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What dishes / foods do you NEVER get at restaurants?

Recently, I saw a thread about the difference between making risotto at home and what you get at a restaurant. Logistics dictate that it's unlikely you'll get absolutely from scratch made risotto at a restaurant.

It got me thinking that I never order meatloaf at a restaurant. Logistics dictate that it has to be premade and reheated if it's made in a traditional loaf (pan or freeform) style. And it's never, ever the same. I mean, it can be delicious in its own right, but it's not the same as fresh from the oven meatloaf.

I also never order something like spaghetti. Plain old spaghetti. I know it might be the best damn spaghetti ever, but my pocketbook tells me I can do that myself at home and like it just as much for much, much less!

What do you think a restaurant can't do as well as a home kitchen? Or what do you never order?

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  1. I go to restaurants for a number of reasons, socializing with friends, relaxing with my wife, laziness/unwillingness to cook at the moment, convenience at work. The one thing that NEVER pops into my head is "I won't get this because I can make it at home or it's not like what I make at home." The point of a restaurant is getting what you want when you want it (I sure as hell possess the skills and ability to prepare an excellent breakfast at home, but I also like hanging out with friends over a leisurely breakfast out) The end result is either satisfying or it isn't. Crafting rigid rules sort of denies you the freedom that a restaurant should afford.

    One of my more satisfying surprises at a restaurant was a vegan "meatloaf". I'm by no means vegan but I got talked into it by my server. It was simply fantastic. I like to keep myself open to pleasant surprises like that.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ferret

      I think you've assigned a whole lot to my post that wasn't there!

      1. re: Violatp

        Not really, the whole idea that "I won't get this because it can't possibly be good" adds an element to dining out that really isn't borne out in practice.

        1. re: ferret

          So you missed the part about "delicious in its own right?"

          I don't want to argue about this. But you were unfair.

          1. re: Violatp

            I pass on a lot of things because I can make them at home and make them well and for far less money.
            Unless I'm really in the mood for it, so it's not a rule.

    2. Though I LOVE crab, very RARELY order it when out to eat. If the crab cake is the best thing I ever tasted, BUT I get even the smallest bit of shell/cartlidge... I'm done with it!!

      1. Funny, meatloaf and spaghetti are the two things that come to mind. I don't care for meatloaf unless it's mine. Oh, I would probably try some if it had a different spin on it than everyday meatloaf. Spaghetti, it's just too messy. My husband will order it out though and it never fails that he gets some on his shirt.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MrsJonesey

          I was going to say meatloaf, but I really did like Cracker Barrel's when I ordered it. Probably because it was loaded with fat!
          Spaghetti, no, unless it's a side with a dish, which was very common where I come from.

        2. Anything accompanied with Ratatouille..........PHOOEY! Always taste like sludge with Tomato overtones

          1. For me, it's not a "What do I not order because I can do it better than home?", but rather "What can I order that I probably won't make at home?"

            I usually order things with unusual ingredients, like salsify, Jerusalem artichokes, etc. Things I like but that I probably wouldn't cook at home because they are hard to find, have a short growing season, etc. I also like to order seafood items like crab cakes and scallops, since DH is allergic to shellfish and I try to limit cooking shellfish to when he is not home. I also like to order Prime Rib, because we only make it once a year at Christmas, (when I can get a good one from Costco). I make a great prime rib, but sometimes you just want a hunk of prime rib in the middle of June.

            Once in a while, I'll order something simple like a chicken Caesar salad, or some pasta, even though I can make it at home, simply because that's what I feel like eating.

            13 Replies
            1. re: boogiebaby

              Like you, when we are out, I often order the things that are verboten at home by the one who seems to control 51% of the vote (even if I do the cooking). And if we order in Chinese, I know I will get to enjoy the FULL spicy part of the order!

              1. re: boogiebaby

                <<For me, it's not a "What do I not order because I can do it better than home?", but rather "What can I order that I probably won't make at home?">>

                Me too- I am apt to order more complicated, time consuming type dishes that I don't often make myself. I also am apt to order things with ingredients whose seasons are short.

                1. re: boogiebaby

                  boogiebaby Sep 27, 2013 09:27 AM
                  For me, it's not a "What do I not order because I can do it better than home?", but rather "What can I order that I probably won't make at home?"

                  That's probably the best way to say what I do. For example, duck. DH loves it, and I really should make the effort to prepare it for him at home, I don't because I'm "meh" about it.
                  So, he'll order that and what gets me interested is sauces- good, rich reductions that take a great deal of skill to make perfectly.
                  I'm always a couple cards shy of a full deck with my sauces. But, I'll keep trying!

                  1. re: monavano

                    Unfortunately there are no short cuts. You should try the Madeira sauce, based on an espagnole sauce, from the joy of cooking. It is a labour of love but oh so delicious. That is definitely something I would order in a restaurant. A filet is a perfect vehicle for the sauce cuz it has great texture but not a lot of flavour.

                    1. re: monavano

                      I usually order seafood in restaurants because we don't cook much seafood at home (Minnesota).

