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What Do You Eat When You Go To a Restaurant?

  • t

Do you order something that you wouldn't cook at home or do you order something that you are comfortable with and cook at home a lot?

When going out, even for a low key dinner, I always look for an app or entrée that I would not be prepping a home.

Tell us what you like to order and eat out.

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  1. I order something that I wouldn't make at home. I usually try something that I haven't eaten before in an effort to broaden my horizons.

    1. If I see a menu item that looks appetizing, and it's something I don't cook at home, I will likely order it. Thing is, rarely do I see a menu item that I don't also cook at home. Consequently, I usually wind up ordering whatever I'm in the mood for at the moment.

      1. Your post offers a very limited menu of possible choices.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ferret

          I'm a sucker for a great Bolognese at a restaurant, it takes so long to prep and I'm Italian!

        2. "I can train a monkey with a peanut to cook a steak."

          1. yes.................
            I do both.
            I order whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

            1. It depends, but I will say that I rarely order pasta in a restaurant. It's just so cheap and easy to prepare at home that I can't bring myself to pay big bucks for it.

              1. It depends. I usually order something I don't normally cook, but sometimes I'll try something that I've messed with at home to get improvement ideas. I rarely eat chicken at a restaurant.

                8 Replies
                1. re: swoll50

                  Me neither...we make enough chicken at home we may start clucking any day. No way I'm ordering for a nice dinner out...

                  To answer the original question - it's almost always something I don't get the time to make at home, like risotto.

                  1. re: ItalGreyHound

                    Rarely do I see risotto on restaurant menus. A shame, too, because I really like the stuff when I make my own.

                    1. re: ItalGreyHound

                      that is something I avoid when I'm out. ime it is rarely better than what I make at home.

                    2. re: swoll50

                      Except fried chicken - I never make fried chicken at home. When we go out, I'll typically order a) something I never make at home - fried chicken and a lot of seafood come to mind or b) something I've never tried before - carpaccio comes to mind for that one.

                      Depending on the meal, ie; are we on a road trip and we just need fuel, am I out with clients and don't really need to eat but need to 'fulfill' the meal with clients may be a determining factor. I accidentally ordered linguine before I was to give a presentation. Bad, bad idea. I didn't find out about the presentation until after I ordered. I was so nervous I could barely get the slippery noodles into my mouth and was afraid they'd end up in my lap.

                      1. re: JerryMe

                        I initially read that as "I accidentally ordered lingerie before I was to give a presentation." That might have made you even more nervous.

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                          Ha Ha! Yes, thank you Perilagu - That definitely would have been awkward! It was definitely a WTF moment!

                        2. re: JerryMe

                          Had fried chicken out last week and took a few pieces home, it's something I never make at home.

                        3. re: swoll50

                          Come to think of it, neither do I. I may occasionally order hot wings or pick up fried chicken from Popeye's, but that's about it.

                        4. I tend to order things that are too much hassle to make at home, or things that *I* want but don't make at home for other reasons. For example, I like to have a good steak every now and then, but Mrs ricepad isn't so big on steak, so instead of making different entrees for dinner at home, I'll satisfy my hankering for slab o' beef when we go out. Similarly, I can make truly great tempura (I'm so freakin' modest it kills me), but I usually don't want to deal with the prep and mess, unless one of the kids requests it as a special occasion meal.

                          OTOH, There's also the 'comfort food' stuff, that, irrespective of hassle, nobody makes as good as Mom. Beef stew? Sukiyaki? Lo han jai? I'd never order those out.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: ricepad

                            Good point. I love cream soups but the Khantessa cannot abide. Thus, I'm sure to order them in restaurants whenever I see 'em.

                            1. re: ricepad

                              How do you do your great tempura? Tried it the other week and it was spongy! The oil stayed constant with my thermometer so I assume the batter was to blame. Any tips? Or a new batter recipe?

