New York. There’s no other place like it. It’s an amazing place to live in, visit, and eat your way through. Being a native New Yorker has exposed me to delicious and enriching food culture, but also the various ways that (some) tourists order and eat their food, and let me tell you, for the most part, it’s not pretty.
From repeating their ridiculously customized order ten million times, to looking at the menu for the first time when it’s their turn to pay and there’s a huge line behind them, New Yorkers have a lot to be frustrated about. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If it’s your first time in the Big Apple, here’s what I suggest keeping in mind to keep your cool and eat like a local.
1. Check out the menu ahead of time.
For the most part, restaurant have some form of online menu for you to peruse. If you plan on going to a specific restaurant that you know is busy or where you know you will take a long time to order (be honest with yourself), check out the menu ahead of time. Not only will you save yourself time when ordering, but you’ll save the time of the restaurant staff and other customers, which will ultimately lead you to getting your food much quicker. Who doesn’t want that?
2. Don’t block the display menu.
If you didn’t have the time to check out the restaurant’s menu online that’s fine. Most restaurants also provide a copy of the menu outside of their establishment (or next to the register). Believe it or not, you’re not the only person that wants to see the menu.
If you see a few other people trying to view the menu while you’re standing right in front of it, take a photo of it and step off to the side. Not only will you be able to decide on your order ahead of time, but now you’re not being a menu hog.
3. Tip well.
I understand that tipping at a restaurant only adds more to your bill, but think of it like this: if you worked at a job at which you depended on tips to make your rent each month (American server jobs are notoriously low), would you appreciate cheap customers leaving you high and dry? No, you wouldn’t.
The people that work at the restaurant you choose to eat at work just as hard as you at their job and should not be tipped poorly because you want to save money.
4. Don’t act like a snob.
Trust me, acting like a total b*tch to chefs and waiters will not make you seem more important than the other customers, and you won’t get your food any quicker. I can appreciate that you may get super hangry from exploring this beautiful city, but that is not an excuse for acting any way other than courteous and kind to the people serving you.
5. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
New Yorkers are able to spot a tourist in a heart beat out on the street same as they can do the same in a restaurant. When in New York City, you’re bound to come several cuisines that require using your hands to eat. At such a restaurant, you will see people eating with their hands—make it easier on yourself and do the same thing. You’ll blend right in.
6. Eat outside.
A lot of New York City restaurants are tiny hole-in-the-wall places with cramped tables. Although they offer some form of seating, you’re not forced to use it. With the amount of parks and benches that litter the city, you don’t always have to eat inside. More often than not, you’ll see New Yorkers eating in the open air. Take a note from their book.
7. Don’t be afraid to try street foods.
It’s there for a reason. There’s nothing more New York than getting some form of street food at some point or another. Such carts are also great for scoring a good deal on bottled water and soda. Ordering and eating food from any of these carts will make you more of a New Yorker than you would’ve thought otherwise possible.
8. Be present.
When in New York City, keep your eyes on your own food. Instead of looking over at what the next person is eating, worry about what’s in front of you. You did not go out to eat to look at other people’s food, you are out to eat because you are either hungry or need some food to give yourself a little boost of energy. The people next to you don’t look at your food, so don’t look at theirs.
9. Don’t be afraid to discover new places.
Although it’s easy to stick to the same two restaurants you know you like, they get boring after a while. Chances are, you’re going to be exploring so many new areas during your stay here in New York. If that’s the case, then I suggest trying at least one new food place in each neighborhood that you visit. Not only will this expose you to more foods (and ones you could never have imagined), but you’ll have a pocketful of food adventures to tell your friends when you get home.