                      Your duck story reminded me of a story my mother used to tell. My father was active politically for most of his life so my parents got invited to a governor's ball. This was in the 60s and it was quite formal. I've seen photos of them with my father in a tux and my mother in an evening gown with white gloves up to her elbows. Anyway, she was looking forward to an elegant evening away from her bratty kids. The banquet proceeds and the food is served. It was pheasant under glass. Her heart sank, because she had been cooking pheasants for over three months because my father was a prolific pheasant hunter.

                      1. re: John E.

                        John E., I absolutely recognize and empathize with how commonplace game meat can become. I grew up with venison, venison, grouse, venison, pheasant, venison, grouse-n-pheasant, venison. I really couldn't conceive, for years, of ordering venison or pheasant from a restaurant menu. My freezer was stuffed with it. My childhood memory was stuffed with it. Game meat, for me, has always seemed "everyday," in a way.

                        My dad just passed away recently, but we still have a goodly amount of venison and bird in our freezer from last season's take (he would always take a doe for us, and every fall we'd get the whole thing in roasts, chops, tenderloin, ground). He was our purveyor. We'll see how the meat keeps, use it up, think of dad, and perhaps in the future think about ordering it in a restaurant after a little respite from game.

                        I empathize with your mom. Great story, too.

                        1. re: cayjohan

                          My mom has been gone for over five years now. Late in her life she had a bit of dementia. (She was hilarious. I was driving her to a doctor's appointment. She says "I see an airplane", I asked 'where' so I could see it, she responed with "in the sky, doofus." Anyway, in her later years she would tell us she did not want us to shoot any deer. I thought she meant that the deer were so beautiful with pretty brown eyes...I asked her why not and she said she ate enough venison as a kid.

                          Last year we got 5 deer and one of my brothers and I make sausage. I always take home the whole loin and at least one 'ham'. The tenderloin is always eaten in deer camp.

                          I have never eaten wild game in a restaurant, but part of that is we don't often go to restaurants where it is offered.

                          1. re: John E.

                            John E. Have you ever chicken fried that tenderloin? Mighty fine eating.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              I'm the main camp cook, one of my brothers cooks a pretty good breakfast. I have only sliced the tenderloins into medallions and sauteed them in butter. If I were at home I might try a chickenfried venison tenderloin, matter of fact, I might do that with the loin, like I do with a pork loin. But at deer camp, we're working with just the basics, we don't have running water or electricity, other than from a portable generator. I really don't want to dirty up too many dishes and utensils. As we say up here, we use Chinette, not china. (Chinette goes up in the fire real quick.)

                                1. re: John E.

                                  Tommy, "We hit one of them deer, and his paw, what do you call it, the paw? Jimmy, "The hoof." Goodfellas

                                2. re: James Cristinian

                                  I use my boneless venison loin chops for schnitzel quite often; great way to prepare them. I correct my "wouldn't order venison in a restaurant" statement: if a menu had venison schnitzel, I'd order it in a heartbeat. Indeed, a mess to make. But easily one of my favorite uses of venison.

                      2. Lobster- lobsters are so cheap these days..no point of paying $$$ at a restaurant.

                        chicken dishes...unless I was in France.

                        Grilled fish- My husband makes it better at home with our outdoor charcoal grill

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Monica

                          I am in Bloomington, IN. I was in a market (Kroger) last week which has a lobster tank. I did not see a price and asked how much they were. $17.99/lb. Not cheap. I could probably order lobsters on line for less including the shipping.

                          1. re: Candy

                            Maybe it's because you are in IN?
                            I live in NJ and my local supermarkets often have sales on lobster for somewhere between $5.99 to $8.99. Yesterday at a local Korean market, I saw live lobsters in tank for $6.49.
                            Too bad my husband is allergic to lobsters otherwise i'd cook these babies up every night.

                            Actually I did have lobsters for lunch at a restaurant last week. 2 lobsters in ginger scallion sauce for $24 in Chinatown.

                            1. re: Candy

                              Oh sweetie! (pun intended)

                              I just paid 4.99/lb on Sunday in Vermont.

                          2. I'll take your spaghetti and raise it to any pasta dish, for the same reason.

                            1. I rarely order pasta. It is really cheap to make and I cannot justify the markup. Unless it is something I can't or won't make like ravioli or manacotti done right then skip it.
                              Burgers. I never get them in a sit down establishment. Sometimes as fast food but never, ever in a sit down place. To many bad ones over the years with something so simple.
                              Rissoto. For the same reasons as pasta. I can't justify the price. I will stand at home stirring rice for twenty minutes and save the cash for crispy duck or a big ass steak.
                              Tuna salad. It can be old or to sloppy with mayo to eat. I am to picky so I never bother. Just a set up for failure
                              So many more I am sure. I hope I captured the spirit of the post in my answers.

                              1 Reply
                              1. Crab cakes. They too often have too much filling and not enough crab. At least on the West Coast. I like my own that use a minimal amount of a shrimp mousse as a binder and no bread crumbs.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: mike0989

                                  +1 on the bready crabcakes. And that is on the east coast for me. Last time I was dooped at a higher end chain who will remain nameless. Ten dollars for two cakes on the menu. They came out and were the size of a quarter and were swimming in sauce. I didn't even bother to taste them. And i almost never send things back. This was easily ten years ago so ten dollars wasn't the issue, but two bites for ten dollars was for me.

