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Help me not embarrass myself at my first time going on a date at a fine dining establishment
May 31, 2012 7:28 PM   Subscribe

Help me not embarrass myself at my first time going on a date at a fine dining establishment

I am in my late twenties, I have a reservation for me and my date (our 3rd date) to go to G Michael's Bistro(menu link) this Saturday. here is the yelp review.

In general what kinds of things can I avoid doing so I won't look like a noob?
What kinds of things can I do to look like an expert fine dining patron?

I am actually looking for expert tips, like will there be a "concierge", and if so can I tip him ($20?) and get the best seat in the house/extra good treatment?


It seems that most people pay about 50 dollars a person for the meal?
I have no problem paying full price, but if easily feasible discounts are fine, Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

Which wine should I get so I don't look like a noob? For a party of 2 is a bottle too much? (I'm driving after)

We both don't eat meat, but we eat sea food. Any specific menu items you'd recommend?

How much should I really tip?
Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?
How much of the food is actually going to be GFS/Ross foods?
Should I box up the inevitable leftovers at the end?
Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?
Out of curiosity, How much of the ingredients will probably be of GFS/Ross foods quality?

What other tips or advice do you have? anything is appreciated, it's my first time! :)
posted by crawltopslow to Food & Drink (108 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
How much should I really tip?

Unless the server seriously fucked something up, 20%.
posted by griphus at 7:33 PM on May 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?

I don't think you have to tip in cash, but it's a good idea to have your tip be a round number of dollars so that it can be easily taken by the waiter.

Agreed on 20 % (before taxes).

GFS/Ross -- is that like Sysco? Very little, one hopes.

Yes go ahead and box up those leftovers.

You could compliment the chef if you liked but it might come off a tad pretentious on a date.
posted by peacheater at 7:37 PM on May 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


When you order wine, they will pour a small amount for you to smell and taste before pouring the actual glass. My date at the time just looked at the glass and was extremely confused as to why they weren't pouring him more.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:38 PM on May 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


And go ahead and relax. I used to get kind of anxious about going to nice restaurants once upon a time, then I realized that dress codes are really casual these days (aside from a handful of restaurants) and restaurant behavior is pretty casual as well. Ultimately it's about good food and good company -- don't let your worries spoil the date for you.
posted by peacheater at 7:39 PM on May 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


I say don't box up the leftovers, it's such an unclassy thing to do at a fine dining establishment. Their portions are generally not such that you'd have leftovers anyway.
posted by Dragonness at 7:39 PM on May 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is not that different than being at any other restaurant. The only thing you should keep in mind that you might not be familiar with is table setting etiquette so you know which utensils to use.

In general what kinds of things can I avoid doing so I won't look like a noob?

Here's the irony-- anything you do to try to make yourself look like an expert, such as:
trying to tip to concierge for a better table

trying to get a discount

asking to speak with the chef
will, itself, out you as a noob.
posted by deanc at 7:39 PM on May 31, 2012 [59 favorites]


Don't smell the cork. You're not supposed to smell the cork. The reason they give you the cork is so that you can look at the branding on it and confirm that it's the cork that was meant to go with that bottle. (This dates back to replace-the-cheap-wine-label-with-a-fancy-one practices of shady establishments, and no one really does that any more, so it's more of an antiquated ritual that people do without really knowing why they do it.)

Other than that, just act like a normal person. You're paying a lot of money to eat a nice meal. This is an equal give-and-take relationship, you don't need to put on a show.

If you're really impressed by the meal, go ahead and tell the waiter to tell the chef you were pleased. A lot of times, chefs will come out to the tables and talk to you when they've got a few minutes.

In my experience, there are never leftovers. (Tasty food, small portion sizes.)
posted by phunniemee at 7:40 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


also, using "concierge" instead of maitre'd. Also noob.
posted by deanc at 7:41 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Relax, this is NOT that exclusive a restaurant (based on what I'm seeing on the menu and the prices), enjoy yourself, ask questions of the wait staff if you want, be friendly to them. Trust me, the staff has had more than it's share of people wanting to impress someone else, it gets old and boring.

Take your time with the meal, tip well (20 to 25% minimum), have fun!
posted by HuronBob at 7:42 PM on May 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Disclaimer: I have not been to this specific restaurant. But, it doesn't look too far out of the realm of a pretty normal upscale restaurant.

My impression based on this website is that if you try to do things like swing a discount, tip the hostess (a concierge-type experience is not something I'd expect at this restaurant), you will probably make an awkward gaffe. Just act normal, tip for the service you receive (20%, a little more if they do something amazing) (also, adding the tip to your credit card is fine, no need to tip in some special or unusual way), ask to have leftovers wrapped if you need that, and there is no particular need to ask to compliment the chef personally. If he's a real working chef, he will be busy anyway.

Since you have dietary restrictions, you may want to call ahead and inquire as to the restaurant's ability to accomodate you. For example, would you be okay eating something prepared with chicken stock? They might make their risotto, for example, with a meat-based stock and not necessarily label it as such (this is true at any restaurant, not just upscale ones). If this is out of the realm of what you want to eat, you should either call ahead or be prepared to discuss your needs with your server at dinner. They will work with you!

Seriously, there is no need to be nervous or anticipate a need to act any differently than you normally do or would at, say, someone's wedding or Sunday dinner at Grandma's. Enjoy your date and have a wonderful time!
posted by pupstocks at 7:42 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


In general, it looks like you're overthinking this a little. You should be prepared to act in the same way as you would at a casual dining establishment, but hopefully the food and service will be better, and it will cost you more. Trying to get special treatment through tricks you may have heard of will make you look inexperienced. Just enjoy yourself.

I am actually looking for expert tips, like will there be a "concierge", and if so can I tip him ($20?) and get the best seat in the house/extra good treatment?

There's not usually a "concierge" at a restaurant. Perhaps you are looking for "maître d." That's tacky. Don't do this.

I have no problem paying full price, but if easily feasible discounts are fine, Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

No. (I am pretty happy to get discounts and clip coupons at restaurants but probably wouldn't on a third date.)

Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?

No. Write a letter or leave a good Yelp review if you liked it.

For a party of 2 is a bottle too much? (I'm driving after)

A bottle of wine is a little more than 5 glasses of wine. 2.5 glasses is too many for me to drive safely after dinner, so I'd avoid it.
posted by grouse at 7:43 PM on May 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


And, your statement "help me not embarrass myself"... know what? Nobody will be paying any attention to you, other than your date, so be nice to her!
posted by HuronBob at 7:43 PM on May 31, 2012 [16 favorites]


Really, that place looks like a nice restaurant, but not the kind of nice restaurant where you really need to worry about this sort of thing. I was expecting some sort of $200/plate deal- that's the level where you'd need to start worrying! With restaurants in that general price range/fanciness level, all you really need to do is dress up. Everything else is pretty much EXACTLY the same as any other sit-down restaurant.

Here's the irony-- anything you do to try to make yourself look like an expert, such as:
trying to tip to concierge for a better table
trying to get a discount
asking to speak with the chef
will, itself, out you as a noob.


So true.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:44 PM on May 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


Definitely tip 20%, unless something really egregious happens, or you are feeling extra generous. You don't need to tip anyone but your server. "Fine dining" is not a euphemism for dressed up crappy food, if that's what the GFS/Ross questions are inferring: it should be creative, interesting, delicious food made with very fresh, high-quality, premium source ingredients.

You are very unlikely to have leftovers. If the chef comes out, do pay the proper compliments, but I agree with deanc that asking for him or her will make you look pretentious and, well, like a noob.

The best way to come across as someone who is used to dining in fine establishments is to be relaxed, don't be afraid to ask questions about the menu, and concentrate on enjoying your food, the ambiance, and your date. Not necessarily in that order.
posted by Superplin at 7:44 PM on May 31, 2012


Here's what you do: Hope that in between every course, the waiter scrapes all the crumbs off the table with a flat piece of metal.

(I really like the crumb scraping ritual. Makes everything feel more special.)

Other than that, have a good time and people watch. People with money are more amusing than average.

If you or your date do something innocuous that gets a negative reaction from someone, laugh about it and maybe do it again.
posted by jsturgill at 7:45 PM on May 31, 2012


Oh, and don't fill up on bread.
posted by griphus at 7:46 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and don't fill up on bread.

I like filling up on bread, especially when it is delicious freshly-baked bread.
posted by grouse at 7:50 PM on May 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


Enjoy the bread responsibly.
posted by griphus at 7:51 PM on May 31, 2012 [76 favorites]


Do not, under any circumstances, call loudly for a waiter, snap fingers, wave, etc. Eye contact. Only.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:51 PM on May 31, 2012 [14 favorites]


As far as wine, feel free to ask for a recommendation. One perk of dining at a nice restaurant is that the servers will be more knowledgable about wine pairings, and there may even be a sommelier on staff. You can get recommendations by telling your server what you will be eating, a general price range and wine type/style preferences if you have any. Something like "what red wine would you recommend for under $40 a bottle that will go well with the lamb? I really like ones that are on the dry and full side."

