I dunno. You decide. Sensible or snobbery.

On the site of ZAGAT (I am looking for some reviews) I saw this. I was a little annoyed by it. Sure, some of the things on this list are clearly super cheap for ingredients and preparation but vastly over priced. But, when you are at a restaurant, you are not buying for yourself and making it yourself. Sometimes, you want it done for you… in a restaurant. Right?   I am not defending ridiculously inflated prices. When I see them on a menu, I feel disrespected.

So, while there is a point about price, is this just snobbery on parade?

The 10 Lamest Things You Can Order in a Restaurant
by Kelly Dobkin

Let’s face it – there are some things that just aren’t worth paying for in a restaurant. Whether they’re exceedingly simple items that are ridiculously marked up, or just flat-out boring, here’s a list of menu items that have us shouting: “lame!”

1. Iceberg wedge salad

Wanna know how to make a hunk of flavorless lettuce even less appetizing? Charge $12 for it. This “classic” menu item, which had its heyday in the ’50s and ’60s, was invented at a time when iceberg lettuce was the height of sophistication. Its alarming resurgence on menus has been played up as “retro,” but let’s be honest – it’s one of the biggest rip-offs in the restaurant game. You can re-create this blasé dish at home for about $3 with a head of Dole and a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch. [Hmmm … I have a couple clear memories of how delicious a wedge can be.  Once at a place in Minneapolis with a house made Green Goddess dressing and another at a steak place in NYC. The point: I remember how truly delicious they were.  And I am not a fan of iceberg.  So… they were the right thing at the right time and, at a restaurant, that is what you pay for.  Right?]

2. Shrimp cocktail

Twenty dollars for four boiled shrimp? No thanks. Sure, it’s delicious, but essentially it’s just a plate of shrimp and a side of sauce, right? For one to buy or make this at home requires about zero cooking skill and about a third of the cash. Unless someone’s doing something with this dish that you’ve never seen before (read: shrimp cocktail à la sous vide), keep your money in your wallet when you come across this one.  [Okay.]

3. Bottled water

Still a favorite of germaphobes, snooty Europeans and diners desperate to impress their date, bottled water is totes ’80s. Unless you’re in an area where tap water is non-potable, bottled water is a waste of money. Restaurants have been known to mark up it up about 300% – let’s face it, you can purchase the same $10 liter of water at your local Walmart for like $2.50. Most restaurants now also offer filtered tap water, so unless you’re dying to relive the Evian craze of ’89, maybe you should just order tap. [I am beginning to suspect the writer doesn’t have much of a sense of taste.  I have been in cities where the tap water was pretty dreadful, depending on the time of year.  Water affects the food.  The minerals in the water can make a difference with the food.]

4. Plate of fruit

We’ve certainly seen some amazing fruit plates, but seriously, ordering this as your main dish is a bit of a cop-out. Only in cases of sheer laziness or manorexia should a diner order a $7 plate of cut-up fruit for their entree.  [Again, I get the point about price.  But, you pay for prep.]

5. Mixed greens

Ingenious menu idea: take greens direct from the package, put them on a plate, serve with a side of oil and vinegar and slap on an $8-plus price tag – you’re now a restaurateur. [I am reminded of the story of a kid harassing the pitcher, telling him how slow he was, how washed up, etc.  The pitcher responded: “Okay, kid. Get a bat!”] Back in 1994 when mesclun salad was all the rage, this trick might have worked. But now? Not so much. We promise that at most places if you look at the salad options, there’s bound to be a less banal way to eat your veggies.

6. Cereal

We all know Jerry Seinfeld loves to order cereal at a diner, but we’re hoping you’re smart enough not to do the same. Ordering a bowl of cereal as your main course should be an immediate indication that you shouldn’t be out at a restaurant. Go home, put on your PJs, grab a gallon of milk and some Corn Flakes, and plant yourself in front of the tube.  [Putting cereal on this list was deranged.]

7. Scrambled eggs

We understand the hungover person’s need for grease [See my comment, above, about the writer not really understanding food.  Grease? Scrambled eggs?] after an all-night bender, but scrambled eggs in a diner cost about four times more than if you were to just make ‘em at home. There’s inevitably a much more worthwhile egg dish on every menu. Even a broke-ass one-handed wino is capable of creating this dish in less than five minutes. [Perhaps the writer hangs out with too many winos.  There are scrambled eggs and scrambled eggs, folks.  Trust me.  I supposed the writer is used to something she has been told are scrambled eggs, some nasty mass of rubbery cooked globules with a glaze of the “grease” she is used to.  That is not how I make them.]

