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Apps and Entrees At The Same Time? NO!

Sorry if this rant has been discussed before, but I have to ask fellow CH'ers what you do when you JUST started to dig in to your appetizer and the entree arrives. Then, the obligatory shuffling of plates on the table happens, and you're stuck picking off of both your app and entree plate.
How hard is it to fire the entree later, rather than at just about the same time as the appetizer? Isn't it obvious that I've just BARELY touched my first plate of food, when another arrives?
Recently, I've placed my app and entree orders at the same time, and twice wound up eating off multiple plates. One time, I ordered a Caesar salad and forked it twice when our pizza came. I wound up eating a bit of pizza, a bit of salad. This weekend, my DH and I split an app of pick n' peel shrimp (large, warm and delicious). Sure enough, not 5 minutes went by when our main dishes arrive. This time, I just pushed the shrimp aside and had them boxed up to take home. In no way is peeling shrimp, then taking a bite of a pulled pork sandwich appealing. For the record, both times we just sucked it up, didn't send anyting back, and didn't ding the server on the tip. But I felt like it!
My question is-How often do you send the entree back when it arrives while you are trying to enjoy an app? Do you (as I sometimes do..well, many times) intentionally tell the server you app order and wait to give your main order later to avoid eating two dishes at the same time?

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  1. I don't think I have ever sent the entree back when it has happened to me. But then, the only times this has happened are at places like chains or lower end places, never at what I consider a good restaurant. So, I figure, I can't expect any better. It is very annoying, not so much with a salad app, because I don't mind having it with the entree, but with hot apps or a shared app platter, I hate it. I feel like I am being rushed out of the restaurant, or the waiter can't wait to get on his break.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sooeygun

      I agree. That's why I didn't send the entrees back as the restaurants were nice, lower end establishments where it doesn't shock me when it happens. I truly don't expect poor timing in higher end pllces.

      1. re: monavano

        And you are correct, in my book, to expect better pacing at higher-end places.


    2. I don't think I've ever sent anything back. I've really only seen it happen in business lunch places where there is a lunch special. In many cases the appetizers will come out before you even order, but in other cases they come out at the same time. It doesn't really bother me because I don't typically want to spend more than 45 minutes having lunch on a workday.

      1. we order apps first and then keep one menu. after the apps are delivered and the waitperson returns and does the obligatory "how is everything?" we then order our mains.

        this has saved us a few times when based on the apps we either bailed or ordered different mains.

        sometimes we tell our server to hold-fire on the mains until we're ready.

        1. if it's a pet peeve and keeps happening, then it's your responsibility to be pro-active. tell the server not to fire the main until you're either done with your app or you give the go-ahead. tell them you're not in a rush.

          no, i have never sent food back.

          most times they either assume you're in a hurry, or want to turn the table. they could, of course, be less than superstar servers, but hey, at a pizza joint, dial back your expectations, ya know? i've also worked for chefs who fire the food when they WANT to -regardless of when i've done it, or at what pace the guest is actually eating.

          i don't like ordering the main after i've finished the 1st course. it generally creates more of a lag between than i like, and i also don't want the server having to make too many trips over. i'm enjoying my meal and the dining companions. i don't want the server hovering for an order.

          3 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            "they could, of course, be less than superstar servers, but hey, at a pizza joint, dial back your expectations, ya know?"

            Well, no. I was at a local Toronto tavern which features a small window where you can order Zane Caplansky's fantastic smoked meat. I ordered the meal - borscht, coleslaw, and the sandwich. The waitress quickly brought my borscht and slaw, but let me work on them until nearly done. When she saw I was almost finished my soup, I heard her tell the slicers to start the sandwich. The result: I got to enjoy my soup without being rushed, still had a bit of slaw to enjoy with the sandwich, and thoroughly enjoyed everything. I don't think you have to lower your expectations unless it's a fast food place.

