I learned my lessons...
From my past experiences, I now don't,
eat out on Valentine's day. Crappy food, service and over priced.
eat during restaurant week. Some great deals to be found but usually the menu is pretty boring
consisting of either chicken or salmon. Service is usually not as great either.
order specials without asking prices first. I think I really got cheated a few times by not asking how much today's specials were.
order a lot of food if their bread is not good- To me good bread is a good indication of the quality of foods that are served in that particular restaurant.
go out to eat on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just feel bad for chefs and other helpers who can't be home to celebrate holidays with their family...like my brother in law....who has never been able to celebrate thanksgiving and christmas with his family.
What lessons have you learned?
Some cities have a week where local restaurants offer discounted rates (here in Boston it's lunch for $20, dinner for $30). The theory is that it boosts the local economy and gets people in the door who might not otherwise try the place. In practice, search for "restaurant week" and you'll get lots of opinions on how it works.
Don't eat at a restaurant where the menu is written in more than two languages (i.e. any more than the native language of that country/cuisine plus one other, usually English).
Don't fill up on bread, even if it's really good. If the bread's good, the food will be good too, and then you'll be sorry you don't have room for it.
Don't order coffee at a restaurant specializing in the food of a non-coffee-loving culture--or at least, don't complain when the coffee is terrible. And if it is a coffee-loving culture, order the preparation of coffee THEY love, not the kind YOU love.
If I am spending too much time trying to decide what to order because I am not really hungry or just ridiculously indecisive, don't order. Or order simply. The more time I spend trying to pick just the right thing when I am not in the mood, the more likely I am to end up frustrated. No sense in wasting the money and inflicting my indecision on others.
I don't order curries in restaurants where the rest of the food is continental. I also don't order pad thai in non-Thai restaurants. I don't frequent Pan-Asian restaurants.
I don't buy sushi at the mall.
I dine out on Valentine's Day and other holidays, but head to Chinatown, Greektown, Koreatown, where the prices & quality is pretty much the same every day of the year.
I don't order crab or crabcakes in Toronto. I save it as a treat if I'm lucky to visit the West Coast or the East Coast.
I don't order fish dishes (fish curry, fish soup, fish & chips) if the servers can't tell me which variety of fish is being used.
I don't expect fish tacos in Toronto to resemble fish tacos in California. Same goes for burritos in Toronto.
I stopped giving restaurant or dish suggestions to friends who ask me for suggestions, unless I've figured out we're on the same palate wavelength.
It's type A on my part, but I was bewildered that my dear friend would trek down to the Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village, then order fish, rather than the ricotta gnudi and burger I had been raving about for months. Maybe she wasn't in the mood for a burger. If she was in the mood for fish, I don't know why she wouldn't have gone to another restaurant that specializes in fish.
Agree with a lot of postings here -asking the price of a special, be concerned if your server is clueless about the menu, sides at a BBQ or chicken place, BUT...
1) Going out on a Holiday: the trick is to GO EARLY so you can get a table, and staff who are not overwhelmed yet. Also ask if the place is serving their regular menu or are you limited to their Special Mother's Day menu.
2) Asking recommendations: ask the server you know and trust (and whom you have, hopefully, been tipping properly). If they suggest all the expensive dishes, ask if they're really worth the price, and you don't have to end up ordering those dishes. Also, as with sommeliers, tell them what you are in the mood for and/or what your tastes are like. They might make a recommendation on variations that can be made, such as adding garlic or substituting sauces that you wouldn't think of (don't forget to ask about extra charges).
And my additions to the Lessons:
1) Be concerned if the chef is offering seafood dishes with cheese.
2) Never go to an 'ethnic' chain and expect ethnic food or decent coffee or wine.
3) ALWAYS ask which desserts, if any, are homemade, and what is FRESH THAT DAY.
4) If you order something and the server asks if you want something else with it, see if there's an extra charge (we ordered a dessert crepe and was offered whipped cream for which we then charged $1.25. It WAS listed on the menu under "Add-Ins", but we didn't need it).
I will post more as I think of them! :)
We LOVE diners. They are great for breakfast and sammiches.
Some diners have menus thicker than bibles. They try to cover all the bases from burgers to surf and turf.
In a diner K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) Don't order anything exotic. If you order a lobster tail someone from the kitchen staff will climb into the freezer and root around until they find the lobster tail that has been siitng there for 4 years.
That sounds good to me, LeoLioness. I do want to one day dine at Art Smith's restaurant in DC. That drive is not bad from where I live in Delaware.
I have had some really bad counterfeit southern food in restaurants though and I hate that because I know how wonderful it can be.
I think the food you get in small restaurants down south is made special by the home cooks in those kitchens. It is very generational, southern cooking, time spent with good cooks.
Monica, thanks to your reference to your brother in-law, except for about 10 years, all of my adult life I've been cooking for a living(retired now). If just all the joints would shut down for Christmas and Thanksgiving it would be nice, don't care about all the rest of the holidays.
But then again with all employment "Pick your rate, seal your fate".
Yes, I especially feel very bad for my niece who never had a chance to celebrate holidays with her father since she was born.
