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I have a question which may sound silly. A poster said you should never order the exact same meal as your dining partner.

He said ordered the exact same meal as his fellow diner "because there were no other acceptable options..." and that "he knew that was a cardinal sin of dining out."
Is that true and, if so, why? Ever since I read that many months ago I have wondered about that.

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  1. I don't believe that at all. While it may be nice if you have a partner(s) that is willing to share, sometimes you won't. Can you imagine yourself at a professional lunch/dinner wishing you ordered what your boss/client did and then asking for a taste or to share your plates? Allergies, dislike of a certain element in the dish (preparation, ingredient), knowledge of a restaurant's strengths/weaknesses are among some of the other reasons I may have the exact same order as my dining partner.

    Order what you want. If you and your dining partner both want the fish, get it.

    1. Don't wonder about it. Order what you want.

      This is a CH meme - that best meals consist of a hundred different dishes and you get to have a single bite of each one because we have the attention span of gnats.

      Lots of people really do like all those tastes but it's not for everyone.

      1. Whenever I go to any good restaurant, I try not to order the same as my dining companion(s) since I usually want the chance to taste as much of the menu as possible. When I wait tables, I often (with subtlety of course) suggest tables diversify because sharing food with your dining partner is inherently fun- and if one person is a super picky annoying eater, it ups the likelihood they will like some of the food on the table.


        1 Reply
        1. re: UnderemployedInNYC

          Yes I love to share as well! I tend not to do 5 course tasting menus because I don't get to try as many things.

        2. I'll chime in before they move the thread.

          Going out to eat should always be a celebration of food. Eat whatever makes you happiest.

          1. What about restaurants that offer a set menu (Per Se, Ko, any tasting menu)? Everyone enjoys the same meal. I dine out very often, and many times there will be one dish that catches my eye (and my dining companion). I would feel cheated if I followed the rule that we must order different dishes and it turns out that my dining companion ordered the better dish. I've never heard of this silly rule, and it should be banished to the trash. My advice: Eat what you like!

            1. It is silly, but I'm in that camp myself. I have the gnat-sized attention span referenced by Bob Martinez, and while I don't necessarily want to taste everything, I do want to look at it. So I like when everyone at the table orders something different. My dining companions frequently mock me for this. C'est la vie.

              7 Replies
              1. re: small h

                It's a good rule of thumb, not a suicide pact.

                1. re: ChiefHDB

                  Agreed. I'm still around. My dining companions are still around. So far, no one has snatched a bread knife and committed hari-kiri over ordering strategies. (Of course, I can't rule anything out, in these troubled times.)

                  1. re: small h

                    You're very trusting small h. In these troubled times, I tend to think dining companions are more likely to go after other people rather than themselves.

                    1. re: ChiefHDB

                      This is why I always slip a salad plate under my shirt when no one's looking, just in case. Also? It's very slimming! Abs of porcelain.

                2. re: small h

                  Actually I was being a little flip when I made my "attention span of a gnat" comment. I'll try to cover the topic in a little more detail.

                  I've gone out many times with people I've met from CH and other food boards and I've learned that we eat differently than "civilians." Food is more important to us and this drives different types of behavior.

                  When I'm going to a new restaurant I really don't mind the Lets Order 20 Things and Share Them strategy. It gives me a chance to figure out what the restaurant's strong points are as well as the things that aren't so good.

                  My approach changes if I'm visiting a restaurant that I know well. In that case I know what I like. Now if I'm going with other people that like the same things sometimes I don't mind ordering a selection of Greatest Hits. The problem occurs when I go with people that like a lot of things I don't. If 20 things are ordered the chances are I won't like half of them. In that case I'm forfeiting 50% of my meal.

                  Another factor is that some times I really have my mind focused on one particular dish that I really want to have. I don't want one or two bites, I want the whole damn thing. Those big group dinners make this really awkward to do.

                  I don't see this as a right or wrong issue because on any given evening I can switch positions. It depends on the restaurant and the people I'm with.

                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                    I am relieved to learn that I'm not the only one who overthinks - I mean, carefully considers - these matters. I also scrutinize the ingredients of the appetizers and main courses so that there's no overlap in what I order. Heaven forbid I should have to eat two dishes that contain asparagus. Dining out can be very complicated. It's good to have a system.

