Special/Signature Issues » The State of the Plate

Lessons in Criticism


1. Avoid establishments where food isn't the main focus: sports bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys and ball parks. When traveling, be adventurous and don't eat where you sleep.

2. If possible, study the menu before sitting down. If there are too many items for the size of the dining room, it's likely that most of the food is frozen or prepackaged.

3. Prices should be compatible with the environment. If most entrees are $20 or more, you ought to expect linen tablecloths, fresh flowers and a lighted candle.

4. Unless the room is full, you should not be required to sit next to the kitchen, an un-bussed table or anywhere you don't like.

5. The sound system should match the environment (opera doesn't go with barbecue, nor heavy metal with pigeon under glass), and the music shouldn't be so loud as to interfere with conversation.

6. The server's uniform should be clean and pressed. Nobody wants to see what a previous diner ate. Be wary if the chef comes on the floor looking like he just stepped out of a butcher shop.

7. If you ask for a wine recommendation, the waiter should not automatically try to sell one of the more expensive bottles. In a serious restaurant, the least expensive wine will still be a good one. In a not-so-classy joint, the next-to-the-cheapest wine will be the worst buy; they're counting on you to be too embarrassed to order the cheapest one.

8. The waiter should know the price of the specials. How did they go from bargain blue-plate to a budget-busting entrée pricier than anything on the regular menu?

9. If you've used a utensil for one course, you shouldn't be asked to "hold on to it." It should be replaced for the next course. Same goes for a soiled napkin.

10. Never be afraid to walk out. Especially if the only vehicle in the parking lot is a pickup with a Confederate flag in the window and the owner is sitting at the bar with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other talking to the lone customer who has a newly legal pistol strapped to his side. S

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