                                  1. re: mike0989

                                    Yes! I will NEVER order crab cakes here in L.A. because of the filling. I grew up back East with Maryland crab cakes and I refuse to eat anything that's more than just crab.

                                    1. re: Kashmirgirl

                                      I have gotten suckered in a few times for the crabcakes. It is typically a disaster. I prefer mine broiled and minimal filler and the filler should have a very distinct taste.

                                    2. re: mike0989

                                      I can't help myself with crab cakes! At least for an app. I just have to try them if I think the restaurant is known for them or uses really good ingredients and cares about quality.
                                      If I'm expecting backfin and lots of filler, pass.
                                      Fortunately, I can buy Chesapeake Bay crab most of the year and make killer cakes. I do use saltines for binder and to me, it doesn't hinder the quality, and it stretches a pound into 6 nice sized cakes.
                                      Actually, now i'm less inclined to get them at a restaurant because a 2-cake entree hovers around $30, and I can get 6 jumbo (HUGE) lump cakes for $35/lb.

                                    3. I never get steak. If I want steak, I'll do a rib eye on the grill and save 20 bucks.
                                      If I want to spend the $20, I'll get something unique, or something new to me. Or something I've heard of but never tried, so I know what it should taste like if I want to make it at home.
                                      I don't order meatloaf or spaghetti, as others have mentioned. Comfort foods have to be done just the way you want them, and that means making them at home.

                                      I don't order a baked potato. Give me a side that is different from everyone else's sides! I had roasted Brussels sprouts somewhere a while back. I make those at home pretty often, but it was nice to have a vegetable that you don't see at every other restaurant.

                                      1. I very rarely order chicken. I eat so much chicken at home that I am ready for a change when I eat out.

                                        1. Pasta is about the sauce. It has become ridiculous, to me, to spend US$16.99 - US$29.99 on a plate of pasta with a teaspoon of tomato based sauce though.

                                          Keeping my own home cooking mostly eurocentric, I can, and do, make just about whatever I can get in most (non-asian) restaurants. And usually better as I don't have to make a profit on it.

                                          That said, I avoid, as much as possible, ordering simple things in restaurants. Steaks, grilled fish, etc. Actually anything that is simply grilled/broiled. I just skip it from the menu.

                                          I also notice the extra high price tag of a plain broiled steak or a plain grilled fish.
                                          I have been told that the reason for the extra expense for the simple dishes is there is nothing to hide the poor quality, so they get "the good stuff" for the plain broiled and grilled. UGH!

                                          As a sauce lover. As one who makes many sauces at home. And as one who finds someone who can make a sauce a true cook/chef. I can, and do make better food at home. A restaurant would have a hard time beating me and still make a profit. So for inferior quality at a high price tag, I avoid plain steak and grilled fish prepared by the dishwasher and I order the lower quality food stuff hidden under industrial sauces to hide the inferior quality.

                                          I do also sometimes order 'food for thought'.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            That's interesting. I find that most restaurants in the US serving pasta drown it in sauce (not the *real* Italian ones, tho sometimes even they make that mistake).

                                            Whereas in Italy, the sauce tends to be an accent -- just enough to dress the pasta, but not overwhelming it.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              I agree. I do love sauce, especially a true sauce espagnole but it should enhance the meat and not obliterate it. I judge a restaurant or chef for their ability to edit and rely on great products and techniques. I will not go to a restaurant that has fish in a cheesy cream sauce with bacon on their menu. FYI I can assure you that the dishwasher is not grilling your fish at Milo's ( high end Greek resto in Mtl, NY, LV and Athens)

                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                I agree. Too much sauce and gasp! tossed on top and not melded with the pasta (red sauce, typically) and salads are usually over dressed.

                                                1. re: monavano

                                                  monavano, i don't know where you are located, but around these parts it's nearly impossible to find a dressed salad anymore. it's automatically just served "on the side". that goes for every level of dining now. sad. there is never enough room in a serving bowl to toss a salad in any amount of dressing.

                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                    Dressing on the side reminds me of the red sauce Italian restaurants I used to go to in Philadelphia. That, and tasteless tomatoes!

                                              2. re: Gastronomos

                                                Pasta is about the pasta not the sauce. Well, good pasta is about the pasta. I sometimes make pasta at home but love to order house made when we go out.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I disagree. A good pasta dish is about the balance between pasta and sauce, they both should be highlighted and compliment each other. It is the same thing with pizza, the dough should get equal billings to the toppings. So often pizza dough or pasta are inferior and covered up by heavy sauces and toppings. I make all my own pasta so know what it should taste like and still prefer it dressed.

                                                  1. re: Gloriaa

                                                    a good sauce is a good sauce. the proper pasta for the proper sauce.

                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                        My point exactly, it is a balancing act but one, IMHO, needs the other. I disagreed with c.oliver'pasta is about the pasta not the sauce'

                                                        1. re: Gloriaa

                                                          For me, the pasta/sauce balance depends on how I'm eating it.