I think a full bottle for two people is perfect. Eat and drink slowly, planning to be there for 1.5-2 hours, and really savor it all.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:52 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, I'll speak to the wine. If it's really fine dining--it looks like a normal higher-end restaurant to me, not a super high-end place so your waiter/waitress may just do all this--they'll have a wine guy called a sommelier who will come over when you mention you want wine. Take the easy route and say something like "We're having the (item)" or "We haven't decided, but we usually eat seafood, so something that pairs well with that" followed by the magic words "What would you recommend?" Maybe mention if you're thinking bottle or glass. Usually seafood is a white wine pairing, so if you have preferences as to light or full-bodied whites, mention that, too. If you have no idea what I'm talking about and think I maybe sound a little racist when I say that, stick with what the waiter/ress or sommelier suggests.

Usually a bottle is about 4-6 glasses depending on how generous the pour is, it's easily something you could finish over a slow, lingering meal with lots of conversation and a full appetizer, main course, dessert routine if you're a drinker with a high tolerance.

Also, honestly, just be yourself. Being somewhat flustered and genuine will be much more likable than trying to run the "yesss darling I come here all the time" routine, then making a goof and looking like a rube.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:52 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wine: Most people believe strongly in pairing red wines with heavier meats like beef, venison, and lamb; and pairing white wines with chicken, pork, seafood, and pasta. Though I say drink whatever you want, ordering white with seafood will be easiest. Ask your waiter for a recommendation. Your waiter will probably ask you if you would prefer something sweet or something dry, or maybe say "crisp," "fruity," "light-bodied" or "full-bodied." He's trying to be helpful, not intimidate you, but if you're not sure what you'd prefer, just say you would like to try something new and ask what he would recommend with the lobster, or whatever.

Eating at a nice restaurant shouldn't be stressful, it should be indulgent! So relax, no one is paying attention to whether you used the salad fork or the dinner fork, or whether you swirled your wine properly. Have a wonderful, luxurious meal, and treat the staff kindly and it will be fine.
posted by ke rose ne at 7:53 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the place is super, super fancy, it's possible that the chef (or owner) will come out and greet diners without you asking.

I once ate at 'Cut' in LA, a very fancy restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck. We spent somewhere between $300 and $400 and what do you know, while we were having dessert Wolfgang Puck himself came out and went around to every table and greeted the guests and shook their hands. It was very cool.

$50 a plate is really not THAT fancy. Be yourself (unless you are naturally rude and disgusting and unkempt ;))
posted by imagineerit at 7:54 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I tend to think a bottle is about right, too. You can always leave a bit in the bottle if you're feeling like you've had enough. It's a better value than glasses, and doesn't feel as parsimonious.

You can also call ahead and inquire about corkage, if you'd prefer to bring your own. Wines at restaurants are seriously marked up. Sometimes you can do better even if you're paying $20 for them to open it. Of course, then you need to pick something reasonably neutral.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:55 PM on May 31, 2012


I think the other thing to keep in mind is that these restaurants are specifically designed to cater to you, a normal middle-class person, in the first place. The other patrons there are much like you and other people you know, though perhaps typically older. It's not frequented by some rarefied class of "expert fine dining patrons." Relax. This is a place where people just like you go when they are planning a "nice dinner out" with their SO or possibly coworkers on a business trip running up the expense account.

And take everyone's advice about how to navigate the wine situation.
posted by deanc at 7:55 PM on May 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


If there is something wrong with your food, you can send it back; at the end of the day, you are still a customer. However, your server did not make your food. He or she is the intermediary between you, and the person who cooked your food. Even if you want to strangle the cook, be courteous and polite with the server.
posted by griphus at 7:58 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


A bottle is four glasses of wine, it's fine for two people on a date.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:58 PM on May 31, 2012


Oh, and don't fill up on bread. This, a thousand times this!

That place looks lovely! And here is the good news: as a general rule, the ritzier the restaurant, the more invested everyone is in you having a really great time. The food at schmancy joints should be heaven, but the service should also make you feel like you just made a friend-for-life.

For example! A bunch of us went to French Laundry, and one guy snapped his fingers at our server (don't do this, oh my God don't do this, just catch his eye.) You should know that our server had eaten at French Laundry once and then quit his job and applied to be a server there for two years before they hired him; he was an exquisite professional with deep, deep knowledge of the food he was serving us. So! Guy at our table had just been hideously rude and we all knew it, and our server, bless his heart, carried it off with a joke and Olympic-level charm.

Another example! When we ate at Atelier Crenn, Dominique Crenn, who is a freakin rock star, came by twice to make sure we were enjoying her food.

On preview: what they said!
posted by rdc at 7:58 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fact that they charge a $2 split-entree fee strikes me that they are not as fancy as you might think, and that some of the more expensive or meaty entrees might be pretty full portioned.

The aspect of fine dining people stumble through most is the wine. A bottle for two people to share is not typical unless both people are pretty committed to the idea. It sounds like you would be better off doing some research into the wine by the glass choices ahead of time based on what you might be ordering, or based on what you might prefer to sip on during the first half of the meal.

The halibut entree sounds like a delicious choice for you based on your non-meat dietary needs.
posted by jameslavelle3 at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's something telling about a group wine drinkers all stumbling into the thread en masse and a bit late. I'm not sure what it says about us. Or that my reply is late.

So this post contributes something, like I said, I don't eat seafood, but perusing the menu, I'd do: the fried calamari for app and the halibut for the main course.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:00 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be courteous to all the staff. Don't put on airs.

No electronics at the table. No taking phone-photos. Cell phone OFF and out of sight.

This isn't the occasion for coupons or AAA discounts or whatever.

Enjoy your special date!
posted by quivering_fantods at 8:01 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Whatever you do, be very polite to the waiter. Any sign of impoliteness to the waiter would be the kiss of death to a new relationship for me.

Don't make jokes about whether the food came from GFS or Ross Foods.
posted by peacheater at 8:02 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


My qualifications are eating at fine dining restaurants frequently during childhood and at least a couple of times a year as an adult. When I was growing up we went to fine dining restaurants for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So they are sort of like second homes to me.

Relax and remember that the staff and the chef are there to assist you. They are your (sorta) employees who are helping you host this nice dinner for your date. You don't have to impress them as much as you have to treat them like any kind person treats employees: ask them to do reasonable things for you, with consideration and politeness; respect their expertise and training; remember that they need money and aren't working for fun.

Given that, it's okay if you seem new! New and considerate is totally fine. New and obnoxious...no.


I am actually looking for expert tips, like will there be a "concierge", and if so can I tip him ($20?) and get the best seat in the house/extra good treatment?

This is too difficult for you to do in this situation, but you can sometimes tip the host to seat you better. You should be getting great treatment anyway, but if you ask for something difficult, you want to ask and tip ahead of time (this would be like "put her engagement ring in a cake", not "I'd like more water please".)


It seems that most people pay about 50 dollars a person for the meal? I have no problem paying full price, but if easily feasible discounts are fine, Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

If the restaurant doesn't advertise it, it's gauche to try to get a discount (and ranges to insulting depending on what you ask for--it disrepects their time and expertise).


Which wine should I get so I don't look like a noob? For a party of 2 is a bottle too much? (I'm driving after)

The waiter is there to help you. Ask for help choosing a wine that goes with what you'd like. A bottle is about 4 glasses. In some jurisdictions you can take the rest of it home if it's too much, in some you can't. Ask the waiter, or just order by the glass. Beer might go better with German food anyway!


We both don't eat meat, but we eat sea food. Any specific menu items you'd recommend?

No, but if you tell the waiter what you like they can help you. "What's good" is a bit silly, they think everything is good, but "I like mild fish, what can you recommend" will be something they can help with. (Although I have had waiters warn me away from certain dishes which I find charming, which is probably why they do it).


How much should I really tip?

20%. If you have a hard time figuring it out, move the decimal over one to get 10% and then double it.


Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?

Sure, why not. They have to pay taxes that assume a certain percentage of the receipt is a tip anyway, but I'm sure it's nice to have cash in hand at the end of a shift. If you want to tip on a card that's more than fine too.


How much of the food is actually going to be GFS/Ross foods?

No clue. Honestly, it can be hard to tell. If it's a good place, not much to none.


Should I box up the inevitable leftovers at the end?

They'll ask you if you want to, and sure, if you're going straight home. It's not gauche but a plastic bag of food that is spoiling tends to be a bit silly on romantic strolls and can interfere with hand-holding...so I often don't take them home.


Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?

He is busy but you can ask the waiter to pass along your compliments. Or you can just tell the waiter that the food was excellent, you don't have to say "tell the chef that..." Mostly you don't do this because it's sort of assumed that ALL the food is good and that would be one complimented chef! So it's more like "this is the best meal of my life" or "this is the first time I've had this dish made really well since my grandmother died". Really special stuff vs. generic "you don't suck as a chef" kind of complements.


Out of curiosity, How much of the ingredients will probably be of GFS/Ross foods quality

Hard to tell. You'd probably love Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:03 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


While the mussels sound delicious, it is ...difficult at best... to look good while trying to eat mussels in broth.
posted by griphus at 8:03 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not sure about BBQ + tartar....

Mussels look good to me. So does the asparagus.

When it comes to selecting a fish, unless there's a clear difference (a white fish vs salmon or sea bass etc) I usually ask the waiter. Fish preparations are temperamental.

The menu may be representative, there may be changes when you arrive.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:04 PM on May 31, 2012


While the mussels sound delicious, it is ...difficult at best... to look good while trying to eat mussels in broth.

It's all about the joie de vivre.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:04 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


G Michael's Bistro is actually supposed to be somewhat less intense, from everything I've heard (the chef is not scary at all, from the newspaper reviews.) And anyway, this is Columbus - you don't stay in business in German Village unless you're relatively friendly. Relax. And read all the reviews on Yelp.

(Note: someone got to-go containers a month ago. You'll be fine.)
posted by SMPA at 8:06 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the menu, it looks like a nice place. Definitely the sort of place my sweetie and I eat at once a month or so and more often with my semi-retired parents.

In preview, I agree with those above, but since you're over thinking, I'm going to give you a play by play of where you might find surprises.

If you are having a super-special date, you could mention that when you make your reservations. Or call back & ask for a special table if you really want. I wouldn't think either necessary.

When you arrive, tell the host/hostess you have a reservation & the name it's under. You don't need to tip the greeter aka Maitre D' aka Host or ask to speak to the chef. I think I'd be more embarrassed than impressed if a date did that for me.

If you're wearing a coat (like because it's raining), someone may offer to take it from you. You should look for somewhere other than your chair to hang it up.

If you are wearing one, you should take off your hat when you sit down if you haven't already.

Your server/waiter/waitress will likely ask if you want a drink (ie cocktail) to start. Water or soda/pop are totally okay to order if that's what you want. We regularly say, "water is fine for now". The server will potentially tell you about any specials. S/he probably won't mention the price of those. Assume they will be on the high side of what you see in the printed menu.

I don't know what you like to eat, so I'm not going to make specific suggestions. From looking at the menu, I expect the mussels will likely come in a broth and still have some shells (probably half). Cippolini are onions - these are questions you can ask your server. My strategy would be a salad or appetizer and a main and later, to share a dessert. Make conversation with your date about what you're considering. Let her order first and for herself.

If you need to, ask the server for advice about wine. You might be able to get a 1/2 liter which is easier for sharing, or order a bottle and don't finish it. It's totally okay to say you want advice about "this half" of the wine list (meaning the less expensive half).

They are unlikely to charge you extra to share a salad or dessert. I wouldn't expect leftovers but would ask them to box anything I liked that I could reheat easily.

I wouldn't expect any industrial food - stocks from scratch, fresh veg are reasonable expectations.

You might have to ask you server for the bill. S/he will not want to rush you. Do this quietly, but there's no need to be embarrassed by asking.

There are no discounts other than groupon like things, and you don't want to pull them out on a 3rd date.

Relax and try to have a nice time. Be polite to everyone & say thank you to you server & the host when you leave.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:08 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't forget your wallet. (It happens!)
posted by quivering_fantods at 8:08 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


So it's more like "this is the best meal of my life" or "this is the first time I've had this dish made really well since my grandmother died". Really special stuff vs. generic "you don't suck as a chef" kind of complements.

Just to be clear, you shouldn't make something like this up. What I mean is that it has to be something beyond "this is good" to be significant to the chef. For a skilled fine dining chef, if the food isn't good, it won't leave their kitchen. That's not to say it's rude to compliment them, but it's unnecessary.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:09 PM on May 31, 2012


On the wines: The Gigondas on the wine list is a reasonable choice, and Guigal is usually a safe pick, although it may be a bit big for the either of the fish dishes. It's a middle ground between a standard issue Cotes du Rhone and a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:12 PM on May 31, 2012


If you're concerned about the server or the wine sommelier suggesting a bottle of wine that is too expensive you can use the well known trick of running your finger down the list to a dollar amount that you are comfortable with and making sure that he or she sees this while saying "Do you have something like this that would pair well with the [what you're eating]?" That way you don't feel odd about naming a price in front of your date.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:12 PM on May 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think you really can't miss here (or anywhere) as long as you do the following:

Relax and enjoy.
Be yourself.
Be generous.
Be a gentleman to your date and the establishment's staff.

Everything else will really take care of itself. I promise you that a good date will pay more attention to those things than which fork you pick up first.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:14 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


use proper table manners - elbows by your side, cutlery kept close to the plate when not ferrying food to the mouth, mouth closed while chewing, no talking with your mouth full. they're basic rules, but you look so much more elegant when following them.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:15 PM on May 31, 2012


oh and sit up nice and straight - much more handsome, and a girl likes to have a handsome date!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:18 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that place looks like it's pretty generic "nice," not exclusive or anything. So don't overthink it! Just have a good time.

Now let's do specifics:

like will there be a "concierge", and if so can I tip him ($20?) and get the best seat in the house/extra good treatment?

"Concierge" is definitely the wrong word. "Maître d." might be it, but even that's overthiking it. Even at nice places, I just say "host" or "hostess." "Maître d" is for $200/meal places.

DO NOT TIP THEM FOR SPECIAL SERVICE. If you've never done it before, then you don't know the ropes and there's a high chance of awkward newbness. Just be nice to them and act normally. Special treatment is for someone who comes there every week for 6 months and tips the host, or for someone who swung by as they were opening and handed the host a large sum of money ($50+) and maybe worked out what the special treatment would be. Just showing up out of the blue and flashing cash (especially a small amount like $20) is... weird. Just act normal, be nice, and let them seat you. They know you're on a date when you made the reservation for 2, so they'll probably seat you in a good place for a date.

It seems that most people pay about 50 dollars a person for the meal?

Glancing at the menu, budget $50 per person plus drinks. $50 is a bit high, but you never want to be worrying about money when you should be having fun with your date. Glancing at the wine list, budget another $60 for drinks if you're splitting a bottle of wine. You can definitely buy the $30-$45 bottle, but budgeting high ($60) means you avoid sticker shock when the waiter recommends a really good pairing.

I have no problem paying full price, but if easily feasible discounts are fine, Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

No.

Seeking discounts for early dates can get weird, fast. It gives the impression that you are more worried about money than your date, or that you worry that the cash isn't worth it. That is the exact opposite of what you should be doing, which is letting your date know you're there to hang out with them and that's the most important thing.

Later on, when you have been dating long enough to be a bit more serious, then you two can start bargain-hunting together. It works when it's a shared goal, but it almost never works early in dating.

Which wine should I get so I don't look like a noob?

Traditionally, white wines go with seafood (and red with red meat), but no one will care if you get red with seafood - I do it all the time and vice versa. A safe bet is to ask the waiter for a recommendation, because (s)he's recommended various pairing to other couples and gotten their responses.

For a party of 2 is a bottle too much? (I'm driving after)

It's a little dangerous if you aren't used to drinking that much wine. Think of it this way: would you normally drink 2.5 large glasses of wine and go driving?

The solution is to order the wine, but only take a moderate amount (say, 2 small glasses). Feel free to leave some wine in the bottle. Everyone knows drunk driving is a problem, so when people see leftover drinks they know you're being responsible. Above all, your date will appreciate your moderation.

We both don't eat meat, but we eat sea food. Any specific menu items you'd recommend?

It's all about what looks good to you at the time, so have fun! I have not been there, but I personally would do the scallops, but they can be kind of rubbery to some people so you might want the halibut if you're a texture kind of person. But honestly, have fun with it and order whatever strikes you.

How much should I really tip?

Always 20%. Always always, especially on a date. Tipping less will make you look cheap, or if there was a problem it will make you look petty. Tipping just over 20% can only make you look like a generous person - always good on a date. But don't go crazy and tip way over 20%, that would be showy. Just give 20% or round up to just above 20%.

Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?

Doesn't matter.

Should I box up the inevitable leftovers at the end?

