If you were dining with me at a restaurant for lunch and asked me what I thought about the salad I’d ordered, my response might be this:
“Well the bulk of the salad which is grains and tomatoes are ice cold, which I don’t like, and the chicken is overcooked and dry. The avocados are brown and I can’t even find the feta cheese. The balsamic vinaigrette is completely overpowering, and the salad should be served at room temperature. Oh, and the plate is ice cold.”
(These words were actually spoken by me when my husband and I were having lunch out of town.)
And then I would see your eyes roll back into your head because you would think I was a negative Nancy and overcritical of restaurant food.
I am neither of these things, but I take dining out seriously. Where I live, I don’t go out for great food, although there is some to be had, I usually just want a break from my kitchen, and sometimes meet up with friends.
I am critical, because I think all restaurants should have consistent, quality standards. I wish I could always give high praise, honestly. I mean, who wants badly cooked food and terrible service?
Sometimes my husband complains as much as I do, because even though he doesn’t cook, he does know properly-cooked seasonal food. So, here is his comment at dinner on that same day when we were out of town:
“Well they managed to overcook the steak. At best it’s well done and under seasoned. The vegetables aren’t roasted at all, they are just calling them roasted because they’re on a skewer, and they’re raw. And, the risotto is just a thick blob of tasteless rice.”
But my pet peeve goes beyond criticizing my restaurant meals, if criticism is necessary. It’s about the MENUS at these restaurants.
Menus serve a purpose. At least, they should. They should inform about the dish, whether an appetizer, entrée, side, etc. They should also be seasonally oriented. I don’t expect a restaurant to change menus daily, but maybe with the 4 seasons?. A strawberry salad on a menu when it’s January makes me crazy.
On a menu, a dish should be described much like you’d describe a recipe. The major ingredients listed first, followed by anything significant. And that dish should be under a clear heading of Salad, or Appetizer, so you know what category of dish it is. The little plate big plate thing can be confusing.
So as I mentioned, my husband and I were out of town and excited to have a few great meals. We typically make travel plans around restaurant reservations.
At lunch, the same lunch where I had the awful cold salad, Hubs chose the chicken strudel, as you can see in the photo below, under SMALL PLATES (which means many different things to different restaurants):
When this dish was served to my husband, we nearly passed out. The whole strudel was smothered with balsamic vinegar, which clearly isn’t listed in the menu description.
He hates vinegar, and he could hardly find any piece of chicken that wasn’t brown from the vinegar. There was too much vinegar for me, even, and I’m a vinegar lover. And why would balsamic vinegar be poured over a dish that is clearly a Southwestern dish?
Furthermore, this was no strudel, which implies layers. The chef could have layered thin slices of chicken, green chiles, Monterey jack within crisped phyllo rectangles, perhaps drizzled with a tomatillo sauce. That could be called a Southwestern-inspired strudel.
Also, this small plate could have fed four people, and looked very unappealing because it resembled a regurgitated casserole. If this dish had been written as below, my husband wouldn’t have ordered it.
SMALL PLATE, serves 4
Casserole of Chunky Dry Chicken With a few Green Chiles and a bit of Monterey Jack Cheese, topped with a Heavy Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar
Of course I spoke to the waiter. He didn’t know that balsamic vinegar was an Italian ingredient, and that this dish was obviously Southwestern. (It’s what the restaurant is known for…) He also wasn’t aware that balsamic vinegar clearly wasn’t in the menu description. He talked to the chef who simply said, “No one has ever complained before.”
We’ve been lucky enough to travel and dine at high-end establishments, although these are not always my favorites at which to dine. Some of these restaurants are known for their famous chefs, like Eric Ripert, Joel Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, Gordon Ramsay, and so forth. But these restaurants have always been about perfection. Of course, they should be.
I understand that in the competitive world of restauranteuring, some restaurant owners and chefs feel the need to stand out in some way – sometimes the decor, the dinnerware, a crazy drink menu, something. But there is one thing I’ve noticed at some restaurant in the past decade: quirky, word-light menus.
For example, this does nothing for me on a menu other than piss me off:
Pig, Arugula, Oregano
And typos on menus also make me crazy. Like this one:
I don’t think Francios is a French name, and anyone with half a brain should have caught that typo. Restaurants that serve imported wines should be able to type the names correctly, no matter what the country of origin.
So no, I’m no negative Nancy, but by golly I take dining out seriously, no matter where. Bad menus will always be my pet peeve!