                                                          If I'm eating an Italian-Italian meal, the pasta is lightly dressed, and -this is important- served in an appetizer sized portion. If I'm having pasta as a main dish, then the sauce to pasta ratio tends to be much higher, otherwise it's a meal that consists mainly of carbs.

                                                2. Dessert. Somehow it never lives up to expectation....

                                                  Plus, I enjoy a little space between my dinner and my dessert. Dessert tends to end up more of a pre-bed-time snack for me.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jbsiegel

                                                    DH and I have been on a good roll with desserts recently. We don't have room most of the time, but our splurges have been worth it recently.
                                                    At home, I like to relax a bit, retreat to the couch and then eat dessert.

                                                  2. I never get pasta for the reasons already mentioned.

                                                    And I rarely get salad. They are often disappointing and overpriced.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jarednielsen

                                                      I've had similar experiences with salads. The produce normally tastes sub-par to me.

                                                    2. Very similar: I never order pasta, meatballs, chicken (except fried chicken once in a great while...once a year?), rice, turkey, meatloaf, hot tea, or sandwiches.

                                                        1. I would never order pasta at a restaurant unless it was specifically the type of place that would cook it to order. Many restaurants simply pre-cook it, toss it in oil and portion it off a day or two in advance, then microwave it for a bit and drown it in sauce.

                                                          I'm also picky about wings, since it's also common for restaurants to pre bake them, then just warm them up in the fryer. If you order wings and they come out to your table in less than 15 minutes, they are doing this.

                                                          1. I pretty much never order steak in a restaurant. The beef we buy at home is invariably higher quality and my partner cooks it well ( I am useless at steaks).

                                                            Usually, when I'm eating out, I want to try something perhaps more intricate that we don't cook at home.

                                                            1. Not in any particular order.
                                                              Most of the restaurants I frequent are ethnic (to me), with ingredients I don't have on hand or would be complicated to make.

                                                              But if I go to a standard American restaurant, here is my list.

                                                              1. Steak (when I want it, I cook it at home)
                                                              2 Chicken (eat it all the time at home)
                                                              3. Salad (I eat it everyday for lunch)
                                                              4. Pasta, or any Italian food (I make most dishes at home)
                                                              5. Dessert (I am usually too full)


                                                              1. Ham sandwich.

                                                                I grew up with Frankie's ham sandwich in Niles, Michigan. Warmed on the grill with their wonderful mustard.

                                                                Then Isaly's chip chop ham with their sauce in Pittsburgh.

                                                                And this little bistro made these great ham sandwiches next to the hotel the USO always sent me to in Paris.

                                                                Each different. Each a wonderful memory. I don't even bother making one at home now.

                                                                1. Beef in Chinese takeouts.......at the prices generally charged it must be crud. Meatloaf.......only trust my own.Pasta is an interesting subject. The common perception regarding the markup is spot on. I generally do not order a pasta dish or sauce I can make better but as I'm intimidated by shellfish, I favor those mixed shellfish pasta dishes in "Italian joints"(with plenty of crushed red pepper).

                                                                  1. By experience, chicken soup. I have never had one, even in the "best" restaurants, that I can't do better.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: mtlcowgirl

                                                                      Second chicken soup and extend that notion to soup in general. It's never as good as I want it to be, the portions are small and/or watery, and not commensurate with the cost.

                                                                      1. re: jarednielsen

                                                                        I had a scrumptious mushroom soup in a now defunct Montreal restaurant that I could never attempt to duplicate. But you are right about most restaurant soups.

                                                                    2. I avoid ordering the foods I can easily make at home or associate with home cooking, even if I enjoy them. For me, that means any standard American food (the way my husband grew up eating/cooking) or Italian-American food (the food I grew up eating/know how to cook). I would never choose to go to an Italian restaurant, but when I find myself in one, I order something other than pasta.

                                                                      I also mark down a dish for being served with simply prepared potatoes. On the one hand, I love the versatility of potatoes and we eat them a lot at home. We just tend to eat more of them when we're looking to stretch our budget (as we are now) and I don't like paying huge markups for something so simple. If they're delicious or somehow creative, I can forgive humble ingredients, but if they are not as good as I make (often the case) I just feel guilty for having spent the money.

                                                                      1. For the sake of brevity, if I can't make it at home, I won't order it. If I'm spending time and money at a restaurant, I want to eat something different or something that I can guarantee to screw up at home.

                                                                        1. Never chicken, unless its chicken wings in a bar. Never flounder (its cheap, and I can make it better at home).

                                                                          1. Fried fish. I am a master fish fryer if I do say so myself. On the other hand, I fry chicken poorly, fortunately we have some really good fried chicken here so I don't need to go to chains.

                                                                            1. I don't order drinks, I don't care for booze, wine or beer when I eat. I was in the biz for years and I understand about profits but $2.50 for iced tea, nope. I'll have coffee at breakfast if I haven't had a bunch prior.