Seriously, being chefs and cooks gotta be the one of the worst jobs in America. Low pay(lower than waiters at high end restaurants), works 13-14 hours a day standing all day lifting heavy stuff...no holidays...no appreciation from customers...
My husband and I both worked at [different] restaurants and worked the holidays. We would have our Celebration some other day, which meant uncrowded eateries and a lot less craziness.
We had to work weekends, too, but that meant our days off were during the week when EVERYTHING is open, and slow because everyone else is at work or school, so we could hit Happy Hours, Early Bird Specials, and matinees.
There are advantages to the food industry.
re: Bada Bing
I've been lucky when I've been travelling in the States, Canada and Europe, that with the help of Chowhound, and sometimes some suggestions from some locals, I always manage to find good restaurants within walking distance of my hotel. While it might be hard to do in some American and Canadian cities which can be very spread out, in some larger cities such as NYC, LA, Montreal, Vancouver and San Francisco, I've never had a problem finding good, reasonably priced food within walking distance of my hotel. But I also select my hotel based on its location and convenience to the restaurants, theatres and museums I plan to visit, rather than just the nightly rate. Even if a hotel room near the restaurants on my wishlist costs a little more than those further afield, I don't end up paying as much for gas, parking, valet, subway tokens or taxis.
generally don't order steak in a fish place or fish in a steak place
coffee is usually stale in the afternoons or late morning once the rush is over - I do not like burned coffee or coffee that's sat too long.
I do not order scrambled eggs unless I am somewhere really fancy and it's made to order.
Ask for diet advice on Chowhound.
It will take on its own malevolent life and devour you with all the what you shoulds and what you shouldn'ts and of course there will be warring factions on all sides of the culinary coin. You can't possibly win, so IMHO, don't ask here. I love you all, but being Chowhounds most of us are opinionated to some degree. That's my story and I'm stickin'with it.
I agree with most... although in June,w e were at a resort on the Outer Banks, and they had just run out of the lobster pasta dish. We didn't really want salmon or the other fish on the menu, so took a chance on a ribeye. We live in Wyoming and are spoiled when it comes to beef.
I'll be darned.... it was the best steak we've ever eaten. no lie.
If I don't want croutons on my salad or cheese on my chili, ask about this when I order. (I always forget) Many times toppings aren't mentioned on the menu.
If the waitperson is an ignoramus about the menu, watch out! The food is probably not good, and the staff is untrained.
If you get a mediocre meal the first time you go to a place, you will probably get a mediocre meal the second time you go.
I agree with all the posters who say not to eat on special occasions like Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. I want to add Thanksgiving as well. The places that advertise Thanksgiving meals often serve very indifferent food.
Don't confuse fast food with good nutrition or great taste. Fast food is correctly named, and being available fast is its chief characteristic.
Don't expect good sides at a fried chicken place or a barbecue place. If the chicken or barbecue are good, the rest will be filler.
Don't order pasta at a steak house; don't order steak at a pasta house.
I have to disagree about Thanksgiving, at least here in NYC. Many fine restaurants prepare fabulous Thanksgiving meals with traditional offerings and offerings from their regular menu for those, like myself, who are not big fans of turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc..
We've been having our Thanksgiving meal at a different restaurant in Manhattan for the last 4 years. Always satisfied.
Well, you are lucky. I've eaten in serveral different places over several years, and my batting average was about 30%. I won't do it again. I'd rather just cook for the 2 of us. At least I know we are getting fresh food. And my turkey stuffing is far, far better than what I've eaten out.
to always order toast well done when out to breakfast ~~ most places just barely warm the bread
to always order angel hair pasta, they don't pre-cook it like many other pastas
to ascertain if "pesto" is actually "creamy pesto" (which I don't want)
to order butter, salad dressing, sour cream, etc. "on the side"
don't order Mexican in a Jewish Deli
Never, ever eat out on Mothers day. Even breakfast! Long wait, poor service. Same for Valentine's Day. They give your mom or gal a rose and it's all downhill from there.
A few years ago I took my lovely and talented wife to a Greek Gyro place we love but is basically a take out place with 3 tables. We sat at a table and ordered up a very good Greek meal.
We chatted up a woman who was waiting for her take away order. I said: "this is our Valentine Day dinner." Insinuating that I was a miser the woman replied: "This is where you take your wife for a romantic meal?" Without saying a word my wife stood looked at the woman and "modeled" the mink coat I gave her earlier.
The Greek place has become our Valentine tradition.
From my past experiences, I now don't,
eat out on Valentine's day. Crappy food, service and over priced......
I'll add further...
* Any holiday for that matter.
* Steak in a Seafood restaurant
* Fish in a quiet restaurant Sunday through Thursday.
* Leave if the restaurant smell bad upon entering
* Rarely believe the server's recommendation for their favorite items on the menu...which happen to be the most expensive as well.
* Never go back to a restaurant that has poor/cheap china or silverware
* Avoid tourist trap restaurants when traveling.
+1 on these. Plus, I've never understood about ordering the server's (or anyone's) favorite items on the menu. "Oh, I love the chef's pencil shavings with a soupcon of dried rose petals." Well, bully for you, but I'm not ordering. Why ask about someone else's totally different taste buds/yucks/yums?