I know what you mean there is little worse than a bad meal at a restaurant. I rarely say anything for fear of reprisal from the kitchen. I ate at an Indian restaurant a few weeks ago and ordered Chicken Kurma, what they brought out floored me, the color was wrong and off white blob in the dish and when I tasted it I almost threw up, it was so sweet like a dessert I asked the waiter what it was he said it’s what I ordered. I gently told him this dish is not usually this sweet and should have curry or some Indian spices in it and it should never be that sweet. He went back and spoke to the chef who said he used cream in it, I could taste that it was sweetened condensed milk and he thought that was cream. It was completely inedible and a waste of money and now I will never go back to that restaurant. A bad experience in a restaurant can be their kiss of death and haphazard preparation and inconsistencies or deviations from what is on the menu is unacceptable.
Oh my. That just reminded me of a time that one of my kids ordered a Southwestern style mac n cheese, and made the most horrible face. So I tasted it, and knew immediately that the milk/cream had gone sour. I went around and around with the waitress, whose husband was the chef, who said that there were 5 cheeses in the mac, and I obviously didn’t have the proper cheese palate. I asked her if she’d ever had Epoisses and I got a blank look. Jeez – it still pisses me off to this day!
Ha, good points there CM. I love a good rant. It’s a fine line between truth and artistic description but being disapointed totally sucks. Particularly when we are paying!!
After years of living in Oklahoma, my standards are actually pretty low – at least until I travel. Which is sad.
I can totally relate. When you dine out you expect good food, if not great. It’s like price tag is increasing and quality is only one deteriorating.
That’s why I love Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon (like I know him personally) just wants everyone to cook things properly, and be consistent. And I’ve been to a couple of his restaurants and they were perfect. I don’t think it’s that hard.
* only deteriorating *
Oh it’s good to have a rant sometimes :) And I agree with all you’ve said. Small plates have become very popular here in UK – an offshoot from the popularity of Spanish tapas, I think, so that people can share a few things. But they should be SMALL. That’s the point. Balsamic vinegar is just overdone. Some chefs don’t seem to know enough about food to understand it’s not appropriate with everything – and certainly shouldn’t be smothered over anything! Major flavours like that should always be on the menu list. And a good waiter should always be able to explain everything on the menu.
US waiters are pretty terrible, unless you’re at a 4 star restaurant. But I agree. And my salad was also smothered with balsamic vinegar – not balsamic vinaigrette. It was too heavy, syrupy and sweet. They probably lose money on balsamic at this restaurant, and have no idea!
Pretty sure it’s not the $150 per 100 mL actual traditional balsamic aged for 25+ years, so it’s probably just red wine vinegar with some sugar, caramel, and a bit of briefly aged balsamic.
Oh, I hear you! I once ordered a green salad in the States which arrived buried under unadvertised quantities of cheese and croutons and drenched in a weird orange vinaigrette. So much for a light starter. But bad food is all too common in restaurants here, too, which is why we eat out so infrequently (well, that and I can’t drink and drive). And overblown, adjective-heavy descriptions are just as bad as the word-light menus you mention. Nor do I want to eat anywhere that serves ‘troikas’ of food. [exits, gnashing teeth]
hahahahahahaha! Well, I’ve never had a bad meal in London or anywhere in the UK. But I also spend weeks planning restaurant reservations!!! You and I should get a job re-doing everyone’s menus!!!
A Herculean task but one we’d be well-suited to!
I’ll tag along and do the wine pairings 😎
Thank you! i wasn’t sure how this post would go over, honestly!
I agree with you Mimi, I just had a disappointing experience in a restaurant that was highly recommended with their small plates. Some were ok but most of them where off in flavor and taste. I didn’t say a word but I should have.
That’s a tough one, because I’m not a chef, but I do have a lot of experience cooking and eating, and when the “chef” is 24, you can bet he/she hasn’t spent much time traveling and experiencing food. But they just get defensive, and assume you’re an idiot.
I loved this post and I’m with you! I love to dine out but I have a few rules I always stick to because restaurants in my area are very expensive and they must be worthy of my money. For example I always order a dish I don’t make at home (what’s the point of having something that I can cook myself and – modesty aside- I probably master better than the chef in the sleek restaurant kitchen? 😜) and I don’t go to restaurants where the servers don’t know the menu and the ingredients better than their social security number! 😜
I absolutely agree with you, Francesca, about always ordering something I don’t make at home! Or if I do, it is because I know that the chef makes it better than I do!
Exactly my point, Darya! 😍
That’s exactly what we do. My husband will sometimes order a steak at a “finer” establishment, only because many dishes have just one thing that he doesn’t like, or thinks he doesn’t like. But when we travel, especially, it’s an opportunity too try new dishes and certainly dishes that you wouldn’s make at home. Why not? One waitress here recently told us that the special was “groper.” I held back, but finally at the end of the meal I had to tell her that it was grouper. and why the hell hadn’t the chef gone over names and ingredients? makes me crazy.
Hah, reminds me of the time a waitress told us one of the desserts was a ‘sore bit’. Ouch!
Ouch is right!!! At least she was honest?
Groper?! 😂 Isn’t that customer harassment?
