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question for european visitors... what surprised you the most about american restaurant culture

I have a group of europeans who are moving to the US for a few months as part of a work culture. They asked me for recommendations to help them prepare for eating in american restaurants.

I know on this board, there is alot of talk about the mistakes Americans make in Europe, but little discussion vice versa.

So my question is for Europeans who have visited the US recently. What surprised you the most about US restaurants / dining culture? What do you wish you knew before you came?

Thanks

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  1. I will answer for my German relatives - They were amazed by the size of the drinks and the free refills. They also complained about the 5-10 pounds they would put on each visit.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cleobeach

      I do think it is good advice to tell visitors that they won't need to order a starter, salad, and main course, unless they want to share family-style. Also, prepare to take home leftovers!

      1. re: khh1138

        They can put the leftovers in those huge back packs they seem to wear everywhere!!

    2. I hope this thread gets some good traction from Europeans - it's a great question!

      But - as an American - the difference I notice coming back from abroad: (in generalities - of course there will be exceptions)

      You'll feel rushed at meals by the waitstaff, they don't mean to be rude but American's don't like waiting and typically eat and go. So food and the bill come quickly, you don't have to pay right away if you don't want.

      Americans don't do "courses". An "appetizer" is typically meant to be shared and will be bigger than you think; the salads are typically for a meal, not as a course; and everything will come at once, on one plate.

      Tipping is expected, hardly ever included, and a constant issue - yes a lot of Americans would like it to change but it is just what it is for now.

      There is no such thing as a "house" wine - and we drink way more liquor than Europeans do.

      Americans eat early - dinner at 9pm is rare and many kitchens close by then if the night is slow.

      Our course order is different (when there are courses as stated above) - cheese is often an appetizer/starter (especially at parties or people's homes), salad/soup, meal, dessert.

      We LOVE ice in our drinks - and our drinks cold.

      26 Replies
      1. re: thimes

        Fine dining restaurants will treat salads as a course but you can always ask. Meal salads are prevalent at chains and casual restaurants and bars.

        1. re: thimes

          A lot of what you've said here is not at all typical of the America I live in.
          Where I live, we "do courses," there are house wines, dinner is never before 7:30, 9:00 is late-ish but not unheard of, I've seen plenty of end-of-meal cheese courses.

          1. re: caganer

            I agree @caganer. I live in the NYC metro are and everything @thimes states seems to be the opposite of my experience.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              The same is true of Chicago (and I suspect of most large cities in the USA, and close-in affluent suburbs).

                1. re: kmcarr

                  True, but more Europeans are likely to visit NYC than Columbus, OH (where Thimes evidently resides, based on his/her profile).

                  1. re: masha

                    "True,..."

                    But I NEVER said "typical." I merely stated @thines response was the opposite of my experience.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      Ttoomyy, we are agreeing with each other. Your experiences with restos in the NY metro area are different than thimes'. My point is that, regardless of which is more "typical" of "America" -- a proposition that is fraught with complications I won't presume to address, and that I understand you were not trying to express -- your experiences in NY are in some ways more relevant, since more Europeans are likely to visit NYC or other major US cities with a similar resto culture, like Chicago, where I live.

                      1. re: masha

                        I see that you were agreeing with me. Sorry. You're opening "true" threw me. :)

                    2. re: masha

                      Given the relative size of the rest of America compared NYC it is more likely that Europeans will visit someplace BESIDES NYC.

                      1. re: kmcarr

                        That may be true, but they may be visiting a place that is similar in approach... or not. That is why I countered @thines response with mine. To give the OP two scenarios. @thines response was a blanket statement; mine was not.

                        1. re: kmcarr

                          Have you ever been to NYC? I propose a test. I will walk out of my building here in Manhattan and you walk out of your building. Lets see how long it takes to find a European. My guess is that I can find one in less than 3 minutes. Probably 60 seconds is more likely.

                          You may be right on an absolute basis but on relative probability of finding European visitors in one place in the US, no place tops NYC.

                          I have a friend who does study travel patterns for a tourism group. Basically one third of European visitors come to NYC.

                          Check these pages which show sources of European visitors and how many come to NYC.

                          http://www.statista.com/statistics/21...

                          http://www.nycgo.com/articles/nyc-sta...

                          1. re: Bkeats

                            If I lived in much of the rest of the US and stepped out of my building, I'd probably have to end up in a car.

                            If there's a "European" in my car, she should have called sooner...

                              1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                Ha! A Swedish stewardess, perhaps? Now I'm showing my age.

                          2. re: kmcarr

                            I said the NYC metro area which covers more than NYC. Also, I NEVER said it was "typical of America." I said my experience was the opposite of @thimes, therefore giving the OP of this thread another perspective. Why did you assume my response was meant to be "typical of America?" All I said was " I live in the NYC metro are and everything @thimes states seems to be the opposite of my experience."

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              Sorry, I took the tone of your response (and @caganer who you were supporting, particularly the "America I live in") to be rather dismissive of @thimes comments, as if the NYC experience is the only one that matters.

                              1. re: kmcarr

                                Thimes grew up in the NYC metro area and his family still lives there. And even in that area I stand by my comments as generalities for a European visiting. Is it easier to find exceptions in a large city - of course. But on whole I think it is accurate "in America"

                                1. re: thimes

                                  And curse you all for making me defend Columbus Ohio - but based on a quick search it appears that it is the 15th largest city in the US. Hardly the rural cowtown you're painting it to be (though I completely understand the prejudice). We get plenty of overseas visitors.

                                  1. re: thimes

                                    Thimes, I did not mean to impugn Columbus, and I am sure you get many overseas visitors. The fact is (and I don't have a handy link to prove it but you can look it up) that NYC is the number 1 destination within the US for overseas visitors. Someone else (not you) made the suggestion that insights into NYC's restaurant culture were not useful because it is not "typical" of American experience. The only point I was trying to make was, typical or not, NYC is a city that a very large number of Europeans visit. I should have left you & Columbus out of it. Sorry.

                                    1. re: masha

                                      I bad mouth Columbus more than enough, so no offense taken in that regard.

                                      What does tweak me just a little is the painting of my opinions of being those of someone from a fly over state like OH and not at all relevant to a big city like NY - "silly little farm folks and all" - which is exactly how that conversation reads to me.

                                      I'm not saying that everything I stated is how I eat or live but you're fooling yourself if you don't think those are things a European would notice - even in such a modern epicenter such as NYC.

                                      (I should just delete this post because it is going to get me in trouble - but it has brought out the Jersey in me and so I'm posting it anyway. . . . some day I'll learn).

                            2. re: kmcarr

                              It is as typical of America as St. Louis or Raleigh or Spokane or whatever small town you care to name. Big cities are a part of America just as much as small towns, middle of nowhere farms and empty prairies are.

                            3. re: ttoommyy

                              Except for the comment about americans loving ice in their drinks, which i agree with, i disagree with all of thimes' 'facts'.( I have lived in Boston the last 40 yrs. and i never eat at chain restnts.)

                          3. re: thimes

                            MY appetizer is not meant to be shared.

                            I wouldn't expect this practice at better restaurants. TGI Friday's perhaps

                            1. re: sal_acid

                              Agree completely that it is not a common practice in "better restaurants," other than those with shared-plates concepts. On the other hand, my mother has a very small appetite and just cannot do a full appetizer and entrée. We often order a salad to share, but explain that to the waiter/waitress and, at better restaurants, they almost invariably bring out the salad already divided between 2 plates. Which I guess proves the comments of some posters here that it is not uncommon in American restaurants to make special requests.

                          4. Your waiter or waitress will introduce him or herself by name, but you don't have to offer your name in return. It's stupid and annoying, I know.

                            They are trained to make it sound like they want to have a close personal relationship with you. It is all fakery, just more American marketing bullshit. If your waitress is young and hot, don't offer her your phone number. She may take it badly.

                            He or she will interrupt your meal one or many times with an inane question: "How are we doing?" or "How are you guys (even if you are female) doing?" They will ask this stupid question only when you either have a mouthful of food or are in the middle of a conversation. This is encouraged by restaurant managers as a way to provide the appearance of attentive service. You still will have to wave and shout to get any service beyond delivery of the food and the bill.

                            If you ask for your food to be prepared in a non-standard way, that is to say, not the way it is offered on the menu, you will be considered a troublesome guest ... or even worse, someone from California, where everyone considers him or herself "special" and expects "special" treatment. A huge tip will be expected.

                            If you want your drink cold, but without ice in it, you probably will cause great confusion. You should get accustomed to bad coffee ... most restaurant coffee in this country is pretty awful.

                            A tip of 15 to 20 percent of the bill is considered normal. Restaurant workers are paid almost nothing in wages, and much of their income is in the form of gratuities. Stupid system, I know, but that's the custom.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: emu48

                              Why is it necessary to be so negative about the way things are in the US (as you see them)? All cultures are different. I have many friends overseas who like the friendliness of Americans, and would in fact jump at the opportunity to live and work here.

                              We were recently on a work visit and greeted Belgian colleagues in the usual way. The director of their company said, "I just love the American hug!"

                              If you're American, be proud of it. I don't know of any other nation that puts themselves down so much as I've seen in this country.

                              One piece of advice I'll give to visitors to the US: be sure to tip in the customary way here. I was out the other night and there were a couple of Europeans at a table; none of the waitstaff was surprised that they were there a long time (after most other customers had cleared out), required lots of special service, yet left no tip. This is common.

                              1. re: emu48

                                Wow, you really hate going out to eat, huh?

                                1. re: emu48

                                  Boy, do I ever disagree with this post. I eat out a lot, both socially and for work. I find most restaurants (even very moderately priced ones) more than willing to accommodate special requests. I happen to love cold drinks, but I eat out with people who routinely ask for water, soft drinks, etc., without ice and I've never even seen an eyebrow raised about it. Tipping customs vary in every country -- that happens to be ours -- get over it.

                                    1. re: emu48

                                      This is certainly true of mid-level/chain restaurants

                                      1. re: emu48

                                        <"He or she will interrupt your meal one or many times with an inane question: "How are we doing?" or "How are you guys (even if you are female) doing?" They will ask this stupid question only when you either have a mouthful of food or are in the middle of a conversation. This is encouraged by restaurant managers as a way to provide the appearance of attentive service. You still will have to wave and shout to get any service beyond delivery of the food and the bill.">

                                        I am born and raised in the 'burbs of NYC and have yet to find exception to this fact. and that's the nice way of putting it emu48.

                                        1. re: emu48

                                          Why you so mad bro? I bet the waitstaff loves you.

                                        2. I'm American, but some of my European colleagues (with whom I travel for business) say they are always slightly taken aback at all the "follow-up" questions when one places an order at certain places:

                                          Do you want room for cream?
                                          White, wheat or rye?
                                          What kind of cheese?
                                          How do you want the burger cooked?
                                          Fries or salad?

                                          That sort of thing.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: LeoLioness

                                            "Room for cream" is annoying even to some Americans.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              <Room for cream"> Is this some sort of coffee reference?

                                              1. re: petek

                                                Yes, and it implies that if you don't use cream, you want the cup filled so high that it's difficult to carry without sloshing it over the brim and scalding youself.

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  and this is why I always reply "yes." Even though I drink my coffee black.