            1. re: KevinB

              i'm not saying it's impossible to get great service in a place with moderate check averages. in fact, i'm often pleasantly surprised, but moreso when i leave my home city of boston. as i mentioned down-thread, most servers here in lower-end places are students and very inexperienced servers. the pool here is far too shallow for the number of restaurants.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I feel your pain. When I lived in Richmond, Va, it seemed like most servers were college students and I lowered my standards. The DC area has a better pool for servers, and frankly, a large portion of the population with a sense of entitlement ;-)

          2. My expectations, regardless of the level of the restaurant, is for common sense to prevail and not have an entree set down when clearly, 90% of my app is not eaten yet.. To me, being proactive is my general approach, but I do sense that it is going to be more work for the server to take my order in pieces-so I try to be accomodating and make my mind up and give my full order. I just don't appreciate when that strategy comes back to bite me in the arse.

            2 Replies
            1. re: monavano

              i've been in hospitality forever. i also live in boston and the pool of professional servers is very small. most are college students making spare cash, so i never assume they have experience, common sense or any true sense of timing. this is mostly true in mid-tier or lower end spots. for example, when i am at bertucci's they never know what the heck they are doing, so i'm very clear: please don't fire my pizza til i finish my salad. works every time.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                My sense is that I should assume the worst and order app and main in a staggered fashion. I feel really bad if I send something back, but it detracts from my dining experience to eat two dishes at once.

            2. Ithas happened to jfood a couple of times and 100% of the times jfood send back the entree. he has absolutely no interest in having an appetizer and an entree at the same time.

              One time this happened when his salad arrived and after one bite the steak arrived. And the steak was $52. Jfood told the server that not only did he not want it then, he wanted 20-25 minutes between the appetizer and the steak. The server placed it on a rolling server 10 feet away. As soon as the salad was removed he brought the steak over. Jfood told him not even to put it down.

              As someone else stated, you need to be a bit more proactive. There are times when it is just M&M jfood when he tells the server at the time of order that they would like 20-25 between courses.

              To your second question. There is a very high [an-Asian place in jfood's town. He NEVER orders the entree with the appetizers. Once the entree arrived before the appetizer. He just keeps a menu vertically against the back of his chair until the apps are done.

              7 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                "Once the entree arrived before the entree."

                jfood, on this board, we obey the laws of the space-time continuum!!

                1. re: KevinB

                  Thanks K. Thankfully the dessert arrived both immediately before, simultaneously to and immediately after the dessert. It was a 3-top. Don't you hate it when time and matter get involved with eating.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Who were you dining with, Erwin Schrodinger?!

                    1. re: KevinB

                      jfood would relish having dinner with him, but it was a much more enjoyable dinner with mrs jfood.

                      1. re: KevinB

                        I'm now picturing dining at one of those old school places with the domed silver plate covers for entrees, and how you wouldn't know if your entree did or didn't, in fact, exist until the cover was lifted.

                        1. re: beachmouse

                          Mmm, Schrödinger's casserole!

                          1. re: BobB

                            Gotta love CH; where else can you find quantum food jokes?!

                2. Good for you JFood! I can't believe that a place with $52 steaks would try to pull that off, and then expect you to watch it languish while you finished your salad.

                  1. Hello there... In some local establishements here in S. California, a signature dish (be it an app, entree, or dessert) can be so very popular and the clientele turn-over is so very brisk, that it might be prudent to not only order, but have the item sent to the table ASAP, or there is no guarantee that it will be available later in the meal. At Pie 'n Burger, there is only so much butterscotch pie baked per day. While I don't enjoy watching gravity take its toll (as the whipped cream slides off the butterscotch foundation) while inhaling my near-perfect burger & fries, I know that my 50 mile round-trip for butterscotch pie will have been successful. There's only so much homemade butterscotch pie (or white truffle, for that matter) in the universe. Upon the bleak & rainy afternoon of prandial regrets, there is no sadder phrase than: "Sorry, hon, we just ran out...".

                    1. I take a two tiered approach:
                      at less than michelin *ed places, I will reserve ordering my main until i am 5-10 min form wanting it.
                      at highend places I will, without a second thought, send back a dish that arrives too early. Furthermore, I will be hypersensitive to whether or not the dish is the same one I sent back or if it was made again. no excuse for those shenanigans!

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: nkeane

                        "at less than michelin *ed places, I will reserve ordering my main until i am 5-10 min form wanting it."

                        So your theory is that the kitchen is just waiting there with nothing to do and then when you order it you expect a 5-10 minute turnaround? And this standard is for restaurants "at less than michelin *ed places."

                        Please tell us your kidding?