8. Steamed veggies

Sure, they’re healthy and delicious, but they cost 50 cents and you’re likely to get charged something like $7 for it. You’re better off enjoying this bland, overpriced side at home with some melted butter and a bag of Birds Eye.  [I am trending toward the snobbery angle. ]

9. Olives

Dude, most places will give you olives for free! Unless the chef is doing something crazy exciting with mixed olives (which we’re having trouble imagining), as a rule of thumb it’s kind of dumb to shell out money on a gratis bar snack.  [Uh huh.  She should put away her can opener and start trying real olives.]

10. Baked potato

Seriously? We all love baked potatoes but what are you, 90? What you’ll pay for this one in a restaurant vs. making it at home is significant. If a place is going to give you the option of a baked potato, we’re pretty sure they’ll have something considerably more interesting in the spud department.  [There are times when the baked potato is exactly the right way to eat your carbs.]

You decide.

Discuss.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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58 Responses to I dunno. You decide. Sensible or snobbery.

  1. Mike says:

    I would say snobbery big-time here. When we have dinner parties–not too often, alas–I try to do what my Southern Father-in-law did: do some every day cooking, but do it really well. That would call for heavenly mashed potatoes, a fine, smoked, Virginia ham, a decent salad, homemade buttermilk biscuits, a nice assortment of wines and ales, etc.

    Simple can be great; ordinary life, well-lived.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Would say just ignorance pretending to snobbery — this is a person who has never cooked a serious meal in her life, everyday or otherwise. I agree with Mike that everyday food can be very serious and very good. My grandmother’s spoonbread (basically a corn souffle’) comes to mind . . . .
    I’m assuming “Kelly” is female, because not many guys would be this catty, plus those guys who are interested in good cooking understand food better than this.

  3. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    I would too lean toward snobbery. Living in the East Village I know where there are great scrambled eggs, olives, iceberg lettuce salads, and steamed vegetables. I have never ordered cereal when dinning out for breakfast, but my bishop did while still alive. He had oatmeal often when we would go out. I think it simply depends how good the product is, and, if the cook knows how to properly make good use of it. I bet this writer would not know what to do if I took her to Peter Luger.

  4. Stvsmith2009 says:

    I’d say snobbery. I don’t mind paying the price when the food is well prepared and tastes as good as it looks. I especially enjoy not having to cook it myself. My scrambled eggs are never greasy, and if the writer thinks that’s a normal way to prepare scrambled eggs, I don’t want to be one partaking of her cooking. I agree with you 100% about water affecting the taste of the food. Where I live in western North Carolina, I have well water, and the water has a good bit of iron in it. So I buy gallons of water to cook with, especially if I am cooking pasta. The writer seems to have a strong disdain for steamed vegetables. From her reference to “a bag of Birds Eye, I take it she has never had fresh from the garden broccoli, white half-runner beans (that’s string beans), or squash steamed and served with melted butter or drizzled with olive oil. Suits me….leaves more for me!

  5. ckdexterhaven says:

    Not snobbery. When you go to a restaurant, why would you order something you can easily make at home. I know chef’s look down on people who order chicken or well done steak, that *may* be snobbery.

    He’s just saying if there are more exciting things on the menu, then take advantage of the chef’s expertise and go crazy.

  6. Southern Baron says:

    Snobbery. It’s always cheaper to eat at home, but this was not a study in frugality, it was an attempt at food criticism and it simply falls flat.

  7. oldCatholigirl says:

    Sounds to me like a couple of passable ideas that weren’t enough to make a full column by themselves. Padding doesn’t always pay.
    I’d agree on the bottled water, unless it’s Perrier. Maybe on the iceberg lettuce, but only if it’s served with bottled dressing–and I’m thinking that we’re talking about restaurants that do better than that. As for fruit plates–preparation time does, indeed, have to be taken into account–as does the amount of fruit that has to be thrown out each day because it just doesn’t stay at its peak forever. The latter also applies to mixed green salads, even if they don’t take much prep. time. As for the simpler things of life, why shouldn’t someone who seldom or never cooks for themselves order a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast or a handsome baked Idaho potato for dinner? And perfect scrambled eggs are not that easy to come by, if you’re a hit-or-miss cook like me. True, I don’t usually order them out in the lower-priced places I frequent, because, while their eggs look perfect, and are never greasy, they taste blah. (I’m partial to butter for my eggs, while most places take pride nowadays in using some lo-cal, lo-cholesterol substitute.)

  8. Phillip says:

    Snobbery on the writer’s part. I couldn’t care less what other people order. Some people (myself among them) often stick with a familiar dish, especially at a mid-range, hit-and-miss kind of restaurant. It’s kind of hard to screw up a baked potato, for example, and if someone wants to order that rather than risk paying lots for something that might be bad, let them. Maybe some people just really like potatoes. Who cares if it’s “lame”? I still chuckled at a few points, though.

