Ordering Technique Part I: Servers As Advisors

There is nothing more infuriating than having someone scoop you on a topic you wanted to write about. Actually, that's not true. It is even more infuriating when someone gives it a really good treatment, like Adam Roberts, who had a great post over at The Amateur Gourmet about why you shouldn't ask your server for ordering advice at a restaurant. With a couple of exceptions, he breaks down a number of reasons for why you shouldn't ask "What's good?".

Reasons like: all of the items on the menu should be good (at a certain level of restaurant), they can't know your palate or mood, and that you never know if you would have been happier with your own selection. He also mentions the social awkwardness of asking for a suggestion and then not ordering it.

I think menus can be deceptive, descriptions are terse and sometimes inaccurate. At a restaurant you have never been to, your server is the only interactive window you have into the food. The real issue is that the question "What's good?" is not going to get you to the best answer. Some will tell you what is most popular, some will give you an honest opinion, and I am sure it has happened at least once that a server will push an item that the restaurant needs to move.

I remember when I was teenager I went to a restaurant where the waiter prevented me from ordering a dish. By prevented, I mean, he drew on the menu, crossed out what I wanted to order and circled a different dish. I took his advice and ordered whatever he had circled. While I was waiting for my entree to arrive, someone at the table next to us had ordered what I had originally wanted. I heard them say "This is disgusting, I can't eat this." Now granted, this establishment one can draw on a menu, but still, your waitron may know things you don't.

I think if you engage your server properly, you can get really great advice. Don't ask what's good and end it there. Ask what they like about their recommendation. Tell them the general range of what you are craving. I am almost always debating between two dishes.

I do have to admit that I have a fear that I am going to end up in some Larry David like nightmare at the restaurant. Maybe a yelling match because I don't follow her advice. Or perhaps ...



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