Top 10 Dining Peeves
Question to our readers: What are some of your pet peeves about dining out?
You can go near or far to a greasy-spoon or Zagat-rated restaurant and your dining experience will always be made up of more that just the edibles on your plate. Some establishments are remembered not only for delicious food, but an equally savory atmosphere as well. Others will stick in your memory for a million reasons besides what you ate – and not all of them are good.
Here are ten of our top restaurant peeves — things that we’ve run into more than a few times, not only in Milwaukee, but in other major cities, too. These peeves leave us with a sour taste. How about you?
1. DIRTY FLATWARE OR GLASSES. If we say the glass or fork or whatever is dirty, then it’s dirty. Bring us another one, please. It’s really nice if this request is accommodated graciously without rolling of eyes or subtle huffs. Yes, really.
2. EMPTY BEVERAGES. Water, wine or whatever, empty glasses during a meal feel like being stranded on a desert island. We imagine waving a tattered flag on a beach or trying to build a signal fire out of palm leaves and a finicky Bic – “Hello, over here!…”
3. CROWDING THE TABLE WITH DISHES. A table laden with a multitude of dishes works well for some people, like “The Ghost of Christmas Present” (‘tis the season, after all). But a hot entrée that makes its way to the table before salad is done conjures up the feeling of an airport tarmac with planes lined up and ready to go. Eating turns into an impatient effort to get those babies off the ground. Go, go, go.
5. CASH ONLY? There’s a commercial on television – it’s for a bank or something. The storyline is that a couple go to a restaurant, and the famished woman is ready to order one of everything they’ve got on the huge menu. The man registers with shock that the swanky-looking place accepts only cash. Okay, this scenario seems about as leaky as a kitchen colander, but in reality there are places that are cash-only. Please save us from having to dash through traffic to the nearest ATM, consequently paying fees through the nose to pay for our meal. An advance notice (read: warning) near the entrance would be welcome so that we can immediately exit.
6. UNPEELED THINGS IN FOOD. Dining in restaurants usually happens in the company of other people. Good manners should always be employed. This means not eating with the social grace of a three-year-old. Unnecessarily unpeeled foods, like shrimp in Étouffée and Shrimp Créole, for example, are obstacles to comfortable eating. Fine, leave the heads on them for that “authentic touch,” but for the love of God – peel the rest of them for us, like they normally do, even in Louisiana for most dishes.
7. WINE SEDIMENT. When you get to the bottom of it — red wine, that is — there is often sediment. One would hope it stays in the bottle, not in the glass. Wine involves many charming idiosyncrasies; shape and size of glasses, the ritual of uncorking the bottle and the courtesy of not pouring the dregs of the bottle to drink. Quality, not quantity.
8. LONG PICKLE SPEARS WITH HAMBURGERS. Now maybe this is a matter of personal taste, especially for those of us who like to enjoy the tart sharpness of the pickle spear on its own (Mrs. M), and those for whom the shape of a pickle spear drives them nuts (Mr. M). A spear is a difficult thing to accommodate on a burger; how about some small slices?
9. PAPER PLACEMATS OR PAPER TABLE COVERS IN FANCY RESTAURANTS. There’s something a little dampening about disposable things in a high-end restaurant. It can work in a casual, relaxed form, but it detracts from a refined and elegant setting.
10. MANDATORY TIPS FOR LARGE PARTIES. There are different arguments for and against this one. Some of the pitfalls are when you’ve got a happy gathering of 12 people, with six different checks. Then what? We thought this was dinner, not an advanced math exercise. And, if there have been substantial issues with service, diners will be left with a distinctly bad taste if they’re forced to pony-up a tip that reflects a quality experience when that hasn’t been the case. Many restaurants with this policy put it in small print at the back of the menu. A little more up-front notice would be welcome.
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