Ordering Dinner with Style

Eating at an unfamiliar restaurant is not always second nature. When you are in a social setting such as a date or with a group, you might feel the pressure as you open your menu. The last thing you want is to end up a one man band while trying to order.

In some cases, you may even simply agree to anything your server says to avoid asking the … I’m sorry… what?… line of questions.

This can lead to a strange plate of foods that you will now have to eat and pay for, as the alternative of disclosure is just not an option. Dining faux pas and misunderstandings  can be avoided if you know the basics. The general terms in dining will get you through the meal feeling unscathed.

Terms to Know

When it comes to the menu, it should be fairly easy to navigate. There are a few terms that are common in restaurants, however may not be prevalent in our daily lingo.

  • Du jour – (dooo-jor) Is a reference to an item not on the menu yet served as a chefs choice. Soups, entrees and desserts are common du jour items.
  • Ceviche – (se-veechay) Raw fish and seafood is not for everyone. If you see this or Crudo listed and prefer well done foods, steer clear of this option.
  • Flambé – (flam-bay)Often a table side preparation, foods or desserts that are cooked with liqueur are set aflame to burn off the alcohol and leave the flavor. Steak Diane, Baked Alaska and Bananas Foster are popular flambé selections.
  • Filet Mignon ( fillay-min-yawn) – A smaller and thicker cut of tenderloin. It is very tender and also a commonly mispronounced word on the menu. As a side note, it is not a typical steak you would eat with condiments like A-1. The integrity of the flavor stands alone.
  • Au jus (aww-joo) – When you see Au jus listed it is the juices and drippings of the meat that is not thickened into gravy. The broth style addition makes for a savory meal when included or requested.
  • Sweetbreads- (as it is)You may think you are ordering a delightfully fluffy sweetened bread when you see this listed. It is actually a dish made from specific glands of a calf or lamb.

Unless the entire menu is in another language, knowing these particulars will help you to order like a seasoned pro. When ordering, take cues from the server without being pushy. Allow the ladies at the table to order first, and then the eldest until it comes back to you. When you are done ordering, place your menu with the server, hold it or set it on the edge of the table for them to pick up. If you have left a part of the order out and the server has moved on, polite eye contact or a silent gesture will be  sufficient notification they need to return to the table. With a napkin on your lap and a confident smile, understanding the basics will put you at ease on your next dining adventure.

Bon appétit