The same here. I prefer to order something special, that I can’t make at home. And when they brought an awful looking/tasting dish , especially after 30 minutes or more of waiting, I just have no words and all the time fav word here is sorry. What should I do with your sorry? I’m paying for the food, so it should be perfect, if it is called a restaurant.
Sorry doesn’t mean much, especially from the waiter, when he didn’t do the cooking! I don’t even want to be reimbursed. I’d rather have had a good meal!
I have become quite picky at restaurants, so now I only go to places I trust (or that are recommended by trustworthy friends or critics); where I know the food is fresh, home-made, or where I know the chef. I am lucky in Lille, we have a great choice of excellent (and cheap) places to eat over here, and a unique local tradition as well.
I am not sure how I feel about menus where each dish gets a long description of what’s in it though! I’d rather read the menu and then ask the waiter a few specifications if I am really worried that I’ll get something unpleasantly unexpected. But usually I just trust the chef (after I’ve carefully picked the restaurant).
Then if something is wrong, I usually daren’t say so (unless I know the chef and feel comfortable telling him/her)… maybe I should?
There’s no correct answer to that question. I’ve never had a good response to pointing things out that are bad. But if something’s bad, and there are only 3 full tables at a restaurant, the chef needs to be fired. Maybe chefs should understand that many diners are very familiar with good and properly cooked food, and respect them more. And I do try to compliment everything wonderful. I just don’t complain.
You should definitely come to Librije then. There is hardly ever anything bad, but they will definitely respond appropriately and fix it. But that is one of the few exceptions I know, because even at 3 Michelin stars I usually don’t get a good response.
Couldn’t agree more!
I often wonder why the food in so many places is plain bad, or very mediocre at best. After all, It takes the same amount of effort and time to prepare good or bad food… It’s all about caring and taking pride in your work. Some (most?) people just don’t have it…
well said. it’s so annoying, especially when it’s expensive.
I loved this post! It is so true. I’ve given up on having high expectations at too many places. I also hate it when they list all the ingredients. It takes me forever to figure out how they are going to use them. I don’t think 4 tiny pieces of microgreens should count as an ingredient.
It’s funny you mention microgreens, because it seems for the last two years we ate in England, Wales, and Ireland, microgreens were on everything – practically on porridge. But yes, they’re not a significant ingredient! It’s like mentioning parsley when it’s a garnish.
Love this post! I often think of how infrequently I have a meal at a restaurant that truly dazzles me, that I walk away feeling truly fulfilled. I like this frank and honest take on your experiences.
Thank you. and like all of my non-professional food bloggers, I’m not a chef, but am definitely passionate and knowledgeable, and want to be respected as a diner. My husband and I both order something new and different when possible, but when it’s something ordinary like a steak, or something I cook like risotto, it should be properly cooked.
You just verbalise so well what we all feel. We pay hard earned money for those meals and it upsets me so if the food is underwhelming. I also had squid tenticles described to me as squid testicals, hahaha kid you not. The waiter repeated the same little rhyme about the squid “testicals” at every table …….but at least we had comic relief!
Did you see my comment about the groper?!!! (grouper) and this is at our finest eating establishment where I live. If I had a restaurant, I’d have everybody taste everything, describe what it is, call it by the proper name, discuss how it’s cooked, and so forth. I just don’t get it. So, how were the squid testicals. Really tiny? That was probably a small plate…
Love love love this post, Mimi!
Couldn’t agree more. I had to laugh out loud about your alternative menu listing, and Kees was asking (from another floor) what was so funny :-)
I agree with you so much that I would love to rave about food, but that often such simple things are messed up. Like serving food straight from the refrigerator that should be served at room temperature. And you know how I feel about messed up wine pairings…
I try not to be too verbal about it when the occasion is clearly more about the company than about the food, but still I think it is ridiculous that some people roll their eyes when I complain or even just make a suggestion…
I have family members (the family into whom my daughter married) who really must think I’m nuts, because I’m always shaking my head and mumbling something. But once when we were all eating together at our “country club,” a waiter poured the rest of my son-in-law’s martini onto his plate, which included some martini and a couple of olives, because they were “running out of martini glasses.” I sat there with my mouth open, too shocked to say something, and no one else seemed to care!!! This post was about 3 times as long originally, but I tried to cut it back so I didn’t seem to crazy! Glad you got a good laugh my friend!
I would love the “director’s cut” of the post ;-)
Lmao. I have raged like this over restaurants before but I can’t let it go or laugh about it. I have no tolerance for a subpar restaurant. It’s not that I’m a snob, I just want to see some level of innovation or seasonal element. If I can do it better I shouldn’t be at the restaurant. There is one Mexican place near me with watery drinks, flavorless chicken, old guac…etc. These are basics that any restaurant should nail. RAGE. Lol re the menu typo and non descriptive menu. Almost equally as offensive, but the food is always the biggest problem. It’s not very hard to impress me, but you have to be pretty egregious to inspire my rage.
