Eating has always been a fun thing for me because, honestly, it’s the best way to recount memories. From simple things like frosting a cake with my grandma when I was a little kid to a recent memory of a trip to San Francisco where the chef served a sample of his seafood chowder while we waited for a table, eating has always been a way for me to recount a memory.
I try to savor each and every bite I take just because it’s the best way I have found to associate a memory. Eating is more than just a means of sustenance, it’s about having a good time and creating memorable experiences. Am I the only one that does that? Does anyone find that weird? Who cares, because food is good.
These restaurant hacks are just a few things you can do to help make your next dining experience that much better. Obviously there are going to be tips on what to do when you’re actually seated at the table and eating your food, but there’s also a couple things you can do before and afterwards that will only improve your next night out.
Before You Even Get to the Restaurant
“Yelp” Isn’t Always the Best Resource
I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it, but you shouldn’t rely on it completely. Ratings can sometimes be misleading, so definitely check out the restaurant’s website and menu in order to figure out if you want to eat there. Make sure the menu items are interesting and that the restaurant is actually affordable so you don’t break the bank. You be the judge and decide whether or not the restaurant is actually good or not, don’t let “Yelp” or other sites do that for you. It also doesn’t hurt to browse through some of the pictures they post because a little bit of food porn never hurt anyone.
I know I’ve run into this problem a number of times, so if you’re going out on a weekend I would highly recommend you take a couple minutes out of your day to make reservations beforehand. If you know you’re going to a popular restaurant I’d go with the ASAP approach and make reservations once you and your party are set on a date. Popular restaurants can get booked up pretty quickly.
Get There Hungry
You’re going to a restaurant to eat so obviously you want to get there hungry. I honestly don’t eat much beforehand if I know I’m going to a good restaurant. I want to make sure I can vacuum as much food as possible when I get there. In the case you did forget to make reservations, this step should be a pretty easy one.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Apps vs. Entrees
I’ve actually found that restaurants serve more interesting appetizer options compared to their entrée counterparts. Not only that, but they are actually cheaper as well, so you’ll be able to order more appetizers compared to entrees. So when I go out, I actually tend to order mainly appetizers and end up having the entrée taking a secondary role. By ordering more appetizers over entrees, you’ll be able to get a more diverse restaurant experience because you’ll be eating more of what the restaurant has to offer.
Don’t Rush for the Bread All at Once
I know we’ve all been scolded by our parents to not eat all the bread and butter because it will fill us up and we won’t be able to eat the actual food we ordered. Depending on where you go you’re going to get bread or possibly even tortilla chips, but no matter where you go you’ll most likely wind up in the situation where you wish you had saved some of it. At an Italian restaurant, you’ll want to save some of that bread to mop up some of the leftover sauce at the bottom of your plate. When you’re out at a Mexican restaurant, you’ll probably want to save some of those chips to scoop up those tasty morsels that fell out of your burrito. No matter the case you’re gonna want to save the bread!
Specials of the Day (one time appearance, rare appearance, in season)
Specials of the day are like live performances by a rock band. Every live performance is different. One night they’ll do a cover of a song and another night they’ll perform a new single that’s not supposed to be released for a couple of months; you never know what to expect. A lot of the time the specials will be dictated by what’s in season, other times the chef just wants to make something different, but like any band’s live performance you never know what to expect. It’s definitely a good idea to order the specials because you never know when they’ll be making another appearance on the menu.
Your Waiter Is Your Best Friend
The waiter can do more than just take your order, they can actually recommend what’s good on the menu too. A lot of restaurants have their waiters actually try all their menu items so that they get acquainted with the food. This allows them to make better recommendations for you, the diner. The waiter is really a great resource because, outside of the chefs, they are probably the people who know the food best.
Be Adventurous…Try Something New
You don’t go out to a restaurant everyday, so trying something new is always something I try to do when I go out. Don’t be afraid to try something new because you never know, you might end up loving it.
Keep the Menu
Always ask to keep a copy of the menu at the table. You never know when you’ll need it; maybe you’ll want to order something else. Most cases I find myself still a little hungry so keeping an extra menu on hand will definitely speed up the process of getting more food into your mouth.
The Food Has Arrived
Don’t Try to be the Chef
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I see people adding salt to the plate even before they even take a bite. Honestly, if you’re going to order something and automatically assume it’s not going to taste good is a bit insulting to the person who prepared it. I rarely try to alter the dish because the chef has prepared something he has deemed worthy of serving to the diner; if it wasn’t meant to leave the kitchen, it won’t. Chefs take a lot of pride in what they cook so the least we can do as diners is eat the dish the way it was made. Unfortunately, I have to admit that if I see Sriracha on the table it’s going to find its way onto my plate.
Sharing Is Caring
Do you remember in kindergarten when you learned to share? Well this is when it really comes in handy. Whenever I go out to eat, I make it a point to share. Even if everyone else isn’t sharing I still want to share because I want them to try something they may not have even thought about ordering. Sharing is just a great way to experience food because you’re getting a variety of bites that keeps you excited when you’re eating. For those looking to share, I recommend tapas restaurants because they really promote this concept.
Eat Your Food Your Way
It’s always funny when I see people struggling to use chopsticks. I know they are really making an effort to try and learn how to use them, but seriously if you can’t get the food from your plate into your mouth without making a mess I’d advise asking your server for a fork. It doesn’t matter how you eat your food as long as you can enjoy eating without having to struggle to get the food into your belly. So next time you’re at Chipotle, just remember that half the fun is waging a battle with that gargantuan burrito and seeing who comes out on top. In most cases, you’ll end up pregnant with a food baby, but that’s okay because it tasted oh so good.
Take Your Time
Don’t scarf down your food right when it reaches your table. Take the time to really savor each bite, taste each individual component on the dish and then of course try it all together to really get the full effect of a composed dish. Dining is about more than just eating, it’s about creating a memory, so take the time to talk to the people you’re eating with and enjoy their company.
To dessert or to not dessert–that is the question
If You’ve Still Got Room, Definitely
Definitely order dessert because who doesn’t want something sweet after a meal? Remember when I said keep the menu earlier, well now is the time when I usually decide to order another appetizer when the rest of my friends will be ordering dessert. That’s not weird or anything right?
Last Minute Tips
Don’t Waste Your Money on Truffle Oil
Most truffle oils are composed completely out of chemicals and have no actual remnants of truffle at all. Don’t be tricked into paying a premium just because it says it has “truffles” in it.
Tip Your Waiter
Another pet peeve of mine is when people don’t tip their servers enough. They are working their butts off and basically live off of their tips so be generous because they are trying their best to make your dining experience the best it can be.