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Jul 29, 2008 11:52 AM

Fine Dining & Hamburger Etiquette

I recently visited One Restaurant at The Hazelton Hotel I ordered "The Ultimate street Burger" I wanted to see if it really was the ultimate burger and worth the $28 I paid for it.

Before it was delivered to my table I did not give one thought to how I was going to eat it.
Until my companion asked "are you going to pick it up with your hands and eat it"

I paused and thought for a mere second and relied "Yes!... it is called The Ultimate Street Burger" is it not? Last time I was served a burger I was not given utensils.

So the question I ask is this : What is the proper etiquette when eating foods such as hamburgers and fries when they are served in such an upscale joint?

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  1. ...don't sweat it, pick it up...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Recyclor

      For $28 the waiter should pick it up for you, bring it to your mouth, and then politely dust the crumbs from your lips with the corner of a clean linen napkin.

      1. re: nosh

        I am so with nosh.

        I had upstate NY relatives that ate McD's with fork and knife (no attendant).

    2. fancy or not, I think it would be wrong to start using a knife and fork on a burger and fries.

      1. I'd do what you did... and how was One's burger??

        50 Replies
        1. re: Rabbit

          I f you use a knife and fork when eating pizza do the same with a hamburger. Otherwise ...

          1. re: mrbozo

            Pizza doesn't crumble when you cut it.


            1. re: Big Bunny

              At least it shouldn't crumble ...

            2. re: mrbozo

              Actually, many people do eat pizza with a a knife and fork. It depends on the country/region and setting.

              1. re: lagatta

                Sounds like an affectation to me, unless the pizza happens to be so loaded with toppings that eating a slice with hands puts one's clothes in peril. But, as those crazy, wacky French say, "To each his own gout."

                1. re: mrbozo

                  An affectation? Really?

                  Have you always gotten pizza on a crust that wasn't bendy?

                  I haven't. At any rate, what does it matter how one eats their burger or pizza?

                  1. re: dolores

                    Yes, there are some people out there who wouldn't be caught dead eating either a hamburger or slice of pizza with their hands (or anything if at all possible): it's so, uh, low class, a demonstration of uncivilized behaviour. (Though a few have been known to secretly slum with the hoi polloi at food stands.)

                    If my slice is flexible I too am flexible, and careful. And I also eat the every morsel of crust, whether or not it has sauce or topping.

                    The OP inquired about proper burger eating etiquette. Me, I like to feel my food, even play with it a bit. Heck, I wouldn't dream of eating Ethiopian food with a knife and fork, or Indian, or Asian. And I never cut up my hotdogs!

                    1. re: mrbozo

                      How do you not eat Indian with a fork?

                      1. re: Rick

                        A lot of Indian people like to eat with their right hand (left one is considered unclean). My mom was once at an Indian party and tried to do this but failed miserably. It's easy if you've got something like nan and wrap up your food with it. But they were serving rice and different curries. She didn't have the skill to take a bit of rice with her hand, sop it up with the curry and stick it in her mouth without spilling it all over herself. It's quite a feat.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          easy as pie when you get the hang of it. with rice only, you kind of make an oblong triangular morsel by pressing sauce, veggies/meat, dal and rice together and use your thumb to kind of flip it into your mouth, it's hard to describe. of course if you get sauce and rice and stuff up above the first knuckle, you have poor table manners, and if it gets up to the second knuckle, you're a neanderthal! like everything-- you learn fast when you are hungry!

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            Yes,but I never got the hang of it and end up using nan when I'd much rather have rice. Fortunately most places in South Asia provide forks when they can see you're a foreigner. The thing I couldn't get over (probably to accommodate the eating with fingers) was the not-quite-piping-hot food, which I generally prefer because I feel it's safer.

                  2. re: mrbozo

                    It's not an affectation, it is a matter of cultural differences. If I recall correctly, we always ate pizza with knife and fork in "sit-down" places in Italy. At "pizzeria al taglio" places, where you are usually standing up or perhaps on a high bench at most, of course people ate their cut pizza portion with hand and paper serviette.

                    People often eat pizza with knife and fork in restaurants in here in Montréal as well - obviously not a takeaway pizza at a party.

                    1. re: lagatta

                      As the melancholy Soren would have said, it's either/or regarding affectation/cultural difference when it comes to the use of knife and fork.

