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Food Rules: An Incomplete List of Opinions (29 To Be Exact) on Eating and Drinking Out

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  1. There’s no shame in snagging the 5:30pm reservation at a popular restaurant.
  2. There’s also no shame in having a second dinner at 8:30pm at a cheaper place where it’s easier to get a table.
  3. Street food in other countries: Look for a long line of locals and order what they order. (Yes, even that weird thing with eyes.)
  4. Your guest gets the seat against the wall that looks out over the entire restaurant. Unless you don’t like them that much, in which case they can stare at the wall.
  5. Question: “How would you like that prepared?” Answer: “Whatever the chef recommends.”
  6. If you’re dining alone, sit at the bar. Keep your phone off. Talk with people.
  7. Get the housemade hot sauce.
  8. If you’re in a new city and find a good restaurant, ask the staff where they eat or take their friends from out of town. Sometimes you’ll get one recommendation. Other times you’ll get an entire list of places written down on a napkin. This is culinary gold.
  9. Don’t lose the napkin.
  10. For a great date night, order one course at a time. Get drinks and appetizers. Eat and talk. Get small plates. Eat and talk. Get the main course. Eat and talk. Get dessert and after-dinner drinks. Eat and talk. The whole thing will take 2-3 hours. It’s worth it.
  11. Don’t order a cocktail in a place that isn’t known for cocktails. You’ll just be disappointed. Instead, get a beer or a high-proof bourbon on the rocks.
  12. But first, make sure to ask if they have big ice cubes. If they don’t, order your whiskey neat. Or get a beer.
  13. Skip the housemade chocolate-tobacco-guava-rosemary bitters.
  14. Not drinking? Tonic water or soda with lime.
  15. Question: “Should we get a bunch of food for the table and share?” Answer: “Yes.”
  16. Take the wine recommendation.
  17. When looking for a good coffee shop, pull up photos on Google or Yelp and look at their milk drinks. If their lattes have a leaf, rosetta, or heart pattern, you’ve likely found the right kind of hipster place that takes their coffee (perhaps too) seriously. Which means they have good coffee.
  18. Go for a walk after dinner. It helps the food settle.
  19. Have sex before dinner. It’s the rare person who feels like fucking after eating a ridiculous amount of cheese.
  20. Minimum 20% tip. 25%+ if they really knock your socks off.
  21. Nonna: “Where’s your wine? Water is for washing cars and for bathing. Never toast with water.” You: “Yes, Nonna.”
  22. If the place isn’t busy, it’s totally acceptable to ask the waitstaff to bring you whatever food they think you should have. Give them a dollar amount. $30 bucks per person. $100 per person. They may not be interested. But most love sharing their favorite dishes.
  23. But if it’s busy, order off the damn menu.
  24. Same thing in cocktail bars. Order off the menu unless it’s slow or you’ve built up a good rapport with the bartender.
  25. Signs you’ve succeeded: The meal is amazing. Your guests are happy. You’re slightly intoxicated from all the butter and booze.
  26. Signs you’ve really succeeded: The chef comes out to meet you. You’re invited to join in on the staff drink. You get asked, “Are you in the industry?” You have sex after dinner, despite the ridiculous amount of cheese.
  27. Question: “Sparkling or still?” Answer: “Sparkling.”
  28. Enjoy your food but don’t get too snobby. A good meal is more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t matter how much it costs or where the ingredients come from. The best burger I’ve had recently was with my Dad and brother at a Red Robin in Billings, Montana.
  29. Don’t fill up on bread.
Bon appétit!