  9. kab63 says:

    I lean more toward the writer’s ignorance, poor dear. I had a fresh fruit salad in a hotel in Germany, probably cost $7, which was laced with lemon grass. I have tried to make that salad at home and it is impossible! Delicious and worth every pfennig.

  10. lgreen515 says:

    I am going to look up a recipe for spoon bread RIGHT NOW!

  11. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father,

    Perhaps you could re-post your tracking of an Italian Cardinal on the subject of fast food?

    To the subject specifically at hand, however, I have a wonderful wife who is also an excellent cook. We don’t eat out much for a whole host of reasons (including raising a family of 5 boys on a teacher’s salary). She lets me help as my schedule allows. Can you put in a good word for home cooking in this our era of conspicuous consumption?

    God bless,

    Chris

  12. Last time that Minneapolis (?) had the World Science Fiction Convention, they put out a huge restaurant directory which included tons of articles of gratuitous food advice. One of them was about what to order at a diner, by a former diner employee. This article strongly advised people to order stuff like scrambled eggs, and to avoid poached eggs. The author described exactly why poached eggs were a bad idea in many standard American diner setups.

    Scrambled eggs at a diner — hot and good. Poached and softboiled eggs — make at home. That is all.

  13. MikeM says:

    Most of these aren’t things you order on their own. I might go out and order a good and creatively prepared piece of meat and order a crisp, refreshing wedge salad beforehand, and a baked potato as the side.

    Plus, when I go to a diner for breakfast, it’s rarely because I couldn’t prepare the food myself at home… I can certainly scramble some good eggs, I can make an adequate pancake, and I make delicious french toast. But, a lot of times, I’ll go out for breakfast after Mass on Sunday with some friends or my family… and it’s not to get food I couldn’t get at home. It’s because I don’t want to make them at home, and I like having someplace different to sit around for an hour or two.

  14. Phil_NL says:

    It’s all about what you go out for. Obviously, if it’s about a cheap meal, a proper restaurant is not going to conform to expectations. Get a burger instead. If you want to taste really good food, either of the normal kind done very well or the more haute cuisine kind, you’ll have to pay. Good ingredients aren’t cheap, and labor costs dearly – even more so in Europe, by the way. Whether or not the items on the menu are fashionable or not is utterly irrelevant.

    It seems that the author was aiming for something different however: one of those occasions where you end up in a restaurant not for the food, but because it’s part of the social expectations of the evening, and you don’t want to spend more than absolutely necessary. That’s the only way I can place this, and it’s a sorry reason to be in a restaurant at all. I you’re going to eat out, enjoy the food for its own sake.

    Although I must say that someone who can’t taste the difference between Evian and tap-water (provided the tap is your usual processed river water) probably has a genetic defect in the taste-buds. Perhaps epicure(an)s have their own patron saint who can help?

  15. Phil_NL says:

    PS: @Suburbanbanshee: what’s wrong with the poached eggs?

  16. contrarian says:

    Weak.

    As a snob, I’m the last person to cry ‘snob!’, but…’snob!’
    As for iceberg lettuce. I don’t order it much myself, but mostly because it’s a placebo nutritionally, and because I like other sorts of lettuce better.

    But who cares if you do like it and order it.

    At the end of the day, the main point was made by Father Z: you pay for prep as much as you do execution or fancy schmancy ingredients.

  17. MikeM says:

    I should add that sometimes the “ridiculously inflated prices” are really the fee you pay to sit in a pleasant spot. When I visited Paris a few years ago, I wound up paying out the nose for a glass of Perrier once… but it was at the rooftop café at L’Institut du Monde Arabe, where you have a view looking out at Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, etc., one of the best views anywhere. I paid the money to sit there, not for the Perrier.

  18. mike cliffson says:

    I wouldn’t know Statesside, or even round here if I could afford it, but away from home on reataurant vouchers (Do you have this in the states, you’d rather have cash in hand but for tax reaons they give you meal vouchers?) and similar I have had” fancy” meals in restauarants with smart decor where I found myself thinking much as the writer, with a price that would feed my family for days- but one ISNT at home , cheapo equivalents of an american diner don’t get involved in such schemes, a man’s gotta eat and if you don’t use the vouchers they’re wasted.)
    BUT , a massive but, it aint always so : a publishing house I hate had us to a meal in a local restaurant which charges about double similarlooking joints in the area, (nice decor and good service, but more”innlike” than fancy) for exactly the same dishes – and boy oh boy, would they did it again! A simple local-area style mixed salad – except that it was absolutely superb, mouthwatering, I can only imagine that every single tiny item they check as they buy, and keep and peel wash a nd seaon JUST right.Ditto the main course , as a recipe, zilch, bogstandard home cooking in itself- as we’d say in England, meat and two veg. Except I never in my life had such a plateful of meat and two veg, and again, ONLY local and fresh!! . Really superb house wine, for house wine, no extra per bottle , it just came , ditto mineral water ……… It’s hard to convey just how good a meal it was.
    Reading this, am I into gluttony or a foretaste of the next life?