                    1. re: small h

                      My sister (who is my usual dining companion) and I like the same foods (yes, I know that I'm lucky). Sometimes we'll go to a restaurant and decide that there is only one main course that we like so we'll order the same. Sometimes we'll go to a restaurant and find that there are 2 dishes that we both like so we agree to switch plates to share. Sometimes we find that after we switch plates we like each other's dish better; sometimes we find that we like only one of the dishes, and sometimes we find that we like our original dish better. You can do this with family and friends, but not at a business dinner.

                3. Every now and then I read the most ridiculous statements on Chowhound and this is one of those moments. Who starts these nonsensical rumors anyway? And, why? It's perfectly all right to order whatever you please from any menu you're given no matter what your dining companion orders. If, on the other hand, you and your dining companion like to share, that's one thing. But to say that one must never order what one's dining partner has ordered is lunacy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gio

                    Not a rumor at all, there are people who think this way. I had a boyfriend once who not only felt this way, he would get upset if I ordered the same as he did. Needless to say, he's long gone.

                    As for it being a cardinal sin, well, most sins are in the eye of the beholder.

                    1. re: Cachetes

                      Good move.

                      My wife and I try to order different things so we can share and taste more of the menu but after looking at some menus we might find that we both want the same thing. No foul, no outs just good food to enjoy.

                  2. Insert jfood laughing.

                    OMG where do people come up with this stuff.

                    It may not be top-10 silliest non-rules, but it sure would give them a run for their money.

                    1. Well, I admit I get peeved if there are two things I want to eat and my husband orders something else......If he orders what I want most, I usually order the other thing and then take spousal priviledge and eat off his plate.

                      1. This just seems ridiculous to me. Some restaurants are known for one or two items, and it's silly not to order the well-known item just because your dining partner is ordering it. There are also some meals where sharing isn't recommended or practical, so if you really want the salmon and someone else is ordering it, you'd better order it yourself.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: queencru

                          Where is sharing not recommended? I envision a waiter standing over my table screaming: "NO SHARING!" as my fork nears my dining companion's plate.

                          1. re: ChiefHDB

                            It has nothing to do with the waiter and everything to do with your dining partners. If you are going out with a client or prospective employer, you don't want to be like "Hey wanna share?"

                            1. re: queencru

                              You're totally right. I didn't get what context you meant recommended in.

                        2. I have definitely heard of it. That being said, I don't think it is a very hard rule.

                          1. In the book Predictably Irrational by behavioral economist Dan Ariely, he mentions a study of ordering behaviours in the US and elsewhere. In the US four people at a table will tend to order four different items, even if the last to order really wanted the same as someone else at the table. If I recall, he said studies showed that when asked the last person to order was the least happy with what he ordered. In Hong Kong, the pressure was reversed, people tended to order the same as the others even if they really wanted something else.

                            1. That just sounds strange. Order what you want to eat - why should you eat your second choice because someone else ordered first.

                              It's also worth noting that in a restaurant where you order your own meal (as opposed to ordering to share) sharing with your fellow diner's is optional, not mandatory.

                              1. In Japan, people often order the same thing as everyone else. Someone explained that the food generally comes all at once for the same thing, and that the bill is easier to split.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  Well, I thought it sounded silly to, but I thought that maybe there was a reason I did not think of. I believe I was reading about restaurant week in Manhattan and the poster was saying she/he had no choice but to order the identical meal as the dining partner because the restaurant had run out of entrees, and how she/he knew that was a terrible thing to do...something like that. (It was months ago, so a past restaurant week posting, but it stuck in my head, and I kept wondering why...so I just had to ask!) Glad to know there is no truth to it.

                                  1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                                    I was wondering about the context of the post you read. Actually tried to search on "cardinal sin" and found the post you read

                                    "blue ribbon brasserie is a great example of the second; only three options on a three course menu, so i had no choice but to get the exact same meal as my dining partner- which, all those serious eaters out there know, is a cardinal sin of eating out"

                                    The key there was 'serious eaters' and the fact it was a post by a Chowlhound. Often when chowhounds get together they like to share to get a better feel for the menu. Not even necessarily Chowhounds. Some people like to share and if you have to order the exact same thing so you can't get different tastes, it is a dissapointment.