                              1. re: melpy

                                High protein flours will give you a denser texture batter; I try to mitigate that by using a combination of rice flour and AP flour 1:1 along with cornstarch and soda water. We have a SodaStream so we can make an extra fizzy batch for tempura batter, but you can also use a leavener like baking powder to lighten your batter.

                                1. re: melpy

                                  (Since I don't measure anything, this may not be of much use to you.)

                                  Start with about 2 cups of AP flour and add a tablespoon or so of baking powder. Add ice cold water to make a really thin batter. Whisk about half as long as you think you should - the batter will be lumpy. Heat about 3/4" of oil in a heavy pan (I use a 12" CI pan). When the oil is hot enough, dip your food items (veggies, fish, shrimp, etc) in the bowl of batter, then carefully place in the oil. When the first side is done, flip the pieces over and fry the other side. Drain on a rack, and serve.

                                  To get the crispy, lacy wisps of batter, scoop up a bit of batter on your chopsticks from the bowl of batter drizzle it onto whatever is in the oil. It'll sort of 'flower' in the oil. Of course, a lot of it won't stick to the food, so you'll have to skim the crunchy bits from the oil pretty constantly.

                              2. I usually eat in ethnic restaurants and order things I'm unlikely to make at home. In upscale, fine-dining type places, if it contains figs, saffron or foie gras, one of us will order it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Isolda

                                  Ah, menu buzzwords. One of my SIL's is foie gras. Mine are hazelnuts and rabbit.

                                2. I like junk food because I don't keep any in the house or cook junky stuff ;) Especially bar food!!!! But I just can't do it much anymore or it makes me feel gross for days.

                                  But mostly, I tend to order things I either don't normally make at home or that sound interesting and new to me. I love going to a gastro pub style restaurants, trying interesting dishes and getting new ideas. I ask if I can take their menu home (it tends to be paper) and they always let me. I have a bit of a collection now. Creative stuff in there!

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: sedimental

                                    I'm having the same experience with bar food. what a shame :( Last night we went out, and dh, who is much bigger than me, ordered a ton of meat appetizers. Of course it was very good and I ate too much (Doowee, little vietnamese takeout place in MA). What do you know I felt completely wiped out all day today. Still feel gross. Last weekend a hamburger and 1/2 a drink did me in (I'm pretty sure it was the hamburger, not the drink)
                                    What do you order in gastro pubs if you can't take junky food?

                                    1. re: fara

                                      Well, the bar food that gets me are sweet potato fries, breaded and sauced chicken wings with dips, deli meat style sandwiches, or sloppy hamburgers, potato skins, nachos, quesadillas...uh....you know....absolute crap. Tasty poison. I tend to load up on carbs and trans fats...Yum! :O

                                      The gastro pub dishes I order are charcuterie, duck confit sliders, inventive salads, goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms, different fusion type short ribs, etc. not actual crap food, but pub food with some semblance of nutrition and balance.

                                      It is harder to over eat at a gastro pub as well because it is more expensive per dish and the portions are reasonable and not so over the top like a typical happy hour in a standard local bar.

                                      I drink the same amount at both type of places....so at least I know I am safe with wine :)

                                      1. re: sedimental

                                        Agree that the gastropub food is not at all akin to pub food.

                                        Examples: chorizo and chicken flatbread with sofrito, lobster grilled cheese, crab cake over corn salad, frisée salad with duck confit and a poached egg

                                      2. re: fara

                                        We were just in Flagstaff, and several places offered jicama slaw. They were all different, and all good. I will start making it becase it's so good.

                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          Oh, I've made that! I went through a phase of wondering if raw cabbage did me no favors but wanted slaw with my pulled pork. Love jicama!

                                    2. The Mr. doesn't like pork or pasta, so those are my go-to menu items when we eat out.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: pine time

                                        One double order of pappardelle with wild boar ragu coming right up for Mr. Pine Time!

                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                            One double order of pasta carbonara coming right up for Mr. Pine Time! (If he's squeamish about the pappardelle).