  19. stjmen says:

    I think this is definately snobbery, or else just plain ignorance. Yes, I can make all of these dishes that she lists far cheaper at home but if I am going to a restaurant it is because I want someone else to prepare the food, and more importantly clean the kitchen and wash the dishes. I won’t pay ridiculously over-inflated prices, but I also understand that it is far more than the cost of the base ingredients that I am paying for.

  20. thereseb says:

    As a single woman I ordered things that were fussy, messy, or impractical to make at home (lots of spices that would go off etc., or french fries, which are a pain to make at home for one.) As the family cook, I now take the opportunity to try new stuff with a view to maybe making it at home – or stuff that I like, but no one else will eat. To avoid big mark ups, I share starters and rarely have coffee, if dining near to home. I would not drink spirits or cocktails either , as they are criminally expensive in restaurants in the UK. I don’t begrudge paying for service, as I used to be a waitress and made my share of prawn cocktails.

  21. LisaP. says:

    When was the last time this person was in a grocery store?

    I find it a little snobbish because the POV pre-supposes you are eating out regularly. I get a little tired of those “you’re a fool if you don’t buy your cavier in bulk” sorts of pseudo-frugal pieces. Deceptive. I used to buy into that stuff, then wonder why we couldn’t save money. It’s like when you go to the grocery and use the loyalty card and they tell you how much you “saved” at the end of ringing up the order. The more you buy, the more you “save”, and the “savings” are based on the price subtracted from their conjectured price.

    Now that we have no money and have to use common sense instead of conventional wisdom, it’s become clear that the best way to regularly save money at a restaurant is by keeping it zipped in your pocket while you walk past the door.

  22. albinus1 says:

    When you go to a restaurant, why would you order something you can easily make at home.

    But the whole point is that if I order it in a restaurant, I don’t have to make it at home. I don’t have to go shopping, I don’t have to do prep, I don’t have to cook, and I don’t have to clean up. For me, that is whole point of eating out, not to order something I couldn’t make for myself at home. This was particularly true of the many years I was a bachelor. Some bachelors learn how to cook well for themselves. After trying to cook for myself, I realized that I just didn’t enjoy it and wasn’t good at it, and didn’t care enough to make the effort to get better; so I either ate out or got takeout or made sandwiches. Or microwave burritos.

    As for salad, I quit trying to make salads at home because I never managed to use up the ingredients before they started to go bad and I had to throw them out. The same went for the pre-made salad in a bag. I don’t think I ever managed to eat a whole head of lettuce on my own; invariably it would start to go bad and get thrown out before I’d finished it.

    BTW, wedge salad is one of the things I almost always order if I see it on a menu. I really love it, and, to be honest, it’s the kind of thing I don’t think I could make myself, at least not the way it comes in a restaurant. That’s true of a lot of things: even if I could make it at home, I just don’t like my own cooking as well as I like most restaurant cooking. And believe me, when it comes to restaurants, my standards are not high. (I tend to gravitate to places that have meatloaf and liver & onions on the menu. Bonus points if there is a neon sign saying “Eat”, and middle-aged waitresses who call everyone “Hon”.)

    What’s true for food is also true of drinks. I have never been able to make a martini that I like as well as the ones I can order in a bar. And I worked as a bartender for four months!

    BTW, does this writer think that because I can make coffee at home, I shouldn’t order it in a restaurant?

    I don’t think this article shows snobbery as much as cluelessness.

  23. JMody says:

    Wanna bet “Kelly” wanted to be a journalist since the age of NINE, can’t cook anything more involved than instant ramen or blue-box mac-n-cheese, and just recently bought something from her grocer other than the frozen Lean Cuisine microwave dinner — and suddenly realized this? Restaurants mark things up? What’s going to happen when she walks through a liquor section at the market and realizes what bars do to their clientele? And yet, they aren’t going out of business …

    I say that there are two or three where she has a point, but the rest reflect a gross lack of understanding of both the restaurant business in general and how to cook tasty food in particular. And with all the ‘tude, that’s snobbery.

  24. JuliB says:

    Choice C. A wannabe foodie, but hopelessly out of her league. (And I don’t consider myself a foodie!)

    The shrimp comment had me hissing and spitting!

    The two best places for shrimp cocktail I’ve been to are Legal Seafood and McCormack and Schmick (as far as places that I’d go to regularly). I travel a lot, and love the shrimp – especially in Boston. Some of the BEST shrimp cocktail can be had at the airport Legal Seafood just before Security at Terminal C. I get it there (with steamers) at least once or twice a week.

