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I live in one of the best cities in the world for eating out. There are about 20,000 restaurants in New York City -- everything from Chinese to Italian to Thai to Ethiopian to standard American fare. There are raw food restaurants and vegan eateries. There are steak houses and meatball joints. There are places that serve only dumplings and ones that serve only sandwiches. There are diners open 24/7 and seasonal places open only a few months a year.
We have some of the most expensive restaurants, some of the most romantic, and, I'm sure, some places you'll really regret you ever ventured into. So I've had my share of dining experiences over the years. All good restaurants require only three things: Great food, a great atmosphere, and at least a good price. But bad things about restaurants can run the gamut. Here are eight things I hate about restaurants.
The bathroom sink. Sometimes I dread using a restaurant bathroom. Because I dread that moment when I wash my hands and realize there's no soap and no hot water. And then I see that little employee sign near the sink that says, "All employees must wash their hands before returning to work." And then I realize someone probably touched my food, or at least my plates and glasses, with hands that were "washed" with nothing but cold water. Shudder.
Noise factor. For some reason, a lot of restaurants have gotten into doubling as nightclubs and BLARE music. I've even been to restaurants that have a DJ spinning at a turntable. A big part of the enjoyment of going out to dinner is conversation with your tablemates. When that's impossible, enjoying the meal becomes impossible.
Table placement. In Manhattan, space comes at a premium. Most of a restaurant's overhead can be its rent. So it's no wonder that they try to cram in as many tables as you'd cram sardines in a can. But listening to the conversations on either side of me -- and knowing the people practically on top of me are listening to mine -- give new meaning to the term TMI.
Ill-timed meals. For some reason, the experience of having one or more meals come out ahead of the rest -- waaaay ahead of the rest -- seems to have become almost de rigueur at some restaurants. Then you're stuck staring at your meal while the other person waits for hers. And she's all like, "Go ahead, start eating. Don't wait for me." And you're all like, "No, no, I'll wait." And 20 minutes later, you cave in and start eating and then she stares at you like you just kicked her puppy.
When the bill goes to the guy. Hey, I'd love it if the guy paid for every meal I ever ate out. But the reality is, lots of times I'm paying. And if I'm not paying, I'm splitting the tab. Handing the bill to the guy creates an awkward moment where I think, "Yeah, why aren't you paying?" Plus, it's just kinda sexist. (This goes for handing the wine menu to the guy, too. I have yet to meet a guy who knows jack about wine.)
Refusing to seat just me. I'm usually early. My dining partners are almost inevitably a bit late. When a waiter refuses to seat me until ALL parties are there, I have to wait at the bar (thus spending money for the privilege of waiting on someone) or mill around by the door, getting knocked about by other people. Plus, you're saying, "I don't trust that your party is going to show."
Making me ask for bread or water. Seriously? Just bring it.
The menu is writ in stone tablet. I hate when a restaurant refuses to make even teeny changes to what's on the menu. As long as you've got the ingredients in the kitchen and the food isn't pre-made and the change is small -- say, the clam sauce with the penne instead of angel hair, when there's penne elsewhere on the menu -- what is the issue?? Once, a waitress told me it would be a dollar to add one slice of tomato to a veggie burger. C'mon. You'd think the chef had to go out and grow a tomato! I've even been charged more for asking for less food. Work with me, people!
What do you hate about restaurants?
Image via Dutchgrub/Flickr