Eh, either way. Portions at nice places are smaller, so it might not be worth it. So just play it by ear - if you don't mind the wait and carrying it around, go ahead and get a box. But you can't go wrong just leaving it. Yes, it's a bit wasteful, but focus on the date for now.

Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?

No, nononono. That's a $200+ / plate maneuver, and even then only if you're a regular or a food critic. Wolfgang Puck talks to patrons to build his brand. Chefs at really high-end places might like the compliment from a regular. If you ask to compliment the chef, it's almost guaranteed that the waiter will offer to relay your compliments to the chef. I can't imagine the chef coming out to talk to you.
posted by Tehhund at 8:19 PM on May 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


P.S. This probably goes without being said, but:

NO NAPKIN BIBS!

I am only half joking.
posted by anonnymoose at 8:19 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was thirteen, I visited my grandparents for a week at their winter home in Phoenix. During my visit, they took me out to a "grown-up" dinner with friends of theirs. The restaurant was gorgeous - everyone was dressed up and my adolescent mind was blown by the fanciness! the silverware options! the waiter with the posh voice! the linen!

Then, I opened my menu. I could not believe the prices! Forty dollars for chicken? Sixty dollars for a steak? I grew up with a mother who only allowed the ordering of water while at McDonald's; prices like these were unprecedented. My grandpa, seeing my expression, leaned over and kindly said, "Honey, go ahead and order whatever you want." Staying true to my midwestern roots, I promptly ignored him and ordered the cheapest item on the menu - a side salad that left me hungry for the rest of the evening. When the food came, I also realized that I was the only person at the table without a normal meal.

Looking back, I realize now that the best eating out experiences - wherever you go - should be about enjoying delicious food prepared by experts and spending time with people you like. Don't worry about how much things cost or whether or not you're going to need a box. Order what looks good. Eat until you feel full. Drink some wine and have fun.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:21 PM on May 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Two things:

One what do you do with a napkin? I've never really used one before. Keep it on my lap?

Two: Although I don't have too much information to back this up, I would bet a lot of money that at least some of their ingredients are GFS, Ross foods or the similar, I am not joking.
posted by crawltopslow at 8:26 PM on May 31, 2012


Yes, napkin on your lap. When you leave, you can semi-fold it and place it on the table.

I wouldn't stress about the GFS issue. I mean, that is what it is, dude.
posted by pupstocks at 8:28 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh and as others are saying about which wines to order - it really does depends on what you order. Even if you know going in that you're ordering seafood you still have a range of options. For instance I couple of heavily prepared seafood dishes that I think would pair much better with a pinot noir or a tempranillo. Don't hesitate to ask for help, that is exactly what a wine steward or sommelier is there for.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:29 PM on May 31, 2012


One what do you do with a napkin? I've never really used one before. Keep it on my lap?

Yes. Though you may want to wait until you start eating to do this. Also, some have argued (and I haven't read Emily Post, so I can't confirm) that proper etiquette when leaving the table is to place the napkin on your chair rather than putting it back on the table.

Two: Although I don't have too much information to back this up, I would bet a lot of money that at least some of their ingredients are GFS, Ross foods or the similar, I am not joking.

Pro-tip: while on a date, do not deride the food as being generic mass-market wholesale food that "I could make myself for less!"
posted by deanc at 8:30 PM on May 31, 2012 [15 favorites]


What I mean by that is that whether it's mass-production ingredients or not, you're going for an experience with a date; the food will hopefully be good -- those two things are all that matter! Right? Or are you particularly concerned about that?
posted by pupstocks at 8:30 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever your thoughts are about GFS and Ross -- keep them to yourself. Do not bring this up with the restaurant staff or (ESPECIALLY!) with your date. You will seem like a crank and a boor.

If the idea that this place might be serving industrially-sourced food bothers you overmuch, DON'T GO.
posted by neroli at 8:34 PM on May 31, 2012 [24 favorites]


One what do you do with a napkin? I've never really used one before. Keep it on my lap?

Leave it alone until the food comes, then place it on your lap. Use it to wipe your mouth/hands discreetly as needed. Folding it up and placing it on the table is a good way to signal your server that you are ready for the bill.

Two: Although I don't have too much information to back this up, I would bet a lot of money that at least some of their ingredients are GFS, Ross foods or the similar, I am not joking.

OK, I guess? I'm not sure how this applies to how you should comport yourself at a fine dining establishment. Do not interrogate your server about it or harangue your date about it unless you want to look like an ass.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I disagree that splitting a bottle is a good plan if you're driving afterward. First, from your date's perspective, she might not be ready to drink half a bottle of wine -- I sure wouldn't be, on a third date -- which might mean there would be more like 3-4 drinks left in the bottle other than what she drinks. And the waiter will refill your glass for you, when it's not quite empty, which can make it VERY HARD to tell how much you've had. I've repeatedly had the fine-dining experience of only realizing I can't quite walk in a straight line when I get up toward the end to go to the ladies' room, when it seemed like I only had a glass and a half from that bottle.

Then, I think there are a couple of dangers in accidentally over-indulging, as opposed to ordering a glass of wine: (1) you might think to yourself, "oh, those MeFites are such a stodgy bunch -- I'm sure it's okay to ask to speak to the chef, I'm feeling so great about everything right now!" or similar regarding discount; and, of course, (2) you might not be able to drive safely.

I'm actually kind of surprised that people feel like a half-bottle of wine would be likely to leave any random internet stranger in decent shape for driving. I don't.
posted by palliser at 8:34 PM on May 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have no problem paying full price, but if easily feasible discounts are fine, Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

Don't do this.

For a party of 2 is a bottle too much? (I'm driving after)

If you're sufficiently unfamiliar with wine that you have to ask, then yes. I'd stick with getting a glass for yourself. Let her order as many glasses as she wants.

How much should I really tip?

20%

Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?

Sure, but no need to make a production of it. Tipping on the card is fine.

Should I box up the inevitable leftovers at the end?

Sure, but it kind of depends on your plans afterward.

Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?

No.
posted by ewiar at 8:35 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


In general what kinds of things can I avoid doing so I won't look like a noob?

Avoid affectation. Don't do a bunch of things that you think will make you look suave. Also avoid doing anything that you wouldn't do in any other polite or formal environment (job interview, wedding, etc)—don't tell off-color jokes at full volume, blow your nose with extra honking noises, burp the alphabet, etc.

What kinds of things can I do to look like an expert fine dining patron?

If you've ever been to a restaurant with table service, even a diner, just act the same as you would there: relaxed, natural. You have as much right to be in that restaurant as anyone else and you do not need to prove it by acting in any specific way.

I am actually looking for expert tips, like will there be a "concierge", and if so can I tip him ($20?) and get the best seat in the house/extra good treatment?

Don't try to do this kind of thing your first time in a fine dining restaurant. You have to be really comfortable in that environment to pull it off unobtrusively. You will probably get good-to-excellent service just by virtue of being in a fine dining restaurant. Being kind and polite to the serving staff will get you far and will make a good impression on your date.

It seems that most people pay about 50 dollars a person for the meal?

Remember to factor in: tax, tip, drinks (you may be offered drinks before and after dinner as well as wine to be consumed with the food; you don't have to order any alcohol if you don't want to), appetizers, dessert, parking. Figure out what your maximum expenses could be and make sure you're OK with that number.

I have no problem paying full price, but if easily feasible discounts are fine, Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

No, discounts are not usual in fine dining.

Which wine should I get so I don't look like a noob? For a party of 2 is a bottle too much? (I'm driving after)

Whether a bottle is too much for a party of two depends on your tolerance and how long you expect to spend consuming the bottle. Remember, you don't have to finish the bottle, but the temptation may be hard to resist when it's sitting on the table in front of you. You may be more comfortable going with wine by the glass. Discuss the question with your date in advance if that helps.

You can order any wine on the wine list and not look like a noob. They will not put anything on the wine list that they would be ashamed to serve or that you should be ashamed to order. There are some wine/food pairings that most people wouldn't make, but all that really matters is your taste and what you want. If you don't know what you want, ask the server to recommend a wine to pair with your food. It is OK to state that you are looking for a wine in a certain price range, or a wine available by the glass. Don't pretend to know what you're doing with wine if you really don't know what you're doing. Take it as an opportunity to learn. It is OK to tell the server "I don't know much about wine." This doesn't make you a fish out of water; it makes you fit in. Everyone around you had to learn the ins and outs of fine dining at some point, and the smart ones did it by asking questions and being open to learning. People who have been eating and drinking at white-tablecloth places for years will still ask the server for wine recommendations. Wine knowledge and the ability to educate customers about wine is part of a fine dining server's skill set (or may be delegated to a wine specialist, the sommelier).

We both don't eat meat, but we eat sea food. Any specific menu items you'd recommend?

Whatever looks good to you. As griphus pointed out, mussels may be tricky to eat gracefully.

