Navigating a Fancy Restaurant….in a few easy steps

For us “normal” folk, going to a super fancy restaurant warrants a special occasion (anniversary, birthday, promotions, etc.) unlike the fancy folk who go because it’s dinner on Tuesday night. You may have shied away from going to that “one place” because you were nervous about one thing or another (the dress code, the menu, the price)…well fret no more my pretty…these simply steps will have you shoveling grub with Lady Moneybags on Friday.

Before you go: Know the dress code! Some places require a jacket (no not your Members Only jacket) and some places have rules against headwear or “proper” shoe attire…when in doubt…call and ask!

Valet: I am a HUGE fan of complimentary valet! Most (not all) fancy restaurants offer complimentary valet to their patrons. However, if they don’t, it can be pricey (I know it is relative but all they do is jump the curb with your car and parked it 3 feet away) and they will expect a gratuity too! (Those bastards!) This is not a great time to ask, “Do you take AMEX?” You need cash…

Check in: No not Facebook…with the Host / Hostess / Maître D…whatever they call themselves these days…let them know…You have arrived (I used my dramatic voice but I think it was lost in translation)…if for no other reason, they will direct to the bar where you can have cocktails…um…wait for your table.

Your table is ready: Biff will begin the process of speed dating with you…(UGH)

Course 1:
The water course: Here you choose whether you want tap, bottled still, bottled sparkling or all three. We normal folk usually choose tap water…choose what you want…but don’t let the fact that you are at an ultra-fancy restaurant persuade you to order something you wouldn’t normally order! Of course my friends want to know what water is as they look for the wine list! (I love when they bring lemons, limes, oranges and / or cucumbers for the water!)

Course 2:
Amuse Bouche: This is my favorite course of the evening…I love complimentary things….and mini things…and food! Did I mention I love this course? What is it? A little thank you from the chef for dropping wads of cash at his place (kidding)! A mini hor d’oeuvres (NO this is not redundant…it is small) from the chef while you wait for real food!

Course 3:
Bread: I rarely eat bread, so I like variety and quantity! I seriously judge a fancy restaurant by their bread basket…and I want room temperature butter (real butter…from Europe)!

Course 4:
Wine & Cocktails: Woohoo! Finally! The only rule for cocktails is…don’t order a well drink…get something fancy…not sure…order whiskey!
Don’t let the wine list get you all flustered…agree on a varietal with your tablemates and look at the list. Never order the least expensive bottle in the varietal. Taking one step up for about $10-$15 will allow you to have a much better wine. Each bottle contains 3-4 glasses and will be poured evenly by the waiter or sommelier (fancy wine waiter). If you are the only wino at your table, order a wine by the glass. You can order a fancy glass or you can ask the waiter for a glass of the house_____(insert favorite wine name here)….all fancy restaurants have a “nice” house wine by the glass for around $10-$15 but ASK the price before you order!

Course 5:
Food! Let’s order! Do not give a flip what your waiter Biff thinks of you…he is there for your pleasure and happiness (in a non-dirty way)! If you want to order soup and two appetizers so be it…if you want to share a 40 ounce steak with your friend…go ahead…don’t let the fact that you are in Fancyland make you nervous about ordering!
You can never go wrong with a steak…they are usually incredible and more food than you can eat (shareable)
Seafood is usually priced at Market Price…it can be expensive (ASK)
Most sides are a la carte but shareable
The “feature” of the day is usually something yummy and reasonably priced

Course 6:
Dessert: You will probably be too stuffed to order a real dessert…not to worry…fancy restaurants love to present complimentary mini desserts at the end of your meal…I love these too! It helps distract you from the bill!

Leave a nice gratuity…at fancy restaurants; the waiter often has to tip out the support wait staff.

In the end, you are here to celebrate something…even if it’s being fabulous…enjoy the evening! I’d rather eat at home 29 days out of the month and enjoy one great meal out instead of eating out daily at low end mediocre, everyday restaurants. There is also something about going to “THAT” restaurant. Don’t fret the fancys…they put their (Prada) pants on one leg at a time like we do!

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