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Hear Ye! Rules of the Restaurant! - 5 Guidelines to Follow When Dining Out

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rules_waiter.jpgI enjoy eating out. I mean, who doesn’t? I love basking in the entire dining experience of waiters, menus, “a la carte” dishes, credit cards, and tips. It just feels so much more upscale and sophisticated than the McDonald’s or Taco Bell drive through. Every week I make sure that my friends and I dine out at least once at a restaurant. The week would be incomplete without it.

There are a couple of things that I learned after these many out-of-the-house dining experiences. I call them my “Rules of the Restaurant.” They are as essential to follow as the minimum 15% tip. Don’t disdain these guidelines like restrictions. They are designed to help and save you undo grief. You’ll save money yet feel like you’ve eaten a full meal. They’ll keep you from any buyer’s or eater’s remorse.

I give you the Rules of the Restaurant.


Rule #1: Buffets = Poor Quality Food + Overeating + Obesity + Trashiness

If you have a choice, order from the menu instead of opting for the buffet. Or better yet, don’t even set foot in a buffet restaurant! I admit, I am a miser. Most penny pinchers will agree that you get the most-bang-for-your-buck with buffets. Not so. Sure, you get more food mass. But the point of dining out is not to fill your stomach with energy matter. The purpose of eating out is to enjoy the food. It is difficult to enjoy food that is mass-produced. Since restaurant owners are out to make a buck, they will only put out, on the buffet table, the most inexpensive dishes to make with the cheapest ingredients they can get away with. Wanting a buffet is asking for poor cafeteria-quality food.

It is only human nature to get as much as you can for as little as possible. That human tendency combined with buffets is a dangerous cocktail that leads to overeating. Again, with the most-bang-for-your-buck mentality, people end up stuffing themselves since, after all, it is free food.

Some may argue that buffets are safe. They let you try everything and you are never limited to one dish. Proponents point out that you don’t run the risk of ordering a poor entree and you’re bound to find something you’ll like. You may very well find a dish that you like, but you’re really missing out on what could be greater. Some of the best-kept secrets reside in the public menu. I regularly eat at an Indian Restaurant and my favorite dish is not in the buffet since it is too expensive to mass-produce. Be adventurous and order “a la carte!”

Rule #2: Order a Specialty

rules_burger.jpgOrder what the restaurant is known for. There’s nothing worse than eating rice and beans at a place called “Twin Sister’s Bakery.” You’re only asking for trouble! At a bakery, get baked goods. At a French Restaurant, order escargot (snails) or quiche. Never order something that you can typically get elsewhere. At the Cheesecake Factory, don’t get a burger; everybody serves a burger! And don’t even consider that which definitely tastes better at another restaurant. For instance, try not to order French fries from TGI Fridays when you know McDonald’s serves the best fries in the world!

Rule #3: Only Nibble on the “Free Food”

True to my miser personality, I am drawn to places that serve “free food.” Mexican and Tex-Mex establishments serve free chips and salsa. Indian cuisine provides crisp tandoori flatbread and sauce. Olive Garden gives out bread sticks and real butter to their clientele. Greek Restaurants occasionally offer pita bread and humus. It is easy to get carried away with these free pre-appetizers. No matter how hungry you are, breathe, wait, and nibble on the food. Something greater is coming. Save your appetite for what tastes better and what you actually paid for … the “real food.”

Rule #4: Study for the Meal

Quite literally, do your homework. Get a copy of the menu beforehand. Stop by the restaurant and pick one up. Most establishments even provide the menus online. Be prepared when the waiter asks, “What can I get you?” Personally, I do not perform well under pressure. With the constant “Are you ready to order yet?” question, I tend to hastily and carelessly order something that was too expensive or something that I really didn’t want. Believe me, studying the menu will save you money and will get you the best dish.

Rule #5: Carefully Plan the Entire Experience

rules_entree.jpgWhen you study the menu, coordinate the meal with as much creativity as a “girly girl” coordinates her wardrobe. Make sure that there are complementing varieties of textures, colors, tastes, and smells. Make sure each sense (except of course hearing) experiences at least two different sensations. Don’t just get something warm, mushy, and greasy. Add some fresh roughage for that colorful, green crunch! The basic essentials to a meal include a warm entrée, a dry carb, a fresh side, a sweet dessert, and a complementing drink. If you follow this rule, you won’t be stuck with just soft enchiladas, beans, and rice … which is a stone throw away from the world of old lady dentures.

Try these rules the next time you go to another restaurant. I guarantee they will greatly improve your dining experience. Please comment below on your thoughts of the guidelines. Feel free to leave another handy rule to follow when dining out.

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Posted on Thursday, May 10th, 2007

One Response to “Hear Ye! Rules of the Restaurant! - 5 Guidelines to Follow When Dining Out”

  1. Midori Says:

    You’re an amazing writer! To add to the last rule, I just want to say that when I do eat that dish, the enchiladas, beans, and rice, the whole experience is better with just the addition of some chopped up lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sour cream.

    Also, I like to make sure that my meal has at least three colors. I learned this by experience. I once went to a country cookin’ establishment and ordered hashbrown casserole, corn, and macaronni and cheese. It also came with biscuits and cornbread. Everything was cream-colored or yellow. I would like to forget that dining experience! It seems that the eyes also want to enjoy the dining experience!

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