Yesterday we taught you how to walk on city sidewalks, and on Monday we explained the unwritten rules of riding public transportation. Today, as part of SFist's ode to National Etiquette Week, we give you the lowdown on dining out the right way. What with addictive mobile technology and an acute food scene colliding with your social life, here are a few tips at having a choice dinning experience without looking like a clod.
Phones are Silenced, and Placed Upright on the Right
We live in the real world where mobile communication devices are a part of our lives. Thank God. And that includes dinnertime. In lieu of trying to eschew modernity by shunning those around you looking into their smartphones, simply be okay with having you or your dinning companion placing their phones on the table upright on the right. This way a quick dart of the eye to check your messages will be less intrusive and ill mannered than fumbling around in your pocket. As for using the phones...
Do Not Take a Call Unless It's an Emergency
At the very least, a simple, "Mom, I'm at dinner with the Countess Anastasia; I'll call tomorrow" should suffice. Unless you're a doctor or the POTUS, your work does not constitute an emergency.
Photos of Food Should be Taken Sparingly
And without flash if possible.
Restaurant Toilets Are for Peeing and Periods
Make an adult effort to evacuate your bowels at home or (if you must) at the office. Unless a dire digestive situation present itself, feces belong nowhere near a toilet at a restaurant, nice or otherwise. Fumes waft.
Don't Dart Off to the Bathroom When You Know the Bill is Coming
You are fooling nobody. Also, it's rude to leave companions for long periods of time, and if it's a single use restroom, you're messing up everyone's night. Also, people might assume you're using cocaine.
Don't Be an Ass About Reservations
First of all, being any more than 15 minutes late for a reservation is not acceptable anywhere, and you should probably call the restaurant to confirm that they will even be able to seat you if you arrive late. Secondly, this age of OpenTable has brought with it an unfortunate side effect, which is that people make multiple reservations for a given evening, using accounts with different aliases, and then neglect to cancel them. This is not right. The effect this has is to make some restaurants suffer with empty tables and no one to blame, and restaurants like Bar Agricole, which constantly has a waitlist, over-book and therefore penalize diners who show up on time by making them wait. We doubt that our saying so is going to change this horrible trend in dining culture, but please, be courteous. Cancel your reservations. You can even do it with a goddamn app now.
Listen for Your Food
Don't be one of those people who doesn't notice the server holding plates of food, and saying, "Who had the omelet?" Who had the omelet should not be met with silence. SOMEONE had the omelet. Is it you? It's probably you. Be aware, let them put it down, and let everyone else get their food.
Bring Kids to Appropriate Restaurants
If a restaurant is bombastic and uses one or more cartoon characters for advertising, drag your little blessing there, please. Otherwise, leave the kids at home. Any establishment with a romantic din or 18-and-over buzz should be child-free.
There's a Line Behind You, Foodies
Stop loudly ohhh-ing and ahhh-ing over food. Your need to be looked upon as someone with gastronomic taste, as someone who understands the rich complexities of food, as somebody who must tweet garbage like, "[insert names artisan shit you're eating here]... Heaven!" does not come before the needs of the people behind you. Granted, people outside of a food kitchen who wait in line for bread, coffee, and/or ice cream are confusing (and somewhat horrific) creatures, but please, just get your stuff and get out. The French don't ejaculate over their daily baguettes. Stop doing it when you reach the counter at Tartine. There are people behind you.
Let's Be Adults About Splitting the Check, OK?
Anyone over the age of 30 should expect that when you go out in a group, the check will be split evenly. None of this itemizing your order and only having one glass of wine bullshit. Choire Sicha eloquently discussed how gay men (albeit, probably, relatively well off urban gays) set the paradigm for check-paying behavior, with individuals often fighting over who'll pick up the whole bill. We know that's not always possible, but c'mon people. Don't go out to eat if you're going to be that guy who's splitting things to the last dollar. As for those 29 and younger, you'll have to suffer your friends being whiny and cheap a little while longer. (There is wiggle room, however, for dining companions who are sober.)
Yes, we said 20%. Because it's tacky and rude to do otherwise for decent service. Oh, don't HealthySF us. Just do it. It's the right thing to do.
(Thanks goes out to Beth Spotswood for her help!)