So, here’s something that I was actually thinking about the other day – Mexican restaurants. Why don’t we expect higher standard? Is it because we’re so excited to get chips and salsa? Even sometimes when the chips are ransid and the salsa is watery? It’s so weird. It’s sad that I have to go to a fancy restaurant, for lack of a better word, to get something innovative that I can’t make at home. I don’t like too crazy, either. If you can’t figure out how to cut it with your fork, it’s too weird for me. But just to order a cobb salad, and have overcooked chicken, limpy lettuce, brown avocados…. it’s ridiculous.
Mediocrity in the hospitality industry is an international problem! Too many wannabes think they can make a fast buck from unsuspecting punters, and sadly, some do. Refrigerated food is my pet peeve too, that and food arriving that bears no resemblance to what was ordered. Wait staff in Australia is generally pretty good, but then they get paid more than the minimum wage.
That’s good to hear. there’s nothing much better than a great waiter. What hospitality professionals need to realize is that diners have become more knowledgeable and need to be respected for that. Food that was previously unavailable is not available via mail order, farmers markets have popped up when there weren’t any, and perhaps people travel more as well. plus, there’s the food network. there are still many people in the US (I know a lot of them) who are happy with a dried up burger on their plates, but not all of us!
Ha, ha…we’re the same way with my husband. So sorry you experience was not great. Our small city has very little to offer food-wise and that is why we head to Helsinki when we are looking for something for interesting to eat. Often it seems like we can make a better (perhaps a more simpler) dinner at home.
That is often the case, but sometimes I just would like someone else to cook for me!!
I completely and utterly agree!!
I am afraid that I rarely eat out nowadays, partly because I think my own food is so much better, and because the vegetarian dishes on offer are usually so uninspiring!
Absolutely. And eating out is so expensive!
Excellent rant with excellent points. With my daughter’s wedding and a long sweaty heat wave here I haven’t been doing much cooking so we’ve gone out to eat quite a bit. I guess we’re lucky being near Boston but also have many really great restaurants available in the immediate area. Every now & then, because of time or just because we’ve gone to some of the local chains and oh my! such a disappointment. I would much rather spend more on a really good meal and enjoy it than go to some of these chains where the food is consistent – consistently bad.
Agree wholeheartedly. We have three restaurant from which to choose where I live – at least only three that I’ll set foot in. Even dining at those, one being our country club, it has just become an occasion to have many laughs over the menus, the waiters, and the food. I mean, you gotta laugh.
When you know how to cook well, and are used to eating good food, it seems like someone paid to do so should. It’s not like it’s cheap. Like you, when we go out it’s a break and a treat. Who wants to leave disappointed? Sometimes you know a comment just isn’t worth it and just wont go back.
Exactly. I think restaurants and chefs need to understand that diners have become more sophisticated, if nothing else but from watching Food Network. We’re not idiots, and we need to be respected.
Mimi, I wholeheartedly agree, shake my head and mumble with you! But now you need to post the ‘Director’s cut’ of this post, I can’t stop laughing about the ‘running out of Martini glasses’ – funny but very, very sad indeed. That’s why we eat at home and only go to restaurants if we choose a good one or try out a new one. I’ve had with over ambitious chefs who are better at writing menus than actually cooking them.
Or, even, chefs who are better at cooking then writing menus. But there should be some kind of manager who controls menus. My director’s cut was just much more ranting, plus a shot of a menu from one of ny favorite out of town restaurants (Oklahoma City) that has been in business for well over 20 years. It’s one of those perfect restaurants, but their menu is so hysterically bad. There’s no continuity to it, which drives me crazy. But I didn’t think people would want to stare of this menu and spot all of the inconsistencies. I guess they’re so successful that they just don’t give a shit. At least I know I can get good food there, have a good waiter, and enjoy the ambience. Thanks for your comment!
Oh Mimi, you are truly speaking for more than just yourself! I FEEL YOU wholeheartedly!!
I rarely go out to eat. When I tell people this, they look at me like i am strange or something. But honestly, if I am going to go out and spend my good money on food, I am looking for quality! I am hard pressed to find ANY restaurant/diner what have you that stays consistent. Just like you said my friend, that is “key”!!
Thanks, Didi. I honestly wasn’t sure how well people would take to my rant, but it seems like everyone feels like I do. It’s worse for me, I think, because we live in a small town, and people who run restaurants here could just have easily chosen to sell shoes or cars. But that’s why when we’re OUT of town we have higher expectations. I don’t want my meals to look like works of art, I just want quality, like you. And I don’t think that’s too much to expect as a paying diner.