                                          2. Interesting, no Europeans responding yet. Well I used to work in Europe and one thing most of my colleagues there commented about eating in American restos was about the quantities served. A 22 oz strip steak? Could not believe that was meant for one person.

                                            32 Replies
                                            1. re: Bkeats

                                              I have heard this remark about the large servings here many times, however, when my husbands German co-workers are in the U.S., he can't believe how much steak they put away. He can't keep up with them at all.

                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                It can be REALLY hard to find a good steak in Germany - perhaps they feel like they better enjoy it while they can!

                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                  Maredo to the rescue. It's a chain, but the steak quality (Argentinian beef) is pretty damn good. Awesome salad bar, too.

                                                  Honestly -- when I crave a steak in Berlin, it's The Bird or Maredo....

                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                    Been a long time since I have been in Berlin but the last time, I went to Royal Grill and ordered the entrecote. The "large" size was listed at 200 grams IIRC. Sort of small for me.

                                                    1. re: Bkeats

                                                      That place got such horrific reviews -- all hype and b-list celebs, not to mention sub-par food that I never had any interest in going. The prices are outrageous as well.

                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                        It was four years ago. We went because it was recommended by my colleagues in Frankfurt. I agree that the food wasn't that great. Real scene though. Not surprising considering the age of the guys who suggested it.

                                                    2. re: linguafood

                                                      Yeah, I've heard good things about Maredo but I never found a time to go. I'm sure the Bird's steaks are good but I just couldn't ever bring myself to order anything but that BURGER! Plenty of time for good steak when I'm back home!

                                                    3. re: biondanonima

                                                      We had a Germain exchange student live with my family in high school. We also had a neighbor who was a meat cutter who always gave us a great deal on 'expiring' beef. I think Gerhard developed a taste for beef. When he visted twice over the years, one of the things he really liked was to go out for a steak dinner. When I visited him, he really wanted me to have a good steak dinner, so we ate at the hotel reestaurant. I would have much rather had dinner at a German restaurant. His wife did make us a traditional German dinner. His sister made us an interesting meal that included both pork schnitzel and sweet and sour pork. They were surprised when I put both on my plate. (I still do not understand why they were surprised.)

                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                        My German relatives were very into steak when they would stay with us. I assumed it was either not readily available in Germany or crazy expensive. They loved cooking steak on the grill. We lived in a farming area and my grandfather raised beef cattle so steak wasn't a big deal to us but they always looked forward to it. Last visit, we did buffalo and they enjoyed that too.

                                                    4. re: Bkeats

                                                      What about bistecca Fiorentina, where it seems that you are expected to order a minumum of half a kilo of meat? The size of the order kept me from ordering it when we were in Florence. (Missed opportunity, I know)

                                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                                        Bistecca Fiorentina is an experience that you have to be ready and primed for when entering into a covenant with it. :)

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          So, in all honesty, how big is the chunk of meat that a single diner eats when committing to a bistecca fiorentina? :)

                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                            But I have no qualms about bringing home a doggie back from a steakhouse. Therefore, I wouldn't concern myself too nuch in ordering a steak bigger than my appetite. In Europe, as has been extensively discussed here and elsewhere, it typically isn't done.

                                                            1. re: thinks too much

                                                              dukefan, I would tell the Europeans about our accepted tradition of doggie bags. And I would also urge them to not be horrified/ashamed of doggie bags(like my French visitors) because they can help keep themselves from overeating by learning to take home leftovers.

                                                              Also, they should be encouraged to ask for whatever they need at a restaurant; some places are what i call "Yes" places that will do most anything reasonable to make their guests happy. Some are not that way; but visitors should be told that they have every right to ask while here.

                                                              I would tell them that most US restnts have websites that list their menu, so the visitors can translate this english food language while relaxed at home instead of feeling stressed out trying to order in a restnt. For the visitors that are foodies, it would be great to give them links to Chow with an explanation about how to find out about restaurants where they are going.

                                                              I would tell them that in a lot of parts of America, recycling and 'being green' are important awarenesses to have and practice. The U.S. had a big economic Depression in the '30's and 'not wasting anything' became an important practice (thus, the doggie bag.)

                                                              I would tell them that , depending upon where they are visiting in the U.S., there may be strict smoking bans in restaurants, bars, mass transit, public buildings and even public parks. (That's how it is in Boston where I live.)

                                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                All excellent points, @opinionatechef. Nicely said.

                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                  All good points, except that I am not sure that the experience of the Depression explains our tradition of doggie bags. Europeans experienced equal or worse food privations during WWII and its aftermath, yet they don't do doggie bags. (I can recall as an exchange student living in Belgium in the early 70s the extraordinary frugality of my solidly-middle class host family, where multiple children would use the same tub of water to wash their feet so as not to waster water.)

                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                    Exactly what I was going to say, masha, re: the Depression and not wasting food, etc. Europeans were just as affected; just by a different situation.

                                                                    The Europeans don't serve humongous portions which require a doggy bag. They also, more often than not, allow diners to take their time dining and digesting, so dining on a many course meal can take 3+ hours, not 1 hour-15 minutes as many Americans are wont to do. There is no rush to eat and go; dining is a pleasure.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      I sense there is, possibly, something of a cultural difference in attitude towards restaurant eating between America and Europe that may affect the doogy bag situation.

                                                                      I often read Chowhound threads where American contributors mention that they eat out frequently - several times a week in some cases. Clearly they are doing that as a choice instead of cooking dinner - and there are many American restaurants so reasonably priced and of pretty good quality that it is easy to do this.

                                                                      On the other hand, in my experience, many Europeans may regard dining out as something of an "event" - a date, a celebration, for example. For instance, in my extended family, my partner & I are the only ones who eat out regularly (perhaps weekly), other members of the family will only visit a restaurant for, say, a birthday or aniversary celebration (and some not even always then). That fits with the more leisurely style of service that you're likely to experience nor, as Linda says, are you going to be getting overly large portions.

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        I don't know if that's a US/European thing or a demographic thing. I think people in urban areas just tend to eat out more.

                                                                        My friends (30s/40s, childless) friends in London and Barcelona and Prague and Amsterdam definitely eat out as much or more than I do (living in a US city). Which is significantly more than say, my sister, who has a young child and lives in a rural part of the US.

                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                          ha. in vienna, your living room is the local cafe. It's been that way for generations.

                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            Agree with Chowrin, how much time Europeans spend in restaurants depends on where in Europe it is. (Wechsberg's book nostalgically described at least five restaurant meals daily in Vienna.)

                                                                            And the lack of uniformity in US restaurant habits. In my area, people seldom eat "early," people drink more wine and beer than spirits -- actually more like Europeans than traditional mainstream America -- and restaurants commonly offer basic or "house" wines by the glass.

                                                                            "Doggie" bags went from rare to mainstream during my lifetime, they are one thing Europeans always marvel at. Those of us who keep birds sometimes call them birdie bags, and you might be surprised how much some birds eat. Especially, good pizza.

                                                                            The other source of amazement from European co-workers was American breakfasts. Classic restaurant breakfasts with eggs, meats, toast, potatoes, condiments. "Larger than a typical dinner for us" said more than one Nederlander.

                                                                          2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            linda, i'm sure your last paragraph is part of it. And wouldn't it be interesting to wiki doggy bag and get the history?!
                                                                            also, i am well aware that the rest of the world suffered from food and other privation far more than we did in WWII, and why, but i would bet that most europeans don't know about our Depression, which is why i suggested telling them about it.

                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                              Europe suffered through the Great Depression in the 1930's as much as the US, and the resulting political situation was contributed to the start of WW2. I am pretty certain most Europeans appreciate the US suffered and also have a good understanding if the "dust bowl” through history lessons and the writings of authors like Steinbeck (we do read American literature and watch US films).

                                                                              My guess is that the doggie bag culture comes not from a lack of food, but more from the bountiful amount of food the US produced in the post war era from the '50's. Mass production, improved food processing and storage and the general feel good factor of that era created a culture of plenty - a culture where bigger was better. So meals grew in size and restaurants competed on the size of the meals (it still happen from what I can see from "Man vs. Food"). Add in the rise of the advertising industry in the 1950's and the everything combines to eventually produce the supersize me culture.

                                                                              People (not just Americans) don't like waste so inevitably people asked to take the excess home. In Europe we had rationing for many years after WW2. In the UK food rationing didn't end until 1954 and so Europeans learned to use food frugally. As a result portions sizes didn't grow as waste was an anathema to the those who grew up in the war. My mother did, and she would only ever cook enough for a meal, or you would only put on your plate what you could eat.....so doggie bags were not required.

                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                I just saw the most interesting Modern Marvels, about the rise of the American supermarket. If you get a chance, check it out, it explains a lot about Americans and food over the last 80 years or so. ( I wish I could link it but it doesn't seem to be available online for free.)

                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                  I actually think it has more to do with leftover culture -- one of the reasons we have much bigger refrigerators as well.

                                                                                  When I cook at home, unless I am cooking fish, I will almost always cook more than I know will be eaten. Having leftovers is a good thing. That way there is a lunch more tomorrow or even a high protein breakfast.

                                                                                  When I lived in Europe, when I was looking for a flat my only special request was for an american style refrigerator. My friends were amazed at how often i would have leftovers instead of cooking something from scratch or just going to a restaurant.

                                                                                  1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                    DukeFan, I am no expert, but I think you are confusing cause and effect in terms of the Europeans having smaller refrigerators and the lesser prevalence of leftovers. The smaller fridges in Europe is, I believe, a function of higher energy costs, similar to the prevalence of smaller cars. Also, secondarily, more compact housing, especially in cities. If you live in an urban environment where the cost of housing square footage is high and you walk past grocers and specialty shops every day on your way home from work, it makes sense to have a relatively small refrigerator and shop more frequently. Not sure when and where you lived in Europe but, since you describe your place there as a flat, I assume you were in a city.

                                                                                    Once you are stuck with a smaller fridge, obviously you are less prone to keep leftovers in them. That said, you are may well be correct that there is a less of a "leftover culture."

                                                                    2. re: thinks too much

                                                                      I bet most American steakhouses start at 1/2 kilo (or so) per steak and most are at least 50% larger than that.

                                                                      1. re: caganer

                                                                        Really? I rarely see steaks over a pound. 8-12 oz. seems to be the norm around here (DC metro area).

                                                                        1. re: caganer

                                                                          So you are saying the smaller steaks are more than a pound? Huh?

                                                                          1. re: sandylc

                                                                            I'm saying that 16oz is the starting point at many steakhouses besides a filet steak or some special "small steak" option.
                                                                            (I just checked the websites of two small chains, Del Frisco's and Capital Grille - the only steaks smaller than 16oz are filet)

                                                                            1. re: caganer

                                                                              16 oz. is the starting point for my home-grilled steaks!

                                                                               
                                                                    3. We eat dinner much earlier.
                                                                      We don't generally linger at the table as long as Europeans, unless we're at home.
                                                                      We eat bigger breakfasts -more like Brits.
                                                                      Portions tend to be much larger.
                                                                      Soda shows up at the dinner table.
                                                                      Tipping is not usually built into the tab unless it's for a particular-sized party.
                                                                      Waiters are more talkative.

                                                                      1. I'm American, but live in Europe with a European husband. US portions are generally much larger. Tipping is a huge difference. Receiving the bill without asking for it is another.