How much should I really tip?

Twenty percent is normal. 25% if the server really goes out of their way for you.

Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?

I can't answer this as I've never worked in food service, but credit card tips are routine and I don't think they're looked down upon. Paying for the meal on a card and for the tip in cash seems a little odd but not a faux pas or anything.

How much of the food is actually going to be GFS/Ross foods?

I don't know, but it should be good quality and prepared fresh from whole ingredients.

Should I box up the inevitable leftovers at the end?

If you want to, this is OK. (Probably the server will box it for you, though, if you ask; just say "could I have a box for this" and they will probably take away your plate, box the food in the kitchen, and bring it back.)

Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?

No, just tell the server how much you enjoyed the food.

What other tips or advice do you have? anything is appreciated, it's my first time! :)

Focus on your date. The food and atmosphere are there to be enjoyed, but also to give the two of you a pleasant setting in which to enjoy each other's company.

One what do you do with a napkin? I've never really used one before. Keep it on my lap?

Unfold it and put it on your lap when you sit down. Loosely fold it and lay it on the table next to your plate when you get up. During the meal, pick it up as needed to wipe your mouth or fingers. Do not use it to blow your nose, wipe sweat off your forehead, or hide a chewed-up piece a food that you've decided not to swallow.
posted by Orinda at 8:36 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Advice above is great. Just remember, be nice to the wait staff. My parents go to a similar-sounding restaurant somewhat often, and everyone is always delighted to see them just because they are genuinely friendly, nice people. (Sometimes they even get free stuff, but they are regulars.) For me, when a date is very considerate toward waiters, it's a good sign. Ditto for the tipping 20%, as mentioned above. Way back when we first started going out, my boyfriend told me that his parents raised him always to tip well, and I always smile when I think of that.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:37 PM on May 31, 2012


Pro-tip: while on a date, do not deride the food as being generic mass-market wholesale food that "I could make myself for less!"

Ohh. Is that what all this GFS business is about, OP? Super +1 to deanc. That whole line of thinking is gauche and weird, schmancy place or not. I mean yeah, if you had purchased ingredients and cooked dinner yourself, it would be less expensive, obviously. But you didn't. You went to a restaurant. So just enjoy the experience of dining out.

If it's about something else, I withdraw these remarks.
posted by pupstocks at 8:37 PM on May 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


p.s. If there is anything on the menu that you are not familiar with, feel free to ask the server about it. Again, this does not make you a noob, it makes you a customer who is interested in learning about the food and ingredients. I've learned a lot by just asking servers to explain things from the menu.
posted by Orinda at 8:41 PM on May 31, 2012


If it turns out you like the place, BTW, they have a fixed-price menu on certain days (can't remember which) and they participate in Restaurant Week. Both good chances to save money.

If food origin stuff concerns you, check out the Black Creek Bistro on Parsons. They pretty much grow their own food.
posted by SMPA at 8:43 PM on May 31, 2012


Remember, you don't have to finish the bottle, but the temptation may be hard to resist when it's sitting on the table in front of you.

And keep in mind, you're not even lifting and pouring the bottle -- the waiter is. You can put your hand next to the rim and say, "No, thank you," when he goes to do this, of course, but it is definitely hard to keep track of how many drinks you've had when the glass is being "topped off" every 10 minutes.
posted by palliser at 8:44 PM on May 31, 2012


Is that what all this GFS business is about, OP? Super +1 to deanc. That whole line of thinking is gauche and weird, schmancy place or not.

There's a certain line of thinking quite common among those of us who are very practical-minded, that a lot of "upscale" products and services are no different or better than the generic kind and that the price premium exists merely from placing a badge on it that says "Fancy!" And thus you get a certain satisfaction that you're "getting one over" on everyone (or "not being fooled like those sheeple") by sticking with the bargain products and services since, after all, "both are the exact same thing!"

And this sort of attitude is, in fact, not unreasonable in many cases. But I think that any average person can tell the difference between "family dining" and "bistro food" and understand the reason why the prices are different.

The sort of "advanced foodie-ism" involved in being concerned about whether your food comes from a unique source will lead you to seeking out locally-sourced dining establishments like this one.
posted by deanc at 8:51 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like the suggestion that you have your wine by the glass, and stick to just one glass yourself.

This will simplify your wine choices, since they have a limited by-the-glass selection; and it allows your date to order something different if she wants. And it keeps you from inadvertently drinking too much, or causing her to worry if you are.
posted by quivering_fantods at 8:54 PM on May 31, 2012


FWIW, I was taught quite explicitly to put the napkin in my lap upon being seated. What are you waiting for, the bread basket?
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:16 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wine: call a bar or a liquor store and explain your situation and ask what the state laws are. In Texas (at least in DFW) for example, they have to give you your unfinished wine if you buy a bottle, so they put the cork back in and put it in a bag and this doesn't count as an open container and you can take it home. In California, I recently found out, bringing this up appears to be akin to speaking Martian. So, depending on Ohio laws, you might be able to order a bottle and give her the remains to take home.

Ground rules: be polite, use your best table manners, don't act entitled. Listen, ask questions if you have them, say please and thank you. It's all you need to do to pass.

The only really weird thing I ever encountered as I was learning to dine fine by experience: some restaurants will swap out your napkin to match your pants, so you don't get white lint on dark trousers or black lint on a light-colored skirt or pants.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:18 PM on May 31, 2012


And if you get up to go to the restroom, I was taught to fold it and leave it on my chair--no soiled napkins on the table while others are still dining.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:19 PM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Actually, California allows you to take unfinished wine with you. Servers don't know this and often fail to keep the cork.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:19 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


My dad considered himself an expert on extracting maximum attentiveness from fancy restaurant staff and his rule of thumb was that if anything was less than perfect you just blast them right then and there and then after tip real big. If you returned and they still refused to kowtow to your magnificence you said nothing, tipped 10% to the penny and never returned. He was sure this was excellent game theory strategy.

I am not an expert. I say be polite to the people working there doing their job trying to get along in this great fucked up universe game of life we are all going through. Trying to maximize your own bang for buck is not polite; it is greedy. If you are polite to the staff your date will probably notice if she really gives a damn. If you look at the Cosmopolitan magazine, OkCupid website, et al's women's complaints about their men they often have "cruel to waiters" or such in the top ten.

Greedy about restaurant service and selfishness about his and hers orgasms may have some correlation if not causation.
posted by bukvich at 9:36 PM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


In general, the nicer the restaurant the more the servers "take care" of you. Be friendly and polite to them but don't be afraid to ask (nicely) for something you want.

I usually put the napkin on my lap the first moment I eat whether it's bread or appetizers or the main course. When all else fails, follow your date's lead.
posted by bendy at 10:01 PM on May 31, 2012


Nthing the same behavior as at less expensive table service restaurants. You may be asked whether you want still or sparkling water (for which there is a charge). I always say firmly: "Tap, please".

The table shouldn't be crumbed until you have finished your appetizer and entree and are ready for dessert.
posted by brujita at 10:19 PM on May 31, 2012


I haven't looked at the menu but I will give you my favorite nice restaurant tips.

- I ask the waiter/waitress what they recommend on the menu - but I give them two choices, rather than the option of suggesting anything on the menu (which usually leads them to suggest the second most expensive item on the menu). If you give them two choices, then they can usually tell you something useful like "although both of those dishes are very good, our halibut is the most popular item on the menu and won an award for best halibut dish in the city."

- If I don't know what something is on the menu, but I don't want to look clueless, I don't say "hey, what's this thing?" I say "Can you tell me a little bit more about the ____?" At nice restaurants the waitstaff can usually rattle off a paragraph-long description of a dish and all its components that will tell you everything you need to know.

- If you don't want to be revealed as a total n00b, do not order tuna cooked more than medium rare. Tuna steaks are not meant to be well done and asking for that will horrify your chef.

- I used to waitress at a pretty fancy place, and things that I found really unimpressive included people who drank the whole bottle of wine and then complained about the taste of it and wanted it taken off their check, people who ordered a meal and then tried to change every aspect of it "I'd like the halibut, but with salmon instead of halibut, and with the side of potatoes instead of the green beans, and...." finally, the worst people I ever served were the ones who got angry because their main course was taking too long and left without paying. It was not my fault that the main course was delayed, but I had to pay for the meal they ordered - it decimated my tips for the whole night. Not sure if this is true at all restaurants but sticking your waiter/waitress with the bill is beyond rude.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:21 PM on May 31, 2012


Getting seated
Somewhat old fashioned, but : You can pull out your date's chair for her, and stand by it while she sits, scoot her chair very slightly forward, then go sit yourself. If the waiter pulls her chair out, you go to your own chair but you stand until she is seated.