I agree Mimi sometimes I wonder why I ever bother to dine out and like you, need a break from the kitchen too. It seems nowadays that consistency is not there and many restaurants don’t pay enough attention to quality and taste :)
It’s really a terrible situation. And diners have become more sophisticated in the last 20 years, but chefs/owners tend to not respect us, and dummy-down to us knowing that most of us won’t do anything about it.
Oh my gosh – I loved this – especially the rewritten menu item – casserole of chunky dry chicken – pretty sure I’ve ordered that one before! And as for the Pig, Arugula, and Oregano – HILARIOUS. You are so right though. Cold salad, typos, ostentatious-ness, in-your-face service, half warm hot dishes, ridiculous ingredients, and don’t even get me started on restaurant kitchen hygiene… just sometimes a whole lot better to eat at home! Fabulous post Mimi.
Thank you! It’s funny, I really shortened this post because I thought I would offend a lot of people in the biz, but I’ve only gotten comments from people who agree, and have shared similar experiences too often. Many of us in the US do not only eat at chain restaurants.
I love this topic – I wish you hadn’t shortened it! Made me laugh out loud. I once wrote a restaurant review and commented that I liked the waitress based solely on the fact she didn’t come to the table announcing her name. A lot of people told me that they felt the same way.
Hello, I’m Mimi and I’ll be taking care of you today. Right, totally unnecessary.
Good rant Mimi! We rarely dine out too because our expectations are always shot in the end with poorly-cooked food.
it’s so sad, and such a waste of money
Misspellings on menus, mispronunciation of ingredients or food names, and – worse – when they tell you their Bolognese is authentic and out of this world… and it is NOTHING like a Bolognese sauce. Do they just make this stuff up?
boy i wish i knew the answer to that…
You bring up some very valid points. We plan our travels around eating as well and it is so disappointing to have such high expectations about a destination only to be sorely disappointed once there. More often than not, it is poor service that makes us crazy!
Yes, and then when you mix poor service in with disappointing food, you’re not a happy camper!
Hear, hear Mimi! Hear, hear ! A restaurant should be a place where people know how to cook and how to serve !
Omg I am sympathetic to your frustrations… I find that the better I get at home cooking the higher my standards for restaurants become. Because if I’m going out to eat it you need to wow me or else I might as well have stayed home!!!
That makes complete sense!
Speaking of typos and name misspellings, who is “Erip” Ripert?
Crap. Did I write that???? I’ll to check it out. Thanks!!!
You need to move to Puglia! Those dishes, as you describe them, would never, ever be served here, where everything is seasonal, healthy and delicious. The Italians are proud of their food heritage and it shows.
Oh Orna, I wish! Not only the Italians, but in Europe in general my dining experiences have been top notch, wether in a fine dining establishment or a bistro/gastro pub. And this restaurant we ate at is highly rated and in the big city near where I live. Recently Martha Stewart was treated to a meal there, and I just cringed.
Sadly, your experience is more common than it should be, and these dishes all come with a huge price tag which adds insult to injury! My grandson recently ordered a hamburger with ‘our famous onion rings.” What he got was a hamburger with raw rings of onion on it. The server said it was popular.
Oh goodness. That’s crazy. I don’t feel like the wait staff are trained, either, especially in nicer restaurants. I don’t know if that’s the chef’s fault, or they try and no one cares.
I appreciate your problem and if it was me I would send it back to the kitchen and if the meal wasn’t rectified to my liking it would go back again. And I certainly wouldn’t pay.
Unfortunately complaints are made to the waiting staff instead of calling for the Manager.
Too often the kitchen thinks no one will bother too much when Chef decides he can’t be bothered. And the timid dinners take it on the chin because they ‘don’t like to make a fuss’.
While I totally agree with Mimi’s post in general, the manager is the person to voice such complaints. The waitstaff has little to do with food preparation. They are there to serve you your food.
Correct, if there is a manager on duty. All I could do on that occasion is rely on the waiter to talk to the chef. I so wish in another lifetime I could go into restaurants and whip them into shape! Starting with the menus!!!
I’m certainly more timid if other people are around, because they already think I’m extreme in my opinions. Whenever I see brown or rotten lettuce leaves I can see Gordon Ramsay throwing the salad in the trash and swearing! and that’s what I wish I could do!!! We live in Oklahoma, and even the better restaurants just aren’t on par as restaurants in the bigger cities on the coasts, but it sounds like they have their problems as well.
***diners*** Computers think they can read minds :))
Wow Mimi! I couldn’t agree more! We live in Pasadena which is known for having some pretty great restaurants. Friends will always ask, “where should we go, or what’s your favorite restaurant?” I usually have no opinion. We rarely dine out, because inevitably I’ll be disappointed. I loathe spending $200 on a meal I could have easily made (and better) for 1/10 of the price. I don’t mind spending a lot of money if everything is spot on. But I’ve felt I’ve gotten my money’s worth at a restaurant that charged $350, and I’ve felt ripped off at a place where the meal was $50. Re: seasonal dining. Yes that’s a pet peeve. But that’s an American thing. We want our strawberries and we want them NOW! Europeans don’t do that and their food is all the better for it! Balsamic is SO over-done in the US! Italians don’t even put it on Caprese! Ciao!
