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Jul 25, 2011 09:21 AM

Bringing your own condiment(s) to a restaurant?


I have a favorite Italian restaurant not too far from my house. It's a family place, definately not white tablecloth dining... in season, we love to get their insalata caprese, because the owner makes his own mozzarella. (it's delicious)

My only complaint is that they usually put one lone leaf of basil on top and when we've asked for "extra" basil, they give us maybe two more whole leaves.

Knowing this, last night we went to same restaurant and I had a little zip-lock baggie in my purse, with lots of basil in it.

The waiter delivered our appetizer and when he left, I reached into my bag and sprinkled the basil over top. I got some funny looks from the table next to us and I think the waiter was a little confused when he came back to check on us, seeing the ample quantity of chopped basil across the plate.

was this wrong? We thoroughly enjoyed the appetizer but some how I felt like I was doing something forbidden.
(anyone else do stuff like this? Please tell me yes so I dont' feel quite so embarrassed)

  1. I know for a fact that a rather famous Indian conductor brought his own chili powder, not trusting the restaurant's concept of "heat level" and I, on more than one occasion, have brought a mini-bottle of hot sauce, in case of "emergency."

    4 Replies
      1. re: arktos

        And a free bottle of Frank's Extra Hot to Arktos

      2. re: beevod

        Lots of people bring their own hot sauce to restaurants (I worked at one for years). No problem with that. But bringing actual food and sitting with people who are paying, that is a no-no. But a condiment? Of course it is ok.

        And I see no problem with the cloth napkins either.

      3. When we order a martini out, I love one with a long ribbon-like twist of lemon peel, Meyer lemon peel even better--usually get that stubby, mean chunk of peel with pith. So for awhile I was taking along my homemade twists to liven the drink. Another place had pleasant outdoor seating, but skimpy paper napkins and a few underseasonings--so for there we took along fabric napkins, Kosher salt, ground pepper and a little bottle of olive oil. And when I used to go to IHOP for pancakes I took along my own maple syrup.

        18 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          I think as long as you are discreet, and you are not avoiding paying for something that the restaurant supplies. But I WOULD say the cloth napkins are over the line. They are pretty obvious while being used, for one thing, and it's a slippery, Special Snowflake-covered slope toward toting your own Charmin and linen hand towels. Just ask for a few extra paper ones.

          I once had an outstanding meal at a high-end restaurant that concluded, unfortunately, with a cup of dark roast coffee, which seems ubiquitous at such places. I hate the stuff, which tastes burnt to me. Too bad there is never a choice of regular or dark. If I ever go back there, I will have a packet of instant in my purse. If the way they serve tea is hot water and an undunked bag, I will order tea and whip out my instant. Not as good as brewed, but better than dark roast. I have a cute little glass maple syrup bottle from Cracker Barrel, which served real syrup in individual-serving bottles. If I know I am headed for breakfast someplace else, I fill it up from my Trader Joe's Grade B bottle. If the weather is cool, I'll take a couple of pats of unsalted butter, too. For me, salted butter ruins toast, pancakes, and waffles.

          1. re: greygarious

            So greyg, you are willing to take tea bag, maple syrup and unsalted butter but you draw the line at cloth napkins? Do you understand we only used them because we were the only people on the patio and if we had eaten inside we would have gotten nice cloth napkins? Was fine with us and the waiter couldn't have cared less. Guess we all have the place we draw the line...I guess there would be applause if I could afford to tote around a truffle.

              1. re: thegforceny

                I think that if I were to rank all the things that chowhounds have taken to restaurents on a scale of tackyness, cloth napkins would be the least tacky and the most justifiable on environmental grounds. I would not be embarrased to take a cloth napkin with me to a place that offers only paper.

                1. re: hala

                  But if you drive to the restaurant, that's kind of funny.

                  1. re: LeoLioness

                    Go back and read the OP about cloth napkins. I don't believe it was about being 'green' but about the skimpy paper napkins not being adequate for the task.

                    1. re: John E.

                      In actuality, it was about having a nice napkin rather than feeling like I was at some fast food joint.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Well hun.. I think we just have to manage our expectations.
                        Quite frankly I go to the restaurant to eat.. if I wanted accomodations I'd go to a hotel instead and pay for the linens to be laid out.
                        This seems as ridiculous to me as bringing your own silverware to replace plastic or bringing your own table cloth.

                        1. re: wisenyoung

                          Hun? I don't go to a restaurant just to eat, I go to have a nice evening, have someone else cook for me, enjoy a different atmosphere, eat something I don't usually prepare, maybe try a different wine. This particular place had good traditional French food but it really lacked finesse. But we wanted to support the place because the food was good and this was our compromise. The place did eventually go out of business, but that would have been because not enough people came, not because we brought cloth napkins. Oh, and thanks for the idea on the silverware, though now my purse is starting to get heavy!

