Visiting a Restaurant Part 2: What to Order and How to Deal with It

3 small bowls containing left to right chopped salad, short pasta in sauce and spinach, are arranged around a dinner plate containing 3 strips of steak with the bone cut off and set to one side. One strip has a fork stuck into the end of the strip, while a knife cuts across to make a bite-sized piece that the fork can lift straight to your mouth.
3 small bowls containing left to right chopped salad, short pasta in sauce and spinach, are arranged around a dinner plate containing 3 strips of steak with the bone cut off and set to one side. One strip has a fork stuck into the end of the strip, while a knife cuts across to make a bite-sized piece that the fork can lift straight to your mouth.

 

Fast food restaurant may be difficult to navigate alone, but the food choices are mostly designed to be picked up. You may struggle to keep the filling inside the bun or pastry, and to prop up the floppy pizza slice while you guide the tip into your mouth. And of course there are those squirty little ketchup sacks. But on the whole, fast food is finger food. It is the flat plates and silverware in more formal restaurants that cause most difficulties.

Choosing a dish

When you are having dinner or brunch at a restaurant with wait staff and real plates, you want to eat neatly, but also enjoy yourself. Your enemies are flat plates crowded with all the foods you ordered. Your friends are side dishes served in actual side dishes. Your plate will be easiest to manage if it arrives with only the main meat or whatever on it. Ask for any garnish such as lemon wedges or parsley sprigs to be served separately. Then you can begin by cutting up the meat, and adding from the side dishes when you are ready. This gives you space for the tricky job of cutting and also control over where the potatoes or fried onions are placed. You are not floundering around trying to separate the grilled whatever from the surrounding dark piles.

Plate shapes

If the restaurant uses dinner plates with a deep rim, this will help you keep the more skittish foods, like french fries, on your plate. Chinese restaurant may serve in small bowls, which are okay to lift up to your chin, making rice much easier to eat. Some restaurants now use pasta plates or pasta bowls for both pasta and salads. These are like soup bowls with wide rims and deep centers. They make pushing stuff over the edges of your plate much less likely. No one wants to find a little ring of food around his plate at the end of the meal.

What to order

If you don’t often get the chance of a restaurant meal, it is tough to realize that you may have to skip your favorite because it is hard to eat neatly. Remember, you can always eat around the edges, enjoying the company and the atmosphere; ask for your meal to be bagged for you, and at home you can eat it any way you like!

Choose chopped and sticky foods

You may want to choose something that sticks together fairly well and can be lifted on your fork. Thick pieces of meat or chicken are easier to prong with a fork than slippery thin slices of ham or turkey. Short pasta like ziti are less messy than spaghetti, and a thick sauce, maybe with cheese in it, will help the pasta stick together. Spinach is easier than green beans; mashed potato better than plain rice. Chopped salads are often available now, and are simpler to eat neatly than large lettuce leaves. You may also want to have dressing or sauce served in small pitchers or bowls, so you can add them after you have cut up your meat, salad or pancakes.

Cutting your meat

If your steak is sliced into 3 strips in the kitchen (check the description above,) the cutting will be much easier to manage. It is the same with a chicken breast, stack of pancakes, piece of ham, or any other large item that cannot be cut with the side of your fork. You can get the chef to cut your food the way you   want it. Remember you are paying for the meal, and can ask for your food to be served in a way that suits your needs. If you are embarrassed to do this at the table, and you know in advance that you want the T bone, then call the restaurant and tell them beforehand that you want it cut. Ask for the bone to be left on the plate as in the photo and description, if you like to gnaw on the good bits at the end.

Foods you can pick up even at a fancy place

Shrimp with the tails on

Steak and pork chop bones

Chicken drumsticks and wings

ribs

Asparagus spears

Bread or roll dipped in gravy or olive oil (watch out for drips)

 

What to bring with you

Big  colored cloth napkin in your pocket or purse as insurance against tiny paper napkins.  You can tuck it in at your neck if you want to choose something messy. Fold the napkin  inwards at the end to contain any drips and launder it  at home.

Extra large paper napkins

 

This is only a beginning. Please add your tips and good ideas by commenting here.

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