                    2. re: mrbozo

                      "affectation"? but given your criteria of putting "one's clothes in peril" jfood cannot think of a single slice of good pizza in his life that did not have that possibility.

                      Sometime, even in the comfort of casa jfood sitting on the floor in front of the TV, he will use a knife and fork. And the only one who might be impressed is me, the avatar.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Sounds like you're not eating authentic pizza, but that's another thread ...

                        You are clearly a diner who is comfortable eating with his hands but rather chooses to use utensils. Therefore you fall outside the control group.

                        1. re: mrbozo

                          Control group?

                          Some folks like to eat some things with a knife and fork that others prefer to eat with their hands. That's a matter of preference. I do both, depending on where I am and how I feel like eating it at that moment. I really don't see how choosing to eat with a knife and fork can be an affectation. Last night I ate a juicy peach at the dinner table with my hands, slurping a bit (with apologies to husband), but some times I'll eat fruit with a knife and fork as well.

                          The OP's question was whether or not it would be, as a matter of etiquette, okay to eat the hamburger with his or her hands in an upscale restaurant, not really what people's personal preferences are.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Sure it's a matter of preference. But what is that preference based on? If committing a social faux pas isn't in the OP's mind then why the question?

                            1. re: mrbozo

                              There is no social pressure or faux pas potential when jfood is munching at casa jfood, and he sometimes eats his fruit using the bite and slurp method MM describes, he sometimes cuts into pieces, he sometimes takes the skin off the apple and sometimes he does not. So there is a time when preference is the only line in the linear program.

                              But there is also a difference between doing it in public and have "faux pas" in the linear program versus "affectation". The former is an "inclusive" outlook on the situation and the latter is an "exclusive" outlook on the situation. But if he were to give weights to the LP, he would probably place a 90% weight on the preference line, a 9% weight on the faux pas line, and 1% weight on the "look at me" line.

                              1. re: mrbozo

                                But the OP said: 'upscale joint'. That would lead me to believe the OP wanted our advice on whether it was okay to do as the OP wanted, irregardless of societal convention.

                                To which I say, of course, yes it is.

                                1. re: mrbozo

                                  I thought that the possibility of committing (or having committed) a social faux pas was exactly the OP's question.

                              2. re: mrbozo

                                "Sounds like you're not eating authentic pizza, but that's another thread ..." a little condescending dontcha think?

                                jfood has been very lucky to have eaten some of the best pizza this country has to offer in NJ, CT and Chicago, so, no, he HAS a wide range of experience.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  You have a wide range of American experience. Did pizza originate in the USA? Me, condescending? I think not.

                                  I like my goopy, tasty Montreal-style pie and I don't need no stinkin' knife and fork to eat it, but I know for a fact that it is not authentic pizza.

                                  1. re: mrbozo

                                    I would venyture to guess that mst people associate NY/NJ/Chicago a lot closer than Montreal when thoughts of pizza come to mind.

                                    Back to the OP: A hamburger is in a roll for a reason: Pick it Up and Take a bite.

                                    1. re: TonyO

                                      Huh? Pizzas are firstly Italian, secondly places where there is a significant Italian emigration. All the above places qualify, as do several places in South America (Buenos Aires, in particular).

                                      1. re: lagatta

                                        Add Toronto with 200,000+ Italian-speakers to the list.

                          2. re: lagatta

                            Count me in as a knife and fork pizza eater, at least until I'm within an inch or so of the edge. Less messy and less chance of burning my mouth. It also allows me to rearrange the toppings if I so desire. It's about control, not affectation.

                            1. re: BobB

                              Sounds very low-risk to me. Heck, live on the edge of the slice: life is messy and it can burn you, but you'll have some great memories and entertaining stories to tell.

                              1. re: mrbozo

                                I'm in the knife and fork corner too. No aversion to dirty hands, but I really hate it when I get a grease spot on a silk blouse or a nice tee shirt. Nothing ever falls on a ratty old shirt, just the good stuff. Sigh.

                                1. re: Pampatz

                                  I wonder if there's much corelation between how people were shown how to eat pizza the first time they had it and how they eat it now? I had my first pizza in the 50s, it was large and round and came in a choice of cheese, anchovy, or pepperoni. It was at Pernicano's, in San Diego, and we were shown how to fold it down the middle, from crust to point, and eat it from point to crust. Unless some yoyo cuts my pizza into squares, I still eat it that way if the pizza is large enough. No need with personal pizzas. Nothing like an extra large cheese pizza and a pitcher of bock beer!