                                                                        1. Here are the few I got from asking around my office this morning

                                                                          - doesn't understand the concept of "confirming" reservations the day before

                                                                          - restaurant policies not to seat the party until everyone is there

                                                                          - potentially losing a reservation at a restaurant if you arrive late

                                                                          - the sheer size of menus in some restaurants

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: DukeFan

                                                                            ah - the losing a reservation if you arrive late is a good one too.

                                                                            1. re: DukeFan

                                                                              A few more:

                                                                              - the quality of fresh meats and vegetables
                                                                              - the prevalence of the breakfast meetings
                                                                              - Tapas-style restaurants where everyone's food doesnt arrive at the same time
                                                                              - the entire concept of sharing food, specifically appetizers
                                                                              - Lettuce wrap sandwichs (i know its just jimmy johns, but a new belgian expat was more blown away by this than anything else)

                                                                              1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                Doesn't Red Robin offer this too?

                                                                              2. re: DukeFan

                                                                                <- the sheer size of menus in some restaurants>

                                                                                UGH!!

                                                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                  They might as well just say, "we don't make anything from scratch here."

                                                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                      In the typical Greek diner I call the menu a "Bible"

                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                        as sandylc stated here that <They might as well just say, "we don't make anything from scratch here.">

                                                                                  1. Oh, rarely do strangers share tables, even during busy times in casual places.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                      And when they do, it is a "trendy" feature of the restaurant.

                                                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                          Unless it's a Basque restaurant, in which case it is just normal practice.

                                                                                      1. @DukeFan, as a former wait person, I would ask that you please thoroughly educate your foreign coworkers on the tipping policy for your area of the US. There is nothing worse than providing good, solid service to a table of people who then leave a $5 tip on a bill of $200-$300 and think they are doing you a favor.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. I last visited America in September - but I've been coming since 1980 so I don't think there were any real surprises. At least, no surprises since the development of the internet. Google allows us to research restaurants, rather than just take pot luck on what we might come across leaving the hotel. Certainly makes for a better dining experience - although it's important to exercise some discretion as I find that if I've searched for popular restaurants in the small towns we tend to be visiting, then they tend to be pretty much of the same type.

                                                                                          I suspect many Europeans are surprised at the expected tip level in America. Obviously, having visited before, I know what to expect and just regard it as part of the overall price of a meal, just as I would anywhere else in the world. It makes dining often more expensive than the UK or other European countries I visit. Not alway, but often - like for like.

                                                                                          I prefer the European style of service, where I am not regularly interupted by someone asking how the food is. Or filling up the water glass - if I want tap water in the UK, a jug will be left on my table. If I'm blunt, I find the American style of service to be pushy and inhospitable. It is not what I'd choose when I'm dining out.

                                                                                          Ah, I suppose there is one thing that surprised me this trip (maybe I hadnt noticed before). And that's youre not offered coffee after you've eaten dessert. I now understand that Americans will normally drink their coffee with dessert, so that if you don't order it with dessert, the server assumes you dont want it. So, I will continue to piss off servers who bring the bill and then have to rerun it because I've now ordered coffee to finish my meal. That'll just be an exchange of "pissing off" as there's almost nothing more likely to piss me off aboiut American restaurants than the practice of bringing the bill before I've asked for it. To me, it is the epitome of inhospitality.

                                                                                          By the by, "Europeans" are not a single group. Over 30 nations. Different languages. Different cultures - including in the restaurant field. And very definitely different tipping cultures - from those countries where service is inherentyl included in the menu price, through those where a % service charge is added to the bill, to those where old-fashioned tipping is still the norm.

                                                                                          24 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                            "By the by, "Europeans" are not a single group. Over 30 nations. Different languages. Different cultures - including in the restaurant field. And very definitely different tipping cultures..."

                                                                                            The same exact thing can be said about the US; but sub "50" for "over 30." :)

                                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                              Not really. There are cultural differences as you cross the US, but they are small compared to the differences you get as you cross Europe. Oregon vs Washington is not a completely new language and cultural, more of a mild variation.

                                                                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                                I was being silly. Hence the smiley face.

                                                                                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                                  Please tell me it cannot heavily vary by culture and language, but say it in Geechee.

                                                                                              2. re: Harters

                                                                                                When I go to Europe and eat in a restaurant, I am usually taken aback at the 25% (as an example) VAT added into the cost of the food. So I don't understand why Europeans visiting the US are always so taken aback because they are expected to tip 15%-20% of the bill. Do they not realize they are paying a 25% (as an example) surcharge on every meal?

                                                                                                As for other cultural differences, the portions here are somewhat larger (although I've been forced to leave food on the plate more than a few times when eating in London), and that's because a lot of people expect to increase the value of their meal by taking some of it home for leftovers. Also, there's the sharing thing as well, especially with appetizers. I have yet to see anyone actually finish an entree portion at a place like Cheesecake Factory.

                                                                                                And the 22 oz steak thing? I just went to Texas Roadhouse last weekend and had one of those. Half of it came home with me and made a lovely salad topper for lunch the next day. I don't see the "doggy bag" mentality in Europe, unless I've missed it?

                                                                                                1. re: mwk

                                                                                                  I agree with you, mwk. In these days of the internet, there is no excuse for a traveller not knowing the basic customs of the country in which youre going travel. The cost of dinner is the full cost of dinner - food, drinks, tip, tax - everything. Doesnt matter whether the tax is included in the menu price as it is in my country (at 20%) or is added to the bill at the end as it is in Spain (at 7%).

                                                                                                  And you're right, the doggy bag is not common in European culture. You see it occasionally but that's all.

                                                                                                2. re: Harters

                                                                                                  Whoops. I think of two nice surprises from recent trips.

                                                                                                  First, let me stress I am not a great fan of the all-you-can -eat buffet. But sometimes, you gotta do it. And I am still surprised how much better quality American ones tend to be than what we have in the UK.

                                                                                                  And, second, I was really pleasantly surprised about the variety of high quality of seafood that we ate two trips back in New England. Bearing in mind I live on a small island, where no-one lives more than 70 miles from the sea, fish/seafood in restaurants tends to not as good as you'd like.

                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                    Harters, I too am not a buffet fan, with the one glaring and glorious exception being the Wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. It's a culinary wonderland and worth a visit to Vegas just to eat there. I'm not kidding.

                                                                                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                      the buffets at Wynn and Aria are outstanding as well. definitely best value for $$ around.

                                                                                                  2. re: Harters

                                                                                                    I agree with your expectation of service.

                                                                                                    My favorite service tends to be UK/Ireland, where the waitstaff is always around but not overbearing.

                                                                                                    While service in lots of US restaurants in over the top (especially in the fast casual types), I still prefer that to typical service in French/Italian restaurants where it can be nearly impossible to find a waiter if you need something.

                                                                                                    I know europe is quite diverse, just like the US but was looking for examples from people across the continent.

                                                                                                    I have people coming in from Belgium, France, Sweden, Germany, Rome and Spain.

                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                      Have you been to N. California Harters? I am just curious if you have gone the route of Napa/Sonoma/Yountville/St. Helena meaning The French Laundry and all of the food destinations there? If so what did you think?

                                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                        No, We've only done east coast.

                                                                                                        I define a state that I've "visited" as one where I stayed at least one night. My full list is NY, PA, VA, WV, NC, SC, GA, TN, FL, MA, CT, ME, NH

                                                                                                        Would like to get over to the west coast sometime.

                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                          I hoe you do get to visit California. Very nice dining venues everywhere:)

                                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                                            You really need to get West, South, SW, NW, Central if you have the chance. The different regions of the US are as different, culinarily and culturally, as England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

                                                                                                            You've spent far too much time in the NE and you I'd hate for you to think the whole US is like that ;-).

                                                                                                        2. re: Harters

                                                                                                          Good point about coffee at the end of the meal, Harters.

                                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                                            Harters, you could just tell the server, when you order dessert that you would like a coffee after you finish it.

                                                                                                            1. re: Missmoo

                                                                                                              Yes, that's easy to say now cos I didnt know about the custom until after we got home.

                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                Guess that means you need to plan another trip;)

                                                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                                                              I travel to the UK fairly often (though not as often as I'd like), and I'd agree with you preferring the style of service on most points. And while I hate it when they drop the check while we're still eating (which happens *constantly* in Ohio), I don't understand why it's so difficult to get a check in the UK.

                                                                                                              I appreciate that the server is waiting for me to ask, but maybe the server could be somewhere in the vicinity when we're finishing or have finished, or glance at the table on occasion to see if we'd, in fact, like to pay. I'm often trying to pack a lot into my day or make the theatre, and I'm desperately trying to find or make eye contact with the server. sigh.

                                                                                                              1. re: nc213

                                                                                                                Maybe just stand up to leave? He should get the hint.

                                                                                                                1. re: nc213

                                                                                                                  I agree with you nc213. Getting the bill is an issue in some places. In well run restaurants (most of them), you'll find staff are in the vicinity and are very good at noting you've started looking for them.

                                                                                                                  I contrast that with a recent meal in Spain where it took five requests to three different members of staff before the bill came..

                                                                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                    at many Asian restaurants (that I've been to in the US) bringing the bill before asked is considered rude to the customer. gotta be bold and ask. wish I'd known that a long time ago. it's cool, I understand the idea and even sort of like it, I just didn't know and took me a while to figure out.

                                                                                                                2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                  when you order dessert, can you not simply say, "and i'd like coffee, BUT AFTER i finish dessert"? you realize it's a customary practice here so why not have a work-around instead of getting pissed and making your server run the bill twice?

                                                                                                                  i know many americans go abroad and go nutz waiting for the bill to be dropped. jeebus. just ask for what you want.

                                                                                                                  1. re: jadec

                                                                                                                    Entrée: good example of a figure of speech meaning different things even to _English_ speakers across the Atlantic from each other. (Another is "French dressing," not to reprise a topic I belabored in other threads down to dictionary and mainstream cookbook quotations -- but it still means in British/Continental English what it also meant in the US until 30 or so years ago when a red, niche, commercial variation came to dominate popular perception: a vinaigrette dressing. So, if, for instance, you board a British airline departing from, and supplied from, the US, and a steward offers "French dressing" with your meal, you're right to ask "UK or US sense?" and the steward WILL get your point, and explain.)

                                                                                                                  2. If your currency is the Euro, I would love to read your thoughts. I love Harter's insights, but in this case, he lives on the wrong side of the white faced anti-tank ditch.

                                                                                                                    It is early evening by now, so please feel free to jump in.

                                                                                                                    1. I'm from Canada and one thing that always surprises me is that when you order a salad, there's almost always cheese on it. Even if it's a green salad.

                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: roostermom

                                                                                                                        Huh? Except for Caesar or Greek salad, wherein the cheese is an integral part of the recipe, I don't think I've ever seen a salad with cheese on it.

                                                                                                                        1. re: phofiend

                                                                                                                          Really? Being gluten-free and dining out for lunch often, I see cheese a lot on salads. Granted, these are the more "main-course" salads versus a simple small plate of greens and vinaigrette you might get as part of a multi-course meal at fine dining or as a side to something particularly rich (say on the side of eggs benedict at brunch). And I've found it to be 50/50 as to whether casual dining includes some sort of shredded cheese on their side salads. From my recent ventures out where I ordered the salad as offered (no customizations)...