                        1. re: jfood

                          5-minute ticket times are like miracles. even for deep-fried. maybe nkeane is magic? ;)

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            perhaps nkeane orders plain french fries for their main course?

                          2. re: jfood

                            no sir I am not. that being said, I error on the side of extending my wait between courses, than order it 20 min. prior and having it arrive too early.

                          3. re: nkeane

                            I take a different approach with most restaurants, starred, or not. I place my order, with will usually be multi-course. If the servers/kitchen appear to be getting the timing wrong on the earliest course, I'll pull them aside and instruct them to take their cue from me, or my guests. I've had to slow down a couple of restaurants, but even fewer have ever blind-sided me with the service. A fairly recent NOLA restaurant was one of these. Dining alone in an almost empty restaurant, my soup (gumbo) course and my mains did hit at the same time. We chatted, and I probably should have sent the mains back, but chose not to. Other than this faux-pas, they seemed to have things together for a leisurely meal, but no.

                            If the meal is at all formal, and we have guests, I'll express my desire to the serving captain, and instruct him/her to take their cues directly from me. So far, it's worked like a charm.

                            I've never even contemplated placing the order for my mains later. In NOLA, I definitely should have.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Now, perhaps I have been misinformed by impatient servers, but I've been told that some kitchens will not accept incomplete orders (meaning, orders for starters only with an order for mains to follow). Or if they'll accept them, they'll put them way behind all other "complete" orders. At one of the nicer places here in Seattle, when we told our server that we'd like to start wtih X and Y and were still trying to figure out our mains, he told us (nicely) that it would save us 30+ minutes waiting for our mains if we put the complete order in at once...

                              1. re: akq

                                I would anticipate that much of this would be true. Just watching an episode of "Top Chef," seems to indicate what goes on with regard to orders.

                                I have placed partial orders, though rarely. These were in situations, just as you describe, and not meant to "slow down" the process. In all instances, that I can recall, the kitchen/servers allowed us to do so, and I do not recal any admonishment - maybe some growls, when they returned to the kitchen, but nothing that I heard. Still, very rare for me.


                                1. re: akq

                                  i have worked for more than one chef who will not accept incomplete orders.

                            2. We were at a restaurant once where we had arranged to meet a friend for dessert after our dinner (he was at a play across the street and his cell was off so we could not really leave) we ordered a cheese plate for an app. and ordered our mains and for forty minutes the waitress kept returning to the table to apologize that the kitchen was backed up that night. Well, 40 minutes later, our mains come out she brings them over then goes behind the cheese counter (they were a bakery/cheese shop during the day and a restaurant at night) she opens her cheese fridge takes out cheese and cuts it, grabs bread from teh shelf, cuts it and serves it to us. Turns out, at that place, cheese plates were prepared at the front by the waitresses!!!!!!

                              You can imagine how happy we were with that.

                              1. My worst experience of that sort of thing - total confusion of starter, mains & sides - was so bad it was actually funny. And it was at a restaurant with pretentions to fine dining, no less. I wrote it up here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572692

                                1. Just to follow up with a positive experience last night-DH and I went to a favorite casual neighborhood place. You know...wings, burgers and all those comfort foods! We asked for an order of wings and waited several minutes to give our main order. Food timing was perfect, and we got timely (and free!) refills from our very nice server.
                                  The place that I initially kvetched about (re: the pizza too soon) is two doors down. The choice between the two restaurants is now even easier. Also, I forgot to mention that while it was not so bad to eat my salad on the side while also eating slices of pizza, DH had JUST received a bowl of mussels to enjoy. Unfortunately, he was unable to do so, shuffling between mussels and pizza at the same time.
                                  So, live and learn, and patronize those places that pay attention!

                                  1. I think my reaction depends on my mood and what is going on in the restaurant or at my table. I am also probably more sensitive to bad service because I have been one. Maybe not. Anyway, I have never demanded my main meal be taken away. I have said something snarky like "Where on the table would you suggest we put those plates?" And I never juggle the existing plates for the server... especially if I am pissed. I may also say "Really? I have not gotten two bites into my peel and eats! what gives?" Gosh reading that it does sound snarky. But then again what the heck DOES give? I am getting annoyed just thinking of it!!