Yes, yes, and yes. Why can’t us Americans learn from dining experiences in Europe? We just had some meals in pubs in London a few weeks ago and everything was perfect. And no balsamic in sight! My husband had an experience in Aspen at a well know and highly regarded restaurant – casual, nothing fancy, but highly rated – where his steak came out smothered in balsamic vinegar or glaze. I thought he was going to cry. And, it wasn’t listed on the menu description.
Don’t even get me started. Typos. Unbelievable typos. And the three word descriptions? Just painful. Cold salads, cold entrées, overly cold red wine, warm-ish white wine,,, But what really gets me is the “we prepare everything to order.” Lies, lies, lies. I once went to the No.2 restaurant in San Francisco where everything was prepared “fresh and to order.” Perfect for someone with a garlic allergy, right? In the end, I could have dry bread (no fresh butter or oil in the house — all infused with garlic), and a salad with only vinegar. Every — EVERY — morsel of food was pre seasoned (even the shellfish). It was awful. Sadly, I was taken there for my birthday and I tried to be as gracious as I could. If I had been paying, I would never have stayed. (Oh, the wine was safe to drink, too.) Sometimes, I wonder if it is even worth dining out… [rant over]
I completely understand. That’s just an awful dining experience, and it’s terrible when you could have had a better experience in your own kitchen.
With you 100%! My pet peeve is the touch of cilantro which is never mentioned in the description. I always bring it to the waiter/chef’s attention. And cold salad??? One knows you never refrigerate tomatoes but they do at restaurants? One chef told me it was the public health policy.
I never refrigerate cut up tomatoes! And I really hate cold plates. They should know better with cilantro since it’s not universally loved…. Awful.
At the price of eating out today, food should be cooked and served properly. I am not a chef and I resent paying big bucks for inedible food. Hooray for speaking up
I’m not a chef, it’s a nick name, but we all have the right to expect good food and good service.
So well said. It doesn’t matter where you go anymore, though it seems whether it is a restaurant, or any retail establishment, it seems service is forgotten in any way, shape. or form. Value? In most cases forget it. Though I love to dine out, I’m with you-it is often more for convenience than anything else. I think many people have forgotten what good food tastes like and even in this time of hard to get ingredients or hard to get service people or other kitchen staff, one would think that an establishment should figure out what they do best. And strive to do it right.
I know not everyone loves Gordon Ramsay, but his mantra is really about perfection and consistency. Maybe watching him too much has ruined me! Sometimes I just want to throw a plate of food across the restaurant!!!
It is very expensive to eat out and the restaurant owner and manager should keep that in mind when creating a menu and presenting the food. Also, pride of place should be apparent.
I agree. And I’ve never owned or run a restaurant, but is it that hard? I just read an old comment of mine from when a waitress told us that groper was on the menu. (Grouper!) I finally had to tell her. But had she been told? Did she just not care? Or did the kitchen staff not care enough to educate the wait staff. I’ll never know.
Wow, I don’t even know where to begin, Mimi. But you have articulated my exact thoughts on so many levels! I honestly can’t remember the last time I was served a restaurant salad that was composed well or properly dressed. My husband and I hardly ever go out to eat because we are both very capable in the kitchen ourselves. But when we do, we sound just like you and your husband.
Hey, how about the ones that serve you a red wine off the shelf at 75° F?
And don’t even get me started on the 12 year old servers who approach my table, telling me that they “will be taking care of me.“ Image their surprise when I reply that they are woefully under-qualified for that task. 😂
12 years old indeed! That’s so annoying. I love when they come around asking you “how does it taste?” And you want to say, “well, this tastes like shit.”
They don’t have time to ask me ‘how was your meal?’ I have already complained and sent it back.
I don’t go out to eat these days and although I have to do all cooking, it’s better than eating mediocre, over priced food in a restaurant that thinks they have the right to treat their customers with such disdain.
My pet peeve is knowing that they have been touching my food with their bare hands after they have been who knows where. I don’t want to be part of his ‘cold’ or his ‘using his handkerchief’ to wipe his nose. Ugh, the horrors!!
What happened to tongs and food hygiene!!!
Oh goodness. You’re so right. Now I have to think about that!!! I know that hair nets don’t seem to be used, from observing staff in open kitchens. Ugh.
