Eating out doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. Here are six tips to help you navigate a menu and ask for what you want in a restaurant.
It’s Thursday and I’m still thinking about a ridiculous experience I had at a restaurant last weekend. We were at a new and trendy yet casual neighborhood place for dinner. I scanned the salad offerings and dismissed the vinaigrette-dressed roasted beets (not my favorite), the Southwest (loaded with refried beans and cheese)—and then I zeroed in on the mixed baby greens with creamy buttermilk dressing. I asked my server (“Mike, I’m happy to be taking care of you tonight”) if I could please have the mixed baby greens with the vinaigrette instead of the buttermilk dressing. “I’ll need to check with the chef,” he told me. “Our menu clearly states, ‘no modifications.’” Huh? After a few minutes he came back—with attitude. “The chef said he’ll make an exception.” Looking down his nose at me, I half expected him to add, “Just this once.”
Now let’s be clear. I wasn’t asking for something not on the menu. I wasn’t messing with what could possibly be thought of as a ‘signature dish.’ And I was pretty sure the greens hadn’t been tossed in buttermilk dressing ahead of time. No restaurant would do that unless they wanted to serve a soggy mess. I just wanted my salad with a different dressing.
Before you even walk into a restaurant, you probably have a pretty good idea of what’s going to be on the menu. You might even have some idea of what you’d like to order. If you sharpen your menu reading skills and know what adjustments you can reasonably ask for, it shouldn’t be a struggle to get what you want in a restaurant.
Still hungry for more? See my smart ordering in restaurants article for more tips on how to keep your diet in check when you’re dining out.