                                        1. Whatever I want at exactly that moment--as if I don't even remember what I usually have, have cooked, or ever tasted. I just look at the menu and whatever jumps out at me, I order it.

                                          1. As others have said...it depends on the restaurant.

                                            Generally though, I tend to eat at establishments that offer something I can't replicate at home easily.

                                            1. In general, I try to order the specialty. Fish in a fish place, barbecue in a barbecue place, etc. It is harder for me to eat in a pasta place, and we don't visit those often any more, but in that case I look for a lower carb alternative.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                I will often order something that the restaurant is known for, or someone highly recommended even if its not my first inclination

                                              2. I eat whatever I feel like. I am generally good at making myself whatever I want at that moment (provided I have the ingredients) and if I don't know how to make what I am craving, I consider that a challenge to be solved.

                                                The one difference is, at restaurants, I may be more inclined to eat off my diet since I'm removed from the process of reading labels and counting carbs and calories in the kitchen.

                                                1. Either something I would never make at home or a salad with some kind of meat on it and dressing on the side.

                                                  1. I'm pretty unadventurous and usually stick with something I'm fairly certain will be good. Also, once I find a dish at a restaurant that I like it's hard for me to push myself to order something else. With that being said, I usually order something I don't cook or don't want to bother to cook though admittedly we eat out very rarely so in most instances it's heavy fried, fat-laden, sugar-laden food that I rarely eat. When in doubt, I order a steak or a chicken dish.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      I agree with you on the "one good dish" phenomenon. Once I find something that I really love, I tend to stick with it. Same goes for movies and novels, BTW. And women. ;)

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        I really had to work on the one dish thing but I finally broke through after tasting many samples, over the years, from DH's entree's. it's not easy being anal!

                                                      2. What I order at a restaurant does not depend at all on whether I can, or am able, make the same dish at home.

                                                        My menu choices depend primarily on two things: (1) what I feel like eating at that moment and (2) the type of restaurant I am at (e.g., not going to order salmon at a steakhouse)

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          actually at a cheaper steakhouse, salmon is a good bet. for instance attended a work event at Longhorn steakhouse and was not going to eat a large piece of cow from there, especially not in the middle of the day. The salmon was quite better than I was expecting and came with mixed vegetables.

                                                          1. re: fara

                                                            I agree, I've had some excellent seafood at steakhouses.

                                                            1. re: fara

                                                              Agreed! I used to love the fish at the Outback. It was the first place I tried my friend's swordfish and salmon when we were in college.

                                                          2. Interesting question. It depends what kind of restaurant we are going to. If we're going to...let's say, a Jeff Ruby steak house..I'm definitely going for the kill with a beautiful blood rare steak. Other than that, if I see Monkfish on ANY menu, I order it--only because it's not easy to come by at my local fish market. Same with kidneys (even though I make them at home) and steak tartare.
                                                            I would like to add, though, that we don't go out to eat often because we reserve our restaurant visits for special occasions.

                                                            1. These days when my family goes out to eat we go for some sort of ethnic food. We would need to completely restock our pantry in order to cook these things at home.

                                                              I find that if I go out nd order something that could reasonably be made at home I am usually disappointed.

                                                              1. We most often go with dishes that we do NOT prepare at home, though not 100% That might be why neither of us is big on "steakhouses," as I can usually do better with my butcher and my grill.

                                                                I want to go on a "culinary adventure," so what we order is all over the board.

                                                                Same for my wine choices - I seldom go with what I have in my cellar, unless I have to have the "safety net" of a solid choice for guests.


                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                  "That might be why neither of us is big on "steakhouses," as I can usually do better with my butcher and my grill."


                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    2nd ordering steak, that's one thing I can do well. Love a extra thick porterhouse done Tuscan Style.