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    yoyo? really, C1, there are some traditions that require the circle be cut into squares.

                                    plus it breaks down sibling squabbles of crust vs. middle.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      No, no, no, no! You cut a SQUARE pan pizza into squares. You cut a ROUND pizza into slices. One must respect the dignity of the pie!

                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Sorry, I grew up in Chicago, and I love my thin crust pizza cut into squares. In my family, those tiny triangles were the first to go. I don't think anyone in Chicago would ever disrespect the dignity of the pie.

                                        1. re: lizzy

                                          lizzy: same in STL. growing up I always thought wedges were "exotic"

                                        2. re: Caroline1


                                          the first time jfood received a round pizza cut into squares was inthe south side of chicago in the late 70's and jfood thought the pizza place was pulling a fast one on the NJ people. But it really does work and you get used to it. It turned out to be SOP in Chicago and after two years it was an accepted practice for jfood. Now back east he never sees it, but he has no problem at all with the chicago tradition for thin crusts, but he still likes the triangles.

                                          But cutting a round pie into squares should be no different in acceptance than cutting a round pie into triangles

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Jay, in my first post I started off by questiong whether there's a relationship between how people first learned to eat pizza and their current preferences. I have no problem with other people cutting their pizzas with cookie cutters and turning out pepperoni raindeer and cheesy Santas, if that's their preference. Mine is round, folded, eaten from tip to crust.

                                            I still suspect that first exposure may play a role in many an individual's preference. And yes. People can adapt to new ways.

                                            I forget which national pizza chain did a big ad campaign on their "Chicago style pizza" a couple of years ago. Seems to me it was a bit more expensive than non-Chicago pizza. So I called them up and asked about it. Same pizza, just cut in squares. So I ended up wondering how you tell the difference between "Chicago stylle pizza" ad "scam pizza"? They looked the same from here.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Cutting a round pie into squares invariably leaves someone with a couple of slices with NO crust. Sacrilege, IMO. :-)

                                              1. re: LindaWhit


                                                When one cuts a pie into 8 triangles, there are eight chances for crust and then those bites normally come at the end of each slice.

                                                Likewise when a pizza is cut into 2" squares the normal (in jfood's experience) sequence of pieces that are eaten start with the non-crusters (similar to eating the inside tip of the triangle cut) and then the people slowly work their way to the crust pieces. And at the end of cycle there are lots of ends for people to reach for and eat. So there is the same linear feet of crusts available but they are in 2" segments versus eight arcs that accompany the triangle cut.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  But no guarantee you're going to GET a crust piece, depending on how quickly people with you eat their inner pieces!

                                                  I'll stick with the triangle if at all possible. It's hard enough to get a NY-style slice up here in New England; I'm not gonna deal with square pieces either! LOL

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit


                                                    jfood likes the triangles too. but if crust is your thing, almost guaranteed you can get as much as you want at the beginning of the feast.

                                                  2. re: jfood

                                                    Now, that's just weird. Well, it is if I understand you. You're served a large pizza cut in squares, and you start eating from the MIDDLE?

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      Sure, why not? If I'm served a large pizza cut into squares, I'll almost always pick out the middle. I'm not really all that into crust and it's one of the few times it's acceptable to dig right into the middle. Too bad I can't do that with bakery cake since I want to eat as little of that nasty frosting as possible.

                                                      As for how I eat my pizza, it really just depends on the type of pizza it is. If I'm eating thin crust, I usually use a fork and knife, but with a thicker crust, I will pick it up. I don't think I was brought up doing it a certain way since my parents seem to go for the piping hot= fork & slightly cooler = pick up.

                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        Correct, the first squares eaten are the middies.

                                                        But think about Cee, when you get a triangle slice don;t you also take the frst bite from the "middle", i.e. the angle with no crust?

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          No, no, no, no! You think about it, Jay. A pizza is brought to the table. It's cut in slices. Someone would have to suspend all laws of physics in order to pick it up from the center of the pan using the point. The result would be total bent collapse of the whole slice, with the toppings landing anywhere from the pizza pan to your lap. You pick it up by the crust because it is the strongest edge of the triangle. When you fold it, it is even stonger and wil support the length of the slice, crust edge to point.

