probably the perfect way to handle it. If a restaurant has no problem with it, I guess it's perfectly OK to do so. However, I totally understand if they don't want me and some other people to hold up an entire table for such a small bill.

                            Oh, how I wish eating culture in the States (and Canada) could be more like the tapas culture in Spain.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              you seem to mixing levels. restaurant culture in spain is not like tapas culture in spain either. go to a michelin star restaurant in madrid and treat it like a tapas place and you will get a similar reaction

                              there are plenty places geared towards small plates, plenty of places that serve at the bar. and plenty tapas places that have exactly that culture in the USA

                              1. re: thew

                                I understand that there is a difference between restaurant culture and tapas culture in Spain. Where did I say that they were equivalent?

                                And even though there are a lot of places geared towards small plates (and increasing as it's getting trendy), it's quite different as they expect you to order a bunch of small plates in order to make a meal. The tapas culture of Spain is different than the small plates restaurant concept you are describing. And I sometimes want small plates, but they don't have to be necessarily Spanish tapas.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  when you equated eating culure in us and canada with tapas culture in spain

                                  "Oh, how I wish eating culture in the States (and Canada) could be more like the tapas culture in Spain."

                                  as to assumptions made .. i didn;t say anything about it having to be tapas, and i understood entirely what you were describing. and as i said in my initial post do what you like - a restaurants business is giving you what you want the way you want it

                                  1. re: thew

                                    I have a feeling that you're just being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. Whatever. I don't have the energy to deal with this. Let's get back to the chow everyone!

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      i don't think i was arguing with you.

                                      i think i was supporting your effort to eat what you want when you want without fear of what a waiter might or might not think

                                      i just didn't agree with your seeming equivalency between the tapas culture of spain and the restaurant culture of 2/3 of north america

                                      but take it as you wish and have fun. i hope you continue to explore your food however you like best with no fear

                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                    Yep! LOVE IT! I often can't decide anyway. And believe me, if two people order 4-5 apps, plus salad and wine (and dessert :) ), the bill is as much as two entrees and wine, and gets pricier if you order wine by the glass to pair (or TRY) with each app . And you tip accordingly.

                                    So, I don't see how it could hurt a server economically if you do it that way.

                                    If you are concerned about tying up a server's table, you can often order apps and even desserts at the bar where it can actually be more casual and fun.

                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                  you are the customer...no matter what you order, how long you sit,etc...you are the customer.

                                  1. re: LaLa

                                    one of my favorite chowhound posts/replies was
                                    "you are *a* customer; you are not *the* customer".

                                    on the thread topic: as with dropping in "just for dessert"
                                    i think that is ok if you drop in at non-prime time, or offer to
                                    sit at the bar. otherwise i think it is kinda obnoxious,
                                    if your bill is below some minimum ... defined by situational factors.

                                    it's a courtesy for restos to typically not impose minimum
                                    table time limits, or minimum bills. if the norm of reasonably
                                    considering those situation factors breaks down, i guess
                                    things could move in that direction ... just like RSVP abuse
                                    can push us toward credit card charges for rsvp noshows.

                                    on the other hand, if you work up a "fair bill", i dont think
                                    it matters especally what courses it is composed of.
                                    [there's not need to speculate about pathological cases
                                    is there? ... "hi, i am going to order a $1000 bottle of
                                    wine without an food and drink it by myself if and only
                                    if you sit me by myself at a 8person table in the middle
                                    of the dining floor" ... that would be Magic Christian Lite].

                                    i think asking the host "would it be ok if i stepped in
                                    only for a light snack/dessert" at least shows a congnizance
                                    or the situation, and eventhough i think most places might
                                    more or less have to say "that would be ok" i feel if i were
                                    the restaurant and customer had the courtesy to signpost
                                    the situation, it would be appreciated.

                                    i think everybody is entitled to an exception now and then ...
                                    and with something like this it's hard to know who askes for
                                    the occasional accomodation and who habiltually does so ...
                                    say in contrast to who is a good dinner party guest ... i usually
                                    offer to bring a bottle of wine, or cheese or dessert, but every so
                                    often i'm running late at work etc and i show up empty handed
                                    [with close friends] ... but that's a different matter to clueless
                                    freeriders, which is in turn different from self-rationalizing
                                    freeriders ['oh the hostess said it wasnt *necessary* to bring
                                    anything'], which is in turn different from the sociopaths(*) who
                                    just do whatever the want or are only moviated by a self-
                                    interested calculus rather than norms of fairness ["i'll bring
                                    something to person X's house who i get invited on their boat
                                    but i dont need to cultivate by friendship with Y"].

                                    ok tnx.

                                    (*) sure sign of such a sociopath: anybody who has ever (non-ironically)
                                    uttered the words "i just need to be true to me".

                                3. Yes! Especially at sushi places - my bf & I will let the server know that we're just getting a small amount, and then we order a few pieces of sushi. If it's really really good we might get more, but the way things have gone in the SF East Bay, we almost always end up going back home or to another restaurant for more dinner.

                                  Also, at one of our favorite fancier restaurants we'll often go not-so-hungry and just get a half-dinner.

                                  We're friendly and easy to deal with as far as restaurant customers go, so the waiters never have minded. It helps to say up-front that you're just getting a small amount... It also helps to tip extra. ;)

                                  1. The term I've always heard was "grazing", not that it makes any difference. Snack crawl sounds better in many ways.

                                    It can be fun and entertaining but it's like going to food shows, Costco, street fairs, etc....kind of messes with your appetite when real meal time comes around.

                                    1. We/I do this frequently - not only in our home town but in places we visit. Its progressive dining to us tho I like the snack crawl name. Done it with just appetizers, apps and dessert or the full on progressive meal. I rarely have a problem with the waitstaff but then I tip well - figure there's a minimum amount to tip regardless of the check size and go from there.

                                      Some memorable trips:
                                      Two couples, Victoria BC, one day 8 restaurants
                                      Just us, hometown, 4 restaurants in one evening
                                      Two of us, Seattle, 6 restaurants in one day
                                      Just me - Anchorage - sushi at Benihana, salad at Glacier Brewhouse, dessert at Orso. MMMMM

                                      How else do you get to try all the good food options

                                      1. I've never done a snack crawl, but I have gone to one restaurant for appies, another for dinner and a third of dessert. All in the same neighborhood, on a nice night for walking.

                                        I have done drive-by crawls for take-way before informal parties. One person drives, another one or two leap out of the car and pick up egg rolls from one place, kebobs, from another, wings from a third.

                                        Zip home, toss it all on platters, and instant cocktail party!

                                        As far as ordering one appie at a restaurant, I've waited tables, so I know how important it is to either sell one customer a lot of food, or a lot of customers a small amount of food. If I am just going in for an appie and a drink, I would tend to sit at the bar, unless it's off hours and there are plenty of empty tables.

                                        1. Don't do snack crawls.Sounds like something a Scargod would do, though. We have had drinks and appetizer at one place, then dinner at another.
                                          We have also just ordered from the appetizer menu. When you order four to six things for two people and a bottle of wine (and perhaps a desssert) I don't feel like I have anything to feel guilty about relative to occupying a table.

                                          1. All the time... but when we're snack crawling or going to a "fancy" spot to have snacks/drinks we often sit at the bar.

                                            I don't think we necessarily have to do so, but somehow (and perhaps only in my imagination), it seems OK to linger at a bar over snacks versus occupying an entire table. Also, we just like sitting at the bar.

                                            Gotta admit that I would not do snacks at a high end resto during a busy time. To me, that does seem "wrong"-ish.