                                                                              1. Maybe you should go to a restaurant that can make the food better than you can so you don't feel that way. I can pretty much guaranty that whatever food item you can prepare at home, there is a restaurant that can prepare it better than 99.999% of home cooks. Even spaghetti. Obviously I don't mean Olive Garden. Yes you have to pay more for it that what the cost of the ingredients is, but if that was the only consideration in dining out, there would be no restaurants. There is nothing I would not categorically not order. Hey, by doing that you would miss out on what could be the best meatloaf you've ever tasted.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                  The only thing I will never order is a hamburger. It is the easiest thing to make at home. I have my butcher grind the meat in front of me, form it into patties then season. I fry them in my cast iron pan to get a really nice crust, toast brioche buns with some sharp cheddar, top with any fixings I have on hand. Then I eat with lots of napkins and a cold beer.

                                                                                  1. re: Gloriaa

                                                                                    I'd never order hamburgers too but it's those darn french fries that come with hamburgers is the reason why I order hamburgers.

                                                                                  2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                    "...there is a restaurant that can prepare it better than 99.999% of home cooks."

                                                                                    There in lies the problem.

                                                                                    I know many people who don't cook, and those I know who do, only 'throw' things together in a pan/pot/casserole and call it dinner. They go out to eat and it's like "WOW" that chicken parm is SO delicious.

                                                                                    A cousin of mine married a wonderful woman and he is SO happy she cooks "better than a restaurant". I've tasted her food. She is among the "99.999% of home cooks" you state.
                                                                                    When we have had dinner out with them it's been Applebees and a local fried fish place. If that's the comparison......

                                                                                  3. So far the list of what not to order is


                                                                                    What are you people doing in restaurants? Going for a glass of water?


                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                      Well no. I have the best-tasting water at home. lol.

                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                        I don't see bread on the list.... Or pork. So I guess that's what I'm having!

                                                                                        1. re: Kontxesi

                                                                                          Or shrimp, or cheese. But, you can't have those together, unless you to start a war!

                                                                                          1. re: liza219

                                                                                            Actually, my boyfriend ordered a "shrimp casserole" thing at a local Turkish place that really worried me.... It was essentially shrimp covered in melted cheese. But he absolutely loved it.

                                                                                            I'm not sure I'd eat it, though. But I don't love shrimp in the first place, so what do I know?

                                                                                            1. re: liza219

                                                                                              That's a classic greek dish called saganaki. I don't care for it. But I do love shrimp with cheese grits.

                                                                                          2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                            "What are you people doing in restaurants?"

                                                                                            Ordering, hopefully, Something that takes the skill of a chef to cook, with a sauce. Anything that takes the skill of a chef to cook, with a sauce.

                                                                                            And in my original reply I listed steak or anything under a broiler or grilled. Plain. Boring. Yawn. A baked potato, and steamed luke warm broccoli. YAWN!

                                                                                            On more than enough occassions I've sat in steakhouses in NYC where I requested the menu listed sauce "BĂ©arnaise" , or other sauce, got 'looks' from the waiter and never received anything but a plain steak on a plate. With "OOO's and Ahhh's" from the waitstaff giving me the pomp of "eating like a king" and suffering through a meal of plain steak with a baked potato and simple sides that a monkey can prepare.

                                                                                            When I choose a restaurant I never order simple things.

                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                              I guess it all depends on how much you eat out. Between work and personal life, I eat most of my meals out. There are weeks when I have every lunch and dinner at a restaurant. After many meals with sauces and multiple elements in each course, I long for nothing more than a salad and a simple grilled fish. Especially when I haven't been choosing the places to eat. I recall one client dinner where an elaborate printed set menu had been placed on each diner's plate. We all sat down and looked at it. By that point, my group had been on the road for over a week traveling eating like that. One of my colleagues waved over the waiter and asked if he could just get a plain steak. The waiter said sure and nearly 2/3 of the group at the table then asked for the same thing. If eating out isn't an occasion but just something that you do, simple can be what you desire.

                                                                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                I worked in Manhattan until about 2006. I suffered "fine dining fatigue" for a short while. I guess you don't / didn't get the client dinners at the steakhouse? I had too many of them. I longed for a single entree, not always the tasting menu, not the appetizers and entree with "sides" and dessert, just a plate of well executed anything. I worked from home from 2006 until 2011. Five years of bliss. Didn't go out to eat much. I cooked better than a restaurant and don't recall ever broiling a steak or a fish. I'm back on the road again. Not Manhattan, but driving all over Long Island. I eat lunch out daily. Now I'm tired of pizza and burgers. If we go out for dinner, it's not to the local broiler/grill. It's in search of food beyond the broiler/grill. If eating out isn't a good experience, something delicious can be what you desire.

                                                                                            2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                              What I do go to a restaurant for: Sushi/sashimi/raw oysters/raw clams, deep fried foods (like fried chicken, fried clams), labor intensive stuff like terrines and tamales, stuff that I can do at home but not as well as some places I know (like kibbee) and stuff that I really can't cook often at home b/c H won't touch it (goat, lamb, tripe).

                                                                                              1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                Your list is practically the same as mine. Also, I used to do my own lobster at home all the time; but now I go out for it ( or my hubs cooks it). I stopped because I felt like the whole house smelled like lobster for days......especially if I cracked a claw or knuckle that had juice flying.