                                                                                                                          Chain Restaurant #1: romaine, egg, red onion, chickpeas, and blue cheese
                                                                                                                          Non-chain sandwich shop #1: romaine, caramelized walnuts, red onion, and blue cheese
                                                                                                                          Non-chain sandwich shop #1 again: romaine, diced chicken, pecans, and shredded cheddar
                                                                                                                          Non-chain sandwich shop #2: romaine, diced chicken, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and blue cheese
                                                                                                                          Non-chain dine-in restaurant #1: Spinach, walnuts, strawberries, goat cheese
                                                                                                                          Non-chain dine-in restaurant #2: Mixed greens, hazelnuts, pears, gorgonzola
                                                                                                                          Non-chain sandwich shop #1 again: romaine, olives, red onions, pepperoncini, feta
                                                                                                                          Non-chain dine-in restaurant #3: mixed greens, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, sliced steak, and blue cheese

                                                                                                                          Almost none of my other options were dairy-free (which is fine by me as I love me some cheese), except for when they had the ubiquitous "Chinese chicken salad" or some reasonable facsimile thereof. And out of fairness, the very last restaurant I listed did have one salad (out of five) that didn't have cheese - mixed greens, smoked salmon, capers, red onion, and radish - I just wasn't in the mood for it.

                                                                                                                          1. re: amishangst

                                                                                                                            I won't even go into the presence of the obnoxious *goat* cheese that has dominated the culinary scene. Gag.

                                                                                                                            1. re: amishangst

                                                                                                                              Ah, now that you mention it, I am seeing quite a lot of blue and goat cheeses on salads these last several years. But I believe it is a relatively recent trend, (less than 5 years?) and one that cannot end soon enough for me, as I loathe them both.

                                                                                                                              1. re: phofiend

                                                                                                                                i don't eat at chains but have never been served a salad with cheese as a surprise. it's always been listed on the menu.

                                                                                                                            2. re: phofiend

                                                                                                                              Your posting history seems to trend on the MSP board - is that the area you are currently in and where they will be coming to?

                                                                                                                              Not European, but do periodically have work guests for a few weeks a year who come from Canada and various European and Asian countries (we're in downtown St. Paul) and the things they seem to comment most on are...

                                                                                                                              *All drinks automatically coming filled to the brim with ice

                                                                                                                              *Tendency toward overly-friendly waitstaff (likely thanks to our tipping culture...they are all very well-traveled so no explanation of the tipping system was necessary, they just get a little annoyed by the seemingly constant interruptions)

                                                                                                                              *Huge portions (they all seemed to gravitate towards continental-style breakfasts - coffee, maybe a pastry or fruit and yogurt, heavier lunches, and lighter dinners)

                                                                                                                              *Lack of ethnic options (this was a combination of being downtown St. Paul and some of them coming by way of Toronto - However, Toronto apparently lacks good Mexican food and they were all remarkably pleased by our plentiful options in that arena - and we do have a variety of options, they just weren't feasible for their particular trips due to time/transportation constraints)

                                                                                                                              *Car culture - not strictly food related and may depend on where in the US you are, but they all seemed flummoxed by the idea that we have few public transport options, tend to not walk everywhere we need to go, and most of options they were most interested in required a car to get there

                                                                                                                              *Lack of neighborhood grocers/everything closing quite early - May be slightly different as they will be here for a few months rather than a week at a time like mine, but they were perplexed by so many things closing early, particularly in Downtown. And most often they just wanted something light for dinner and wanted to pick up maybe some vegetables to slice up, a piece of fruit, and maybe a small hunk of cheese or meat from a deli counter and they were disappointed by the fact that we all seem to do most of our shopping at large discount supermarkets in the suburbs and do not have an abundance of friendly neighborhood grocers.

                                                                                                                              1. re: amishangst

                                                                                                                                If you're in downtown St. Paul, you ehould already know they roll up most of the sidewalks at 5pm daily.

                                                                                                                            3. re: roostermom

                                                                                                                              Not always.
                                                                                                                              Sometimes, esp at lower quality chain restaurants.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                I sometimes "judge" the quality of a restaurant by whether they have ANY salads AT ALL without MEAT (???) on them.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  I usually judge a restaurant by its bacon!!

                                                                                                                            4. Not a massive amount surprised me - I suppose we become accustomed to certain aspects of American culture through media. But perhaps the most cliche, but still surprising thing was the sheer size of portions. I was only in NYC for a few days but every meal was gargantuan. We took leftovers for picnic lunches etc but it wasn't always practical so I ensured I only ever ordered a starter in those case. Vegetarian options were often disappointing for 'on the go' food though many places surprised me with their variety.

                                                                                                                              Tipping in bars also confused me - as in the UK we generally tip restaurant staff but never in a bar or pub. I assume that bar staff have to raise their wages to an acceptable level via tipping like restaurant waiting staff?

                                                                                                                              I have no idea if Delta do this to placate customers on long flights, but I was stuffed with food both there and back regardless of what time of day or night the flight was. I probably ate more food in 14 hours than I did the entire time I was in Paris, which was the same duration as my NYC trip.

                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: monsterbeans

                                                                                                                                Domestic flights are notoriously stingy. I was recently on a 6 hour flight and the only food available was for purchase. This wasn't a budget airline, either.

                                                                                                                                You have to pay for alcohol on domestic flights, too, even if the meal is "free".

                                                                                                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                                                                                  Interesting - as the Heathrow to JFK is only 7 hours so not much more, they buttered me up with a vegetarian curry, pizza, ice cream, sweets, bread and various accompaniments amongst other bits and bobs. It was staggering. I didn't drink on the plane due to the medication I take when I fly, not remembering any of a flight from Athens to the UK as a result of drugs and champers was my warning!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: monsterbeans

                                                                                                                                    If you fly domestic in the US and Canada (including between the two) you'll maybe get a non alcoholic beverage (poured - you don't get to keep the can) and some packaged nuts. Anything else will be exorbitantly priced.

                                                                                                                                    When I fly to Hong Kong, Tokyo or Korea (2-3 hour flights) I always get a full meal and free alcoholic beverages. On my last long haul flight (economy) we got the usual snack, dinner with wine or beer, breakfast, frequent offers of juice and water over the night and instant noodles or non alcoholic beverages on demand. Plus a nice little kit which contained earplugs, facemask, slippers, a tooth brush and toothpaste.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                                                                                                      Whenever I fly, mostly Delta, I ask for the can and am accommodated.

                                                                                                                              2. By my observation ordering eggs "any style." We have lots of choices as to how they can be cooked as well as unfamiliar degree of doneness phrases such as sunny side up.

                                                                                                                                1. I agree with everything here, and can add a couple more. At most places, you can order from the dinner menu at lunch time. In Europe, not so much. And it's not unusual to eat at the bar. May come in handy if a couple of folks break off from the larger group and just want something casual with a drink.

                                                                                                                                  1. Except for the British Isles, American Breakfast!!! Breakfast with 3 egg omelets, mounds of bacon, sausage and flapjacks!!!

                                                                                                                                    1. Friends from London came to visit NYC. They went to Carnegie Deli and ordered Pastrami and Corned beef sammiches.
                                                                                                                                      The sammiches came, they looked at the monster sammich and thought they were on Candid Camera. WTH???

                                                                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                        I always wonder why anyone would order what seems like a *practical joke* sort of meal.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                          My husband loves pastrami, about once a year, but always orders extra bread with his sandwich and makes two manageable sandwiches out of each monstrosity.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                          I've done the same at the Carnegie. I sort of knew what to expect but hadnt realised quite how big they are. But then, generally speaking, American sandwiches are considerably fuller than European ones but these were prizewinners!

                                                                                                                                          It was fulfilling a food ambition. We had this sandwich "cookbook" and several of the American sandwiches were linked to the Carnegie. Just had to go there. Just as I had to go to Big Wongs in Chinatown because I kept reading about in the Kinky Friedman books.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                            This is the Deli's schtick. It is touristy and known for huge portions. This is not typical.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                              The monster sammiches may not be "typical." But in general the portions in the USA are way bigger than in Europe.
                                                                                                                                              I can't remember having lunch or dinner in a European city and having enough left for a doggie bag.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                But are they over-the-top silly-big?

                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                    Near as I can tell, it's around $60 at Harold's Deli in Edison, NJ. It's supposed to feed 8 and extra bread is no charge.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                        Been to Harold's,, never again, too much gluttony...over the top, tasty tho...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                  that's so cute!

                                                                                                                                                  Next time that happens, tell them that's how our boys got so big and strong and helped them win the war!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                                                                    The Soviets won the war, on basically starvation rations. So much for that theory.

                                                                                                                                                2. Massive portions and being rushed so "the table can be turned."

                                                                                                                                                  Plus a minimum of 18% tip.

                                                                                                                                                  1. This is incredibly interesting to me as I've never traveled overseas and live in the US.

                                                                                                                                                    Maybe this deserves its own post but I'd be curious to find out what Americans have been surprised by while traveling in Europe.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: UTgal

                                                                                                                                                      My first jet-lagged night on a solo trip to the UK some years ago, I sat in a pub for 20 minutes waiting for someone to take my order.

                                                                                                                                                      It doesn't work that way, you go up to the bar and order--even in my foggy brained state, I did eventually figure that out! And I couldn't have left a tip if I'd wanted to; I was using my Visa card because I was expensing the meal, and when they gave me the charge slip to sign, no space for "tip".

                                                                                                                                                    2. My experiences of eating in the US are mostly very positive (West and East Coast and some bits in the middle) My husband travelled with me last time, only his second visit, and he was surprised and pleased at the friendliness of everyone, and that the default coffee was filter. We posted a question about the ordering of coffee and had great responses here:

                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/920466

                                                                                                                                                      I still find the rushed service slightly odd, as for me a really good meal always has a really good converstaion attached.

                                                                                                                                                      I'm afraid the tendency for waiters to turn up and ask how things are etc. certainly happens more in the UK therefore not a surprise in the US. As long as they don't arrive when someone is mid sentence or mid mouthful, I don't mind.

                                                                                                                                                      In relation to friendliness from waiters (or indeed anyone - I always find the US very friendly), I think Bill Bryson puts it best - "I'd rather be told to have a nice day by someone who doesn't mean it than to *** off by someone who does"

                                                                                                                                                      1. First, its not as different as you may think but still a few differences......so here is my advice to fellow visitors based on my experience:

                                                                                                                                                        At breakfast everything is so sweet, even the bread is sweet, its as though everything is loaded with sugar to get he energy up - select carefully.

                                                                                                                                                        There are some weird foods at breakfast. Egg white omelettes must have been designed as some form of culinary penance. Bacon is cooked so it is brittle and shatters all over the table when you apply a knife - be careful you don't injure fellow diners with flying bacon shards. And what sort of mystery meat is in those strange sausage patties - can't be good as its disguised with lots of herbs.

                                                                                                                                                        Give up ordering tea. The teabags are really weak, the water arrives lukewarm, and getting cold whole milk is next to impossible. Coffee is appalling in 99% of the restaurants - if you want decent coffee find a specialist (they will be local and not chains) and avoid any coffee order that looks like a science experiment - stick to espresso based drinks.