Napkin
You put it in your lap when you sit down. It might be in a fancy arrangement; you just take it off the plate and shake it below table level, and lay it flat on your lap where it can protect your pants from spills. When you leave the table at the end of the meal, you place it on the table loosely folded - not careless, but also not folded perfectly. (The idea is, if you fold it perfectly neatly, it might be mistaken for a clean one.)

Menu handling
In old fashioned restaurant etiquette, the waiter will tend to leave you alone if you have your menu open. Closing the menu is a signal to the waiter that you have decided on an order and s/he should approach. I don't know if this place will adhere to that, but if you're feeling like the waiter's been away a long time, try closing your menu (or putting it down), and looking for the waiter to make eye contact then.

Typically the waiter will let the woman go first, serve the woman first, etc especially if you make it clear that you're the "host" (ie you're paying).

Seafood
Ask for a recommendation, they can guide you to the freshest/best stuff.

There are a lot of etiquette guidelines dealing with old-school fine dining - you're best seeking an actual etiquette book for that. They're interesting, but often even fairly nice places are ignorant of them or choose to skip them to make patrons comfortable. You will probably be more impressive if you just follow common-sense unobtrusive good manners.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:22 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


if you make it clear that you're the "host" (ie you're paying).

Note, you do NOT say this out loud. I'm not sure how to advise on the question of conveying this very subtly, so it's probably better if you disregard this item.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:27 PM on May 31, 2012


And I think this has been covered already, but you definitely won't come off well if you're making comments about the price and quality of the food. I have a family member who does this and it always puts a huge damper on the meal because he is complaining "I can't believe they're selling this bowl of pasta for twenty dollars." Fine, I recognize the validity of that statement, but paying $20 for an amazing pasta dish is a lot different than paying $20 for a poorly cooked pasta dish.

Not saying you are doing this, but many people make the incorrect assumption that food at fancy restaurants is overpriced because the cost of the ingredients used to make the food they ordered would not sum up to the price of the dish. Remember that when you buy a meal at such a restaurant, you're also covering the cost of rent, utilities, advanced skills of those preparing the food, marketing costs/printing of menus, cleaning/dishwashing, etc.

Likewise, many people do not realize that their waitstaff person does not keep the whole tip. Tips are split at the end of the night by the waitstaff, busboys/busgirls, and bartenders. It is better to tip in cash but only if you are going to tip just as much or more than you would have otherwise. If you are going to tip less in cash because you're limited by how much cash you're carrying, just use a card to pay it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:33 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that most people know to pay attention to how their date treats the waitstaff. Be really, really nice to the waitstaff.

Really, this is nice bistro dining, more at the casual end of fine, so you're not going to be lighting cigars with $100 bills or need to use a British accent or anything. So long as you don't ask to supersize or try to wrestle a server, you're going to be fine. Focus on your date and let the restaurant make you both look and feel great.

And any good service should offer to let you take home leftovers if there's enough to take home, and usually have pretty nice take-out boxes. But portions tend to be more reasonable at a place like that, so it's less of a concern unless you just flat-out order too much food. I've gotten too full (damn that bread!) at $200 meals and had servers basically insist I take dessert home because the chocolate cake and a cup of coffee makes the best breakfast, and also because I'd just dropped a fortune on dinner and been super nice to boot. And it was true, that was a fine breakfast. Trust your server.

Napkin goes in your chair when you get up. Depending on how swanky the service is, they will re-fold it for you before you get back. Honestly, the napkins are the most complicated part.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:46 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that most people know to pay attention to how their date treats the waitstaff. Be really, really nice to the waitstaff.

Really, this is nice bistro dining, more at the casual end of fine, so you're not going to be lighting cigars with $100 bills or need to use a British accent or anything. So long as you don't ask to supersize or try to wrestle a server, you're going to be fine. Focus on your date and let the restaurant make you both look and feel great.


I totally agree.

We both don't eat meat, but we eat sea food. Any specific menu items you'd recommend?

I would suggest asking your server that question, in exactly those words. That's a really good question, much better than "What's good?" And that will, if you want wine, allow you to ask the follow on question, "What wine (or wine by the glass) would you suggest with that?"

How much should I really tip?

Like everyone has said, about 20 percent is pretty much normal. You are on a date, so you want to make sure to tip enough that your date knows you aren't a cheapskate, but not so much that he/she will think you are trying too hard, so defaulting to 20% makes sense.

How much of the food is actually going to be GFS/Ross foods?

Like everyone has said, don't ask. The main ingredient (eg the halibut) will definitely have a source, and so will most of the other ingredients. Chances are your server will have a memorized paragraph, something like "The ribeye steak comes from the Dry River Ranch in Montana; they raise all organic heirloom cattle there. The shallots and potatoes are served in Chef's special cognac reduction sauce, and the haricot beans on the side are local and are braised in butter from Meyer's Dairy." So certainly, some of the ingredients are going to be from generic suppliers, but at $30/plate, you are going to get some heritage to the main ingredients.

How much of the food is actually going to be GFS/Ross foods?

Not if you are doing anything other than driving straight home. If you are going to go for a walk, go out for drinks, or are hoping to get invited back to your date's house, don't fuss with a box of used food.

I think a bottle of wine for two people, with food and assuming you are having a leisurely dinner with appetizers, main course, and dessert, is a fine quantity. But that said, often wine by the glass is more fun, because you can each try something different, and you can have a couple different wines to try during your dinner, or switch to a port or something with dessert. If you don't normally drink, don't start now.
posted by Forktine at 10:55 PM on May 31, 2012


will there be a "concierge", and if so can I tip him ($20?) and get the best seat in the house/extra good treatment?

Don't do this.

Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

Don't do this either.

Which wine should I get so I don't look like a noob?

You're most likely going to be eating fish, so look at the list of white wines. The cheapest and the most expensive ones on the list are probably a bad idea, but otherwise just choose something that fits your budget. Tip: if you're uncertain about how to pronounce the name of the wine, point to it on the menu and make your best stab at saying it.

We both don't eat meat, but we eat sea food. Any specific menu items you'd recommend?

You say to the waiter, "The halibut and the scallops both sound good. Which do you recommend?" If there's anything unusual about how these dishes are prepared, the waiter will say, "the scallops are very spicy" or whatever.

How much should I really tip?

20% unless a) the staff really treats you like a king or b) you do something that means a lot of extra work for them (for example, if your date accidentally turns over wine glass). In these special cases, figure more like 25%. Unless you're an arithmetic whiz, it wouldn't hurt to do a litle practice ahead of time -- say, if the check comes to $126.75, how much should the tip be and how much should the total amount be?

Wouldn't the servers appreciate it if I tip in cash?

Doesn't really matter so long as you tip.

Should I box up the inevitable leftovers at the end?

Most likely the portions won't be that huge, assuming you each order a starter and an entree and finish with a dessert each or sharing a dessert. If the waiter asks, "shall I wrap that up for you" you can say yes or no.

Should I ask to speak with the chef to compliment him if the food is good?

Don't do that. If the food or service is especially good, you can write a letter or an email the next day.

You don't need to overthink this. Just general good manners like don't talk with your mouth full, that kind of thing.

Oh, yes, the general rule is "ladies first" which means when the host(ess) leads you to your table, the lady folllows the host(ess), then you follow the lady. You remain standing until the lady gets into her seat. The lady orders first and gets served first. When the lady's wine glass is empty or nearly empty, you offer to refill it for her (unless the waiter beats you to it.)
posted by La Cieca at 11:09 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't try for a discount. I would also do wine by the glass. You don't want to get tipsy in a situation where you are already uncertain. Ask the waiter for a pairing, they're payed to know. Tip 20%. Keep your elbows off of the table. Enjoy the food!
posted by Foam Pants at 11:43 PM on May 31, 2012


I was here once, but it was at least five years ago, so things may have changed, but: G Michaels has a lovely patio and you should try to be seated out there if that is possible. It's worth calling the restaurant back to try to see if you can get seated out there. Try the calamari appetizer and strongly consider the walleye.

As others have mentioned, this restaurant is on the low end of the fine dining scale; not sure what your eating out experience is like, but you'll basically do what you do at an Olive Garden or whatever except everything about it will be better.

Answer to a question you didn't ask: It kind of sounds like you might be thinking of trying some cool guy stuff to impress your date. I bet you one order of calamari that you and your date will have a better time if you admit that you haven't done this before and be confident and cheerful about it and expect to make some mistakes. Dates love it when you're confident and cheerful even in the face of making some mistakes.

