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Carrying the aroma/stench of a restaurant home with you

Maybe it's just me--or maybe it's that a growing number of places seem to have open kitchens?--but more and more often I walk out of a restaurant and find that my clothes/jacket/hair/etc smell of said restaurant. And not in a pleasant way, in my opinion. I don't find "eau de short order grill" to be a pleasant perfume, and it seems to be cropping up even in finer establishments. For instance Nopa in SF--I like their food and have eaten there several times, but I'm always dismayed at the smell permeating my clothes when I leave.

Green Chile Kitchen in SF is another (big) offender; I even find it hard to breathe when I first walk in there, as if they are truly lacking in ventilation.

Is it just me? Am I just more bothered by this as I get older? Or is it actually more common these days for some reason? Anybody else mildly peeved by kitchen odors on your clothes after a meal out?

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  1. Doesn't bother me at all, but then I easily remember many times walking out of a place reeking of cigarettes. Anything is better than that, whether it's turmeric, garlic, or hamburgers.

    4 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        double amen....
        i would rather smell like food than cigarettes any day...

        1. re: srsone

          Triple amen! I'd rather smell like fried fish than tobacco smoke.

    1. Well, my answer is "No".

      But to your example of Nopa. I've been there and have not left smelling like "eau de short order grill" or even "eau de French Laundry". Part of your problem with Nopa might be its open kitchen coupled with the wood burning oven.

      Perhaps you should avoid restaurants with open kitchen setups? That might alleviate the problem.

      1. I find this is a bigger issue at home (I have a studio apartment) than any restaurant I've ever been in. I did sit by a fireplace once and had that smell slightly on me, but I love that smell, so all was good.

        1. I've found this most common with some Mexican restaurants, but when doing laundry, discovered that I'd spilled salsa on whatever I was wearing, which accounted for the oder that lingered!

          1. I do find that whenever I make many Indian curries (but not all; working on exactly what ingredient does it) at home, the next a.m. I come downstairs to find the smell still there.

            1. I have noticed this lately too.
              I leave the TexMex place smelling like an enchilada.
              I leave the redsauce place smelling like a meatball.
              I leave the burger place smelling like a double with cheese.
              All of these have an open kitchen.
              The smells are strong enough to make me want to change clothes right away when I get home.

              1. You oughtta try working in one of those kitchens!

                I also get that from cooking at home. Generally I don't mind too much, but I guess it depends on what I'm cooking - you know, how strong the smells are. If it triggers a good food memory, then I welcome it!

                1. Can't imagine anything nicer than leaving a restaurant with their cooking aromas clinging to my clothing. Also cancels out the stench (if I take one) of the cab should I decide not to walk home.

                  1. The only place I ever remember this being a problem are those "hot pot" restaurants where you have a gas burner on your table and you cook your own food in the broth.

                    I love the interactive style of those places, but I warn people to wear easily washable clothes and not to bring in heavy sweaters or jackets if I invite them there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pamf

                      This is good advice. I love going to Korean hot pot places, but after my first visit where my clothes reeked and I just wanted a shower, I learned.
                      The smell put me off going back for a bit, now I just know how to do it right. Cotton, no jackets, night before a shower day. ;)

                    2. I think eating should be an ephemeral experience and if I'm not still eating, I don't want to smell like food. I have a thing about clean smelling clothes. But I know it doesn't bother everyone to smell like a restaurant. Years ago, I ate in a fried food place with a friend and her kids and we came out reeking, I mean reeking, of hot oil. I could't wait to get home, shower, and wash my clothes, but she said she didn't even notice the smell.

                      1. A little OT, but my ex-SO would cook everything in too-hot vegetable oil, making the house reek of scorched oil. I kept having flashbacks of college being class with off campus students or working in the library where they'd walk in smelling like scorched oil.

                        1. If my clothes smell after eating in a restaurant, I don't return. Ever. It is a sign of extremely poor ventilation, which besides being annoying on your clothing is also a health hazard not only to diners but to the poor souls who have to work in such a place.

                          It's not a new phenomenon; over twenty years ago my spouse and I dined at a famous, highly praised and very popular Beverly Hills steakhouse, and we were shocked and dismayed at the lack of proper ventilation, which was noticeable immediately upon entering the restaurant. Once we got home our clothing had to be segregated from everything else and sent to the dry cleaners. It really spoiled what was supposed to be an elegant dinner out.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: janniecooks

                            You're missing out on some great barbeque! The smell certainly lingers with you, but it's certainly worth it in my book!

                            1. re: pollymerase

                              You're right! I do make an exception for barbeque, but can't think of any other exceptions right now.

