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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.