I think your comments and criticism is entirely appropriate. So much in our lives may be disappointing, but being lied to through a menu and experiencing incompetence from a restaurant for food you are paying for is too much. The simple expectation of dining out should be a nicely cooked meal, the food should taste good and as described in the menu. In Australia, we don’t have a tipping tradition, I’d be reluctant to tip for a meal I didn’t enjoy. I do understand however that in the USA, the tips form part of the staff’s wages so I would because no one should be underpaid.
Right. We tip for everything. Waiters are underpaid. I love tipping great waiters. But, when the service was mediocre or less, it’s a tough choice since one doesn’t want to be heartless.
Oh my! I was laughing so hard reading this! Just so you know, I’ll bet you’re not alone on this! I roll my eyes at bad spelling, bad descriptions, bad service (that chef has the nerves 😠), and pure ignorance! Fortunately, I don’t get much of them in Singapore but yes, there’s been days!! Thanks for an entertaining read! Hope you find better places to eat!!
Thank you! I never will in this town where I live. One restaurant was called Pane Vino, but served Spanish tapas. The charcuterie and cheese platters were always hysterical cause there would be a blue cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella pearls, bad bread, honey, and salami. Nobody seems to care, and few people travel. That’s why we travel!
You and I are on the same page here! And the words ‘no one has ever complained before’ drives me dilly! People don’t complain because the could not be bothered to. But if I am spending my hard earned money I expect it to be well spent.
Right. And I’m not asking TOO much. Just some basics. I can ignore a few things, like a piece of brown lettuce. But when they put their fingers in my glass to refill water….or can’t answer any questions, it makes me crazy.
Wonderful rant! I get really irritated at restaurant menus too — they’re sometimes like a game of Clue! where you have to guess what you’ll actually get. Writing this must have been really cathartic. :-)
The funny thing is that I just heard when Martha Stewart came through Oklahoma City last month, she was taken to this specific restaurant! That’s how good it’s supposed to be! I hope she had a better experience than we did.
I know that many restaurants are struggling these days, but that’s no excuse for inaccurate menus and lousy food. Many are coping by scaling down their menu selections, and I have no problem with that. But the menu should describe the dish in such a way that the diner knows what he or she is ordering, and a chef responding to a complaint with “no one has complained before” is inexcusable. I also hate “cutesy menus” such as your example of “pig, arugula, oregano.” Why would anyone order that?
This post was from 6 years ago, so in this case the pandemic can’t be blamed. I really feel horrible about what restaurants are going through now. Certainly they should scale down the menus and serve good food, and take out some tables if they don’t have the staff to handle 100 diners.
UGH, that is the WORST! It’s always a small gamble ordering out based on the inconsistencies of the chef and human error, but the poor menu descriptions make it almost impossible to get what you want. Restaurant owners need to take writing classes just to know how to accurately represent what you’re going to get!
Exactly. Or have managers who can read and write. I have rolled my eyes over many menus.
Sigh. I feel your pain. Our local pizza joint is probably one of the few restaurants I can dine at without a complaint. I usually just bite my tongue when I think the food could be better!
Isn’t that sad.
Completely agree and you’ve had me laughing out loud with your description of the balsamic strudel (I’m on the train so people are wondering what’s happening).
You’ve described why I’ve basically stopped going to restaurants except when it’s to a place where I can just order the degustation with wine pairing and know it’ll be good. Unfortunately those places are far and between and expensive. The exception of course is Italy, where properly cooked seasonal and regional food is still the norm and can be had at 80% of the restaurants. Or Taiwan.
It’s very sad, isn’t it. And yes, it’s not the real balsamic, but there’s something popular here called balsamic glaze, which I think is reduced balsamic, so even sweeter and stickier.
oh i thought i was going nuts. my email said this was a new post! did it just pop up for you? :-) I certainly agree with all your points.
Sorry for the confusion – it’s a re-post of an old post. I was gone on a long vacation and have a surgery coming up so I dug into the earlier years of my blog for some posts. You are not going nuts!
Preach on, Mimi! We often say that the food in our kitchen is better than the food we find when we go out here in our area – it’s so disappointing because we were used to very high quality food down in Atlanta. (When you live in a competitive restaurant market, restaurants have to be good or they disappear!) I’m appalled at some of the examples you gave here, although in the same breath I can say I’m not surprised one bit. Good luck with the upcoming surgery!
Oh thanks! (I have an old neck!) These are appalling examples, but boy do I have many more, and not just from Oklahoma, sadly. Sometimes it’s just nice to eat out, isn’t it?! Just to get a break from the kitchen!
Mimi, I totally get it. Honestly, I feel the restaurant quality and service have gone way down in the last couple of years. Especially the service, as people are no longer willing to work. This is very frustrating for both the clients and the owners. If you need a good giggle, I can share with you some “Chinglish” menus that will have you roaring with laughter.
Oh boy… I bet those are hysterical!
That’s awful! Restaurants need to be more responsible than that!
They do indeed!
