Insider tips for a successful restaurant meal from someone who really knows-your waitress.
1. Avoid slow times as well as busy ones.
Most diners know that during busy times, like lunchtime, holidays or Saturday nights service can be less than attentive. The very slow times, like Monday nights, snowy days and that period between lunch and dinner can be just as bad. Only a bare-bones staff is on hand and those people are more interested in reading the paper, having their own meal or checking their cellphone messages than in making sure your water glass is full. For the best service at most restaurants, aim for times where business is steady but not overly busy.
2. We're listening.
Do you like to discuss personal issues during a meal out with a friend? Are inclined to get into an argument with your significant other? If you think that secluded booth is private, think again. Restaurant servers love gossip and a juicy scene always helps to break the monotony of standing around waiting for your next table. Next time you launch into drama, notice that all of the tables around yours have a server filling the salt shakers. It's not a coincidence.
3. Skip the lemons.
How most restaurants handle that lemon that floats in your water is just plain gross. Servers pick them up with their hands-hands that have been holding trays, dining room chairs, door handles and rags-and set them on the rim of the glass. Moreover, restaurants can keep lemon slices around for two or three days if they aren't busy.
4. Go for the wine bottle, not the glass.
The trend in restaurants is to offer many, many wines by the glass, which is okay in establishments where there is a high volume of wine sales and a lot of turnover. Otherwise a restaurant might keep open bottles of wine around for days or even weeks, often in less than optimum storage conditions. Make sure that your glass of wine is fresh by ordering a bottle instead. If you and your dining companion only want one glass apiece, consider ordering a half bottle. An increasing number of places are stocking them.
5. Don't try to rewrite the menu.
The fact that a restaurant stocks the ingredients of your favorite dish doesn't mean the chef is prepared to make it, especially if the restaurant is busy. Kitchens staffs are well-practiced and skilled at quickly turning out what's on the menu, but off-menu requests put a halt to their assembly line-style of work flow. Leaving off or adding an ingredient is fine, but don't expect the kitchen to create a new dish just for you.