    And there is a HUGE difference in shrimp – Whole Food’s Gulf Shrimp (processed in US or Mexico) is head and tails (so to speak) above the rest. Pricier, but really worth it.

  25. APX says:

    @ckdexterhaven
    He’s just saying if there are more exciting things on the menu, then take advantage of the chef’s expertise and go crazy.

    See, but here’s the thing I’ve learned over the years. Not every restaurant you go to has a real chef with real “expertise”. I have gone to some expensive restaurants where you pay$30+ a plate and what you’re paying for is pre-made dishes that come from a freezer and are either re-heated in some industrial microwave, or just stuck in the oven.

    I, as a rule, when going out for brunch never order eggs in a restaurant anymore. A) I like mine sunny-side up, but restaurants seem to always leave them too undercooked, and I don’t trust restaurant eggs when it comes to salmonella. B) No one I’ve met can make eggs as good as my dad can, which I can get for free. Why would I pay someone to make me eggs?

    And I can understand what he’s saying about scrambled eggs. There are places that make their scrambled eggs from pre-packed liquid egg in a sealed bag. The way they’re cooked is simply by placing them in a pot of boiling water and breaking them up with your hand as they cook.

    Again, with the steamed vegetables. There are places that make steamed vegetables from fresh vegetables, and then there are places that make their “steamed vegetables” from bags of frozen vegetables. I would pay for the ones made from fresh, as I fail epically when I try to steam vegetables.

    What really irks me are these hotel restaurants that charge $3 for a cup (yes, A cup, no refills) of coffee.

  26. FranzJosf says:

    1. Iceberg Wedge. A friend heard that I was going to Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans. “Get the iceberg wedge,” she said, “you won’t regret it.” It was around six dollars, not twelve. (If you haven’t been to Mr. B’s [run by the Brennan family], go, unless you haven’t been to Galat0ire’s where you should go first, then to Mr. B’s for old-timey New Orleans.) Anyway, the wedge was served with crumbled bacon and bleu cheese, and a simple, wonderful dressing. So satisfying. I asked the chef for the dressing recipe: creole mustard, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, and an egg yolk. Absolutely perfect. Had I not ordered the wedge I wouldn’t have learned the dressing, which, whenever I serve it at a dinner party, always gets good comments, and someone usually asks how it was made. The creole mustard is the secret. You can use any grainy mustard, still good, but not the same. (You can order Zatarain’s creole mustard over the internet if you don’t live in the Deep South.)

    2. I agree with Father about preparation. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for shrimp cocktail, and don’t want to make it at home. However, if you’re in New Orleans, order Shrimp Remoulade instead. Depending on where you are the remoulade might be tomato-based or mayo-based or both, but they’re all good in the Big Easy. Every deep south cook worth his salt has his own remoulade (and pimento cheese) recipe.

    7. Scrambled Eggs. If you’re in the mood and in a good Chinese place, order the scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes. Sounds like an easy preparation, but I’ve never made it taste as good as the Chinese do.

    I’m surprised that Zagat’s allowed that editorial. Sounds surly to me.

  27. APX,

    Wow. Now I know why scrambled eggs in so many restaurants taste like cardboard.

    What makes the scrambled egg is what is in the *frying pan.* I used to do the scrambled eggs every Sunday for the Gregorian Schola brunch after Mass. People swore up and down that they were the best scrambled they had ever had. I never allowed them in the kitchen while I was doing it. A 1/4 of butter chopped into the whipped eggs, with enough left over to anoint the pan. Salted to my taste. Fresh ground pepper into them while cooking. Then delivered to the table while not yet completely cooked. By the time grace was sung, they were perfect since hot eggs continue to cook. If some of those praising the eggs knew what was in them, they would have had an anticipatory heart attack right there . . . But eggs boiled in a plastic bag. Sheesh.

  28. Dorcas says:

    Hee hee. This piece is indeed a little sour and silly, but I have been guilty of the same kind of thinking…for a long time I rarely ordered pasta in a restaurant, even Italian places, cause I figured pasta was the easiest meal to make at home. I eventually noticed that whenever I did order pasta in a good restaurant, it was usually totally wonderful, and was nothing at all like what I would make in my own kitchen.

  29. TravelerWithChrist says:

    If you want to follow his logic, let me pose this:

    steak – we can buy it on sale for a decent price. My dear husband seasons it, lights the charcoal grill, and within a short time, we have better tasting steak than any place I’ve eaten out. In fact, when we go out, we don’t order steak – it just doesn’t compare.

    Or coffee – surely you can make coffee for pennies compared to Starbucks – hello.

    When I eat out, it’s not because I could make it at home, it’s because I DON’T WANT to cook or I want a date out with my dh. Or, because it’s past meal time and we’re all hungry!!!