                                    However, I'm still amazed at people who share tasting menus that have little tiny ... well, tastes ... of each course. It seems way too difficult to split a serving like that.

                                  2. re: Tripeler

                                    With regard how in Japan people often order the same thing, Japanese are notorious conformists (which explains the success of the Maxima), unlike Americans who pride themselves on individuality.

                                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                                      I don't think it is a matter of conformity, but rather the questioning the need to be so particular with something as simple as a lunch. To me it shows that Japanese people consider factors beyond their own small preferences in the interests of socialization. About cars, I would say that it is the typical Japanese attention to small details, along with dislike of conflict, that has resulted in years and years of trouble-free autos.

                                  3. Wow, if that's the case I must be the dining loser of this century. I always order whatever it is that I want to eat, regardless of what others are eating. I don't take it as my right to share off other peoples plates and what if I'm feeling greedy and want something all to myself? My husband and I often order the same thing, unintentionally, just because we have similar tastes. I find it completely laughable and it seems to be another one of those questionable 'rules of ettiquette' we have that we don't understand the origin of, or why we do it.

                                    1. Sounds like a personal rule to me. I can see the question two ways. If all parties order identical meals, why not stay home and eat family style? Or go to a restaurant that serves family style. And then there are restaurants that insist that all diners at the table order the same thing,such as for tasting menus. Other than these two exceptions, I know of no rule that says you can or cannot order the same thing. But for me the good side of ordering the same thing is that you never spend the rest of the meal eying your partners plate and wishing you had ordered that. Unless he orders tripe. I would NEVER order tripe! Or brains. They're stinky and slimy. '-)

                                      1. "She will have the knockwurst. I will have the same."

                                        1. I think it depends on the situation. As a severely food-obsessed individual without the finances to match, I like to try as much as possible on any given menu when I go out to eat. Luckily, most of the time, this happens to be leisure, not business -- so my dining partners are either my man, or my man & friends of mine who generally share the obsession with food.

                                          My man knows better to order something else than I do, and we both like to try different things.

                                          I just cancelled a dinner I had signed up for b/c everybody would get the same 3 courses (and they weren't all that appealing, anyway). I'd much rather go out with a crowd and have a cornucopia of dishes to taste.

                                          So - no. I don't find this idea ridiculous at all. Different strokes.

                                          1. Absolute tosh.

                                            With perhaps one exception - that being you are professional restaurant reviewers and need to get a fuller picture of the place.

                                            1. Never succumb to the tyranny of the should.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: beevod

                                                So true. You should never do that.

                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                    You should do this! No, you shouldn't do it! In fact, you shouldn't do anything that anyone tells you to do! But since I just told you not to do anything that anyone tells you to do, now what?

                                                    I'm tired.

                                                    1. re: small h

                                                      You'll find some relaxant, for sure '-)

                                                      ETA: whether you _should_ is another question...

                                              2. The only time I observe this as a rule (and I have never even thought of it as a rule beyond this one context) is when I'm dining w/ Mrs. ricepad. I know (as does she) that we will share a bite or two of whatever we each get - that comes with the territory of being together the better part of 30 years. I don't presume to expect to share with ANYBODY else - not even our kids - so I don't worry about whether my order duplicates anybody else's.

                                                1. Clearly not a cardinal rule. Whether or not it is a good idea is a whole other question. If it is your favorite place, and thats your favorite dish, and its Friday evening after a long week and you both want that, go for it. If you are on vacation and have been waiting to try this place ever since you both read about it then it seems like a waste to both order the same thing, unless of course every review has said that the only thing worth trying is the stuffed peacock tongues.

                                                  I know i have gone places with the intent of ordering a specific dish, until a dining companion orders something else entirely... and that suddenly sounds like exactly what I want. After all, imitation is the highest form of compliment.

