While I will always advocate saving money, staying home and cooking up some grub for yourself, there are times that you just want or even have to eat out, but when doing so many people stumble into pitfalls, succumbing to the corporatism of the modern restaurant scene. I’m going to show you how to avoid these errors, get the most out of your money, and ensure you’re getting the best food you can when outside of your own kitchen.
Never Get Pasta
Or rice, or any starch based entree. Its a waste of money. Restaurants dont mark-up the menu prices equally based on cost percentage, most menu prices are arbitrary numbers that sound good or are comparable to competition. They’ll charge almost equally for a dish that costs them pennies to make as they do a dish that costs them dollars to make.
Its an inherent truth that starch is cheap. Its also terrible for you, so if you dont do it for your wallet, do it for your health.
Dont Order Fish On Monday
Some of you might have heard this before and the last I checked its still true in some areas. Fish markets and the subsequent companies that supply fresh fish often times do not operate on Sundays. This means fish prepared on Monday is from that previous Saturday, or even farther back in the previous week. Now this usually only applies to more upscale restaurants. Smaller, cheaper, and more lowbrow restaurants tend to order fish frozen or if it is “fresh” its ice packed and brought in by one of the major food service suppliers. In these cases you’re going to get the same fish no matter what day of the week it is.
Avoid Daily Specials
You know what I call a “daily special”? A garbage can. Same goes for the soup of the day. Its a recycle bin where left overs can be turned into something new and profitable. Now this doesn’t inherently mean daily specials are bad or malicious. Its not as if there’s some Upton Sinclair style grinding of “parts” going on in the kitchens to make specials, but the fact is you’re paying good money for this food. Even with a “special” pricing you’re most likely paying 200%-400% more then the food cost the restaurant to make. Don’t settle for food that’s days old.
Come Just Before The Rush
Do you know what a restaurant kitchen is like in the middle of the a rush? Its bedlam. Things go wrong, but service times must not falter, so a lot of the time “shortcuts” are taken. Order a steak medium-well at any average busy restaurant during the thick of dinner and I will GUARANTEE its been in a microwave.
Now compare the insanity that is a kitchen during its rush to the thirty to sixty minutes just before the rush, right around 4 ‘o’clock for dinner. Immaculate. Everything is in place and clean; the counters, the cooks, the pans, the plates, everything is spotless ready and waiting for the insanity that will be tonights dinner service..
Be Cool But Succinct With Your Server
Servers aren’t your friends. They don’t want to chat. They want you to order, pay, tip (decently) and get the fuck out. This doesn’t mean be a douchebag though. Just be cool and to the point. Dont talk about your dog, the weather, or the local sports team. Order your drinks, close your menus, and tell them what you want to eat.
Also recognize if you’re a massive pain in the ass. If you’re like me and need your dinner order specialized because you avoid carbs, or you want extra something or none of this, then recognize that fact, apologize for it, and then get on with the order. You have no idea how effective this is:
“Alright I’m gonna be a huge pain, can I get no potatoes, extra veggies, and sauce on the side?”
Never Eat At National Chains
While I could support this solely on the stand point that corporate restaurants are killing the small restaurateur, that has nothing to do with you. Massive corporate chains are evil for one reason. Consistency.
Consistency is the name of the game for national chains. They want the entree served in New York to look and taste like the entree served in Iowa. How could you ostensibly clone a food item so that it looks, tastes, and smells exactly the same even when prepared by entirely different people hundreds of miles apart at different times? Devil science.
Chains prize consistency over quality. They uphold this idea by commercially producing at least half of the food they serve. The soups, sauces, meats, and anything else will come in a can, bag, or box already made. Its all produced in one factory in massive batches, this is how the achieve consistency.
Never Order Alcohol
Don’t get me wrong. If you’re going out to drink at a restaurant bar, fine order up some top shelf ‘margs and do your thing, but if you’re there to eat just stick with water, tea, or juice. The mark-up on alcohol is RIDICULOUS and most restaurants either water down or bottle swap their “top shelf” booze to make it go even further.
The exception to this is small locally owned spots that have a community standing. These places get their business from their reputation. The less advertising a place does the better its likely to be IF its busy. A restaurant does not get a great word-of-mouth following by doing a shitty job.