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Apr 6, 2010 09:07 AM

Are there dishes that certain restaurants should always be able to prepare even if not on the menu?

For example, I think any Italian joint should be able to whip up a spaghetti and meatballs on request, even if it's not on the menu.

Similarly, I think a Chinese restaurant should be able to ginny up a basic fried rice regardless of whether it's listed on the menu.

And I think it should be expected that a Mexican eatery would be able to make a simple beans and cheese burrito upon request.

Would those be asking too much?

What other dishes should always be available upon request, with or without mention on the menu?

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  1. Meatballs if not on the menu? I must disagree. Meatballs take a while to make, and if a restaurant doesn't serve them, how are they supposed to just whip them up on the spur of the moment should a customer request them?

    I worked in a small restaurant a while back. The chef cooked solo. Customers often asked for things not on the menu and he was unable to comply. Why? Because he had prepped everything before the restaurant opened so that when all the customers came he could turn out the food quickly enough without sacrificing cooked-to-order quality. This meant things like veggies and salad and cuts of meat were all prepped, ready to be cooked, and things like meatballs would be prepared and probably pre-cooked because meatballs don't need to be made to order.

    So if, for example, someone requested French fries (which were not on the menu), that would mean he would've had to cut and soak potatoes and then fry them, all to order, while two dozen other customers were waiting for their food.

    I think people feeling they ought to be able to get whatever they want from any sort of restaurant when they want it is part of the reason why smaller restaurants with independent owners have trouble surviving. Personally I'd rather eat what the chef has decided to cook, or, if I'm set on meatballs, I'll go to a place that makes them.

    1. "Similarly, I think a Chinese restaurant should be able to ginny up a basic fried rice regardless of whether it's listed on the menu."

      Scrambled eggs + either shrimp, basil, beef, scallions, smelt/fishlings etc etc etc :-)

      1. The whole point of a menu is to let you know what is available to eat and how much it will cost you to eat it. Why would you expect any restaurant to make something out of ingredients not otherwise listed on the menu?

        If they offered spaghetti with sausage and penne with meatballs, yes you should be able to get spaghetti with meatballs. Not sure I'd even want to eat meatballs that were "whipped up" on the fly.

        1. If not on the menu, I wouldnt necessarily expect a restaurant to make a dish available.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            I agree, I've never even thought about asking for special requests unless I've called ahead of time. It would be great if the kitchen could just "whip something up" for you, but if they do that for one they have to do it for anyone else who asks. Restaurant kitchens are taxed enough as it is, the last thing I would want to do when dining out is to throw them off their routine. Its so easy now to peruse a restaurant's web site for the menu before you dine there, if you don't like the offerings then simply choose somewhere else.

            Like someone else posted, things like meatballs take time, they shouldn't be made on the fly. Also the patron has to take into consideration the fact that in most restaurants, kitchens are very small and your special request may take up very valuable burner/prep space.

            Menus shouldn't be looked at as just a suggestion. They're the rule.

          2. My question is WHY!??!?!?!??

            menu = this is what we have. THAT simple. If it AIN'T there it ain't there! Why ask or WTF even think to ask for it?

            Unless a menu says other items by request, NO!!!!!!!!

            So asking for something not on the menu is TO MUCH to ask.