                                                                                                                                                        Meal times are early, lunch from 11:30, dinner at 6:30. Simply change your expectations and sneak off to the bar after your colleagues have gone home (at 8:30). Colleagues in the know will understand this and sneak off with you (I know this doesn't apply to some of the bigger cities like NY but it applies to more than you think).

                                                                                                                                                        Be ready for the big introduction: your waiter announces and discusses the concept of the restaurant and the menu and then runs through nearly every item as though you can't read the menu yourself (so don't waste time doing this). The provenance of each ingredient will be given and the details of the chefs cooking skills will be given in great detail for each dish. As you are reeling from this they will then list a vast range of specials. It is advisable to take a pen and write these on the tablecloth as you won't remember them. Its also a good strategy to order two (or three) drinks when you arrive to help you through this lengthy performance.

                                                                                                                                                        Decisions, decisions decisions. A novice US diner needs to be briefed about all the decisions they need to make when they order a dish - even if a dish is described in great detail on the menu and by the waiter. How should it be cooked? Which sauce? Sauce on the side? What dressing on the salad? (what salad I didn't order a salad, why the automatic intercourse salad?) Which sides would you like? Fries? Mustard? etc etc. If you are not briefed and prepared you will panic and make all sorts of random decisions - if in doubt practice your order with the person sitting next to you.

                                                                                                                                                        This also happens at dessert - the waiter asks what you want and everyone seems to not order dessert but order coffee as though dessert is code for this. If you are first you could be the only person eating.

                                                                                                                                                        And then not satisfied with all the infinite choices offered your fellow US diners will seek to change the whole structure and make-up of what they are ordering seemingly deleting and adding ingredients on a random basis. Don't worry this is normal and it isn't a sign the chef doesn't know how to cook or structure dishes.

                                                                                                                                                        US Chicken isn't generally good. beef can be good, but its not guaranteed, choose carefully. US Pork can be really really good and if often overlooked on menus.

                                                                                                                                                        The ability to order a rare burger is a lottery depending on the public health regulations in the state you dine in - in some its banned. Arguing doesn't help and is guaranteed to erase the servers smile.

                                                                                                                                                        Why whip butter, just why....?

                                                                                                                                                        US restaurants are highly structured. Only ask your waiter to bring things - never ask the helpful people who actually bring the food - its not done and results in a lot of embarrassment and confusion.

                                                                                                                                                        Your colleagues won't bother booking and will then be very surprised they need to wait for a table. Oddly they usually don't wait in the bar and order a few aperitifs despite the bar being next to the entrance.

                                                                                                                                                        The US is having a craft beer revolution, and much of it is brilliant. However, you need to search it out as 99% of US bars will sell ice cold p**s. US wine is also very good, but be prepared for sticker shock as its amazingly expensive - and if its cheap there will be a reason. Champagne is often from California not France.

                                                                                                                                                        There is some really good food in the US, but its still hard to find (especially outside the major cities like NY, Chicago, and San Francisco). Most of your colleagues won't have much of a clue.

                                                                                                                                                        Pray there is a Chowhound on hand to guide you - and if it is good you will probably need to book or get there early.

                                                                                                                                                        134 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                          There is some really good food in the US, but its still hard to find (especially outside the major cities like NY, Chicago, and San Francisco). Most of your colleagues won't have much of a clue.
                                                                                                                                                          Really? I suggest you take a trip to Sonoma, Napa, Yountville, St.Helena, Healdburg, Ca. before you dismiss *everywhere* else as being so *unworthy*.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                            I have been and its very very good (especially the little Mexican in Sonoma. But if you are honest its the minority - and I did say hard not impossible. If only all US regions had such riches (and to be honest I was sorta of lumping it into San Francisco and its environs) and such an array of fresh local produce.

                                                                                                                                                            Maybe a different thread but I wonder what the great food areas of the US really are. Are there others apart from the obvious like NY, Chicago etc really rival Napa/Sonoma...?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                              if you are looking for white tablecloth kind of restaurants, then probably not.

                                                                                                                                                              However, if you are looking for really good, unpretenious food, I would look to the south.

                                                                                                                                                              If I were to take a trip within the US just to eat, none of those cities would ever be on my consideration set.

                                                                                                                                                              My list would look like

                                                                                                                                                              - Savannah
                                                                                                                                                              - Dallas
                                                                                                                                                              - Birmingham
                                                                                                                                                              - Seattle
                                                                                                                                                              - Raleigh/Chapel HIll

                                                                                                                                                              Admittedly, I love upscale comfort food that is distinctly American. I could get tons of phenomenal food, and would likely not pay more than $60 for any meal.

                                                                                                                                                              Now all of those other cities have great restaurants. However, I think for the most part these restaurants are generally not distinctive for the city or the area and could be found nearly anywhere in the world.

                                                                                                                                                              In these cities, the cuisine is incredibly regional and can't be found anywhere else in the world

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                I've eaten in four of the five cities on your list -- I live in one of them -- and I couldn't disagree more. I'd make a special trip to any of them for the regional food I've had in them. I think the places I've been to in these cities are *very* distinctive and are unique to their environs.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                                                                  The list of five cities seems to be where DukeFan *would* go to eat good "distinctly american" food.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                All US regions *do* have riches of their own sort. I've been fortunate enough to eat in most, (but of course not all) of the major cities around the country and in each you can find not only a terrific traditional "white tablecloth" restaurant but also one that highlights the unique flavors and techniques of the area. You just have to know where to look and who to talk to, and what to order.

                                                                                                                                                                To say these exist in only the top two or three cities is not accurate.

                                                                                                                                                                New Orleans? Santa Fe? Boston? LA? Kansas City? St. Louis? Honolulu? Omaha? Anywhere you can get Wild Salmon or Dungeness Crab that was alive just a few minutes ago? Oysters or Clams or Mussels from 20 minutes away?

                                                                                                                                                                The key is ordering the right thing in the right place. They get really mad at you if you ask for Manhattan Clam Chowder in Boston. And while I can find a pretty good Cheesestek here in Seattle, I'll admit it's not as good as the best I've had in Philly.

                                                                                                                                                                I've never been any place I couldn't find something delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                                                                  Spoken like a true CH and I agree with you. If I thought I had lost my *gift* of sleuthing out delicious food regardless of my location I would be lost and morose.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                    Once in a plane conversation, we asked a native of our destination where he would send us to eat. Well, he recommended two or three touristy places and looked pleased with himself.

                                                                                                                                                                    I had previously consulted the interwebs and chosen some more interesting restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                    Well, the punchline is that we went to a really interesting, fresh, innovative place and had a great meal. And we ran into our plane friend, who was dining there as well. He looked a bit flustered by our presence.

                                                                                                                                                                    Do locals tend to keep great restaurants a secret? (New topic?)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                      I have experienced both sides. Locals invariably recommend the safe "tourist" options, maybe because they themselves don't eat out a lot.

                                                                                                                                                                      Conversely, when I am asked I used to recommend hidden local gems, but invariably faces glaze over and the limit of people's attention span is soon reached after I eulogise about a place, give detailed instructions about navigating the weird no reservation process, recount the chefs resume, and give complex directions on how to find it.

                                                                                                                                                                      Generally when I have the asked the visitors where they ate they end up going to the safe famed tourist haunt. One of the party would have already researched the city and they would really have been asking for recommendations to confirm the existing list. After all why should they trust my taste, and equally how can I know theirs.

                                                                                                                                                                      So now it's far easier to recommend the usual suspects, but when I ask I do probe, and test my research with locals, this is often the way to demonstrate I am serious and often get good advice. On my last trip to the US some of the best advice we got was from bartenders at gay bars - and not just in one city. Maybe the gay community is more connected to the food scene than others....? (and that is definitely another thread).

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                  John Steinbeck, after a drive across America, eating in inexpensive roadside joints, then writing a book about his experience ("Travels With Charley"), said that all along the way he never had a good dinner or a bad breakfast.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                    I wonder how different the breakfasts of 54 years ago were. I wonder how different the tastes were.

                                                                                                                                                                    We look back on the past through 'rose tinted spectacles' and think all food was market fresh served by honest souls toiling in the kitchen. But 54 years ago processed food was often canned, quality was pretty average and tastes not particularly sophisticated or broad.

                                                                                                                                                                    The breakfast diner conjured up by Hollywood looks wonderful but I wonder if it really was....?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                      While that is true, I don't think it applies to American diner breakfasts. I have never heard of canned eggs, hashbrowns and bacon :)
                                                                                                                                                                      Those traditional American breakfast items have been around a very,very long time. Still greasy, salty, fattening and tasty! Still about the same as I remember from 40 years ago. That is a rare treat for me now, but I still love it. Bad coffee and all! :)

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                        I do know some smaller yet decent diners that use canned potatoes and corned beef.

                                                                                                                                                                        Now that you mention it, someone who was in the business a little longer than me said that precooked bacon used to come in a #10 can too!

                                                                                                                                                                        Eggs, you can buy different variations frozen or fresh in a carton but most will only use that for egg white omelettes.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                          coll, most every diner around here uses canned corned beef hash. some of the smaller places, as you say, do make some corned beef hash from at least semi-scratch.
                                                                                                                                                                          gone are the days when diners around here used to grind the corned beef and potatoes, etc through a meat grinder and serve good plates of food...

                                                                                                                                                                          eggs for omelets usually are the boxed/frozen kind, egg white omelets almost always are boxed/frozen egg white type substance.

                                                                                                                                                                          I'm sure bacon used to come in #10 can, as just about everything it seems did at one point, but I dunno what it would be like or used for... and since you would know better, is that butter on my toast or margarine?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                            Definitely butter, especially if it's in pats ;-) Bakeries bought most of the margarine.

                                                                                                                                                                            As far as the pre-cooked bacon, which now comes frozen, places that don't save the grease for their griddle prefer it because they don't have to pay to get rid of the grease, and also it comes in a much smaller box so takes up less space. Don't know about the old stuff, but precooked bacon now is good enough that I bought a few cases for home. You still have to cook it but it's already 90% done.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                              I was curious because I've taken to asking for my toast dry. The tub by the toaster looked odd and tasted not like butter. I get either individual hotel butter or a mini plastic cup thingy of margarine depending on the diner. I guess that's another reason why I avoid these huge factories .

                                                                                                                                                                              And you answered my question as to why I hate diner bacon... Save for a very few select places that actually cook and serve food...

                                                                                                                                                                              :-)

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                Butter does come in 5 lb tubs as well as 1 lb blocks. The blocks are more popular but the tubs sell pretty well too, especially to delis and the like to put by the grill. But (and I'm not profiling here) diners are notoriously cost conscious so who knows?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                  <diners are notoriously cost conscious>

                                                                                                                                                                                  well, for the amount of food. the sheer quantity of food. for what people order and how much they take home.

                                                                                                                                                                                  the local place offers dinner specials of soup and salad, veggie and potato, choice of entrée, soft drink or 'wine', coffee and dessert for $17.95.

                                                                                                                                                                                  of course there is the skirt steak, err, uhmm, 'roumanian' steak for $24.99 that comes with all that too.

                                                                                                                                                                                  quantities like that sure ain't gonna be coupled by quality, which is $$$$

                                                                                                                                                                                  good to know I usually try to avoid such factories...

