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Jun 18, 2011 03:21 PM

Can You Read Your Menu?

While I've run into some menus that were hard to read because of background color, and others where the "spicy dishes in red" red was so dark some at the table couldn't tell which dishes were printed in black and which were in red, the ongoing mutter I'm hearing about is dark restaurants. Maybe it's just that we're getting older - it's true that aging eyes need more light, and that phenomenon doesn't wait for you to have your Medicare card before it begins - but I've loaned a wee flashlight to friends and threatened to use it myself. And it's also a shame not to be able to fully appreciate a carefully plated dish.

Others thoughts? Actually what I keep envisioning is a flashlight hung on a large, noisy ring of keys so the restaurant management will hear some commotion even though they don't seem to be able to look in my direction until they're ready.

Or maybe I'm just cranky this afternoon.

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  1. You haven't seen the ads for the glasses with built in headlights? Advertised for reading in bed or tackling menus in dark restaurants. I think I'd rather get the wrong dish, though, than wear them unless I want to scream "old lady with bad eyes and no fashion sense" as soon as I turn them on.

    2 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I went to get a watch battery replaced and a woman in front of me was getting the battery changed in her lighted reading glasses. Being a geek, I thought at first that is was a built in bluetooth, until she turned them on when they were fixed. They were actually pretty stylish.

      1. re: tracylee

        OK, I never even knew these lighted reading glasses existed before last week, but I went exploring and found them at Walgreen's.

        Bought a pair and used them to read a sushi menu on Friday. My husband groaned but he's fully aware that I don't give much of a crap about appearances.

        They were a delight. They do make one look like Borg and/or insane, but neither is a problem for me. They will be coming to restaurants/airports/etc. with me from now on.

    2. I haven't had these issues ( yet). Red Parka Pub in/near North Conway NH has a big basket of reading glasses right at their hostess stand. That seems like a great idea to me.

      1 Reply
      1. re: calliope_nh

        The best idea I have heard! Very customer friendly!

      2. restaurants are too dark for my aging eyes. I have reading glasses everywhere, work, home, car, purse. I am wearing a pair now at the computer. Some restaurants give those magnifying readers out, some small flashlights. Late 40s was when it all went downhill!

        16 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          I find that too many are.

          Just dined at a lovely restaurant in San Francisco, and the overall lighting was a tad dark, but fitting for the theme. Over each table was a nice "task light" and it pooled its illumination nicely, so that all patrons could read the menu, the wine list, and then actually see the presentations! Too bad that more interior designers do not ascribe to such a philosophy.

          We now carry little LED flashlights, as even when I take off my glasses, and then possess super-micro vision, I cannot read many pieces of printed material in those dark caves.

          At one restaurant recently, I was shining my flashlight on my dish.

          "Is something wrong sir?"

          "No. I just wanted to see the presentation, and identify what I am eating."


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            HEY! I, too, can read the head of a pin with my naked eyes. Unfortunately, i'm nearsighted and my contacts, which worked beautifully for 25 years, have suddenly made it hard for me to read at the advanced age of 46. In extremis, I'm forced to rip out a contact, read the damn menu/wine bottle/whatever, and then adjorn to the ladies room to re-insert contact. ARGH.

            I have been forced to stop making fun of my 50+ husband for simply taking the menu to the (hopefully well lit) men's room.

            I really don't understand it. It's not like this condition is rare. If it strikes mid-40's, then wouldn't half the dining population need a light source and a decent font? Don't restaurants and food/wine producers have graphic departments and consultants for these sort of things?

            1. re: danna

              Talk to your eye doctor about redoing your contact prescription for "mono-vision," where one eye is corrected for distance and one eye for close reading. It has worked for me for more than 5 years. The only time I have problems reading a menu now is if the room is very dark AND the menu involves a combination of a dark background, indistinct script, and small font. I carry a pair of off-the-rack reading glasses from the drugstore for those situations, and use them maybe once every 2 months.

              1. re: masha

                Actually, that's exactly what I have, partly because one of my eyes is MUCH less nearsighted than the other, so it's been drafted for up-close duty. As you say, there are only a few occasions when I can't see something, but drives me crazy.

                Friday I had a bottle of Cab from Paso Robles and it was tiny black type on a dark red lable. At least....I think that's what it was....

                1. re: masha

                  I tried mono-vision, but found that I could not drive, play tennis, or play golf with those "mis-matched" contacts. Much will depend on the prescription, and on what one wishes to do.

                  However, I know many, who have had no issues with mono-vision, so others can be helped.


                  1. re: masha

                    I wear gas permeable lenses, and my prescription is strong enough that having monovision for mine would result into my walking into walls and off of kerbs...

                    At my optometrists' recommendation, I have a half-dozen pairs of 'cheapie cheaters' -- one here on the computer desk, one in the kitchen, one in my briefcase, one in the bedroom, etc., etc., etc -- and I just pull those out when it's too dark or the font is impossible.

                    Drives me nuts that I'm using them more and more, but as more and more of my friends use them, it becomes a bigger joke and less of an issue.

                  2. re: danna

                    I'm the same way and it depends a lot on lighting. Monovision doesn't work for me but I've finally accepted it and bought a pair of reading glasses. I'm working on multifocal contacts but not having a lot of luck. If only restaurants had enough lighting, it wouldn't be a problem...yet.

                    1. re: chowser

                      I also have tried vari-focal contacts, but with no luck. I fall down the stairs, and fall too often, plus seem to only have about half, of what I need.

                      Back when Lasix was first being explored, a good friend who was part of the US research group, offered to give me the operation. I declined, as it was very new, and had only been done in Russia at the time. I monitored the progress, and have many friends, who were greatly helped by the newer procedures. However, I have a few friends, who are still fighting to get most of their vision back.