                                                  1. Years ago, I dated a woman for a while and got to know her family pretty well. I would often join them for a dinner out and we were a party of 5. They employed the "volleyball strategy"; at set intervals, someone would call out "rotate' & we would each pass our plates in a clockwise direction. It was an interesting way to sample a wide variety of food and like volleyball, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

                                                    14 Replies
                                                    1. re: Rmis32

                                                      Growing up my family was similar to this, minus the set rotation. My mother insisted that everyone order something different, so that we could taste more dishes. So, it there was something you really wanted, you had to make sure to say before anyone else, "wow, that ***** sure looks great! I think I'll get that."

                                                      This turned into a reflex with me that didn't always turn out for the best. At one point, I had a boss who thought I was the strangest person on the planet. The whole group went out to lunch one day, and everyone else ordered the same thing, and of course, I ordered something unique. He gave me this big lecture about how I always had to be different.

                                                      1. re: Rmis32

                                                        I think I once ate at a Chinese restaurant where all the food was placed on a large lazy susan in the middle of the table and when the food rotated around you took a sample.

                                                        Which reminds me of the hole in the wall Chinese restaurant me and some work friends discovered in South San Francisco and when it was obvious we didn't understand the menu the waiter just said, "you not worry, I bring plenty food, you just sit." And he brought out several wonderful dishes, enough food for eight people, but the three of us enjoyed it all.

                                                        1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                          you mean there are other ways to eat at a chinese restaurant?

                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                            I've met people who refuse to eat family style in a Chinese restaurant, even if that's how the food is served. Some times it's dietary restrictions, but more often it's just an odd food hang up - they don't want to share with anyone.

                                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                              It's not an "odd food hangup." Some people made a choice long ago that they don't want to live in a commune. I respect that choice, even when there are times when sharing is customary.

                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                WIndows are just see-through walls.

                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                  it's more than just a fine line between sharing tastes of food, and embracing leninism.....

                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                    Celebrating a meal, "breaking bread," etc., at bottom even simply sharing, seem innately human things to do. I suggest those truly adverse to such social interactions are expressing psychological dissents, not political ones.

                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      This gets back to my point above about Chowhounds eating differently than civilians. The vast majority of people order individual dishes off the menu. When the server comes around they deliver the dishes to the people that ordered them. Every once in awhile someone say "This is great! Have a taste!" and might offer a bite to another person, usually a husband to a wife or vice versa. Those are the exceptions.

                                                                      What is *not* customary among civilians is to order food in a great big bunch and then pass plates around. To label someone who doesn't want to play "pass the plate" as having "weird food issues" is to blame the 90% of people who don't do this for not behaving like the 10% who do.

                                                                      It's not a right or wrong issue.

                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                        "When the server comes around they deliver the dishes to the people that ordered them." Not at Chinese restaurants, which is the subject of the post you responded to.

                                                                        Also not for pizza, not at home, not for steamed crab, not for buffets, not for salad bars, family-style restaurants, picnics.... must be about a dozen more nots... but the bottom line is that it is rarely the case for Chinese restaurants and there is hardly anyone who is unfamiliar or unaccepting of the idea on principle alone. It is purely situational and has nothing to do with how people like to live.

                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                          I have been to many Chinese restaurants that have individual lunch specials. Sharing may be common at dinner, but at lunch when you may be coming with coworkers or are unable to take home leftovers, the individual specials are much more practical. I've seen the same at pizza places- they'll offer individual pizzas for lunch but only the larger sizes at dinner.

                                                                          1. re: queencru

                                                                            Sure, and some places serve individual pizzas, but the point is that almost everyone reading this is familiar and accepting of the concept of splitting a pizza or a platter of food in and out of the home. Let's not be over-dramatic that it is some kind of lifestyle choice. I understand circumstances when people don't do it, like at a business lunch, but with family members or a significant other, I think most people have willingly participated in a food sharing scheme.

                                                                            Getting back to the original topic, of course it's ok to order the same thing, but there are enough people who have been burned by double ordering that many experienced diners just don't do it. I let my wife order first, and then I select something different. I know from experience this is a smart move as we wind up switching plates when she doesn't like what she ordered.

                                                                          2. re: Steve

                                                                            Well as long as we're calling a tight strike zone, the topic of this thread *isn't* Chinese restaurants.

                                                                            "... not for pizza, not at home, not for steamed crab, not for buffets, not for salad bars, family-style restaurants, picnics ..."