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                    Peconic Bay Diner out here in Riverhead used to be $10.95 (last time I looked) for complete dinner, excluding wine. Their food is decent, but I mostly go to diners for the egg creams and the chit chat with the waitress (aka atmosphere).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                        Wow. East coast diners sound very different than those out west. I have never eaten in one on the east coast, sounds like I never will!
                                                                                                                                                                                        Not much in the way of canned bacon, powdered eggs or egg creams out here :)

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                          East Coast diners don't use the boxed/frozen eggs either, at least none of the ones I've been to. Pretty hard to call them boxed or frozen when you see them cracking eggs and whupping them up for scrambled in front of you.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                            Well, I wouldn't think so either. I wouldn't think canned bacon is used much either :/

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                                                                                              Canned bacon doesn't exist anymore, as I said. That's a 1950s or 60s item. And I also said that most diners and delis only use the boxed egg whites, for those veganish dieting customers that have been appearing lately; otherwise it's all fresh eggs in my experience.

                                                                                                                                                                                              However, I feel bad you don't have the pleasure of ordering an egg cream. BTW there is NO egg in it, in case you didn't know ;-) It's like a thin milk shake and I couldn't go to a diner without ordering one.

                                                                                                                                                                                              the East Coast is where diners originated, so it's not like they're clueless or carefree.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                                                                            They haven't advertised lately in the Pennysaver, I will try to verify if the price has gone up at all in the last year or so.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                      I've had some great meals in our little "cow town" of Denver. I wouldn't say the food scene here rivals that of NYC and Chicago but there are some really great things happening here.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                        I don't doubt you at all but really, how typical are those towns vs. the rest of the U.S.? I mean come on, Yountville is the home of the French Laundry. Hardly a typical neighborhood restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                          For me because I grew up in that *food/wine* culture
                                                                                                                                                                          ( born in Marin raised in Petaluma, Ca.) it is not atypical for me. California is a food mecca because of the cultural diversity and the abundance of ingredients. I believe you have *fed into the hype* surrounding what used to be a little *ghost town* no one knew about a few decades ago:)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                              There's plenty of former 5star chefs in the middle of nowhere places...

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                Citing exceptions doesn't prove a point.

                                                                                                                                                                                The vast majority of restaurants are mediocre at best. Once you go outside the major urban centers it gets worse.

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, there are lots of exceptions but that's what they are - exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                  There is a higher concentration of restaurants in a major urban area - both great and crappy. More crappy than great, generally.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Same great and crappy restaurants in remote areas - just in smaller numbers.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                    You're not taking into account the large immigrant populations that are found in major urban areas. Chinese, Indian, Thai, Latino, Eastern European. Those folks bring along their cuisines and open lots of restaurants. Those kinds of places are largely absent from small towns.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't buy your point that the relative scarcity of good places in small towns is purely a matter of population density. Economics enters into it. And demand for variety.

                                                                                                                                                                                    There's a lot to be said for the pleasures of living in a small town. Low crime, quiet streets, no traffic, easy access to the countryside. Great restaurants? Nope.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                      You know, you really are right. My point might be better stated that you CAN sometimes find a good restaurant in a small town, and there ARE a LOT of crappy places in large cities.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Just being argumentative, I guess....:-/

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh I agree with that. They're definitely out there and the diners who support them are lot more passionate than their big city cousins. I love those places.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                          When I read your post I thought of a diner in Western Massachusetts (the "Miss Florence") that had the best scallops I have ever eaten. We were about an hour from New Bedford, so the lovely big sweet sea scallops were BARELY out of the ocean then the cook BARELY breaded them and fried them perfectly.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                          oh, boy howdy can you!
                                                                                                                                                                                          Of course, they may be famous for their white potato larded fries...
                                                                                                                                                                                          But a good place, nonetheless!

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                  The *hamlet/village* of Yountville Bob. Did I say The French Laundry Bob? Have you been to Yountville Bob?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                    Mommy, *you* said Yountville. I pointed out that it was the home of French Laundry so it's hardly a typical small town, even if it's got a population of 3,000.

                                                                                                                                                                                    What's the point of asking if I've been there? I know where it is - it's not like it's some kind of secret. I also know it's considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world. I'm not allowed to mention it until I go there 3 or 4 times?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                      Its also worth pointing out that in addition to the French Laundry Yountville also has Ad Lib, Bouchon, and Bouchon Bakery which are all Thomas Keller restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                      In addition the halo effect of having top global restaurant in town tends to add to the dining scene locally attracting chefs to work at the FL who then stay and start their own places. Plus add in the local supplier community that grows up based on the demands of a top restaurant can then supply these restaurants and in turn supply local markets. In effect it becomes a virtuous cycle of fine food....even raising the standards in the immigrant communities (i.e. its probably part of the reason for better than average Mexican in the area and great Vietnamese etc in SF just down the road).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                        Very funny with the mommy business Bob. That made me giggle inappropriately. My point is that Yountville was just a quaint pristine place of immense beauty (as was the entire Sonoma/Napa area) prior to the *invasion*of the *food/wine* gods. Far too *commercialized* and crowded with tourists now for me.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                          I think we agree that you come from an area where there are really good restaurants. You're blessed. I can also understand your point about tourists - I'm a lifelong resident of NYC. They're a curse and a blessing at the same time. There are plenty of really good restaurants in my town that I avoid for that reason.

                                                                                                                                                                                          My point was that this isn't typical - the great restaurants and the tourists - for small towns. That's all.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                            Ha, try coming out the the Hamptons and the North Fork of Long Island some time! Or maybe I shouldn't say that......

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                              Or the burbs of Seattle or Portland..ummm...no don't come...nothin' good here ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                              Bob, what's a "small town" in your estimation?

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                Good question. I apologize in advance for being a bit long winded.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I'll pull something out of the air - less than 10,000 people. But that's a pure guess. It might be more productive to talk about the concept of smallness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                To have a good restaurant culture (i.e. a bunch of good places, not just one) you need a critical mass of people. Not everybody cares about food. Not everybody eats out. Even if you consider the people who do eat out, not all of them can tell good food from mediocre to bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                (That's why some bad restaurants are successful. If a place had good decor and good service lots of people will think it's a good restaurant. Food is an afterthought for them. They can't tell the difference.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                Once a town gets big enough there are enough people with the interest, the money, and the palettes to appreciate and support a bunch of good restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Now that doesn't mean that you can't have a great restaurant in a really small town. I've seen them. Usually they're run by a husband and wife team and it's a labor of love. Word gets around and people travel from miles away to eat there because it's far better than anything else in the area. That's the key. The town can only support one of those and the restaurant relies on customers coming from a wide area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Places that specialize can be an exception too. A great BBQ place will do good business in areas of the country that appreciate that kind of thing. (I do.) You might even get a bunch of them in one spot but they're all making BBQ. They're narrowly focused. It's great if you want to eat BBQ but if you want Italian or Chinese you're out of luck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                You can have exceptions to the rule of course. (Every rule has exceptions.) Like that area of Northern California that MamasCooking mentioned that has a concentration of really good restaurants. But those are exceptions.

                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                  why would you be using a knife to eat bacon... actually my #1 pet peeve is restaurants who dont make bacon crispy enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                    Duke....because i am European and we are brought up to think that is the polite thing to do when we are guests. Maybe we need to add another piece of advice about the use of hands when eating...?

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                      here is quick list of finger foods

                                                                                                                                                                                      - Most closed face sandwiches including hot dogs and hamburgers
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Any type of wrap
                                                                                                                                                                                      - tacos, burritos
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Nachos
                                                                                                                                                                                      - french fries, onion rings or cheese curds... pretty much anything deep friend
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Anything served on a stick
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Bacon
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Corn on the Cob
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Ribs
                                                                                                                                                                                      - Any type of seafood you need to crack

                                                                                                                                                                                      I am undoubtedly missing a bunch, but you get the point. Generally if you are not given silver for something, there is a reason for it. Also if you are giving some type of wet clothes for cleaning your fingers its a sign you should use your hands.

                                                                                                                                                                                      However, if if you can use your hands, licking your fingers can sometimes be looked down upon.

                                                                                                                                                                                      There are already 10 threads here about whether or not to use hands when eating pizza so I wont go there. also on the rules for using a fork or spoon when eating ice cream (though I am big advocate of the fork, but am in the minority)

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                        I suppose eating pizza with your hands, rather than with cutlery, will be one oi the surprises for many Europeans. Yes, you will occasionally see it done here, usually by children in chain restaurants, but it would be rare.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                          there are about 5 threads here on that topic... short answer is there is no consensus.

                                                                                                                                                                                          however, it is much more rare for someone to eat a sandwich, french fries or burger with utensils

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                            Not even in fuddy-duddy old Britain do people generally eat sandwiches, burgers or fries with knives & forks. That said, there's a sitdown restaurant in the nearby mall that serves very full burgers and I do use cutlery on them. I watch shows like "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" and really do find it gross to watch someone cramming such large amounts of food into their mouths.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Fries, or chips as we call them, are the ultimate finger food here - always designed to be bought from the chippy, after the pubs have closed and eaten walking home. One of our earlier houses was just about exactly the distance from the chippy by which time you'd have eaten your chips - evidenced by the number of discarded sheets of wrapping paper that I'd find in the front garden every Saturday morning.

                                                                                                                                                                                            On the burger thing, MacDonalds opened its first outlet in our city in 1984. We had friends who were horrified that there were no knives and forks and were convinced that the staff were telling lies that they weren't provided. We had visited America, for the first time, a couple of years before and we aboe to reassure them that this was how it was supposed to be. I'm not sure they've been back.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                              i actually think british diners are much more open to different ways of doing things than french or italians.

                                                                                                                                                                                              I actually think the overall british diner experience, especially service, is the best in the world. Servers are there but not overbearing. Restaurants are willing to make small changes to suit diners without turning it into a choose your own adventure free for all.

