18 Things About Dining Out That Drive Robrt Pela Nuts
I have endured the popularity of the gastropub. I have smiled through clenched teeth at the new trend in slaws. I've remained silent while tacos have taken over nearly every menu; while food trucks continue to blot the horizon and chefs boast about their special "pan-fried" pork chops. (Precisely what other object might you have fried a pork chop in?)
I've begun to worry: If I continue to look the other way when a waiter brings a "shared dish" with no serving utensils or tenders the bill before I've ordered dessert, will my head eventually explode? Rather than sitting still while annoying dining trends eat me alive, I've compiled a list of them, ranked from bad to worse.
1. Raspberry vinaigrette. Remember when raspberry vinaigrette was a new, fancy thing? George Bush was president at the time. George Bush Senior. It's 2015, already. It's time this salad staple went the way of the Pet Fart and feathered bangs. At the very least, it should no longer be offered as something exciting and rare.
2. No salt. In France, a salt shaker on the table is an affront to the chef, an insinuation that he, a Cordon Bleu-trained maestro, hasn't properly seasoned the food he's prepared for you. This is not France. Just give us some fucking salt, for Christ's sake.
3. Cocktails "muddled" with herbs. I do not want a martini that tastes like the spice rub for a pork roast fell into it. Knock it off.
4. "Handcrafted" food. What were chefs doing, prior to 2012 — using their feet to make food?
5. Clever bathroom signs. I'm not a geneticist, and I don't want to stand in front of doors marked X and Y trying to decide which chromosome will allow me to pee without getting arrested.
6. Cooking pans as serving platters. How clever! My pulled pork just arrived on a sheet of parchment in a roasting pan! And, look! Your eggs came on an enamel cookie sheet! This fun idea must have come from the same DIY fanatic who came up with ticking-striped tea towels as serviettes. And while I'm at it, please stop serving food in paper cones. If this were the state fair, my fries would not be costing me 17 bucks.
7. Having to explain the basics. Why, dear server, are you asking me whether I want you to bring my salad at the same time as my entrée? Have I done or said something to indicate that this is my first dining-out experience? Are there really people who want their first and second courses served simultaneously? Is this an Applebee's?
8. Bacon in everything. I love no other foodstuff more than bacon. But its persistent inclusion in places it really has no business being (from brownies to breath mints and — my God! — even ice cream) has turned my favorite meat into a genuine annoyance.
9. Cupcakes. I never crave a cupcake, but I do find myself longing for the day when they will once and for all go back to the children's birthday party from which they came. In the meantime, cupcakes persist as a never-ending dessert trend, each year infused with new and more atrocious ingredients, growing ever taller with towers of whipped frosting. I am no longer 7, and no one's mouth opens that wide. Stop.
10. Sriracha. I promise you, Chef. If I want Vietnamese hot sauce on my waffle, or in my chicken noodle soup, or infusing my pork tenderloin, I'll request a bottle from my waiter. In the meantime, leave me the hell alone with the sriracha, already.
11. Waitstaff who feel compelled to comment on everything you order. I'm delighted to hear that you find the whole fried tilapia "amazing" and the tiramisu "awesome." I don't care that the buttermilk-brined ham hock pot pie is your favorite. I didn't order your opinion; I ordered the spicy soba noodles.
12. Reimagined comfort food. I'm tickled that you've got your Nana's macaroni and cheese recipe, and that you're offering to make some for me. A wedge salad? Okay, sure. And of course I want a slice of meatloaf and a helping of mashed potatoes. Only one thing, though. Could you not charge me $47 for food I learned to make in home ec class?
13. Poutine. French fries covered in gravy are just disgusting. They are recovering-from-a-bender, there's-no-real-food-in-the-house food. If everyone agrees to stop ordering this disgusting slop, restaurants will eventually get the message: No more douchebag food.
14. Esoteric, single-word restaurant names. I love Windsor, and Fàme. I've enjoyed eating at The Vig and Ten and Okra. But enough with the super-clever one-word names, sometimes preceded by the article "The," already.
15. Cacophony as an amenity. Twenty years ago, perhaps unable to come up with anything more ridiculous than serving food in a towering stack, restaurant owners decided that removing every scrap of fabric from their eateries and covering every surface in concrete, so that even a half-filled dining room sounds like a high school cafeteria at high noon, was a good idea. Somehow, no one has thought to call it quits on this noisy aesthetic.
16. The community table. I'm sure you and your wife and her sister are lovely people, but I barely want to eat dinner with myself, let alone with a bunch of strangers. Waiter! Will you bring me a vodka-tonic and a hacksaw, please, so I can cut this ridiculous table in two?
17. Rampant menu abbreviations. What the hell does "red o & p" mean? Do I want to eat a myod? What the Christ is an H.B. egg, B.C., buttermilk D.? This attempt to make simple food more special is just plain silly, and needs to end quickly, before someone in a civilized country notices.
18. The phrase "How is everything tasting for you?" If you are a server in a restaurant, pay very close attention to this next sentence: The question "How is everything tasting for you?" is nonsensical, grammatically incorrect, and makes you sound like a baboon. It is not possible for something to taste for you. Continued use of this inanity will only serve as proof that waiters have the intelligence of a banana peel. Stop asking this ridiculous, intellectually impaired question or people will think you're an idiot.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Phoenix dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.