  30. jilly4ski says:

    Wanna be foodie, implying that this food is just not restaurant material. But I don’t think Kelly knows what they are talking about. A loaded baked potato at a restaurant as a side is just not something I would have at home. I don’t have the chopped green chives, and whipped butter sitting around waiting to go on my baked potato.

    And what about people who go out for breakfast, but cannot eat eggs over easy? Think pregnant ladies, young children, or older people, who would be more susceptible to bacteria in the uncooked yoke or whites. Sometimes it is better to get the less greasy scrambled eggs than the greasy fried egg. (Though you do have to watch out for diner type places that use egg substitute rather than real eggs, but again if you have dietary needs you might want that).

    And I am no restaurant connoisseur, as we mainly eat at chain type restaurants, but even I know that sometimes these restaurants do even these simple thing better than I can, or at least make it look nicer, and then I don’t have to clean it up after I just spent 2 hours in the kitchen making it. Specifically, I make a knock off of one of Olive Garden’s soups, their Zuppa Tuscana, and I think I make it better. However, when I go to Olive Garden I still get that soup because it is my favorite.

  31. ray from mn says:

    I’d say the guy’s problem is that he doesn’t have an expense account and does his own grocery shopping.

  32. APX says:

    @TravelerWithChrist
    Or coffee – surely you can make coffee for pennies compared to Starbucks – hello.
    Yeah, but I can’t make a no fat caramel macchiato and butcher the way my name is spelled on the cup as good as the unnaturally friendly Starbucks barista (?? baristo??).

    @Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P.
    APX,
    Wow. Now I know why scrambled eggs in so many restaurants taste like cardboard.

    If they’re completely yellow or orange assume they came from a bag. Orange eggs usually mean they added cheese powder to them along the line.

    enough left over to anoint the pan.
    Anoint the pan, eh? Lol!

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    lgreen515,
    Nana’s Spoonbread (direct off her hand-lettered recipe card, circa 1920):
    3/4 cup corn meal
    1 pint whole milk
    3 eggs, separated – beat yolks well
    1 tablespoon butter
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    Scald milk, add corn meal *gradually* and cook until thick. Stir in butter and then beaten egg yolks. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and turn into a buttered casserole or glass baking dish.
    Place in a pan of hot water and bake 35 min. or more in a slow oven (300-325 deg. F) until the top is nicely browned and puffy.
    Southern comfort food at its best.

  34. heway says:

    Ha, Ha! cluelessness! Father, your olive comment caused me to get up from this computer and make a beeline for the lovely box of olives from Whole Foods – a mix a delicous olives, prepared perfectly.
    My husband and I always look for the pickups outside a cafe when we are traveling. Tend to have good home style foods. Best creamed spinach ever had? Ruth Crist’s steak House. Don’t want to remember the price. Not living near Boston anymore, we miss the great seafood – bowls of steamers and butter! Thanks to all for the good food memories.

  35. heway says:

    Sorry for spelling error….Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

  36. Phillip says:

    That spoonbread recipe is going into a Word document for when I get bored of this low-carb thing. It sounds incredible.

  37. contrarian says:

    Fr. Thompson,
    Spot on re the scrambled eggs and taking them off when they are not *quite* done. As for ordering them, my neighborhood diner here in NYC makes scrambled eggs with a bit of sour cream and fried onions and chives. Delicious. Could I do that at home? Sure, I suppose. But who cares. But let’s play along. The writer says,
    “There’s inevitably a much more worthwhile egg dish on every menu.”
    I suppose the argument here could hold for Eggs Benedict. Hollandaise is a pain to make, so I could see ordering that. But if you don’t know the diner well, you could be getting a dried pack with water added. In which case, the old scrambled is a much wiser choice.

    I don’t know why this article, of all things, has me so fired up (enough to post twice!), given all of the silly things you post from the Fishwrap and what have you. Ha ha. :)

  38. I think I understand Fr. Z’s point. Some things just aren’t the same at home. Even a mere White Castle hamburger just isn’t the same if one buys it in a supermarket and takes it home to cook it. Ambience counts too. That said, I would never order or purchase bottled water anywhere where the water is drinkable. I am not a water expert; I can drink almost any water. Unless it is rife with chemicals, it is fine by me. Oddly enough, about the only water I didn’t like was from a spring fountain outside Saratoga Race Course. Go figure.

    If one wants someone else to do the preparation, it costs. It’s like someone complaining to me that we charge more for a Dell computer than he can pay from Dell’s catalog. Sure, but we set it up for him and make sure he gets the right one with all the right accessories and without unnecessary junk. “The laborer deserves his payment.” (Luke 10:7)

  39. Sounds like Father Augustine worked in a diner before he got his calling. Or maybe he missed his calling, or at least one of them. But seriously, darn near anything at a restaurant is cheaper if you make it at home. I know, because I come from people who could never go to a restaurant without thinking about stuff like that.