                                                                                                                                                                                              my 2 best dining experiences in the last year were both in london

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                In my experience, I'll take more aloof European wait staff style - with the exception of stereotypically snotty Paris waiters - any day over the average American style. I don't like the chumminess of the American style under most circumstances.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I went to Paris in December for the first time. I was expecting the worst from the waiters etc..
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Surprisingly enough I never encountered any of the stereotypical snootiness you hear about.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Servers in high end and low end restaurants could not have been nicer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I hear it's more the guest than the waiter, when it comes to determining attitude. Makes sense!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                      In some instances it's the waiter. See my response to Moto above.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                        That's sort of what I was saying, in a roundabout way. Whoever has the bigger attitude sets the tone. The guest can be as guilty too, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have been to Paris any number of times. Don't speak a word of French. Never had a problem with the stereotyped attitude.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                        We live, we learn.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Who lives sees much. Who travels sees more."
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Arab proverb

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I have also had very nice waiters in Paris. I am thinking of a couple who were out of central casting. And it wasn't just us, but they were obnoxious to everyone, unsmiling, abrupt, etc. to even apparent locals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                          They tend to get louder and louder when a local does not understand them: "DON"T YOU TALK AMERICAN?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The "they" I referenced above, the "obnoxious to everyone, unsmiling, abrupt..." were the Parisian waiters who were abusing everyone, tourist or local, not the Ugly American you're referring to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ohhhhhhhhh!! When you said "couple" I thought you meant two people from the states.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Was the abuse consistent and showered upon all customers or just you? I love the fact that Americans are polite and tolerant in such awkward situations. I hope you had a good giggle about that uptight little prig later:)!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The couple of waiters I'm describing, on two situations, were nasty to everyone, us and other tourists and locals. And I mean, you walk in and the guy sneers at you. And no, nobody was dressed "jeans and a t-sthirt" or anything like that. I was a bit too astonished at it all to be terribly upset at the time, and when I travel I am just more able to accept situations better anyway (one of the great lessons of travel).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I go to NYC a lot, and have NEVER encountered the stereotypical "rude New Yorker." The ONLY time I encountered anybody nasty in New York, it was a French shop keeper in the West Village. Again, hilariously living up to the stereotype.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Very hard to keep a *straight face* when people *act out* rudely isn't it? Tolerance and patience are a virtue right? I am not one to let a little thing like a surly attitude get in the way of a delicious meal though:)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Motosport

                                                                                                                                                                                                            "could not have been nicer"

                                                                                                                                                                                                            OH we told you we told you, or somebody, or something. I know that I and others have posted that reception before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                        " I watch shows like "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" and really do find it gross to watch someone cramming such large amounts of food into their mouths"

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree. While I enjoy DDD, I cringe and have to look away when Guy Fieri "tastes" the offerings. I hate the taste moment in general on cooking shows, but his is gross.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The new mayor of NYC recently was caught eating pizza with fork and was subjected to public ridicule.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Rightfully so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      As was John Kerry when he asked for Swiss cheese on a cheesesteak.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Swiss cheese? Oh brother! I imagine they didn't even have that available. Here you can get wiz, American, provolone and a few places have mozzarella. Swiss...ridiculous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Although if you don't say Philly or cheesesteak, Swiss could be tasty with beef.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'd love to see you go into a pizza place in NYC and eat a slice with a knife and fork. You might create a scene like Mayor DeBlasio did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                                                                      A NY slice with a knife and fork may be silly, I admit that, but I always eat an individual Neopolitan pie with a knife and fork.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Um, i don't think the slice joint on the corner in my nyc neighborhood even HAS knives and forks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                        It's not a matter of "politeness" or lack of in the US to eat bacon with one's hands, it's about being literally impossible to do so with a fork! As you noticed, we cook it until it is brittle. That's the way we like it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've given up ordering bacon when I visit America. I've tried to explain that I want it pale and flaccid but it just doesnt compute.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                            That's a good strategy. If its not nearly incinerated here, it ain't bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Our bacon is just different than yours. Can't they both be tasty? Do you seriously not like it crisp and brown?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              (Incredulous look on my face!)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I seriously do not like it crisp and brown - that's why I've tried to order it not crisp and brown. I really don't any meat overcooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                By the by, your bacon isnt different from our bacon. We call it streaky bacon and, although it regularly features in British dishes, it is not our usual breakfast bacon - that's be back bacon. Which, I think, Americans call Canadian bacon - have to say I've not eaten Canadian bacon, although I have eaten bacon in Canada. Liked their ordinary bacon but not so keen on the peameal bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I wasn't clear - I meant prepared differently, not a different thing entirely. "Streaky," it is!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have to say that flaccid bacon doesn't appeal very much to me. It's sort of....chewey-gooey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think US and UK bacon is a slightly different product and thus gets cooked in a different way, a way that suits the product.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The best UK bacon is a fairly sophisticated product and needs careful cooking to retain the flavour and texture, you can still crisp up the fat but never dry up the meat. If you cook it so its crispy you loose all the best flavours etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  However, cheap UK bacon is not the same at all, it needs fierce cooking to drive out all the water that has been added during processing and is best served in a bacon nutty - two slices of bread, butter and hot bacon (which can be a little crisp). It should all melt together into a wonderful greasy mush.....drink with hot tea to cut through the grease.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hmmm. What makes one bacon "sophisticated" and another not so?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Craft vs mass production.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My assumption (and happy to be wrong) is that most crispy bacon in the US will be mass produced. If you do source (make or buy) craft bacon - a more sophisticated product in my book - my assumption is that you would cook it less in order to experience the quality of the product.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I do understand there is a passion for home made bacon in the US with blogs etc dedicated to the art of making bacon. Intrigued to know if this bacon is then cooked crispy or not. Given all the effort that goes into the product it would seem odd to almost cremate it before its eaten.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I would bet that most bacon is mass produced. The craft made stuff is still generally cooked - not cremated, but very crispy. It's just not an American thing to have it "wobbly" as is preferred in many other places. Most diners would send such a piece of bacon back in horror.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks. Not certain European (or UK) bacon is really served flaccid or wobbly. The fat is generally cooked so it firms up and gets crispy. But the art is to not overcook the meat and maintain its moisture and texture - its a delicate balance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As a guy who likes nice and crispy bacon, what you might consider way overcooked, I do actually appreciate a little bit of chew.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            As for bacon and cultures. I was a young man traveling in New Zealand, and went up to a stand and ordered a "bacon burger, please." My order came up, I bit into the burger, took another bite and so on, and never hit a beef patty, only the less-cooked style of bacon. I told the lady, "Oh, isn't it funny, but somebody forgot the patty." She looked at me like I had two heads and said, "You ordered a bacon burger. There's bacon in there!"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Out of curiosity I just googled *UK bacon pictures*. Your bacon is similar to what we would call thin cut center pork chops here if the pics are accurate. Looks very meaty compared to our bacon strips. Is it cost prohibitive?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The bacon in those pics looks way to lean to have come from bellies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  grampart..... I know you have the pork *hook-up*. I have learned a lot from you. So when I think of bacon here in the U.S. lots of things come to mind but there is always a lot of fat interspersed with the meat part. The pics on Google look similar to a pork chop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think some of it is loin "bacon". More like what we know of as Canadian except much thinner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That is what the googled pics look like. Those look like the little thin cut chops I get every now and then at Save Mart here in N. California. Not substantial enough for a main serving but a quick sear for a sandwich is ok.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    UK bacon comes in two types "streaky" and "back". They are usually two cuts from the same block of meat: the "back" is the loin down to where is joins where the belly pork starts, and "streaky" is the belly part. In very traditional butchers you still find the two sold joined together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Traditionally "back" is the breakfast bacon, its more expensive than "streaky" which is often used for cooking i.e. wrapped around sausages for "pigs in blankets".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Generally back is only about 2mm thick (less than a tenth of an inch), but you can get extra thick at 3mm and some economy cuts at closer to 1mm (if you can read a newspaper through your uncooked bacon its isn't a good thing).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The price ranges enormously based on quality but mainstream bacon may range from $7 to $12 a pound in UK supermarkets. Check out this slightly upmarket supermarket for their range of different bacons: http://www.waitrose.com/shop/HeaderSe...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for the link. I learn something interesting every time I ask a polite rational question about food on CH.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        OK so now I get the differences between U.K. bacons and U.S. bacon after accessing the link. The back bacon is more like a nice thin cut pork chop. It all looks delicious to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Although remember bacon is "cured" which I assume firms it up to facilitate it being cut into thin slices. I suspect raw pork would be tricky to cut that thin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, it's the same piece of meat as you get for pork chops, but obviously cured. That's what we call "back bacon". Then there's the "streaky" that's like American bacon. But my favourite cut, and you need to go to specialist suppliers, is "middle" which is a long piece of bacon, incorporating back & streaky.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Price obviously depends on quality. I buy a premium quality from the supermarket, made from free-range pork, which is about £14 per kilo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Interesting to learn about. The back bacon looks as if it would be quite tasty in a nice sandwich.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It is, Mama.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm just back from the supermarket where I had a second breakfast in their cafe. Sausage & bacon sandwich - three sausages - not premium quality by any standard); three rashers of back bacon - tasty and floppy :-0 - between two thick slices of bloomer bread. Excellent value at £3.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Your comment about needing to go to a specialist supplier to get your long piece of middle bacon made me chuckle. here in New Zealand our Countdown supermarkets sell this cut as their cheapest store brand of bacon! I stopped buying it because I kept thinking,"If I wanted streaky bacon, I'd have bought streaky bacon!" I never realised it was so prized!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Our standard bacons are middle bacon (but usually with the streaky bit cut off) and shoulder bacon. You can get streaky bacon but you would complain if you got it served to you in a cafe. Most of our commercial bacons are wet-cured but you can buy a couple of commercial dry-cured ones. Most artisanal bacons are dry-cured.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Because streaky bacon is so fatty and sliced very thinly I think it really lends itself to being cooked to a crisp. Middle bacon and shoulder bacon is sliced a bit thicker and doesn't have much fat running through the meat so if you try to cook it crisp it ends up being REALLY dry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Billy33

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am going to start calling bacon "streaky bacon", just for fun.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Down South they call it "streak-o-lean".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Good to know! It's amazing how many things I learn here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Perhaps they think of other things when the word flaccid is used.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Or more likely have no idea what you mean. LOL

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yeah, the word flaccid is pretty much only used for one meaning here in the U.S.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  with a lil blue pill on the side....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    man o man, so many things said on this thread strike me as Venus and Mars. Flaccid is a terrific word and can be used to describe so many things. To think that a country of umpteen million people 'pretty much only use a word for one meaning' is just incorrect .

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Same thing for why someone would use a knife and fork to eat bacon (because that's how they were raised or trained, that's why). same thing with "everyone knows the correct and only table manners for signalling when they have finished eating". WHAT??? Yikers. It's a huge country we live in. And one or two or three CHs' "Everyone knows this" or "everyone does this" is highly unlikely to be true for 'everyone' or even a majority of the populace.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You do understand what "pretty much" means, don't you?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You presumably can also detect a casual generality, as well as its general validity, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perhaps needless to say, I use dthe word "flaccid" in this post deliberately. I doubt whether I have ever used it in real life in any context, I've not eaten bacon in America for several years but I suspect my description of how I wanted it was "not at all crispy".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I suspect Americans visiting Britain would have the reverse difficulty of ordering crispy bacon. It just isnt how we eat it. And then there'd be the difficulty of ordering the eggs. "Over easy" - meaningless to a British server or chef, unless they've visited America.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And, no, to the best of my knowledge, I dont our bacon is prepared any differently from your bacon. Bacon is bacon isnt it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Actually the bacon comes from different parts of the hog. In US pork belly is used. In UK it is back "belly"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      See this useful discussion http://forums.egullet.org/topic/14712...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sal_acid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        England and America. Two countries separated by a common bacon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now you've made me curious -- what would be meaningful descriptions of eggs?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          sunny side up
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          over easy, medium or hard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          scrambled
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          poached
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          basted

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have a friend who successfully orders his bacon "wobbly."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DukeFan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, but Harters tells me those descriptions are meaningless to the British chef -- so how WOULD I order them?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DebinIndiana

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Not phrases used by locals but the chefs/waiters are well enough immersed in US culture from Travel, TV, and films to understand the basics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If not, and you want it over easy, just ask them to flip it, if you want it hard say well cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DebinIndiana

