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Etiquette of small plate and tapas restaurants

We have a very lovely restaurant near us that is small plates, based. They rec. 3-4 plates per person, meant to share. (things are often in pairs). It's actually one of our favorite places. Their food is on the rich side, as well, for instance a foie gras slider, which pretty much by itself would substitute an entire meal for me.

I eat a lot of small meals throughout the day, and 6-8 small plates, even just a bite or two each, is just WAY to much food for me. My diet is for medical reasons (I've not had bariatric surgery or anything like that).

Is it rude to make reservations, take up a table, if you are only going to eat 1/2 of what is "recommended"? Should we only eat at lunch? I've previously only gone with a group, or my husband will eat the dishes I don't. (which isn't the ideal solution).

I really don't want to have to call and go all into my personal medical problems when making a reservation, either. I'm just curious if it's considered rude to only pop in for what most might consider a snack. On the advantage side for the restaurant...we could eat there a lot more often!

I'm interested in hearing opinions!

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  1. Well, I wouldn't take up a table on a packed Saturday night knowing we would only be ordering a "snack", but I would think it'd be ok at lunch or on a week night.

    If you love this place, you should go. Restaurants love people who love them, give good recommendations, and are excited to be there.

    1. If you order fewer dishes, you'd probably spend less time at the table. So I can't see why the restaurant would object. This is a situation in which I might park myself at the bar, though, if that's an option.

      1. I think it's fine if you don't linger. Two+ hours on snacks would be a bit excessive, but 45-60 minutes seems acceptable.

        1. Thank you for the replies! They don't have a bar, it's tiny right now, and I know they try to do two seatings a night so a weekday or the lunch they have on Saturdays sounds like a good option. I don't want to be that "weird, cheap" patron! LOL.

          Now I think I might try to talk to the husband into a flying lunch on Saturday...

          If you are ever in the Philly Suburbs, Honey (in Doylestown) is the name of the place. Everytime we go it's fabulous. I'd get the extra dishes and just wrap them up, but nothing really lends itself well to re-heating. (poached quail egg on mushrooms, etc)

          3 Replies
          1. re: sommrluv

            Sommrluv, I have a similar problem. I can only have a few bites and I am full. Used to be where I would take a lot of good food home and feed it to my dog, but the doc told me to stop it. So when I feel like I am taking advantage, I just order a nice bottle of wine from their wine list. And voila, everyone is happy!

            1. re: sommrluv

              You might also like Verdad in Bryn Mawr. We've been a few times and really liked it. Thanks for the tip on Honey, maybe we'll get there this weekend.

              1. re: Whinerdiner

                Oh you really should! It really is our favorite restaurant.

            2. Personally I would work to the basis that a tapa is inherently a snack. And restaurants offering tapas in any serious way should expect customers to be treating them as snacks. Go enjoy one of your favourite places.

              1. Go. Anytime. Don't worry about what is "recommended" — those are just guidelines for people new to tapas, or curious about the restaurant's portion sizes. You know what you'll eat, so don't feel guilty.

                My husband and I normally share what your tapas place is recommending.

                1 Reply
                1. re: odkaty

                  Exactly. I see the recommendation as a helpful suggestion, like when a restaurant says "our pizzas are about 'this big" and most people order one per person." Just a head's up so you know what you're getting.

                2. As long as you tip well and are cognizant of whether the place is filling up around you, you are fine ordering whatever you like. We're not small eaters and sometimes 4 tapas are enough for the two of us. Especially with drinks. We've never gotten dirty looks or anything but great service at our favorite tapas joint. We do tip well.

                  1. This has less to do with how much you are ordering and/or eating and more with how busy the restaurant is.

                    One should just be aware of how busy the restaurant is when deciding how long to linger, no matter how much food is ordered or consumed.

                    Even if you were eating a full course of 10 small plates, if the restaurant was busy with a line out the door, I think common courtesy will still dictate that you not linger too long.

                    Now, if the restaurant is not busy, then I see no reason for you to feel self-conscious about lingering regardless of how much food you are ordering or eating.

                    That said, if you only order a "snack" and decide to linger b/c the restaurant is not crowded, I think it would be courteous to tip based more on the time spent in the restaurant than on the total bill.

                    Just my 0.02.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      It's all about tipping. That's really the main thing. As long as there aren't a bunch of people waiting for a table, and you're compensating the waiter for his time....it's all good.

                    2. There's no rule of thumb for ordering at any restaurant - it all boils down to common sense. If you're taking up a table and ordering a cup of hot water that you dip your own teabag into (obvious extreme example) then that's jerky behavior. But plenty of people get a couple of appetizers share an entree and skip dessert. That's not any sort of violation. Nor is ordering a couple of appetizers only or less than "recommended" servings. The restaurant exists because of customers. If you enjoy a couple of small plates you'll be more inclined to return and order more the next time -- and bring friends. Nobody should ever feel ashamed of not ordering enough or bullied to order more. As long as you're not being a jerk no restaurant should consider you a lesser customer.

                      1. Go when you want, and eat what you want. as they say "it's your dime"

                        1. I feel so justified! Thank you, everyone. We are very good tippers, especially to this particular restaurants staff.

                          1. I think you go when you want and order as you desire. Camping out is one thing but reducing your time at the table because they recommend 4 dishes each and you order three dishes each is not what I would do. I would also tip on the actual bill, not some imaginary bill that the server desires.

                            1. My minister and his wife did something really cute.... on a pastor's salary they couldn't afford to eat out, so once a week they would go to a nice restaurant and have just dessert and hot water (they brought their own tea bags), and then left a generous tip. I'm sure the server wasn't very pleased, but then again she didn't have to do much work.