    All the same, I never order bottled water in a restaurant. I stock up from Costco at home. I’m good to go.

  40. frjim4321 says:

    Fun topic.

    Seemed a big snobbish.

    I would agree with the Reverend Blogmaster regarding the wedge salad. My classmate always gets it because he enjoys it. It is what he likes – so that’s good enough for me.

    Bottled Water. Agree . . . the water in some places is horrible!

    Baked Potato: There is an art to getting it right – a perfectly baked flaky potato is often not what you get when you go out or even when you eat at home. I’d gladly pay for a well baked high-quality potato.

    \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

    You could also make the point that breakfast is the least cost-effective meal to eat out, because the ingredients are cheap and the mark up is so high. But in my case I really love to go out for breakfast. It would be snobbish to criticize this!

  41. Johnny Domer says:

    (Allow me snobbily to add my own entry in the “things I dislike ordering at restaurants” department).

    I’ve always wondered why I can never find a decent plate of pasta for less than $12 at any restaurant. I know that I’m paying for presentation, preparation, ambience, etc., but there’s hardly even a casual pizza joint that’ll charge you less than $12 for a plate of overcooked pasta and bland “meat sauce.” It is a relatively simple food that was cooked by (among others) dirt-poor Southern Italian peasants and immigrants, and made from cheap ingredients. To get GOOD pasta from a restaurant, you need to go to a nice place that charges you up to twenty bucks.

    I someday dream of opening a wildly successful restaurant chain that sells bowls of al dente pasta for $6-7 (Chipotle-esque prices) a pop. Maybe offer Spaghetti Carbonara, NY/Sicilian/Southern Italian “gravy” (as my grandfather always calls it), Alfredo, and maybe one or two others. Put the abomination that is Sbarro out of business. It’s probably a completely unworkable scheme, but I can dream, can’t I?!

  42. Meredith says:

    I’m surprised she didn’t mention pasta! I hate looking at a menu and seeing that a big dish of pasta costs the same as a steak. I know that pasta can be amazing, but it’s basically an extruded wheat product.

    When the writer got around to cereal I decided she was probably still in college.

  43. ckdexterhaven says:

    Contrarian, trust me, don’t order Hollandaise from a restaurant. For a good explanation, read Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential. Or if you don’t have time, just think of this: Hollandais is very time consuming with eggs/butter. Once it’s made, the restaurant isn’t going to want to take the time to make it again. But if you let it get too cool, the eggs will curdle. So the hollandaise you order at 11am, may have been made at 8am and it’s been sitting around.

  44. Pater OSB says:

    The author is the Bryan Cones of food.

  45. chcrix says:

    Not necessarily snobbery, although not entirely sensible.

    As someone who has written a lot of review copy (not restaurant however) I observe that it is always easier to be snarky than fair.

    In other words the writer may just be lazy.

  46. Kerry says:

    What, no Fibius claw? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mGPXikrsGE

    [Neither is there any Gak.]

  47. wmeyer says:

    Snobbery, beyond a doubt, but the inclusion of cereal on the list smacks of a psychotic break.

    The rant on scrambled eggs reminded me of a diner in Toronto (open kitchen, in their terms) I used to frequent almost 40 years ago. I would go in at 6:00AM for breakfast, and the guy doing the cooking looked as though he had had an unfortunate relationship to large amounts of alcohol. He shook pretty badly, and had a few twitches. He also made absolutely perfect poached eggs (not the steamed sort on which I was raised, but the ones made properly in a pot of water. He cracked the two eggs one-handed and I cannot recall when they were ever less than perfect. The man was an artist.

  48. Charlotte Allen says:

    I vote for “snobbery,” too. Iceberg wedges with a house-made dressing (and it’s always house-made at any decent restaurant) are not only tasty but the perfect classic-1950s thing to tuck between your real (gin, vermouth, olives, no apples, etc.) martini and your steak plus baked potato (another delicious item she hates, for some snobbish reason). I’d much rather feast on iceberg and steak than all the overpriced foam-and-coulis frou-frou that passes for high-end cooking these days. I disagree about pasta, too. Pasta is always cheaper than meat or fish, and it’s what you want to order at any Italian restaurant about whose quality you have doubts. Pasta is never too awful, although it may not be the best. I think she’s right about scrambled eggs, though. When I was a child, coffee-shop scrambled eggs were moist, creamy, and delicious. Then at some point the chefs stopped scrambling eggs slowly in pans and just dropped them straight on to the hot griddle, whence they emerged as tough, dry, overcooked slabs of yellow felt. The only places where you can get delectable scrambled eggs nowadays, I’ve discovered, is off the buffet table at elite private clubs. I don’t know how the club chefs do it: The eggs are served in big, tub-like chafing dishes, yet they’re uniformly moist, tender, and delectable.