                      At my advanced age, I highly doubt that I would be a viable candidate now.

                      I'll just carry my reading glasses, my flashlight and if necessary, will pop out a lens, or pull my glasses to the tip of my nose, and press the menu up to it.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I haven't given up on multi-focals yet but have tried too many to count. My eye doctor is a saint. I was told I'd be a good candidate for LASIK but then I'd lose my ability to remove my contacts to see up close. As a calligrapher, it's too important for me to be able to see the little details (as small as 2 mm sometimes) that I won't do it. I can't wear glasses when I'm running around. Sigh, the pains of getting older.

                    2. re: danna


                      I feel your pain. Though you need to add almost 20 years, I have not had 20/20 vision, without my contacts, in decades. Glasses can do some things better, but not get me to 20/20. If I have my contacts in, I need about +300 readers for some menus, and lighting situations. If I am wearing my glasses, then I can drag them to the tip of my nose, hold the menu up to about 3" and read. I know that I look strange to other diners, but that is something that I can live with.

                      I now have about 4 pairs of vari-focal glasses - one pair for general reading, plus offering the ability to walk down stairs, if I look through them the right way. One pair is designed for my computer workstation, and another is for my laptop. I have one pair, that is supposed to "bridge the gap," but then I fall down the stairs, when I am wearing those.

                      It has gotten to the point, that if I have my contacts in, I need my readers, just to see the details of the dish's presentation, and now usually dine with readers. Heck, I need those to fill in my golf scores...

                      Treat your husband nicely, as he might be ushering you into a later time. Also, when he has difficulty reading a menu, remind him that Hunt is in worse shape!


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Hunt, I feel you feeling your pain. It's automatic that I bring my reading glasses to a restaurant. Actually, it's nice when I can preview the whole menu on-line earlier in the day. Then there's the matter of lighting. Decent low- lit places will provide a flashlight; at some I walk to wherever it is sufficiently illuminated so I can read.
                        A long time golf buddy who is an opthalmologist says that our eyes begin to falter at about age 43, with amazing consistency. 15 years later, I'm still buying reading glasses at Walgreen's for 15 bucks.
                        Cheers to you, Bill.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          "Actually, it's nice when I can preview the whole menu on-line earlier in the day."

                          That is trick of mine. While I do not memorize the menu, and the wine list, I build a little cheat-sheet, and that works well. I look at the notes,written on the palm of my left hand, and try to match my choices up with what is on the menu.

                          What I hate is when the on-line version has been changed dramatically, but such is life.


                          1. re: Veggo

                            Yep, my eye doctor said many years ago that mine would go at 42, and guess did. I got bifocal glasses, but I was wearing contacts in public and suddenly discovered one evening at a bar that I couldn't read the tab. Someone I had talked to there previously lent me her readers. I talked to my eye Dr. about it and he doesn't believe in bifocal contacts and suggested readers. I have a pair by my computer and a pair in my purse. It helps with menus, operating my phone, and reading labels at the grocery store. I volunteer at the library and always keep a pair hanging on my collar, but have never used them.

                            I'm also wondering if weight loss has something to do with eyesight change. Googling has only led to ads for weight loss. Due to medical issues, I've lost 75 lbs in the last two years, and my eyesight has gone to heck, even with bifocals or readers.

                            1. re: tracylee

                              Your eyesight would be affected by high blood glucose. I've never heard about losing weight as a cause of deteriorating eyesight. Congrats on the fabulous weight loss!

                              1. re: sueatmo

                                Hmmm, I've been tested for that repeatedly and it isn't a problem. I need to schedule an exam anyway, so I'll ask then.

                                And thanks for the congrats! The weight loss wasn't intentional, but it's been interesting trying to shop for clothes without heading to the large section!

                              2. re: tracylee

                                Oh good. If I loose weight, then my eyesight might get worse?

                                I think that I will get a triple order of foie gras tonight - no weight loss for this blind boy.


                    3. Going back to the late '80s, the world was exposed to word processing, with a bit of page layout thrown in. Suddenly, everyone was a graphic artist, or so the thought, and were told.

                      There is no excuse for bad design, and readability. The same goes for Web site design.

                      Design, typography, layout and even photography cannot be done by plugging in a few parameters, and having the result spit out.

                      We were trying to call a resort, and from the Web site, the font used for the telephone number was totally unreadable. I had to save the HTML to a PSD, and then extract the telephone number, and change the font to something readable. It would have been quicker to look up the number of the hotel down the street, call them and ask for their neighbor's telephone number!


                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        This is one of my pet peeves -- unreadable fonts. Unfortunately, this also extends for stupidly assigning a password or required code with a capital "i" or a small "L". People are just not practical, an menu designers are no different.

                        I carry readers as well as that small credit card sized magnifier with a built in light. Worth every penny of its $10 cost.

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          If it happens again, copy-and-paste into an email window and you don't have to mess around with other programs to change the font.

                          1. re: Kajikit

                            That was exactly what I did.

                            From a design standpoint, too many know too little, and try to get cute. Such is life.


                        2. On a note related to graphic design, I went to Cora's today which is a nice breakfast place. It's a chain but I don't usually go out breakfast because I'm not much of a morning person but it was a business meeting...I didn't like the menu because it was too busy from an excess of design. It was a good one but I didn't want to read it. My eyes were blurry from a lack of sleep and I'm expected to LOOK at all of this busy stuff to figure out what I'm going to eat and felt that I would probably have appreciated the pictures and different font if I was more awake...brunch would have been better because I wouldn't have felt overstimulated then...bleh.

                          Edited to say...Bill, that is some determination there! I would have probably decided they didn't really want business after all...