                          2. I've found this to be much less of a problem at restaurants than I have in venues where my association has been far more up-close-and-personal to the food involved. That being said, it didn't bother me, and it didn't bother the little gal at the shelter I was cooking at, who snuggled right up and said, "you smell like fizzonya."

                            But I wouldn't purposely choose Eau de Liver and onions or Carnitas Cologne, either.

                            1. Thanks for everyone's comments. It definitely is a more prevalent problem (for me) in places with open kitchens (Nopa) or that smoke/grill/fry the food (Mexican, pizza) or even just have particularly pungent food (Indian), those are good points. I guess I just never noticed being bothered by it 10 or 15 years ago, so I couldn't decide if something about restaurants/kitchens had changed, or if it was just me that had changed. I suppose the culprit could very well be the latter. :)

                              1. Not a restaurant. But a hamburger place Tommy's, the famous ones not the generics. We always order the hamburgers with everything including chili and chili cheese fries. As soon as we ere done eating I have to gather up all the wrappings and put them in the trash outside. That smell clings to you like mold! And no matter how often I wash my hands I can still smell it. Not to mention the car always smells like Tommy's the next day..The odor is unique and luscious then tiuns to striking yet I still go there!

                                1. There's a pub at which I occasionally have gigs -- open kitchen, bad ventilation.

                                  While the food's not really all that great to begin with, I HATE coming home smelling like a line cook. I think it's on par with reeking of cigarettes (that's another bar....).

                                  1. Not a restaurant, but one of the dining halls I used in college left an awful smell on clothes and hair. Most of the kitchen was enclosed, but the grill and fry stations were open. The hall had an open floor plan, but the food prep/serving area was several feet below the dining area, so you spent you meal sitting in the cloud of fryer and grill exhaust. It left fabric smelling like grease and burnt onions. The smell was so universally known, I can refer to the "Chase smell" to other alumni I've just met, and they know what I'm talking about. Fortunately for current students, that particular dining hall was demolished a few years ago and replaced with a much nicer facility.

                                    1. Years ago I was at a business dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant. We were nowhere near the kitchen but the ventilation was poor. My jacket was slung on the back of my chair throughout the meal. I got home and threw the jacket over the back of a chair near the front door and my cats POUNCED on it. Sniffing and sniffing and then all over the cuffs of my pants. "She's never come home smelling like THAT before!"

                                      1. Hi DeborahL this thread has been inactive for a while and I hope you still get to read this because this is a subject which I've been thinking of a lot lately.

                                        It's not even the smell of food but something more similar to decomposing oil. And for me it's very distressing to have breakfast or lunch somewhere, coming out to discover that it has attached itself to you, and have to spend the rest of the day walking around with the smell.

                                        I am surprised that it doesn't seem to bother more people, but apparently, it doesn't.

                                        As you said, maybe it is the open kitchens or us getting more bothered at different points in our lives but I have two other theories which I hope you could also think of and decide how probable these are:

                                        1) Maybe a certain kind of oil has become more popular (especially, as you pointed out, with finer establishments) and it is this oil that causes the odor.

                                        2) This may sound strange but more than places with open kitchens, I have found the 'phenomenon' to be present in places that serve espresso-based beverages. You know, places wherein you can hear them make your coffee (there's this hiss of steam). Once I hear that hiss and the place cooks at the same time, I can be almost 100% sure that I will step out with the smell of decomposing oil on me. Anyway, please keep this in mind and try to share if there's any basis, at all, to this observation. :)

                                        1. Can I ask why you'd want to eat somewhere that the oil is so old and bordering on rancid that you can smell it?

                                          1. I chef, and the cloths get smelling bad. I wash them in 1 cup non-sudsing ammonia and 1 cup washing soda. helps clean out the washer too.

                                            1. In Boston, there used to be a place called Fajitas n Ritas where the meat and grilled veg were served still cooking on a scorching hot grill. Every time, i walked out of there stinking of smoky onions and peppers. Clothes, hair, everything. Yuck. In those days you could still smoke in bars and clubs, too, so after dinner and a night out, you'd be a smoky hot mess.

                                              1. 1) i'm old enough so that in my first job (switchboard operator) i was stationed in a tiny, windowless, room with two other smokers. we ALL had the stench of tobacco every day. also, in those days, EVERY restaurant allowed smoking.

                                                2) also, during college, i worked a stint at a hot dog stand.
                                                i got over the revulsion of having everything smell of food (hair, clothes, EVERYTHING).

                                                3) after that, i worked in a womans' specialty store that intentionally had PERFUME in the air at all times.

                                                guess your generation has been pretty sheltered in terms of olfaction. . . .

                                                1. Take a shower and wash your clothes.