                                                                    1. re: treb

                                                                      I also can better the efforts of most steakhouses, but I'm not averse to sampling the work of renowned, high-end steakhouses. Steaks from such places (Bob's in downtown Dallas being the most recent example) are often quite special, and then there's that ambience to consider.

                                                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                        Wow, been to Bob's several times back when I was travelling, really good and those skillet potatoes. Do they still have the jar of pickled peppers on the table?

                                                                        1. re: treb

                                                                          I seem to recollect those peppers.

                                                                  2. either
                                                                    a) stuff i can't cook at home because i lack the ingredients or skill
                                                                    b) stuff that takes way too much energy and refrigerator space to prepare properly
                                                                    c) stuff that would cost me way more to make at home than it would to eat it in a restaurant (mostly because some of the ingredients can only be bought in large quantities (i.e. tamarind paste) and i know that after cooking the dish a few times i'd end up throwing out tremendous amounts of unused food. (there's a limit to how much Pad Thai i really want to eat)

                                                                    1. Anything but steak, pork chops, shrimp or lobster. Those are cheaper, less messy (shellfish) and better tasting at home. Everything else is fair game, including meatloaf. I love to try a new meatloaf. It's interesting what flavors chefs choose to emphasize; is it oniony, garlicky, tomato-ish? All beef? Or a mix? Green peppers? Oatmeal? Hold its shape or crumbly?

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                        So picky about my meatloaf. I would be very unlikely to order it. Don't think I ever have!

                                                                        1. re: melpy

                                                                          Although I make a good rendition or 2 of meatloaf, I enjoy trying it out and seeing how others make it. Also, it's usually not a big cash investment.

                                                                          1. re: treb

                                                                            I've never eaten resto meatloaf. Never even been tempted, to tell the truth.

                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                              I think in a casual/comfort food setting it (meatloaf) tells a lot about the chef.

                                                                              1. re: treb

                                                                                Probably does. I think I just usually find something on the menu that piques my interest more. Plus, the Khantessa makes a mean meatloaf--all others would doubtless pale in comparison. ;)

                                                                        2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                                          "Anything but steak, pork chops, shrimp or lobster."


                                                                        3. I always order the fifteenth item from the bottom of the menu.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mimolette

                                                                            OK, I was kidding. I try to order what the restaurant is supposedly good at. I had a friend who would always order the lobster if it is on the menu, or whatever is most expensive.

                                                                            1. re: mimolette

                                                                              Don't you just hate that with friends who order the most expensive regardless of what they really want to eat.

                                                                              1. re: treb

                                                                                The most expensive thing is usually what I want to eat.

                                                                          2. It used to be Italian food, but coming from the UK I have been to so many bad restaurants, I'd rather just cook it at home. I make a mean risotto and my bf makes a delicious lasagne :) Pizza for me is always best made at home - homemade base of course, with cranberry sauce, topped with brie and chicken breast - just divine :)

                                                                            I have been eating out every day (for 6 months), as I am currently travelling around SE Asia (see http://asiasoutheast.com) and try whatever is available (but NOT rat or dog!) Pretty much anything else is a go-er - yesterday was smoked Catfish and lab moo (but with beef). Today I think we are going for fish.

                                                                            Back to your question - people really do both - sometimes you feel adventurous and other time you want something familiar and comforting. I can cook a steak, but back home in Lanzarote, there is nothing better than sitting on the sea front and ordering a solomillo or mignon steak, relaxing with a glass of wine and letting someone else do the hard work - and the Canarian chef's really do know their steak (just don't ask for 'well done')

                                                                            1. What the restaurant is known for...for instance
                                                                              don`t order pasta at Red Lobster, or seafood at Olive garden. There are exceptions. Also I order something I would usually not get at home.

                                                                              1. I'm more likely to order deep-fried foods out, because I don't like using that much oil or contending with the smells at home.

                                                                                Indian foods, because it's so demanding to make a variety of foods in that cuisine at home (and I do cook Indian seriously, so I know the time and work).