Oh God, I’m going to try not to write a journal article in response. My pet peeve is when I’m served butter that is clearly straight from the fridge. You can’t spread it on anything. What is the point? I’m not picky, I eat almost everything that’s edible, and I think I’m discerning, yet easy to please. But don’t serve me cold butter. I know how it is, though, when I’m diining with a friend who has more to be concerned about, and they have to ask specific questions about every dish, and I’m tempted to roll my eyes … but if they don’t do this, they get served a plate full of vinegar and can’t eat it! My other pet peeve isn’t about restaurants, but about diners. I always think it’s … I don’t know … misguided to ask the wait staff to recommend a dish, or to ask them if they like or prefer one dish over another. What are the chances that their tastes are going to have anything to do with yours? Plus, they clearly have a confict of interest. Ask them to describe the dish, sure. Ask them which dishes are most popular, or signature dishes, sure. But don’t ask them, “Which do you like better…”
I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t care at all what a waitress likes on the menu. That is really silly. As far as cold butter – I will go one step further and call down bad butter, as in margarine, and butter in the little foil packets. Ugh. I cannot handle rude diners – my mother for one. She’ll start griping if a waiter talks to me first, or doesn’t serve her first. It’s the age thing. She’s very French. But she’s so rude, and all meals with her, pre-dementia, were uncomfortable, embarrassing, and costly, because my husband would go overboard tipping and apologizing.
I love your re-write of that menu item, lol! If only all menus were so honest. Who in a million years would have expected balsamic vinegar based on the menu description? And who drizzles balsamic on strudel anyway? Yuck…
This post reminds my why I’m eating out less and less these days. For years now, I’ve had a strict policy of not eating out either Italian or French. Almost always disappointing (if not worse) and I can make those cuisines at home at a faction of the cost. And what I make is frankly so much better anyway. Mexican is another cuisine I avoid while eating out, since good places in this area are nearly non-existent, and again, I can make it at home. That basically leaves pizza (of which there are a few decent places close by) and Asian, which for us mostly means Chinese, one cuisine where restaurant versions can be better than what I can manage at home—provided you know the right places to go.
But overall, I get the feeling that the quality of restaurant food in general has gone downhill lately, even while prices are going up. When we started going back to restaurants recently, the food at a good number of places I used to enjoy just didn’t seem the same. More reason to just eat at home!
I think you summed it up perfectly. Even at pizza places, we customize them so they’re to our liking. Otherwise they’re just not good to us! You would faint if you were aware of the restaurants we have available to us here where we live. But, Oklahomacity, as burgeoning of a city it is, still has its limits. That was where we had the balsamic strudel. But at least there are good restaurant – mostly “new” America. I really don’t seek out French or Italian either. At least in Oklahoma the Mexican restaurants are better than up north. It’s often best just to stay home!
Mimi, I agree with all that you’ve said. I always compliment restaurants that are properly dressed. That is a big one for me. consistency is so important and I find that I often order dishes that I have had before. I repeat this at each restaurant and often don’t try something new because I want to stick with a known. I do think it’s so important to let restaurants know when they’ve done a great job and when they’ve fallen short. Thanks for opening that conversation.
I agree! I think that’s human nature. We love to give bad reviews, but forget to give good ones often. Gordon Ramsay I know is about quality and consistency, and I’ve been to one of his restaurants, and it was total perfection.
correction. When a salad is properly dressed!
It’s so easy to be disappointed at restaurants. It takes effort, time and money to go out and it should not only be worth it, but be a a treat and a delightful experience. In my humble opinion. ;-) ~Valentina
You wonder if the restaurant owner and staff are aware of this? Some of us can cook, and it’s just nice to go out. We take it seriously though!
Well said Mimi! We usually eat out only when I am tired of cooking and need a break. I had the same experience with my mother as she got older, it was uncomfortable and embarrassing. In many places the wait staff are new and I give them a break, restaurants have had a difficult time hiring staff. But, there is no excuse for bad food.
I never go to a new restaurant, for good reason. I give them a few months at least. The pandemic has certainly not helped the employee situation as well as the whole small business ownership situation. It’s so sad.
It has given some of the smaller restaurants here an opportunity to expand into tents outside in parking lots or their gardens. I have been impressed by how some of them have stepped up creatively. One of our favorites used the down time to upgrade their menu, crockery and hire a real Italian chef (they have upgraded their prices as well). But it has improved from an “I don’t feel like cooking neighborhood joint” to somewhere we go for the food.
But I agree, we like to go after the ‘shake down’ period. And the number of small businesses that closed is sad.
You’re a negative Mimi, but with good cause. The second rate chef who said that no one had complained before should have added that now someone had, he would take the complaint on board.
I know. So many awful experiences, unfortunately. But I’m seriously the most positive glass-half-full person! I just take my food seriously.