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Well, you'd have to find a way of describing it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It isnt usual for, say, a fried egg to be further described in the UK other than a "fried egg". I cannot recall ever overhearing anyone asking for it more precisely and you wouldnt be asked how you wanted it by the server. In most places, like greasy spoons, "eggs" means "fried eggs" - it will just arrive on your plate, "Sunnyside up", as you say in America. In better places, like hotels, there will be options for poached or scarmbled.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Harters - how would you describe a fried egg over-easy in GBr?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ETA: I see you responded. Never mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            They usually pre-cook all the bacon in a busy place, and just warm it when serving. Maybe if you called ahead and special ordered it? Just don't use the word "flaccid"!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Frankly, I also do not like bacon cooked until it is too crispy. I just don't order bacon in restaurants. I'm not a fan of restaurant brwakfasts anyway because I can always cook better breakfasts at home. I prefer to eat other meals in restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i, at a sandwich shop in europe not in the UK, find a display of items that can be placed in a sandwich. i choose streaky bacon as one of the items. i watch as the person takes two strips and briefly, if that, places them on a hot surface, flips them over and quickly adds them to the sandwich.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              now, i do not like overly crispy and dry bacon as found in most of the US. no. i often avoid it in restaurants because it’s overcooked and dry and reheated.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              but... raw? ok. it's 'cured', but what did they 'cure' it from? and wouldn't just a little bit more heat help its ailment?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I lived in Spain for over two years. Fruit was often the dessert of choice and I often saw Spaniards use a knife and fork to peel a banana, slice it, and eat it. Same with an apple. No eating out of hand in a restaurant, let alone on the street.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Madrid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              At the expo, i saw plenty of folks eating on the curb. not so much fruit, but much eating out of hand (sammiches)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wow, Phil. It sounds like dining in the US is such an ordeal for you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I was trying to be humorous and a bit tongue in cheek - which I thought was the gist of the thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If I was to be serious the answer would probably be "nothing" as we get US TV in Europe. I would expect most Europeans would have seen their fair share of endless repetitions of Friends, Sex in the City, Seinfeld etc etc and so we are very familiar with US dining norms - and not to mention Man vs Food. Kitchen Nightmares, or Top Chef.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On my first visit to NYC the thing that struck me about it was how familiar it all was, I had been everywhere and done everything before courtesy of TV shows and films. I knew how to order in restaurants, I knew what to drink, I knew how to pay, I even knew that tipping was required.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What you don't get from the TV and the films is the difference between the top producers in the US and the mass produced. The great beers, cheeses, fresh market produce, and the passionate chefs who are focussed on flavour. TV shows lead us to believe its all mass market, its all big food where portion size is more important than taste, its all drive thru fast food and its all greasy and cheesy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So what really surprised me about US food is that if you look carefully and take good advice there is some fantastic food - but you do need to search hard, and its sad to say 99% of your hosts won't have a clue about where to find good food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I have lost count of the average steaks, gloomy tex-mex, and weird asian fusion meals I have endured as a guest of (very hospitable) US colleagues whilst on business. US Chow-hounds are numerous but they are still not common. When I go on holiday I eat wonderfully in the US - but that's because I follow the advice given ton the board and I have the freedom to choose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Phil is right and restates a point I made earlier. There really are few, if any, real surprises for Europeans visiting America. Our TV stations are laden with imported American progarmmes and, of course, many of us have been visiitng for some years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So, yes, we have knowledge of many of the social customs about eating because of this - although most of us probably only visit NYC , Florida and Las Vegas, so I wouldnt claim many Europeans "know" America.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The answer to the OP is, probably - lots of differences but few surprises.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            <Give up ordering tea. The teabags are really weak, the water arrives lukewarm, and getting cold whole milk is next to impossible. Coffee is appalling in 99% of the restaurants - if you want decent coffee find a specialist (they will be local and not chains>

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            phild, i find most of your observations excellent but here are some other thoughts:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            In many parts of the U.S., quality coffee has shot up in importance and availability. CHAINS such as Starbucks, Pete's, Blue Bottle, Green Mountain...are very prevalent in some areas and maybe even most? major American cities (and non major cities where there are colleges or universities.) Ex: here in Boston, you will almost find a Starbucks on every street corner. And, as you said, many towns and small cities have local coffee 'specialists'.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Chain restnts and mom and pop diners are well known for BAD coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you care about good tea, explain that to the server. Ask them to put 2 tea bags into your small teapot, and ask that they go in the kitchen and ask the chef for boiling water for your teapot. When ordering your tea, ask (remind) them to also bring you cream, milk, sugar, fake sugar, lemon slices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (FYI, restnts whip butter for these reasons:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            --it gets soft enough to spread much faster than non-whipped butter
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            -- it saves money because air expands the volume of the butter )

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Not certain that many Europeans would equate Starbucks with quality coffee, and is it Pete's or Peets? If the latter I was equally underwhelmed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I did enjoy my coffee at Blue Bottle in SF - I had not realised they had also gone to NYC. Funny story: we queued for the coffee at Blue Bottle for quite a long time, when we got to the front it was apparent the queue was moving at such a glacial pace because he barista was making each coffee individually.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So an order of four cappuccinos would have the coffee pulled, then the milk textured then poured for each coffee in turn. In my home town of Sydney this inefficiency would cause a place to go bust here a good barista will have ten or so different coffees on the go at anytime during the breakfast rush, all coming out perfectly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I asked why they didn't take the orders, stack the orders, and make batches by type. The answer was they couldn't do a production line as it would be like Starbucks......! I thought Blue Bottles reputation was based on what was in the cup (which was good) not how it got here, but it shows all the fluff around coffee makes a different in certain markets.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                espresso is supposed to be the person waiting for the coffee, not the other way around.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                At home we froth two milks at once, but I wouldn't go much higher than that with the machine we've got.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yup you need some big hardware to do that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Early bird - I wonder if you would have got good coffee in the Italian areas in the '80's areas like Leichhardt in Sydney or Carlton in Melbourne.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: PhilD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Glad to know the coffee culture has finally came to Australia. I was there in the mid-80s and the only coffee I could get was horrifying. Great tea, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Are you referring to El Molina Central in Boyes Hot Springs?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think that's a question for me - I believe it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And as a slight contrast I also enjoyed Mateo's Cocina Latina in Healdsburg - unfortunately we only ate lunch there as I would have liked to explore the menu in more depth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. - to go coffee- it is rather unusual for americans to stop and sit for a while to enjoy an espresso (which is wrong!!! We are doing it all wrong!)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                - unless it is a proper "coffee shop" espresso is not as widely available as regular coffee- and espresso is often $3, when in europe i often had espresso that was just €1.20

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                - earlier smaller lunches and earlier larger dinners

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                - many americans take only 1/2 hr or so during the workday for lunch, and many eat at their desk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I just want to say here that different does not equal wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, you know I keep hearing all the time about "ugly American tourists" who visit Europe and expect ice in everything and only want to visit McDonald's. But, some of the most inflexible and harsh commentary I've seen, seems to come from some European travelers coming to the US. Especially in the area of tipping and such.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Just like when I'm travelling in Europe and everyone says "this isn't the USA, relax and enjoy the differences", I'd suggest you pick up that piece of nice crispy bacon with your fingers and enjoy it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I haven't been to Europe in years, but I typically like to try new things, try to be kind and polite to all, and don't eat at McDonald's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I get tired of stereotypes, although I know they are usually based upon some sort of reality. Maybe a good goal in life is to contradict your stereotype.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yes, MWK, that's been my experience often too, I hate to say.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mwk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          On a trip to London where our flights had been not according to our booked schedule so to speak, with my nervous traveler parents, the golden arches was just what they needed to smooth the jet lagged transition. Familiar, yet a bit different, and when my dad realized how much he paid for that meal, he was done with that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And 10 years later, we all agree that was the right meal at that time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: autumm

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We couldn't resist checking out the McDonalds in Rome, just for curiosity's sake (not a meal replacement, more as entertainment). The only thing that sticks in my mind was that they had wine and beer on the menu ;-) Actually not sure we ate anything at all, now that I think about it...not that we ever do at home either! But yes, a taste of home for many I'm sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I always go to 1 fast food place on my foreign trips just to say I did. Green curry fried chicken over rice at a Bangkok KFC sticks out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That's a worthy experience, no matter where.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I can't say I eat the food, but I always check out the offerings, out of curiosity. On a 2013 trip to Vietnam I saw glass noodles, soup and fried chicken strips in KFC, and Pizza Hut pies that appeared to have whole fried shrimp.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (That was all I saw by way of fast food chains; the first McDonalds and Starbucks just came this year)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I do too. I love seeing what is different and we usually try to have a bite. I find it fascinating and fun. Also, if so many Romans (for example) are eating there, then I feel like I should at least try it for a complete experience. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      yup same here. I duck in cloaked in shame like it's a XXX movie theater, and emerge glad that I did, just y'know to see.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I always advise my out of town friends to go to Katz's and to share a sammich!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. My cousin Leo still does this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Thought of something else since my original post - shortage of US wines by the glass even in upscale restaurants. It seems really strange to me going all that way to drink Italian wine! Especially since there are so many great US wines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. 1) tipping
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2) cheese on everything
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3) tipping

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. German visitors were surprised that "French dressing" was not a simple oil & vinegar but a sweet concoction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Do many restaurants still offer "French Dressing"? I thought that went out of style along with foil-wrapped baked potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        French dressing is common in the midwest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Not sure how common it is. Hopefully it has gone the way of the dodo.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. A few more i heard today

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - calories being on the menu is considered very unappetizing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - the shocking number of americans who do not drink alcohol (keep in mind I work in sales where at least 1/3 of our sales force is mormon)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Would be interesting to know if this group is from several regions or from a particular country in Europe? Here's my take on things based Europeans I've had meals with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          From my German friends, they're weird about cleanliness, always forks and knives. They don't even like the idea that cooks/chefs use their bare fingers to touch their food. They still don't get the tip issue regardless of how many arguments we've had about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My British friends are actually the least fussy, at least not in public and not to my face. They hate our teas, that's the only thing they're most vocal about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Nordic people are actually the most adventurous and love to try out exotic cuisines, especially south east Asian cuisines. I don't know why I should be surprised by this, but I am. They're too polite to complain about anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Italians and French seem to be most annoyed by coffee, automatic ice in beverages, timing of meals and specific food peculiarity like cheese in seafood (well, that's more Italian).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: KathyM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The swedes consider Canada to be too boisterous, so if they said anything, it would probably be that we're loud and overly communicative.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              yes Canadians are universally denounced for being obnoxious and rude (smirk) unless they've just won a long hoped-for hockey game. and then it's like "poke them with a stick or we'll think they've gone comatose"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ha ha, Canadians especially considered obnoxious and rude if they are mistaken for Americans? What do the Swedes think of Americans? obnoxious and rude for Canadians vs. Americans? don't get it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Madrid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  my (quite US) parents were always mistaken for being Canadian when they lived in the Madrid area (M'honda/Las Rosas) as they weren't obnoxious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  we (well I) tease Canadians for being so, well, just so darn nice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I am from a Canadian family. We are the most polite people on the planet... Until enough of that good Canadian whiskey is consumed... Then all bets are off...aye?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      yes, absolutely. My experience (and yes, it is a BIIIG world) is that if you are going to see loud and raucous tourists (en masse) they are likely to be Americans or Germans, but not Canadians. I live in New England and have visited Canada mostly in Quebec and BC, over many years.) If anything, Canadians in the Western Provinces (much more British influence) are very reserved.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Were they burning and pillaging their way through those foreign streets too? Those loud raucous Germans and Americans? How scandalized you must have been!