                                                                                            3. Big ol' Porterhouse, Filet Mignon, Rib Eye Steak, Pork Chop, Liver, Organ Meat et al. .

                                                                                              When I go by the cows near my home, I wave and tell them
                                                                                              'I don't eat you' and they all seem to know, in unison, have that 'happy cow' look.
                                                                                              ; )

                                                                                              1. Things I never order:

                                                                                                Steak. Steak at home is delicious. Good steak in restaurants is expensive.

                                                                                                Pasta, specifically dried pasta. Fresh pasta is a delight.

                                                                                                Western soup, the markup is heinous. Asian soups like soondubu, tom yum, or wonton, I enjoy much more.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: jaykayen

                                                                                                  Most good steak restaurants dry age their meat which is something you can't do at home so i don't think it's fair to compare your steaks to their steaks.
                                                                                                  I agree on the soup! I never order soup. $6 for a small cup of chicken noodle soup? no thanks.

                                                                                                2. I've had excellent meatloaf at a restaurant, once reheated on the grill. It is a dish to be cautious about because mine is better than what I have in most restaurants ... but I order it anyway, and sometimes (OK, twice) I'm very pleasantly surprised.

                                                                                                  I'm surprised to see all the mentions of pasta. I make pasta a lot at home, but I still order it in restaurants too. Housemade pappardelle with wild boar ragu ... housemade buckwheat noodles with chicken livers, cippoline onions, and breadcrumbs. Two fabulous dishes that are nothing like the pasta I make at home.

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                    Totally agree with you. There's an italian place that we go to often that makes a particularly good housemade papperdelle with duck ragu. Who is making that at home? I guess too many have only experienced olive garden.

                                                                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                      I think a lot of us are. The NY times has a great recipe! Restaurants have different mark ups for different foods, pasta has the biggest one( in my experience) so not the best value. I order it sometimes if it is special but never would order a simple pasta dish.

                                                                                                      1. re: Gloriaa

                                                                                                        I'm impressed that you guys make it. But I actually think the duck ragu is a bargain at $18 for a plate. If I went out and bought a duck, that would cost me about $15 right there. Sure it can feed more than 1, but if I'm the only one who wants it, I think its fine. I also put some value on not having to make it and clean up even though I could do it. If I added what the theoretical economic cost of my time is based on my old college econ classes, the pasta is dirt cheap. YMMV. On the other hand, there are times that I want to spend a few hours in the kitchen, but when I just want dinner, pasta is fine for me.

                                                                                                    2. I'm always wary of people who say they "cook better than a restaurant". Really? All of them? Better than trained chefs in various levels of dining?

                                                                                                      23 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                        apples and oranges.

                                                                                                        a restaurant chef cooking a home cooked meal and myself? Yeah. we got a challenge!

                                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                          That's a wildly lofty claim, I'm just saying.

                                                                                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                            actually, looking at most menus today, it's actually quite humble... just sayin'

                                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                              Can you give me an example of something that is on "most" menus?

                                                                                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                  That genre represents most menus? Okay. You seem to be missing more than a few ethnicities, but I suppose you're a master at Northern Vtnamese and Southern Indian and coastal Mexican cooking as well!

                                                                                                                  But hey, if you can cook better than the trained chefs at Daniel or Del Posto, that's quite a feather in your cap. I'm sure all your friends/family who say so are telling nothing but the truth!

                                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                      I agree.Those restaurants are not your average restaurant. They are, for the most part, spectacular professional establishments and I doubt that any home cook could compare. Just saying... I had a bit of a giggle with the sweet water taverns first menu item-homemade calamari???i though that calamari was an ingredient....that is definite talent.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Gloriaa

                                                                                                                        Thanks Gloriaa. I agree. These menus are laughable. Sourcing ingredients is the only hard work involved. And fried calamari is ubiquitous. YAWN!

                                                                                                                        "I doubt that any home cook could compare."

                                                                                                                        I agree. ANY home cook, no. But these menu items are so simple, if you can source the exotic ingredients some of them list in lieu of creativity in the kitchen. You have to have the time and care for the art of cooking, of course. But there is nothing listed on any of those menus that is beyond a home kitchen.

                                                                                                            2. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                              I don't think you want to take that challenge. When I first moved to NYC, I ended up making friends with several chefs. One of them was trained through the classic french apprenticeship method. He was in his mid 20's when I met him and he had been cooking since he was 14. He was the sous chef at one of the top 10 Zagat rated restaurants at the time. On one of his off days, he came over to our apartment for dinner. There were several friends gathered but he was the only chef. We were planning on preparing a group meal. Once the cooking started, my chef friend commandeered the kitchen even though it was his off day. Couldn't help himself I guess. Using nothing but what was in my kitchen, he prepared a meal that blew our collective minds. Once we all sat down to eat, all you could hear was the sound of food being slurped down with the accompanying moans and sounds of delight. I told him that I never knew food like that could come out of my kitchen. Sure we can be accomplished home cooks, but compete against someone like that who prepares hundreds of meals a day at the highest level? There's an encyclopedia of techniques and flavor profiles in that mind. Things a home cook wouldn't even have a clue about.