  49. Re: poached eggs/scrambled eggs —

    The article said that a lot of traditional diner setups basically used and reused their cooking water to the point that it was really disgusting; and that moreover a lot of diner cooks don’t really know how to poach, so the food safety issues were troubling. If you can see the cook and the water, OTOH, and they’re both good, you can skip this rule. (And I’m sorry I didn’t link to it. The restaurant guide used to be online all over the place and is full of other interesting info and opinions, but now I can’t find it.)

  50. dominic1955 says:

    A real snob wouldn’t try to justify their $12 7oz bottled water, certainly not by saying you can get it cheaper at a store. They also wouldn’t try to convert the rubes and peasants that belly up to the trough of any sort of chain ‘restaurant’. Even if you can get them to appreciate finer food, you do not want such people ruining the ambiance with their provincial mannerisms!

    No, sounds more like a wannabe foodie. Everyone already knows you can usually make things “cheaper” at home etc. Yawn.

  51. robtbrown says:

    ckdexterhaven says;

    Contrarian, trust me, don’t order Hollandaise from a restaurant. For a good explanation, read Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential. Or if you don’t have time, just think of this: Hollandais is very time consuming with eggs/butter. Once it’s made, the restaurant isn’t going to want to take the time to make it again. But if you let it get too cool, the eggs will curdle. So the hollandaise you order at 11am, may have been made at 8am and it’s been sitting around.

    Is Bourdain saying that I shouldn’t have ordered Eggs Benedict when I had Breakfast at Brennans? IMHO, most chains or local restaurants serving EB will make their Hollandaise Sauce from a powdered mix. Is it as good as HS made ad hoc? No, but it’s better than an Egg McMuffin.

    BTW, the Brennans’s site has the original recipe for Bananas Foster (flambe’ if you want to chance a fire.

  52. ContraMundum says:

    As for me, I’d rather eat at a greasy spoon than some fancy restaurant — if I’m eating alone. If it’s a date, my attention is not on the food anyway.

  53. Mary Jane says:

    What a poorly written article! The author obviously has no idea of the costs of food (at restaurants or at grocery stores) and probably has no taste buds either.

    Usually tap water at restaurants is just plain gross. Grease on scrambled eggs? Yuk. Where in the world does this “writer” eat?! Waffle House?? *gag*

    I have ordered Mediterranean Olives at restaurants before. (notice how I capitalized Olives) Yum! I can’t make ‘em like that at home.

    Anyone here ever tried the “Spud Max” from McAlister’s Deli? I haven’t but I’ve seen people order them before…a HUGE loaded potato. Probably the best way to eat a potato, I’m thinkin’. :)

  54. AnAmericanMother says:

    robtbrown,
    My dad cadged that recipe from Brennan’s years before Mr. Gore invented teh Interwebs . . .
    . . . it’s the company dessert in our family — that, or Julia Child’s strawberry genoise. I must confess that I have scorched the dining room hanging lamp a couple of times, but alcohol burns so quickly and so low-temp that there’s really not much danger of setting the place on fire.
    People do look at you funny when you buy a bottle of 151 proof rum . . . but it’ll last a long time.

  55. Ana says:

    If one figures in the cost for your time, overhead costs such as the building, electricity, gas, phone, furnishings, and such plus the cost of the ingredients then one would find that not all restaurant costs are that far off base.

    As for not eating pasta out, that depends on the restaurant as I know a few that make handmade, fresh pasta which you can’t beat and I’m willing to pay for it.

  56. SegoLily says:

    Food writers, especially, grasp mightily to come up with something original and usually end up sounding very snarky.

    I think she should have qualified “cold cereal” because ordering that in a restaurant is just plain nuts. However, getting a nice, steaming bowl of creme of wheat or steel cut oats with a variety of toppings you wouldn’t necessarily have on hand at home (dates, candied nuts, etc.) is a wonderful idea.

  57. Kerry says:

    “Gak is always best served live.”

  58. MAJ Tony says:

    Snobbery…and besides, shrimp coctail is what St. Elmo’s Steakhouse in Indy is KNOWN for. It’s so legendary that it’s been referred to as “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Just ask Jerry Jones…or Allison Stein Wellner http://activerain.com/blogsview/1109409/the-food-in-indianapolis-is-hot-hot-hot-

    or the NY sports reporter guy who was the focus of a practical joke about 10 years ago during the NBA games here between the Knicks and Pacers. They (press folks from Indy) told him the St. Elmo’s shrimp coctail wasn’t really that hot, and when he went to the men’s room, they removed ALL drinks from the table. The poor sap actually was so desperate, he took drinks off some strangers’ table next to theirs.