HOW TO *ALWAYS* HAVE A SUPERIOR MEAL TO YOUR COMPANIONS
I ALWAYS order a better dish than those I’m dining with. It’s not even close. I could retire with my perfect record, but I’m tired of marinating in your jealousy. And pretending not to get your clumsy hints to taste my dish — or trade for that soupy monstrosity you’re stuck with. Here are all my secrets, my salivating sisters and broth-ers. In case something happens to me, my legacy can live on.
A. RESTAURANT SELECTION
1) I’m going to assume you know the cuisines you like and will choose a place that was recommended by a friend with similar tastes or as a DISTANT second, Yelp, which is a magnet for morons with way too much fucking time on their hands. Unlike Facebook, which only attracts the most dignified and erudite auteurs, like moi.
2) If you are choosing among unfamiliar places, or god forbid, CHAINS, ALWAYS choose the chain named after the one item it specializes in. For example, Outback Steakhouse will always be better than Applebee’s. Any Atomic Wings or Pizzeria Uno will ALWAYS be better than Friendly’s. And don’t experiment. Get the thing they’re named after and likeliest to serve 1000 times a day. One exception: Red Lobster. Don’t. It’s a plot by the whitetriarchy to steal money from black families. #snopesthatshit
3) Never choose Pan-Asian. There is no such thing. Your Asian must confess to his or her country of origin. This goes for any cultural mashups. Unless it’s a famous chef who has permission to experiment, DON’T. You’re not Jackson Pollack, just because you made a mess on a canvas. You’re a drunk, and that was your carpet, not canvas. 🤮
4) Never go to a restaurant that’s empty during a prime dining hour or while nearby restaurants are full. Be prepared to switch to one of those instead — even if there’s a long wait and your babysitter is drunk driving.
5) If a restaurant’s paint is chipped, floors dirty, tables wobbly, seats patched with duct tape, or bathrooms foul, RUN! Or, prepare to be poisoned. If there are no alternatives, order a burger well-done or chicken tenders. This will allow you to see your family again.
6) Know your radius. The best of any cuisine is only worth a certain amount of travel. For example, I love Thai, but even a great Thai place is only worth a maximum 40 min commute. Great pizza or middle Eastern, 30 min. French or German, 4 min. And so on. The further you travel for a cuisine you marginally enjoy, the harder it’ll be to love your meal. Know your limits, people.
7) Don’t go exotic in places not known for it. You will not have great Vietnamese in Vermont or great Burmese in Boise. Use your stereotypes! If a place has zero Mexicans, Mexico did not send their best. Not to fucking Buffalo.
B. FOOD SELECTION
Let’s assume you somehow managed to follow my rules and actually make it indoors. Here are my secrets to ALWAYS eating a more delicious meal than you. (If you’re a vegan, why are your still reading this?)
8) In a high end place, almost everything is likely good. In that case, find out what the place is known for and you’ll likely be happy with it. Simple, right? But what if you’ve been there already and want to try something new?
9) In a good restaurant, never order the chicken, unless it’s famous and spectacular. No one leaves the house for fucking chicken, except roosters.
10) If you’re in a sketchy place, always order the chicken. It’s what they’re least likely to screw up. The more fried or braised, the better. Plain grilled chicken can be undercooked. Avoid. Not because you’ll die, but the shame your family will have explaining your choice at the wake.
11) Never order anything you eat regularly, unless my other rules left no other options. It’s why I almost never eat Italian out. I can make great pasta or chicken parm at home and watch Mario Batali clips while eating it.
12) Eliminate weird combinations. Even in high end places, red currant jam is shit on pate, unless you like shit on your pate. Or, pate. If an ingredient combo looks odd, only go with it if you trust the chef, or you’re ok writing off the experiment.
13) Don’t for a second feel weird about studying strangers’ plates. Walk over and poke that shit, if you have to. Ask them (or the waiter) what it is. If it still looks good, it probably is. Get it. Better yet, ask your neighbors what they think. You might make a friend or get laid.