                                                                            Stringing together a list of non-restaurant dining options (6 out of the 7 you cited) really doesn't address the point. We could add Hawaiian luaus and weenie roasts to the list and it still wouldn't matter. There's no expectation of discrete individual courses at crab boils and picnics.

                                                                            I respect the right of someone not to share their meal with the entire table and to order the same thing as another diner. I would never call them "wrong."

                                                            2. There are people who cannot make up their minds and for that reason, order what their partner is. However, you may also happen to pick the same meal out of sole coincidence. Or, there is a real psychological phenomenon that no matter what we want in the moment, as soon as we see someone with something else, we want THAT. Whatever the reason, it does not matter. Order what you want and do not care what other people think. Unless you are my husband, in which case you must worry about brushing your teeth after eating copious amounts of cheese before kissing me:}

                                                              1. What an interesting topic. What usually happens to me when I'm dining with one to three other people. is I see what they order and perhaps follow if its appealing. Too many times I've lusted after my fellow diners plate of food and wished I'd ordered that. It also happens in reverse and its kind of a joke. I do have a really good bestfriend where we order different dishes and sample each others food, otherwise in that kind of dining situation I want my own.

                                                                When it comes to going out for sushi. My family is really adventureous and will order different dishes of Japanese food, sashimi,tempura and sushi and then we share.

                                                                However, I will never forget the most wonderful dinner for a large group of us at a Peruvian restaurant in SF where the host ordered 3 of everything from appetizers, starters salads, entrees, sides to dessert. That was incredible tastings of a new cuisine (to me) and the flavors I experienced were out of this world. Of course I can't afford to do that but what a fun evening to host that would be.

                                                                1. Yes, it is breaking a "Cardinal Rule" ...and at least one Commandment, is frowned upon by most major religions, and probably violates Anti-Trust Legislation.

                                                                  I think it's smart to order something different than your spouse or significant other. Here are my top five reasons:

                                                                  1. You can share tastes if you order different dishes. Variety is the spice of life.

                                                                  2. A not so good dish.... you already ordered seconds!

                                                                  3. One person doesn't like what they ordered, for a particular reason, but it's fine for the other..... Voila! A lousy meal turns into a good one.

                                                                  4. Even some good dishes get tiring after a while.

                                                                  5. Someone can still drive home after food poisoning.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                                    Ah ... number five ... there are sometimes good reasons behind rules.

                                                                  2. Its probably just me, but sometimes I DON'T WANT to share! Its mine, I ordered it and I want to eat it! And it really bugs me when others at the table say "can I have a taste?". Especially if it is not a very large plate to begin with. And I don't necessarily care for what they are eating. C'est La Vie!

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                                      That's an easy one. For anyone foolish enough to ask, I just pick up my fork in a hand-jabbing position, then smile sweetly and say, "Oh, by all means! Help yourself!" And if they try... WOUNDED!

                                                                      No one ever asks a second time. '-)

                                                                      Oh! If it's something like a plate of cookies, just lick the bottom of all of them as soon as they arrive and no one will ask.

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        a well aimed sneeze should do the trick on most occasions, no one but you needs to know it was bogus.

                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                          One Thanksgiving about 40 years ago, my older brother put in fork into my plate to steal a piece of crispy turkey skin. He still has the four scars from the fork tines that pierced his wrist!

                                                                          If you want it order it, I obviously wanted what I ordered, and unless we had an agreement in advance to split entrees, don't excpect a taste (UNLESS you're my wife,, and get the first taste).

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Really, Caroline, you must be dealing with amateurs......


                                                                            "Enjoy tasty morsels on someone else's plate. Over two feet long at maximum extension, it lets you take a swipe at that tempting dessert that would have otherwise been out of reach."

                                                                            1. re: Steve

                                                                              I like the feature of "Move particularly icky things "

                                                                          2. it's a rule for my wife and i to order different things when we go. specifically because we want to explore as many options as possible. and if she stopped doing that, i'd get a new wife.

                                                                            1. I am hoping this is one of those frivolous fun threads as it is kind of silly.

                                                                              I am as obsessed with food as most on CH and what I order is very important to me. WHat others order is of no interest whatsoever. The only exception is if I am the guest then I generally try to stay in the same price range as the hosts...but that is a different subject entirely.