Some things are better left unknown. That is usually my philosophy when it comes to anything related to the food industry. Eating out is really a pretty intimate experience when you think about it. You literally trust another human being, who you’ve most likely never met, to please your taste buds as you put whatever they placed in front of you into your mouth. We’ve all heard the horror stories about professional kitchens’ secrets: Food being tainted, unsanitary conditions, and odds and ends being passed as 100% organic. Thankfully, we aren’t going to be going down that rabbit hole in this article, but we are going to take a brief look at menu items that you might want to avoid. I apologize ahead of time if anything in here disgusts you, but hey, better that you read it than chew it.
I can’t believe they have *blank*! This should set off a red flag in your mind. There’s probably a very good reason why you didn’t think that your local dive bar would have wild mushroom risotto on the menu. Most cooks at casual restaurants are young 20-somethings who have never worked a kitchen job before. Also, many items on the menu are prepared before dinner service begins and then simply heated to order. So that wild mushroom risotto was prepared hours ago by someone who has very little experience cooking risotto, with ingredients that aren’t cycled as often as one would hope. You may be surprised it’s on the menu, but with how often it gets ordered, the cook will probably be surprised that they serve it too.
Can I get sauce on the side? “Making yourself stand out and expressing your unique sense of self is a beautiful part of life,” said no cook ever. Kitchen and wait staff are busy, being busy usually carries stress, built up stress causes a release of that stress, and the last thing you want targeted is your food. Yes, you do have the right to ask for what you want, but be cautious.
The more special favors are asked, the less they are listened to. If you want “my steak medium well, extra mashed potatoes with gravy on the side, and only carrots instead of the carrots and broccoli that comes with the dish” you have just put a target on your own back. My advice, just choose items that you can keep simple. If that dish would be perfect with only 3 or 4 changes, maybe you don’t truly want it in the first place. I’m not saying all staffs mess with food, or even that most do, but is that a chance you want to take?
Ice Ice Baby. While I was working in the food industry I would often have customers ask for extra ice in their drink. I was happy to do that for them of course, it takes minimal effort to put a little bit more ice into a glass. It wasn’t me, but the ice itself that was the problem.
Local health codes have varying guidelines for the care and upkeep of ice machines, guidelines that are often ignored. I worked as a server at the same restaurant for 2 years, in that time the ice maker was not cleaned once. How dirty could it get though? Although water is the only ingredient we put into the ice maker, other things such as bugs and mold find their way in and become imbedded in the ice as the cubes are formed.
This is the hardest one to work around. Personally, I don’t mind having no ice in my drink, so asking for no ice is simple. For those who can’t stand having their Coke without the frozen nuggets, I guess you just have to take your chances.
Sadly, the unfortunate contaminations and misguided entrees are quite common in the food service industry. Although things seem scary, don’t allow yourself to go into full conspiracy mode. Thinking about what you’re ordering and making a few simple changes can protect you from the pitfalls of dining out. The simplest way to do so would be to stop going out for meals. To those who don’t, you are a braver man than I.
Leave any other restaurant-related do’s and don’t’s we should know in the comments!