                                                                                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                "Things a home cook wouldn't even have a clue about."


                                                                                                                Challenge accepted. (personally speaking, of course)

                                                                                                                Heck, if Mark Bittman can do it, I can do it better. ;-)

                                                                                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                  But if you read Bittman, he would never challenge Jean Georges. Instead, he would make a simpler version of a dish that JGV makes and I think he would admit his version wasn't as good as the original but it is good enough for the home cook. I've no doubt you can put together a mean dish of anything you put your mind too. But Its like thinking you as the weekend football warrior can head out to MetLife stadium and hang with the big boys for an afternoon. Maybe you can take the first few hits, but after a while, you understand why they do it for a living and we don't.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                    back to the apples and oranges. home cooking vs. home cooking. not chef vs. average home cook. and even then you made a point of choosing an example of a GREAT chef to cook in your home.

                                                                                                                    I will agree with you. the average home cook is WOWed by some restaurant fare that bores the @#$%^&* outta me. YAWN!

                                                                                                                    I'll also paraphrase Frank Bruni, a professed steak lover, that he "cannot judge a restaurant based on a steak. It means nothing."

                                                                                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                      You've lost me. Professional chef vs home chef in the same home kitchen working from the same ingredients is what I mean. What are you comparing? Home chef at home vs pro in the restaurant? I wasn't thinking that at all. If you can best a Michelin starred chef at home in your kitchen with the guy working side by side, then you're a better cook than I am, gunga din.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                        do you eat at Michelin starred chef restaurants daily? otherwise the restaurants that most compare is what I understood.

                                                                                                                        and, yes. I can beat most of them.

                                                                                                                        I also hold good home cooking far superior to restaurant fare.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                          You say that as if "restaurant fare" is all one type/quality of food.

                                                                                                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                            maybe I did. but I also stated "Michelin starred chef restaurants" as well.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Bkeats

                                                                                                                            Ahh....I believe we forgot one caveat. Most pro chefs won't cook at home! So we cannot compare a pro chef at home vs. Home chef at home. Take it from me, my husband, trained chef, specialty; pastry. What do I get ? Sandwiches, burgers. If I want a special dish...I gotta make it. Forget about pastries. Xmas and thanksgiving is all me. My hubs favorites? Twinkies, hostess. He's a great chef, don't get me wrong....he just doesn't want to do it at home after doing it all day. So, I say the home cook wins, since they'll actually cook something!

                                                                                                                            1. re: liza219

                                                                                                                              I have never seen my brother in law, educated at CIA and worked at numerous high end restaurants in NYC, cook at home. His favorite foods are, pizza, burger and hotdogs and lots of junk foods and cigarettes.
                                                                                                                              His wife, also graduated from CIA, as a patry chef never cooks at home either.
                                                                                                                              They have never hosted a Thanksgiving or Christmas party at their house.
                                                                                                                              They once had a bbq party for their daughter's b'day. Store bought beef patties and buns..ketchup..and hot dogs..with 10 bags of chips of various kinds.
                                                                                                                              Once my brother in law had to cook up some creative stuff at his home for an interview. I got to taste his foie gras dishes and other high end creations. amazingly delicious but he wouldn't really eat it.

                                                                                                                          3. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                            So you've never been wowed by restaurant food, only your own?

                                                                                                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                              no. I've been wowed by restaurant food. rarely, but I have been.

                                                                                                                  2. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                    Because I do order meatloaf in restaurants, I can say with confidence that I'd put mine up against any meatloaf in town. A local chef who's known nationally has it on one of his menus, and it's really terrible.

                                                                                                                  3. I never order a plain boiled lobster in a restaurant. To me that's backyard food.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                      I only order a whole lobster at one restaurant with a raw bar out on a dock. It just isn't the same without eating a lobster there.

                                                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                        Because I'm completely illogical, I do order lobster rolls in restaurants.

                                                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                          it's not illogical at all. you "never order a plain boiled lobster in a restaurant." because "that's backyard food."

                                                                                                                          you (and I) "order lobster rolls in restaurants." because there is some semblance of culinary action in preparing the lobster roll. an actual cook had to make the recipe and prepare the meal.

                                                                                                                          "boiled lobster", as you say, is "backyard food" that can be made by anyone that can boil water. no culinary skill needed.

                                                                                                                          unless someones culinary skill is so lacking as to starve a cloud...

                                                                                                                    2. Looks like I fall in line with most on this one: pasta and risotto. For all of the reasons noted by everyone else.

                                                                                                                      1. I don't put that much thought into it. I don't worry about whether I can make something at home better or cheaper.

                                                                                                                        I never order things I don't like to eat, otherwise anything is up for grabs.

                                                                                                                        1. I seem to fall into the same category as many have already posted. I almost never order pasta dishes in restaurants, especially the red sauce or bolognaise. I always seem to be disappointed. I also never order chicken dishes with the exception of fried chicken. And then there is the Mexican food. I live in Minnesota, so the really authentic Mexican restaurants do not exist here and while I like Mexican-American food, with the exception of tamales, I can make it as good or better than what is served in the restaurants, especially the refried beans. I'm positive the beans I get in restaurants come out of a can.

