Lazy Lists

Tips For Dining Out


Whether a romantic evening out before surprising your spouse with divorce papers or simply because those Wienerschnitzel coupons on your refrigerator aren’t going to cash themselves, going out to eat is one of the more common pastimes for much of the western world (the term ‘western world’ here being used in the European influence sense and not the “This here town ain’t big enough fer both’a us.” Just wanted to be clear on that.)

Going out to eat isn’t as simple as leaving your front door and finding a candle-lit table waiting for you. No, it is requires an amount of planning, some finesse for pairing restaurant with occasion and food types with dietary needs. An important business meeting with a wealthy client could go horribly wrong if the luncheon includes reaching into the Pick Your Own Gator tank. Conversely, a simple craving for a hot dog should not involve waiters who make more than you do.

“Madame’s wiener is satisfactory, I hope. It was procured from an off-freeway convenience station where I was mugged and beaten by delinquents. Madame’s packet of catsup was lost in the tussle, I’m afraid.”

My advice (unsolicited and presumptuous, but also predicated on the belief that my readers are incapable of making even the most basic decisions without a great deal of help) has been laid before you in an easy-to-use guide. Print it out, carry it in your purse, your wallet (or even man-purse. I’m looking at you, Le Clown) and reference it whenever you find yourself planning to dine out. These tips have been compiled out of necessity after many years of trial and error.

Choosing Where To Eat

DO read reviews of restaurants from a variety of sources
DON’T dine anywhere frequently mentioned in local obituaries

DO know your budget and plan your dining accordingly
DON’T assume any meal can be exchanged for a rare Pokemon card

DO be open to trying new foods and ethnic dishes
DON’T be open to eating head cheese. Just don’t do it. Ever

DO consider a restaurant for its style and ambiance
DON’T consider a restaurant entirely for its employee to cleavage ratio

DO try to dine at a local, family-owned establishment
DON’T dine at a restaurant where mafia guys have been known to “disappear”

“This is the newest special of the house. I call it Jimmy The Rat Fink Sonuvabitch That Squawked To The Cops Sausage. Dig in!”

Making Healthy Choices

DO order your salad dressing on the side to avoid extra calories
DON’T order your salad dressing in a punchbowl with a straw

DO choose your meal from the menu instead of the all-you-can-eat buffet
DON’T choose to seat yourself at the all-you-can-eat buffet

DO order water or unsweetened tea instead of soda
DON’T ask for extra mayonnaise to be added to any beverage

DO take advantage of the selection at the salad bar
DON’T misinterpret a salad bar as an open invitation to dine with Mr. Sniffle, your pet rabbit

DO politely decline when the dessert tray is wheeled over
DON’T appropriate the dessert tray as your personal go-cart

“Yup, that’s me. Winfield, party of 12.”

Basic Dining Etiquette

DO call ahead and ask if the restaurant requires a jacket
DON’T call ahead and ask if the restaurant requires pants. Just assume they do

DO unfold the napkin and place it in your lap
DON’T unfold the napkin, cut out eye holes and wear it while robbing the restaurant

DO use the appropriate utensils (i.e. salad fork, soup spoon, etc.)
DON’T use spoons as tiny catapults to launch an assault against nearby tables

DO be fair when tipping your server
DON’T misread the 12% gratuity as a 12-cent gratuity

DO send along your compliments to the chef for a lovely meal
DON’T ask if the chef will allow you to violate the restraining order just this once

After hurling mashed potatoes at a nearby clergyman, the entire Miller family is publicly shamed and subsequently banned from all early bird specials.

With these tips, your evening at that exclusive restaurant will be memorable and your fast food  binges will be slightly less-shameful. While this advice is free for you, please send along any leftovers you have after dining out. I’m not proud, I’ll take whatever you have, whether it has bites taken out of it or smells of motor oil after dropping the to-go box in the street.


48 thoughts on “Tips For Dining Out”

  1. So what you’re saying is, don’t order mayo with a straw in it? Hrm, I will consider that.

    But really, awesome post. This should be up in every restaurant. Very helpful.


  2. Now see, just like with your post about what to do and not do during job interviews, where was this handy list when I went out to eat the other night? This would have saved me a lot of trouble. Thanks for nothing.


  3. That boob advice is bogus. Employee to cleavage ratio is my only consideration when choosing a restaurant because I will have nothing to gawk at the whole time otherwise. Duh.


    1. I actually agree with you. I really just threw that one in in order to appear sensitive and as someone who sees women as something other than objects. It’s a lie.


        1. I would, but the last time I high fived a boob, I got arrested. Apparently, it’s not “PC” to randomly invade the personal space of women. Suddenly, they have “feelings” and “rights”.


  4. Thanks for the list, Mike! Just heard of this one: Don’t ever order lemon with your tea/water. It’s a veritable germ factory tossed about from hand to hand to hand to hand….before it ever gets in your glass. Ew. Your pearls of wisdom will make dining much more pleasurable. Thanks!!!!


    1. I love lemons in my water. Dammit. I guess I’ll have to start requesting a slice of something more sanitary, like part of a 2000 Flushes tablet.

      Thanks for reading, Brigitte. 🙂


  5. Clever post. “DON’T dine anywhere frequently mentioned in local obituaries” — I wholeheartedly agree even though Woody Allen dines in the no shooting section at Spark’s Steakhouse here in the Apple.


  6. Dear calahan:

    I beg to differ. Going out IS as simple as leaving your front door and finding a candle-lit table waiting for you. On many occasions, I have placed a lit candle in the driveway next to my recently purchased bag of Mac-nuggets. My ex-girlfriends have told me that this was the best (and last) meal they had with me.

    I also use employee-to-cleavage ratio as the tie breaker for choosing where to eat.


        1. You’re better off, man. Save that half-melted candle for someone who will appreciate it. She’s out there. You may have to kidnap her and hold her against her will, but she’s out there.


  7. This is a great list, although it reminds me of one of my children’s books: Underwear Dos and Donts. Don’t wear your underwear on the outside of your pants when going to a restaurant. Just sayin’.


  8. You’re never too old to memorize these helpful tips — and I mean specifically, YOU, not me.

    Haha! Very funny post. I like your style.


      1. I was going to go with “attention span is too short for lists,” but I’ve never found your site to be a waste of time, darling. Then again, I clearly am not able to focus for is that a penny?


  9. I’ve done almost every one of the ‘donts’ and almost none of the ‘dos’. I didn’t even think of calling before I showed up with no pants. Maybe this is why I never eat out anymore — the court order says so.
    You are hilarious.


    1. I like to look at court orders less as rules instituted by a court and more as simple suggestions that I can choose to follow or ignore. Court orders, restraining orders, it’s all open to interpretation.


  10. Wow! Found this by clicking your dice of destiny. I laughed all the way through it. This is some really funny stuff! Thank you for teaching a hick how to eat when I leave the house. You didn’t remind me to put my teeth in before I leave though, so I just stuck a post it note on the bathroom mirror and signed your name to it, so you’ll get the credit for that also.


          1. Someday, I hear we’re gonna git this new thing called an “internets”. They tell me with this spage age miracle, we’ll be able to find out about things before they even happen! I have some friends here who even have a tellyphone that they can carry with them wherever they go. We’re coming along. Slowly but surely.


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