                                                                                I also seldom make sushi/sashimi at home. It's not exactly hard, but it requires an ingredient set that is quite specific, so if you're not doing it every day or frequently, it's just easier to eat it away from home.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                  yah, dishes with a lot of spices are one I gravitate to when I go out.

                                                                                  1. re: treb

                                                                                    Funny, but I love working with spices. (I'd rather deal with 10 spices than dice up five different vegetables.) Consequently, I prepare Indian food very frequently, but I also go to Indian restaurants quite often. I guess I just can't get enough of the stuff.

                                                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                      My favorite way to use a wide variety of spices is to bake say a modified ginger snap.

                                                                                      1. re: treb

                                                                                        I do love ginger snaps and ginger bread. Alas, I'm not much of a baker.

                                                                                2. In NY, I'm most likely to eat sushi or pupusas out. Which is to say, I'll eat most anything, but that's what has been on the menu these days. Actually, I'd like to find a place that sells nuegado, but have no idea where a decent Salvadoran bakery would be. Easier if I was in the DC area though...

                                                                                  When I'm traveling, I'm always eating out. Though, I do make an effort to find (regional) cuisines that are nearly impossible to get in NY/wherever I'm living at the time. In Indonesia, this translates to the majority of dishes available, save for random fried rice/fried chicken/peanut sauce'd ones. Moreover, the ingredients are more likely to be fresh, and the sambals/spices potent.

                                                                                  Then, we have China. I detest the stuff hatched in the US, but China generally is much more welcoming to my palate. If the whole country had Hunanese restaurants and Xinjiang yoghurt, with nighttime bbq stalls, great. Since it doesn't roll that way, I just go for the nearest place with eggplant, green peppers/chilies and/or 刀削麵. Dumplings with foaming garlic vinegar are a back-up plan.

                                                                                  Japan, well it would take too long to write here. But they've got something good going on there...


                                                                                  1. Depends where I'm at. But, for the most part, I order something I don't make at home often. That might be fish (if it's a place where I trust will have good fish), or mac and cheese, or even french fries. If it's an ethnic place, I try to order something really spicy, because I like spicy, but my SO does not so I often don't cook really spicy food at home. I try not to order something like chicken when I'm out, although if it's an ethnic place I will.

                                                                                    If it's a bar type place, I like to order burgers. I can make a pretty darn good burger at home, but often they're a bit better at a restaurant/bar. At "our" bar that we go to a few times a month, I have a small rotation of things I like to order though. They did just update their menu though so I'll probably try some of the new items.

                                                                                    I also often use a restaurant meal to try something new that I've never had before, since chances are it will be cooked better than a first attempt at home. That way I can decide if I really like something, instead of mangling it at home and thinking I don't like it because I didn't cook it right. If I do like it, I'll then attempt it at home. Most recently this was lamb. I had lamb two ways for my birthday dinner, decided I liked it, so now I'm comfortable making it at home too.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                      yah, there's something about a burger on the flat top at a restaurant, it's just better than I can do, sans grilling.

                                                                                    2. Usually whatever strikes me in the moment. But if it's a casual pub type place, I'll almost always go for deep fried because I can't stand doing it in my home.
                                                                                      I also really like to get a cheese plate when it's available, because I'm just simply not going to buy all those cheeses to keep at home at any one time.

                                                                                      1. Anything that sounds delicious but is too much faff to make at home, or needs a long list of ingredients, or some bit of equipment I don't have.
                                                                                        I sometimes order puddings, especially, in the hope that I can recreate them at home, I have had some success with this.
                                                                                        And if I'm eating out while on holiday or travelling, I prefer to eat a cuisine or style of cooking I can't get at home,

                                                                                        1. Not something I do often, but there is no way to replicate a Jack In The Box taco.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                            The biggest problem is trying to reverse engineer the meatpaste.

                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                              I won't even try, but that stupid meat paste makes the taco, the way it turns the crispy interior into a quasi-soft goodness.