Next time you take your date for fine dining italian in Columbus, go to Scali's out east on 256 and Livingston Avenue. Have the chicken marsala. You're welcome in advance.
posted by Kwine at 12:29 AM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Bistro" is actually a French word for a casual/homey restaurant. I wouldn't worry too much about conspicuous amounts of ceremony being involved. Just, as previous posters have mentioned, wait until she is seated before sitting yourself, wait for her to order first, unless you're ordering something for the both of you, like a bottle of wine, or an appetizer she's asked if you want to split.

Additionally, it used to be considered rude for a gentleman not to stand whenever a lady approaches or leaves the table. If you want to be a little old fashioned, if she leaves to 'freshen up' between courses, stand with her, and then again when she comes back.

If you're worried about seeming like a noob, why don't you take advantage of the restaurant having their menu online and Google any ingredients or terms you're not familiar with in the dishes you might end up considering. If there are specials, don't hesitate to ask the server if you don't know what something is. Being curious is a good thing.

As for the wine, after you've been seated, why don't you ask your date if she wants to split a bottle, or would prefer to order by the glass. If you're going to share a bottle, then ask your date about her tastes in wine, so when you ask the waiter to recommend a bottle, you can use her preferences as a guideline. And don't get too caught up in traditional pairings -- drink what you like.

Mostly, though, remember -- the restaurant is just the backdrop for the evening. Your primary focus should be on enjoying your date's company.
posted by patnasty at 12:48 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a woman but am usually the orderer, and therefore the presumed taster, of wine we order in restaurants. I make my life easier by generally not sampling when they pour and just smiling so they know I'm not trying to be an ass and saying 'it's fine to just pour, thanks'. I do know good wine from bad wine, but in a nice restaurant their low to mid-priced bottles of wine have almost universally been just fine in my experience. If I were ordering something high-end and obscure I might do it differently somewhere, but I find the ritual kind of ridiculously pretentious and weird. Generally speaking they have hired someone to make these purchases who reliably knows their ass from their elbow and if I can skip the step of swirling my wine around in my glass like an ass I go for it. I did this recently at a corporate dinner and got away with it, and was glad I did otherwise I think I would have felt silly and self conscious like 'oh, yes, that *is* a pinot noir.' Unless it tastes like Dr. Pepper, this doesn't need to actually be a thing. Modern wine-making doesn't leave as much to chance as it did forty years ago.

If you're not a big wine drinker and don't have predetermined preferences about wine going in, get a mid-priced merlot if you like red and a mid-priced chardonnay if you like white and forget it. Pick the one you can pronounce, if that's an issue. It's easier and it narrows the field, and unless you care super-deeply about this, it's not worth wasting your time getting stressed about it, when you could be, as noted above, having fun and paying attention to your date.

But really have a good time -- it's okay and I swear to you it's not really different than a trip to the Olive Garden. Fewer kids. Don't bother putting on airs or worrying about it. If you need to ask something, just ask.

Oh! And another thing about pronouncing -- if you want the Trout Flibbertigibbet and can't pronounce it, 'I'll have the trout' can spare you the effort.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:47 AM on June 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


So.. my entry into fine dining was as a student: a night slept on a river bank, a borrowed shirt a couple of sizes too small for me and turning up at a 3 Michelin Star place for lunch with a couple of friends. After the maitre d' had taken our rucksacks off us and we had sat down we had established that the keenly priced set menu was not available and we were going to order very little, but a la carte. The maitre d' then asked us bluntly if we were on a budget, which we were. He then said he'd see what he could do for our budget - which basically meant giving us the expensive tasting menu and throwing in all our wine for free.

We loved the food, and discussed almost every bite. At the end, the chef wouldn't let us leave without saying goodbye personally: it was obvious we were poor as church mice and were there for the food, unlike most of the rest of the room, who were having formal business lunches.

The key here is honesty and a bit of humility and not being overawed. If you don't know something, ask. If you have a budget for wine, tell the wine waiter. If you are clueless, tell him, and ask for a recommendation. Everyone has to eat out at a fancypants place once. Don't get embarrassed. Just focus on having fun, not worrying too much about doing this or that the "right" way.

Taking away leftovers aren't classy, but on the other hand, Mrs MM had a business lunch at one of Gordon Ramsay's places and having made a casual remark to the waiter about how nice the potato was and how she regretted being too full to be able to eat more of it he boxed up the leftovers.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:08 AM on June 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


In Columbus, Ohio? Relax, and enjoy. It's not too likely to be an uptight sort of place judging from the links you provided.
posted by jgreco at 4:31 AM on June 1, 2012


Answer to a question you didn't ask: It kind of sounds like you might be thinking of trying some cool guy stuff to impress your date. I bet you one order of calamari that you and your date will have a better time if you admit that you haven't done this before and be confident and cheerful about it and expect to make some mistakes. Dates love it when you're confident and cheerful even in the face of making some mistakes.

So true! I was just going to come back to say this.

Great story, MuffinMan. People go into this business because they are good at (and hopefully enjoy) service and/or making people delicious food. You don't have to know a secret code to get good service and delicious food, they will give it to you if you let them.

Please come back and let us know how it goes!
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:39 AM on June 1, 2012


What a long thread. Most of all, relax, enjoy yourselves.
posted by sammyo at 5:01 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's lots of good advice on here, and I may be too late, but I had to add something on the wine part.

Does your date drink wine regularly? Of course, you need to discuss with her before ordering a bottle. But if she is a bit of a wine drinker and you are not, let her choose the bottle. This will not make you look ignorant, it will make you look confident and collected and charmingly humble.

Quite frankly, as a wine drinker myself, I would be a little irritated if I went out with a guy who didn't know anything about wine and he ordered the bottle.

Also, as others have said, if you order a bottle, they will pour a taste. But if your date orders the bottle, they should have her taste it rather than you. If they bring it to you instead, you have an opportunity to score points by casually directing it back to her - "Sue, why don't you taste the wine."

(My husband and I go out to nice restaurants like this fairly frequently, and about half the time I order the wine, and about half the time he does. I'd say about 25% of the time I order the wine, they bring it to him to taste. It makes the feminist part of me scream with rage but my husband always gets a smile when he gently directs the waiter/ waitress back to me.)

Also, as someone else said upthread - no electronic devices. This is not the time to be checking your phone or posting on twitter.
posted by pallas14 at 5:16 AM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


A Terrible Llama: "I make my life easier by generally not sampling when they pour and just smiling so they know I'm not trying to be an ass and saying 'it's fine to just pour, thanks'. I do know good wine from bad wine, but in a nice restaurant their low to mid-priced bottles of wine have almost universally been just fine in my experience."

Good advice all around, but just a note on this bit. Somewhere between 2%-10% of wine bottles are "corked", meaning they are off or spoiled. That is the reason they pour a little for you to taste before pouring the whole bottle. This is not so you have an opportunity to swirl the wine, carefully examine the body, sniff the bouquet or what have you. It is simply so you can take a small sip to see if it is spoiled or not. So I would recommend taking that sip simply to determine if the wine is off or not. Or, if your date picked the wine, as said above, let her do the tasting.
posted by Grither at 5:46 AM on June 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


when i was a young child my mom sent me to a "food etiquitte" class at an old hotel (the parents got to eat caviar and drink champagne while we were in the class - i think this was the real purpose). a few "old-fashion" tips to make it even fancier (i think it's fun to play around with this kind of stuff, instead of getting nervous - i.e., i do not take it seriously):

- if you have soup, when just a little remains, tip the bowl away from you to get the last scoop (that way it does not spill on you)
-follow the silverware from the outside in (outside fork salad, followed by main dish, etc.)
-when you are done with your plate, place your knife and fork on the plate parallel to each other and at "five o'clock" with one end at the "12" and the other at the "5" - this is the old way of signaling that you are done with your plate
-do not bite into your bread or even lift it off of your personal bread plate (i'm smacking your hand if you do!) - instead, break off pieces that are large enough to fit into your mouth (if you have a big mouth, i suppose you can stick the whole roll in)
-if you are "lady.ish" dab your mouth with the corner of your napkin to wipe away crumbs (just wiping is manly.ish)

in all seriousness, just have fun! oh, and be nice to your server! in my experience going to "fancy" places, people are often really entitled and rude to the waitstaff. by being kind, you not only bring more goodness into the world, but you also get better service :)
posted by anya32 at 6:32 AM on June 1, 2012


>"Bistro" is actually a French word for a casual/homey restaurant.

If you were taking your date to an actual French bistro then I would have a whole lot of different quite different advice for your regarding wine, tipping, service expectations - even the differences in the French terms that are used to label the courses ( I live in France). Likewise an "all American" food experience like MacDonalds can be quite different over here. My point is that part of the whole experience is about pretending you are in Bordeaux rather than Columbus. The etiquette to do with this pretentiousness is the stuff that you should feel free not to take too seriously. The etiquette to do with being served high quality food by hard working people is the stuff you should.
posted by rongorongo at 7:21 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great advice in here, the only thing I would add is that it's not improper to ask the price of the specials if it sounds like something you'd like. I've found that more times than not, they've been in line with the rest of the menu.
posted by advicepig at 8:12 AM on June 1, 2012


When in doubt ask the waitstaff. If you don't understand a term on the menu or want to know what is in a dish just ask. If you want to know what wine goes with what meal ask.

