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Sending Food Back for Unlisted Items in the Dish

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My love of food spans a great variety but there are a few keen items that I just cannot stomach even to smell. The most ubiquitous is cheese, in almost any form. (The one exception is ricotta and only in Italian cheesecake because for some reason it doesn't taste cheesy to me:} )
When I go to any Italian restaurant, even if a dish does not specify cheese, I almost always request "no cheese please" just in case. However, let's say that I'm in an American/continental place and order a sandwich which has no mention of cheese on the menu item. It's not 100% of the time but many times I will receive a meal with cheese on it. If it's in one piece I have removed it myself if I am starving, but I will often have to send it back because the smell and flavor has already penetrated the rest of the food, making it inedible for me. How do you respond in a similar situation? I am not expecting a restaurant list every single ingredient in a dish on the menu, and I do accept some responsibility in asking if unsure. However, when the addition of cheese arrives in a dish when I am not expecting it, I do believe I am in the right to request a new dish so I can enjoy it,

  1. If this is the only item that you have concerns about , then I would make the request of "no cheese" with any order that would have any expectation of having the "hidden item," such as a sandwich. Why would you not do this, if it is as important as it appears to be?

    1. If you do not like (smell/texture/taste) something, it's not the restaurant fault; just ask and maybe the restaurant will be happy to help you, but they have no obligation either.

      And I'm not talking about allergies which is something else completely.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Maximilien

        I'm not saying it is the restaurant's fault. However, if the item isn't listed, how am I to know? As I said, I take some responsibility if let's say I forgot to ask. At the same time, as the item was not listed in the menu description, and as a restaurant should want a customer to enjoy their meal, I would hope that they would agree to send me a new dish without the cheese.

      2. I only have a problem with unlisted items because of dangerous food allergies. But we always notify the server about it, and ask if there is any doubt.
        I have sent a few items back because of the allergy, but as far as food preferences, I just work around the offending item. :)

        2 Replies
        1. re: jujuthomas

          If the item in question were let's say lettuce (I have a friend who actually has a lettuce phobia!) I could work around it, if I didn't go hiding under the table:} However, cheese is not something you can always work around. The flavor and smell seems to penetrate the entire dish, with maybe a few exceptions.

          1. re: NicoleFriedman

            that's very true, it does seem to penetrate if it hasn't melted on! I also have a dairy allergy so I kinda understand your issue. :)

        2. Cheese should never be a "hidden" ingredient. A lot of people simply can't eat it, or have restrictions (vegan, kosher) around it. If cheese is put on something unannounced, it is 100% ok to send it back.

          8 Replies
          1. re: barryg

            If a customer is vegan or kosher the onus is on the customer to inform and ask about how food is prepared. You can't just assume that butter won't be used as a fat or that just because you ordered grill vegetables they weren't prepared on a grill that had just cooked bacon. The same goes for the OP.

            1. re: bookhound

              Agreed, but throwing a slice of cheese on a sandwich unannounced is pretty extreme, I think.

              1. re: barryg

                Cheese on most sandwiches is not to be unexpected. If I got cheese on my ice cream I'd be surprised if I got cheese on my turkey sandwich I would not be so surprised.

                1. re: bookhound

                  I'm with barryg on this one.

                  Cheese, if included on a sandwich, should be listed.

                  If I order a BLT, I don't expect cheese on it, and if it came with cheese I'd send it back.

                  If I order a roast beef or turkey sandwich, same deal. No expectation of cheese. If I get cheese, back it goes.

                  Now, if I order a grilled cheese sandwich, then it's a different story ...

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I agree with you, ipse. Cheese is a pretty major ingredient and should be listed. And in most cases,the type of cheese should be listed, as that has a very big impact on the dish.

                  2. re: bookhound

                    I disagree. There are some sandwiches I do not expect to include cheese- like a pastrami sandwich or some other sandwich where the focus is typically on the meat. I think I'd want to know in that case whether cheese would be included, since those types of sandwiches are often warm and it's hard to pick off melted cheese.

                2. re: barryg

                  I think it depends on what it is. Cheese on a sandwich -- yes, not expected. But if I see chef's salad or quiche on a menu, I will automatically think there's cheese in it, even if unlisted.

                3. I hate onions but only send pizza back if it comes with onions that are not listed on the menu. I find it happens far more than I'd like. If I order a pepperoni pizza that lists pepperoni as the sole topping, I don't expect it to also include onion. I think the same could be said for any secret pizza topping. For anything else, I feel like it's my responsibility to ask if something includes onions, since most dishes don't list every ingredient.

                  I do think that there are some situations where cheese should be listed. If it's a salad I often expect that many ingredients will not be listed, so I make sure to ask. I have seen occasions where you'll get a sprinkling of cheese (or bacon) on a dish where it's not really expected. A lot of people can't eat pork products or dairy, so when a dish otherwise looks to be dairy/pork-free, it's a little misleading for diners.