                          1. re: escondido123

                            Any chance that was Bouchon in Escondido? We miss it.

                              1. re: escondido123

                                Ooooh, we miss it so much! Have you found a French replacement in north inland?

                                1. re: pine time

                                  For classic French we go to Vincent's, otherwise Tango is now our favorite place.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          Frequently, if I remember anyway, I will bring some extra paper napkins in my pocket because too often there is only one napkin provided. I prefer my unused flatware to remain on a napkin, I like a napkin on my lap, and I like another with which to wipe my mouth if need be. After writing that it sounds like I'm Felix Unger when I really am not generally that way.

                          1. re: John E.

                            I think we all have habits that sound odd when written down but really aren't a big deal in reality. As to hostility, I must admit it surprises me because I thought this was going to be a rather fun topic when I first posted and didn't realize folks were so strict about what and what was not "allowed." Oh well, I figure as long as I'm not hurting anyone or causing a fuss, I won't worry about it.

                        3. re: John E.

                          Regardless of the motive, it is still green.

                        4. re: LeoLioness

                          You mean if escondido drives. I am very lucky in that I live in a big city and use public and active transport most of the time. But I have nothing against cars, we rent cars and use our car sharing service all of the time.

              2. There is a Chinese seafood buffet in Brooklyn that has lots of raw clams and boiled shrimp, but no Tabasco sauce. I would bring my own bottle. There was a vegan Chinese restaurant in Manhattan that did not have herbal tea. I used to take a box of te4a with half peppermint tea bags and half chamomile tea bags and I left it with the staff and they would bring it out to me when I dined. When in the south I am tempted to bring butter into the Waffle House. Real maple syrup would be a good idea too.

                3 Replies
                1. re: phantomdoc

                  Seriously? A chinese restaurant that doesn't have hot chili sauce available? Only in America..

                  1. re: FrankD

                    Tabasco is a specific brand of hot sauce, with its own flavor. As someone who grew up with Tabasco on raw oysters, I have to say that other chili sauces (like sriracha) wouldn't cut it.

                  2. re: phantomdoc

                    tabasco? it isn't remotely chinese, why should they have it? I'm sure they had other hot sauces, chinese hot sauces if you asked.

                  3. Yes, I have been known to bring my own condiment. Specifially, I like sweet n' low in iced coffee, McD's only has Equal, Sugar or Splenda. I hand the pink packet to the cashier and they are more than willing to put it in the cup before filling.

                    That said, bring a fresh vegetable/herb to add to a dish might not really be considered a condiment. But as long as you add it yourself, the restaurant should have no objection, provided it is not something they will provide at an extra charge. A patron should not bring something to add to a meal that the restaurant sells.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: bagelman01

                      So I'd be pushing it for unfolding a package of prosciutto and salumi to decorate the plate with?

                      1. re: cgarner

                        only if it was available as an option at the restaurant

                        1. re: cgarner

                          Not at all. There's a pizza place near me that has beautiful crust, and tasty sauce, but they don't put enough cheese and pepperoni on it. So I bring a baggy of grated mozza, some additional pepperoni, and my creme brulee torch, and load it up. And it hasn't affected my waiter's tip at all.

                          1. re: FrankD

                            Wow, that sounds like the definition of cheap. Don't they offer extra cheese & pepperoni? Or have you never thought to ask them? Glad it doesn't affect the tip, nor should it.

                            1. re: Phurstluv

                              I think Frank was being facetious. (Or, only in Canada does a pepperoni pizza come without pepperoni or mozzerella).

                              1. re: John E.

                                I went to a pizza place in Pennsylvania once, back in my vegetarian days, and was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to find that their "plain" pizza came with pepperoni. It came out this way, and they wouldn't make one without.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Wow! Good grief!! (am on your side here)

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    tells me the pizza was made off-site and frozen well in advance and baked on order. yuck.

                        2. For many years I carried a pepper mill in my purse so that I could have fresh ground pepper on my salads. Many times, I could see a peppermill on a side table, but it wasn't offered. I always tried to be discreet about it.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: tracylee

                            OMG me too! I love fresh pepper. Newport Seafood Grill gets big kudos because they have an actual pepper mill on every table.

                            1. re: pdxgastro

                              I LOVE restaurants with pepper grinders on the table! Newport actually does a pretty decent job for a chain restaurant, and I never turn down an invite to eat there.

                            2. re: tracylee

                              That's actually a great idea. I should remember it! The Dollar Store by me sells disposable pepper grinders that I use for travel/beach house/just in case I run out.
                              Is there anything worse than old pepper that doesn't taste like anything once you manage to coax 8 grains out?

                              1. re: monavano

                                I actually became known at conferences for a club I belong to for bringing the pepper mill to local meetings, as well as District and Regional conferences. I can't do salads any more, but some old friends still ask if I have the pepper mill with me. I usually carry a small purse that holds room key, credit card, cash and pepper mill.