                                                                                          2. I don't really think about it that way. I order whatever strikes my fancy at the moment.

                                                                                            I don't tend to order desserts at restaurants, though, because I find they are always disappointments. Somehow the things I make at home are more exactly what I like for dessert.

                                                                                            1. something fried, and wine by the glass

                                                                                              1. I eat whatever I find most appealing on the menu.

                                                                                                Sometimes (OK, often) that's going to be a dish that is well beyond my own cooking ability. Other times, it's going to be something commonplace and easy. All depends on the day and the menu.

                                                                                                1. My first inclination is to order a signature dish. Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's, pressed duck at Tour d' Argent, rock shrimp at Dixie Crossroads.

                                                                                                  Next is a regional specialty or something I do not normally make at home. Orange Cairolina que, Texas brisket, Chicago deep dish, Bolognese, fried softshells.

                                                                                                  And then there is the comfort food. Biscuits and gravy, schnitzel, spaghetti and red sauce, and especially fried anything.

                                                                                                  I do not normally order something that I have in my rotation in the galley.

                                                                                                  1. We don't eat out often, so when we do, a change of pace is nice.

                                                                                                    I often order seafood. Restaurants tend to do a better job cooking seafood than I do at home.

                                                                                                    I do look for dishes that are new to me. If I am eating out for lunch, I like to find soup or salad with interesting ingredients and combinations.

                                                                                                    1. I order whatever looks good.

                                                                                                      1. Unless I am dining at an ethnic restaurant where I already know what I want from the menu, I usually order the chef's "fresh catch" seafood special if one is offered.


                                                                                                        1. Of course it depends on the restaurant. If I am in a fine dining situation, I always order a seafood dish, that's not something we do with a lot of frequency at home.

                                                                                                          If I'm at a steak place, I'll order a a steak since we don't really cook them at home all that often. When ordering steaks, I always get the french fries since we never make them at home.

                                                                                                          (This is a different topic, one I have seen on numerous Chowhound threads, but I dislike going out to eat for breakfast because I have almost never ordered anything I cannot make better myself at home.)

                                                                                                          1. Something I wouldn't make at home.

                                                                                                            1. We basically go to a Sushi or Chinese restaurant. Sushi more often. Beautiful delicious food I'd never dream of trying at home.
                                                                                                              Good sushi around here being on the BC coast.

                                                                                                              1. I rarely order simplistic items that I can easily make at home. ie: spaghetti and meatballs. alio e olio, lasagna, roast chicken, steak, etc.

                                                                                                                But I don't go out of my way to eat only the exotic/extreme items only. A salmon with interesting glaze, lamb made three ways, interesting raviolis can entice me.

                                                                                                                Often it's the sides that seal the deal of my entree. I might order a steak or roast chicken if the sides are interesting.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                  I'm a sucker for stuffed pastas precisely because I have such difficulty turning out credible ones at home.

                                                                                                                2. Oh, and in Chicago, when I go for Polish food (unless it's buffet, then all bets are off) I would never order pierogi. Not because I make them myself (I can and have but it's a long, arduous process!) but because it's very cheap and easy to get them already cooked at Polish delis and markets or frozen almost anywhere that sells frozen food.

                                                                                                                  I know I can get 12 delicious pierogi (after I doctor them up at home with way more bacon and onion than a restaurant would EVER provide!) for around $4, A plate of pierogi isn't expensive at a restaurant, but it's going to be double that, at least. And skimpy on the bacon!

                                                                                                                  I like to go for some kind of kotlet preparation as getting that kind of crispy, not-greasy, fry is hard for me at home without making a huge mess and using a bucket of oil.

                                                                                                                  1. I often order liver and onions. Nobody at home likes the smell, wants to eat it, or for me to cook it.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                                                                      The smell is killer, makes you want to eat even more.

                                                                                                                      1. re: treb

                                                                                                                        Fried liver and onion gravy is the best. Only squirrel makes better gravy than beef liver.