Now, you may have eaten out once or twice, but I eat out all the time. Oh, I'm not bragging--it's just a simple fact. When you're a slick wheeler-dealer like myself, you get used to reading quite a few restaurant menus in your day--and not just out of curiosity, either. Most of the time, it's to order food.
As an experienced restaurant patron, I've learned quite a bit that can be very useful when it comes to choosing whether to go ahead and eat something or to say "no thanks!" and order a Coke to go along with the sandwich you brought from home:
1) Don't bring a sandwich from home. There's nothing a restaurant frowns on more than you bringing your own food. Caveat--bringing your own booze is ok as long as your state doesn't have stupid Khmer Rouge-esque laws against bringing your own booze. (Yes I compared such restaurants to the Cambodian genocide. I feel a bit awful.)
2) If you do bring your own booze, it should really be a bottle of wine. Bringing your own case of National Bohemian, while it will bring you street cred, will certainly result in the wine waiter quitting his job on the spot. Same goes for plastic-bottle vodka.
3) Anything on the menu that says "reduction" as in "a raspberry reduction" will certainly result in a reduction to your net worth!
4) If the prices on the menu are in numbers without "$" signs or decimal points or fractions of dollars, it's going to be pricey. And if there are no prices at all, look out.
5) Any time you see "truffle oil" on the menu, here's what you need to decide--do you want to pay twice as much for something that you can't tell from ordinary grease?
6) If someone won't leave the table that you've reserved and the hostess obviously can't rudely tell them to GTFO, remember that you are not an employee of the restaurant and therefore you have free rein to start picking bits of leftover food off their plates. When they express astonishment at your effrontery, calmly say something like "oh, I'm so sorry! See I'm supposed to be dining at this table now, so I got a bit confused. Now saddle up and get out before I do something you won't want to witness with the centerpieces."
7) If the wait staff introduces themselves by name, whatever you do, don't use their name by trying to get their attention later. They don't actually expect anyone to get familiar.
8) If you're looking for the restroom and accidentally walk into the kitchen, don't stupidly admit that you couldn't follow the hostess' simple directions. Instead tell them you're from the Board of Health, and you are going to conduct a surprise inspection unless maybe they can convince you to sample some of their finer wines instead.
9) Make sure the restaurant actually has valet parking before you just start tossing your keys to any guy on the sidewalk in a windbreaker.
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