                                                          But there's another reason a wedge shaped slice of pizza is picked up by the crust: It keeps your hands as clean as possible.

                                                          So let's look at this eat-from-the-middle of a square cut pizza in this light. You dive into the center of the pizza for a crustless piece, maximizing the mess you will get all over your hands?



                                                          YOU eat pizza with a knife and fork, right? <sigh> Never mind. We're back to the "w" word. Carry on. '-)

                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              yes yes yes yes! even with no coffee this is a no-brainer.

                                                              jfood never stated where you "hold" the pizza, he stated where you "eat" the pizza.

                                                              so jfood will try to break this into tiny steps so the confusion can be eliminates:

                                                              1 - look at the pizza and decide which piece you would like
                                                              2 - slow reach your hand to the chosen slice and, using you fingers, take hold of the crust on the chosen piece
                                                              3 - slowly pull the piece away from the center, diengaging the cheese, et. al. from the other slices
                                                              4 - bring the point of the chosen slice to the mouth, open, bite and engoy

                                                              Now, notice that the part of the slice that is first to the tongue is the middle. If JFOOD (CAPS used in response to YOU) decides to use the fork and knife method #4 becomes

                                                              4 - place the slice on a plate, take your knife and fork, cut the point with no crust, stab, bring to mouth and eat.

                                                              So jfood stand by his comments of:

                                                              1 - "the first squares eaten are the middies" and
                                                              2 - "you also take the frst bite from the "middle", i.e. the angle with no crust"

                                                              But you definitely HOLD the pizza from the crust edge.

                                                              Oops. coffee ready, time for a cup.

                                                              Have a good weekend, Cee.

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                Just to add my two cents....With a square cut pizza the first slice you reach for is the one with the crust. The next slice you reach for is the one behind it with no crust. Now you have two square slices on your plate, and you eat the one with no crust first. This is just like eating a triangle sliced pizza. This is how I grew up eating pizza, and you work your way around just like a triangle pizza. When we had leftovers it was a crust, no-crust combo.

                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                          square-cut pizza saved my marriage! i can eat the crusty pieces around the outside, while dh can have his squishy middle ones! ;-)

                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                            I'm with your DH soupkitten. I like the mushy innards, and usually do not eat the crust. And I like thin crust and use my hands.

                                                            Now back to the burger. If I were in any doubt about eating one, with my hands, in an upscale place (and to tell the truth I wouldn't think about it too much at all) then I would cut it in half, or maybe quarters so that it seemed more "ladylike", Because of TMJ, if the burger is a big one, rather than risk dislocating my jaw, I will cut it into smaller pieces, and then pick it up and enjoy.

                                      2. re: Rabbit

                                        To be was good but lacked the familiar flavours to be called the ultimate "Street" burger. Sure it was made with fine ingredients and was presented beautifully.

                                        I have to say I have had way better "Street" burgers....for way less money.

                                      3. If it's served on a bun it's a sandwich and therefore intended to be picked up and eaten with your hands, no matter how fancy the venue. If there's no bun (or it's an open faced sandwich), use a knife and fork.

                                        As for fries, they're finger food when served with a burger, but should be eaten with a fork if they're part of a more formal meal, like steak frites. Though there's a fair amount of leeway on this in casual restaurants.

                                        1. I pretty much always use a knife and fork, unless I'm eating a Whopper, Jr. in the car, or a Shake Shack burger in Madison Square Park. But, I don't really think there's anything wrong with using your hands. Fries - I usually start out with my knife and fork (other than in the previously mentioned examples), but when there are some left, and I've said I'm done with them, I eat a couple more with my fingers.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            It's your burger, you can eat it anyway you like.

                                            If it's loaded with rabbit food and condiments, I would use utensils. I do that with salad pizzas.

                                            Otherwise, use your hands.

                                            How was it? Was it worth $28.?

                                            1. re: dolores

                                              It was good, I think!...... I may have been a little love drunk on the $500 bottle of wine that I paired with it.

                                              I have had way better "Street" burgers....for way less money

                                                1. re: mrbozo

                                                  It was a recomondation from the was from Washington State that is all I know. I will find out and let you know.

                                                2. re: myhotkitchen

                                                  Quilceda Creek would be my guess at that price from Washington.