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Oct 5, 2008 10:18 PM

Do Menu descriptions make you like/dislike a place?

I sometimes find that nicer restaurants get too "flashy" trying to show off their dishes in menu descriptions. Do you? When at a new place, it can get a bit distracting when trying to enjoy the energy of the table - especially if everyone takes a long pause to decipher the offerings. Instead of the main items "popping" off the page, it might take a few readings to decipher what's being offered. Know what I mean? For example, a dish might be described as:

"Flame kissed, chile infused, panko encrusted, hand caught Gulf shrimp served with and Idaho horseradish/heirloom tomato compost and meyer lemon gratin."

It might sound good on its own, but with 30 other similarly described dishes on the same menu, it makes one shift into college level test-taking mode. How about:

"Grilled Shrimp - Plump gulf shrimp kicked up with our own special blend of spicy seasonings and fiesty dipping sauce."

I'd love to see some links to menus that are either too complicated or beautifully simple in describing the offerings.

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  1. When restaurants write "kicked up with our own special blend of spicy seasonings and fiesty dipping sauce" on their menu, I run like hell.

    1 Reply
    1. yes, this really gets up my nose. More often than not, the restaurant is trying too hard and the food isnt that great.

      Too many decriptions are just plain tacky IMO..

      1. I don't mind elaborate descriptions—in fact I sometimes get a kick out of them, or find them useful w/r/t backstory (i.e. glimpses into techniques used or ingredients sourced)—with two qualifications:

        1) I HATE cutesy quotation marks whereby high-end chefs appropriate blue-collarisms, e.g. Per Se's "coffee and doughnuts."

        2) I hate misspellings. That goes for any menu. I take them, fairly or not, as a sign of either ignorance or carelessness.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tatamagouche


          Jfood could never pinpoint it but you hit the nail on the head and Thank You. His brain always had a little "skip a beat flutter" while reading certain descriptions and your cutesy comment solves the mystery. The Per Se "coffee and donuts" (not that jfood has ever eaten there) comment brought it home. It is almost like saying, "in your face" look at what that should really be like.

          As far as misspellings, as long as it's a typo versus a gotcha, jfood smiles and moves on. Heck look at the misspellings on CH. If you tell someone it is crab please do not bring compressed pollock in the shape of a crab.

          1. re: tatamagouche

            Misspellings will turn me off quicker than anything else. If you can afford to open your own restaurant, you can afford to have someone proofread your menu. Of course, I'm a little more understanding of spelling and grammatical mistakes if the owners are foreign. In any other situation though, incorrect spelling just reflects a carelessness when it comes to detail. And the last thing I want is to eat at a restaurant where attention to detail isn't a priority.

            Another thing that gets under my skin are menus (particularly for stuff like Asian cuisine) that offer no descriptions of their dishes. If it's something I've never heard of before, how am I supposed to know if I want to try it? And I refuse to be the person who monopolizes the server's time asking about every dish on the menu.

          2. For the hand-caught shrimp I'd prefer a photo of someone out in the ocean plucking each little shrimp out of the water with his bare hands.

            :D Personally I like a menu description to list as many ingredients as possible, but that's just me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Firegoat

              Chipotle used to have a blurb near the menu about vegetarian fed pigs. I know they meant that the diet was vegetarian but I wanted to see a photo of vegetarians feeding pigs so that the carnivores can have their carntas tacos!!!

            2. jfood likes the descriptive nature of the menus since he gets a better feel for what might be served. How many times has jfood thought that he would order a dish and then get to the last cluase and it ruins his vision. He would rather it happen at the pre-order stage than the post-receive stage.