                                                                                                                          1. Brunch.

                                                                                                                            I cook a lot of things well but I (and more importantly Mrs. Hambone) think the meal I comparatively excel at the most is brunch. So 1. we host a lot of brunches and 2. we almost never go out for it.

                                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: hambone

                                                                                                                              I totally agree. I hate going for Brunch...I cook better and healthier(well, not always but I use organic eggs and no nitrite bacons) eggs, waffles, bacon, omelete.etc. I always wonder why there are so many people at local diners on the weekeends. waste of money and time.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Monica

                                                                                                                                I don't get brunch either. Too much food + booze= a wasted day napping!
                                                                                                                                Yes, I know you don't have to drink alcohol, but the days of enjoying a couple mimosas or bloody marys with brunch are gone.

                                                                                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                  You lost me at "too much food + booze". Those are my favorite Sundays.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                    Oh, I enjoyed back in the day!
                                                                                                                                    Funny thing is, I love brunch at home. Just love the variety and directions you can go with it.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                      First thing my husband says when he wakes up on the weekend is, what kind of eggs you want?
                                                                                                                                      My daughter says, the one in the yellow circle in the middle(sunny side up fried) or all yellow eggs(scrambled).
                                                                                                                                      I fry some thick bacon(applewood bacon from trader Joe's) on 12 inch Lodge skillet...while frying the bacon, I also fry the potato patties from TJ until very crisp and crunch outside...and then I fry up some eggs after with bacon grease. While eggs are frying, I toast some country bread and take out French(President) or Belgium(Chimay) salted butter...while my husband sets the table and makes a large pot of coffee. My daughter has her breakfast with either carrot juice or full fat milk.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ferret

                                                                                                                                          well, thanks for telling me that now. Now I can buy all the ham and turkey and hotdogs without looking at the labels...although I still like TJ's applewood smoked bacon for its texture and taste.
                                                                                                                                          and funny because my doctor told me not to eat products with nitrite and nitrate when I got pregnant. My phobia for nitrite started then too.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: ferret

                                                                                                                                            Great article, thanks for the link.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ferret

                                                                                                                                              Ferret- I had a boss a few years ago who would open her expensive canned soup and heat it in the microwave. If you made the mistake of getting caught in the break room with her during this ritual she would explain how hard she looked for soups which came in cans which were "lead free."

                                                                                                                                              She would show you the printing on the top of the can, "Our Guarantee -- 100% lead free can."

                                                                                                                                              She never really had an answer for, "How much lead do you think is in any of the other brands' soup cans?"

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hambone

                                                                                                                                                I hope she didn't use the plastic container to heat up her soup in microwave.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Monica

                                                                                                                                                  I think I remember her using paper. (Which is of course lined with plastic.)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                                                                        Too much food + booze = a wonderful nap on a weekend

                                                                                                                                  2. A fresh whole ear of sweet corn on the cob. Not the baby pickled salad bar crap, or the mushy 2 inch sections that probably were frozen during the Korean War you get at cheap barbecue places.

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                      Corn is always insipid. No thanks. I'll keep on eating my body weight's worth in season and local.

                                                                                                                                    2. Also, a lot of 'fancy' restaurants sell arctic char on the menu but I never order this because it's another fancy sounding dish that is a good affordable subsitute for boring salmon.

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Monica

                                                                                                                                        Well in my experience the two are not substitutes. Char are much easier to catch than salmon. Char will take a fly but when salmon are on their runs, you practically have to shove the fly down their throats. The taste of fresh caught arctic char grilled over a fire on the side of a stream in Alaska.....

                                                                                                                                      2. since I know that omelettes are made form power I would never order that in a restaurant or a hotel!

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: hovirag

                                                                                                                                          and I try to order fried eggs and not scrambled eggs if i have to order eggs.

                                                                                                                                        2. Usually chicken. I do it well it's simple and cheap. I love in New England. Lobster is a close second. I can buy two good size lobsters for me and the DW for less than one a restaurant. Eating a lobster properly is not a polite thing. I can crack, suck and split with the best of them but I prefer to do it outside int summer where clean up is a snap. The exception is Abbots Lobster in the Rough in Noank Ct. The steam them under high pressure slat water boilers. You pick it up at the window and find a space at the outdoor table. I am outside with the sweetest lobster around.

                                                                                                                                          Pasta unless the sauce or presentation is special. Spaghetti and meatballs never, pappardelle with wild mushrooms sure...

                                                                                                                                            1. For me, the one that stands out the most is a burger. I enjoy burgers, and I will even seek them out when I go to a place that pretty much exclusively sells them (5 Guys, Shake Shack, etc) but on a restaurant menu with a various selection, I never order one. I'll order sandwiches plenty, but never a burger. I really have no explanation for this other than the fact that when faced with many options, something else just always appeals to me more.

                                                                                                                                              Other than that, I don't really have any rules and just order what I'm in the mood for regardless of price mark up, ease of preparation, etc.