Grateful Thanks: This is the time of year when we count our blessings. Yes, I'm grateful for family, friends, mild Phoenix winters and the extension of the Squaw Peak Parkway.
But as someone who eats out 225 times a year, here's what makes me particularly warm with gratitude:
I'm thankful that I've never gotten sick from a restaurant meal. Thank you to suppliers, chefs, kitchen staff and servers who don't compromise public health.
I'm thankful for restaurants that have a table ready for me when I arrive at my reservation time.
I'm thankful for smiling hosts and hostesses who welcome me quickly when I walk in the door.
I'm thankful for restaurants that don't keep expensive bottles of water on the table, prodding me to spend $4 for four cents' worth of H2O. Chateau Rimsza quenches my thirst just fine.
I'm thankful for good bread and butter.
I'm thankful for servers who scrape breadcrumbs off the table.
I'm thankful for servers who know what's in every dish.
I'm thankful for servers who tell me the price of the daily specials.
I'm thankful for busers who don't clear my plate the moment I've put the fork in my mouth with the last bite.
I'm thankful for menus that give a straightforward account of each dish.
I'm thankful for menus that don't tell me how many fat grams, calories and milligrams of cholesterol I'm ingesting.
I'm thankful for restaurants that don't have televisions.
I'm thankful for restaurants that keep the background music low or, better yet, completely off.
I'm thankful (for my wife's sake) for restaurants that have more than one stall in the women's rest room.
I'm thankful for clean rest rooms.
I'm thankful for nonsmoking dining rooms.
I'm thankful for fresh ingredients.
I'm thankful for chefs who stop by the table and ask how the meal is going.
I'm thankful for restaurants that bring those little forks with the osso buco, so I can scrape out the marrow.
I'm thankful for cheap ethnic restaurants.
I'm thankful for BYOB restaurants.
I'm thankful for restaurants that offer lots of wines by the glass and good beers on tap.
I'm thankful for line cooks who know how to cook fish.
I'm thankful for house-made desserts and French fries made from fresh-peeled spuds.
I'm thankful for restaurants that don't charge $2 for a cup of coffee or $3.50 for an espresso.
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I'm thankful for restaurants that brew loose tea, instead of plopping down a pot of hot water and a three-cent tea bag.
I'm thankful for well-wrapped doggie bags.
I'm thankful for staffers who, when I depart, thank me for coming.
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