Oh and you don't need to buy a whole bottle of wine, most restaurants sell wine by the glass, there is nothing wrong at all in buying just a glass of wine if you are driving.

Napkin goes on your lap, leave it on the seat if you get up during the meal, on the plate when you are done eating.

Honestly nothing on that menu looks particularly like it comes from GFS, I have 3 chefs in the family and there is nothing on there that is really that hard to make. Your problems with GFS food come when there are huge long menus that try to be everything to everyone then they bring in the frozen premade stuff. The shorter the menu the more likely the food is to be freshly made.

There will most likely be a specials board with fresh specials of the day in addition to the menu, if there is on the waitstaff will bring it to your attention.

Truly posh restaurants have separate wine/drink waiters, I don't know this restaurant but it looks pretty normal to me so it probably won't be a problem there.

When in doubt remember just ask, if the restaurant is truly "classy" then they will be trained to be super helpful.

$50 bucks per person for a meal is reasonable, if you want time to chat and get to know your date ordering a few appetizers/small plates to nibble with your wine before the main/entree course is nice but might up the total price a little. Or get a cheese plate for after the meal to nibble while lingering over wine and romantic glances is one of my favorite parts of a meal.
posted by wwax at 8:13 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somewhere between 2%-10% of wine bottles are "corked", meaning they are off or spoiled.

I wouldn't feel like I couldn't send the wine back just because the waiter had poured a glass and left the table. If it's undrinkable, it's undrinkable, in the same way that if he leaves and I take a bite of my fish and it's inedible, it would go back.

It would be tacky to drink the bottle and then send it back, but if on tasting it's hideous I don't feel like it would matter to me whether we had gone through the tasting ritual.

I have also never gotten a corked bottle of wine in a restaurant. Clearly I go to pedestrian places, but generally speaking the wines are from big name vineyards and if it's a nice restaurant, there is usually a high turnover and/or the wines are stored in a suitable place, ie not the trunk of someone's car or whatever. I'm not overly worried about the quality of my Bogle Petit Syrah or my five thousandth bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

YMMV.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:35 AM on June 1, 2012


Napkin goes on your lap, leave it on the seat if you get up during the meal, on the plate when you are done eating.

I was taught napkin on seat if you get up during the meal, on the table at the end (which some googling seems to confirm).
posted by naoko at 8:39 AM on June 1, 2012


We were in a more expensive place recently ($300 for the two of us) and the waitress pulled out my chair and pushed it in (I'm female) and my husband's, which was a little awkward for him because he didn't expect it as a male. No idea whether they'll do it at this place, but read the waitperson's body language. As mentioned before, stand until your date is seated.
posted by desjardins at 9:17 AM on June 1, 2012


Re: the GFS thing.

Almost every restaurant uses some supplies that come from Sysco, GFS, etc. Or they go get them at Restaurant Depot. They need to be able to get consistent supplies of their staples at a consistent price. On a menu like the one you've linked, where the suppliers aren't listed and the menu is updated only 'seasonally', I would assume the majority of the food is coming from a food service company, rather than being lovingly hand selected by the chef at the local butcher.

But ultimately, that's largely meaningless. Yes, Sysco and company sell chicken slurry molded into chicken-breast-like slabs. But they also carry high end products and organic product lines. You can tell very little about the quality of food by the fact that it came from Sysco.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:26 AM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


forget where the food comes from, that's irrelevant. Just please don't bring it up and please don't complain about the price or how you could have paid less for the same thing at _____. Your date might hear it as: "I got swindled and had to pay all this money and I resent you for it"

It's fine to admit to her that the restaurant is nicer than where you usually eat.
posted by Neekee at 11:32 AM on June 1, 2012


> Of course, you need to discuss with her before ordering a bottle. But if she is a bit of a wine drinker and you are not, let her choose the bottle.

I agree with those who suggest getting it by the glass. For one thing, you can each have different wines that way (if your date knows wine, she may not want what you order), and for another, I'm sorry, a bottle may be "only four glasses" but half a bottle is a fair amount of wine to be drinking if you're going to be driving afterwards.

In general, relax, have fun, don't try to show off, and tip well!
posted by languagehat at 12:21 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neekee is correct that you should certainly not say anything about where the ingredients came from or how much they cost.

The general advice to just have fun and relax is also spot on.

The only slightly uptight thing I'd mention is to not ask them to box the leftovers. No matter how good the food it, it will be less good reheated for lunch the next day, and on a third date the awkwardness of asking for a doggy bag and then carrying it around probably outweighs the value of leftovers.

Finally if you weight more than 175lb I'd say you can split a bottle of wine and drive afterwards no problem. IANAL, TINLA, ETC.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:04 PM on June 1, 2012


Finally if you weight more than 175lb I'd say you can split a bottle of wine and drive afterwards no problem. IANAL, TINLA, ETC.

Wine can be up to 15% alcohol, meaning half a bottle (375 mL) is up to 2.94 standard drinks (regardless of whether you can fit it into two glasses or even one extra-large glass). After two hours, there'll be an average 0.05% blood alcohol content. So you might be legal, depending on your state. In some states, that would still be enough for a criminal conviction. Even if it were legal, there will still be some impairment at that level, it will be a dangerous idea, and your date might not be very impressed with you being so cavalier about her safety and yours.
posted by grouse at 1:27 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, speaking of drinking...
If you're getting dessert, and feel like you're safely below your alcohol tolerance at that point, you might consider getting a glass of port to end the meal. Port is wonderful -- sweet and nutty -- and sadly underappreciated. The two 20 year-old tawnys they have for 10 and 11 dollars a glass: that's a really, really good price.
posted by neroli at 1:36 PM on June 1, 2012


It's a nice wine list, by the way, so don't feel embarrassed to order on the cheaper end -- it doesn't look like there are any clunkers. If it was me, I'd be all over that $27/bottle rosé.
posted by neroli at 1:41 PM on June 1, 2012


You'll know if the wine is corked. It isn't subtle, so don't worry about that. If the wine in your glass smells strongly of a damp basement or wet leaves, it's corked.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:50 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if it were legal, there will still be some impairment at that level, it will be a dangerous idea, and your date might not be very impressed with you being so cavalier about her safety and yours.

Those BAC calculations are for drinking on an empty stomach. 3 drinks with a full meal over the course of 2 hours isn't something I would stress out about, though one should use one's best judgment with the benefit of experience and an understanding of one's individual tolerance.
posted by deanc at 2:19 PM on June 1, 2012


Finally if you weight more than 175lb I'd say you can split a bottle of wine and drive afterwards no problem. IANAL, TINLA, ETC.

I'm not about to cop to my weight on the internet, but I will admit to being a cheap date. This is not true.
posted by donajo at 5:59 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there anyway fine dining patron experts get discounts that doesn't make them look cheap?

Yes, there are two ways.

The first is to be a famous or incredibly rich person that other patrons will recognize. If you showing up at a restaurant merits a photo in the society column of the Columbus Dispatch, then the restaurant may well do anything possible to keep you coming back. Probably not discounts, but you might get extras on the house.

The second way is to be a great customer and to drop a lot of dough. I was along for this once. A friend of mine landed a gigantic sale. His wife was out of town, so he took my girlfriend and me out to a fancy sushi place to celebrate. He's an incredibly gregarious and charming guy who loves food and drink, so he had a great time talking to the chef and the waitstaff, asking about stuff on the menu and ordering most of it, and asking about their selection of expensive Japanese whiskeys and ordering a lot of that too. Before long, little bites of things that weren't on the menu started showing up on our table, compliments of the chef. I wouldn't try this unless it comes naturally to you, especially on a date.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:30 AM on June 2, 2012


Dinner went fine. We got fish, she said she'd like wine, and she decided a bottle would be a good choice. She didn't like the white wine we got, so she ordered a 2nd bottle of red wine. The waiter corked both bottles at the end and sent them home with us. There was a trout special that she got, and I got Alaskan halibut. We also got appetizers of calamari, and lobster salad, and a Crème brûlée that we shared for dessert. The date went excellently, the waiter was a kind jovial young guy graduating from college, the bill came out to 177, I paid with a debit card, and left 40 in cash as a tip (they don't pool at this restaurant).

The girl said she enjoyed the date very much, later we made out, but it turns out she's a psychopathic egomaniac, but it was still a fun night.
posted by crawltopslow at 2:31 PM on June 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


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