14) Never order anything but steak in a steakhouse. Everyone is silently judging you and will only resist goofing on you in a corporate setting. (And if you’re out with friends and they don’t goof on you, they are not your real friends and you’ve been living a huge lie.) If steak isn’t an option, meet for drinks, dessert, or confront your inner vegan.12-step that beast out of you. “Paging Dr. Ox.”
15) If you’re hungry, the fish portion is likely to disappoint, especially at fancy places, which are 84% plate. Or, opt for the whole fish, which is usually more satisfying. Get it on the bone. The time it takes to pick away at it will slow your pace, ease your hunger — and connect you with nature in a way you clearly don’t deserve, you spoiled, bourgeois pig!
16) In low-end places, never order anything that sounds like it’s outside their ability to execute. That means no fish, steak or Coco van at diners. Only burgers and breakfast crap a dachshund could make. If you eyeball the kitchen staff and they’re of a certain ethnicity, you have my permission to order food that most resembles their home cooking. It’s a decent bet.
By now you’ve eliminated a lot of crap. Now the tough decisions, particularly in good restaurants.
17) If they serve duck, get it. But only if it has crispy skin. Whole or confit is fine. I prefer ’em killed by Dick Cheney. The ducks, too.
18) Choose your 5th favorite fish caught wild over your 1st favorite farmed. Never get tilapia, haddock or cod. Shit, shit and more shit. Simpler preparations are best for Greek, middle Eastern and Mediterranean. If it’s Sunday (or sometimes Monday), no fish for you. Not fresh. Always ask if it is, but most waiters don’t know or lie. Unsure? Skip it. In a landlocked state or country, skip it. If it’s drenched in sauce or cubed, it’s pescacide.
19) Always get the shortribs. Very rarely disappointing, unless they have a cloyingly sweet sauce or trigger PTSD from personal rib trauma.
20) Shrimp and prawns are almost always shipped frozen. Never special, unless you really love them, their preparation, or your grabby friend is allergic and you want to thwart sharing. Crawfish in New Orleans, however, can be spectacular. You end up eating hundreds of them. It’s your own personal clawlocaust.
21) If the bread isn’t fresh baked or just fresh, you’re on RED ALERT. These monsters clearly don’t care. They’ve given up on food — and life itself. Go ultra conservative. No specials! Yes, you can ask for fresh bread, but those serial killers will now make your soup extra cold — or worse, offer you free baklava.
22) In good places, always get the soup special, but only if it’s a type you like. Especially, the blended ones! It’s one of life’s only chances to eat like a baby, without having to fly back to Japan and pay that weird lady with the suction cups.
23) Try salads with interesting ingredients. Standards like Cobb won’t disappoint, but will never defeat me. They’re like index funds. They don’t beat the market, they are the market.
24) No salads with lettuce. Fuck lettuce. I could order dirty dishwater and end up with a better meal than you and your shitty lettuce.
25) Sides are your guilty pleasures. Treat yourself. This is not the time to deny yourself pleasure. That’s what the rest of your life is for. Secret: I always lean towards dishes with great-sounding mashed potatoes. Matched with any protein, they’ll usually defeat you. Especially, shortribs. You’ll seethe with envy. Also, string beans, brussel sprouts and butter/cheese-laced corn or spinach rarely disappoint. Sweet potato fries always massacre regular fries. If you get steamed vegetables, you’ll outlive me, but I’ll die infinitely happier.
26) Any restaurant that puts cheese on fish must be incinerated. No judge will convict you.
27) No tofu, ever. Freak. Unless you’re vegetarian, of course. Namaste.
In summary, my secrets boil down to profiling, elimination (the clean kind), and sure things. Size up the place you’re in. Eliminate the bland and ordinary on the low end. Eliminate the overly exotic and low execution probability items at the high end. Choose the right protein and most exciting preparation for the capability of the place you’re in. Then you’ll have a fighting chance. Maybe. 🥋