                                    It simply does not happen (or happen very often) in higher end places because there is an expectation of leisure on the part of the diner and the restaurant staff. If I am paying big bucks at a restaurant, I do not expect my food to be circling above me in a holding pattern.

                                    1. DH and I can only afford to eat out at a sit-down restaurant rarely, as in "once a month or less" rarely. When we do, it is one of two places, a fabulous little Mexican place or Logan's Steakhouse (*hangs her head in shame*, I can't help it, I love their pineapple teriyaki steak! And we just don't have much better available).

                                      The two couldn't be more polar opposites in quality and yet I have recieved the same appy/entree treatment. The Mexican place has a "your eyes roll back in your head" delicious Queso Fundido (I've asked and they won't tell where they get their Chorizo). They have brought out the porky, cheesy goodness only to bring our entrees out a few min. later. I don't complain because the Fundido does not reheat well, the mains will, and I happily "nom nom nom" the Fundido.

                                      At Logan's, I love their salads because they have hard-boiled eggs and give me more than one solitary ring of onion. HOWEVER, I have frequently been two bites into my salad when my entree arrives! I love the salad and thier "honey mustard" dressing that is not made with Dijon, so I am wont to eat my salad totally at the restaurant! It means I have to eat a cooling steak and baked potato or intersperse bites of salad with the rest.

                                      It seems to me a totally learned thing, why should a bite of salad be any different than a bite of asparagus or broccoli? Why do we eat one form of veggies before a meal and another with the meal? I think I just answered my own question in my head, the dressing on a salad adds a different flavor profile (sometime's bold) to raw veggies and a simple butter/salt/parm treatment (amongst others) are typically applied for cooked veggies. I'm guessing it's so the veg's don't compete with the protein, which are the "star" (at least here in the Midwest of the U.S.).

                                      Bah, I'm tired and it's late, sorry for any error's. I hate insomnia.

                                      1. I have been there, and I always pull my service captain aside and tell him/her of my desires. I am a slow diner, and enjoy good pacing. If I am the host, I will specify my desires to the server(s), before the first course. In these situations, I suggest that they take their cue from me, and I try to keep up with my guests.

                                        Now, the "events" are another story, and I have given up trying to work with those poor, harried servers. What happens, happens.

                                        Proper pacing is important to me, and should be observed by a good service crew. Get it wrong and fear my wrath.


                                        1. went to my fave greasy spoon tonight. the server was a little overworked and the manager ended up bringing the food to our table. oddly enough he brought our dinner salads out before our nachos. when i questioned this he told me that if I had wanted the nachos first i should have said so. gee, i thought that was automatic when something was listed as an appetizer on the menu.

                                          the guy seemed to have an attitude problem, so I e-mailed the restaurant and raked him and his attitude over the coals.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                            so do you think it'll do any good? Will you return there?

                                            1. re: sleepycat

                                              Sounds like KaimukiMan probably will not ;-). It's bad enough to get food crammed on your table, but for the manager to imply that YOU were at fault for assuming that an app would come first, well, that's improper and shows no rescpect for paying customers.
                                              I do hope you can work it out, since it's a favorite.

                                              1. re: monavano

                                                I have had many good meals with good service there, so I have not blacklisted it, but I won't be in any hurry to go back. it will also depend on what kind of reply, if any, I get to the e-mail i sent.

                                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                  Well, it took a week, but apparently my e-mail arrived just as someone went off on vacation. I got a phone call apologizing, which means they took the effort to look up my name in the phone book. The woman then made sure she had her facts straight, and promised a follow up letter. So far I guess I'm suitably impressed.

                                            2. re: KaimukiMan

                                              I think that too many folk, even some "in the business," just do not understand the order of things, even with their own menus.

                                              As we so very often do different courses, it is very common for our servers to inquire as to the desired order of things, especially when different people at a table have a different number of courses.

                                              Let us know about the e-mail, as I usually urge a diner to contact the restaurant.


                                            3. I almost always order my appetizer, and then wait til i'm about 1/3 in before ordering my entree. I also happen to eat pretty darn slowly, so It's necessary, especially at places that I know send their entrees out too early.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kubasd

                                                I recall eating i several restaurangs in and around Barcelona. At the time, at least, it was the custom there to list everything - appetizers, mains, veggies, desserts, etc., on the same list in no particular order.