Jeffrey Merlot
Mr. and Mrs. M.

Top 10 Dining Peeves

By - Dec 4th, 2009 01:06 pm
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Bad glasses and utensils drive us crazy; what are your restaurant peeves?

Bad glasses and utensils drive us crazy; what are your restaurant 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.

4. GETTING PERSONAL. When the server starts sharing bits of personal family drama or complaints about their boss, it’s a little more than disconcerting. If we want drama about total strangers, we’ll watch Bad Girls Club.

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.


Categories: Mr. and Mrs. M.

0 thoughts on “Mr. and Mrs. M.: Top 10 Dining Peeves”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Restaurant boo boos can be innocently hilarious too, for example, my sister and I asked a waitperson what kind of tea they had and she replied (with a straight face!), “bagged tea.”

    hee, hee.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well done, you two! Thanks. — Strini

  3. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with 1, 4, 5 and 10. The cash only always bothers me, because I often have a taste for the best ribs in town and rarely have enough cash! And while I’ll forgive a dirty fork, I wish restaurants would rotate out their cutlery. I was once stabbed by a fork with an errant tine, which had been bent in the dishwasher. Ouch!

  4. Anonymous says:

    My least encountered but strongest peeve is when the server asks for their tip before I’m done eating, as she’s going off shift.

    Next, because I’m either by myself or with a single companion, being seated in clear view of the bathroom or kitchen door when other tables are available, albeit for four. Trying to eat dinner while a sweating kitchen staffer slops a bucket of water into the drain at the base of the kitchen door is a memory that makes one chain restaurant my last choice of dining options.

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