Mar 1Liked by Josh Barro, Sara Fay

I'm married to this post: someone who is painfully, and in public socially-awkwardly, super-indecisive about small matters (time to leave! tends to be another one). The scenario of the waitress coming by and saying, are you ready to order? - he always answers in the affirmative though he's still studying the menu, so I order, then he looks up at her as if in appeal, if an unfamiliar place typically asks an irrelevant food question of her that amounts to asking what color she prefers; never goes with any forthcoming suggestion, anyway (this will also be true when he asks you which shirt to wear); "Yeah, I'm going to have, I think I'm going to get .... [long pause] ..."

This is a painful, triggering topic. I wish you had never brought it up.

That said, in any moral question in life, and in anything related practically or intellectually, to his field - my husband knows the answer, and is not gripped with doubt. It is marvelous to behold.

So, you live with la différence. Nobody can change, and nobody ever will.

Expand full comment

I agree that the freak out is weird, but my wife and I have pretty similar tastes so we usually get more joy out of splitting two meals than we would out of each sticking to our own dish. (Not always, though!)

I also couldn’t agree more about considering the context of what the restaurant is known for, and I am also often the person who steps up when ordering tapas or family-style

Expand full comment

> Put the whole order in at once. Incomplete orders are one of my big restaurant pet peeves. I hate them for the same reason most restaurants do — getting the order in all at once helps them pace your order correctly and avoid a long gap between service of appetizers and mains. It also saves the wait staff time. So when dining with a group, I do my best to enforce all-at-once ordering. It’s really in everybody’s best interest.

This is one of those times where you hear about a new concept or mode of behavior so legitimately shocking that you feel like you might have flipped a bit in the world simulation. Like when you find out that Alabamans call shopping carts "buggies".

I have never, in 10,000 years, ever heard of or remotely contemplated the notion of a table ordering the same part of the meal in multiple incomplete groups.

Expand full comment

"For many, it’s verboten" I'm sorry is this a thing? Reminds me of those New York Times "trend" pieces that talks about the supposed "new trend" in town or new hip place that somehow always ends with some interviewee saying a version of "anyone who's anyone is living in or doing XXX"

Honest to god, if a restaurant has a signature dish, why wouldn't it be something multiple people order at a table? Also, has this writer heard of sharing a pizza? You know, the most popular food item in America to eat? If that's not having the same meal, I don't know what is.

There''s a slow news week and then there articles like this or "Tan Suit" (still my go to example of how right-wing media speaking in one voice can make anything a story).

Expand full comment

Now going live to our Normal Behavior expert “Hannah Madden, a 24-year-old Washington resident who does fundraising for a political nonprofit.”

Expand full comment
Mar 1Liked by Josh Barro

This is the best restaurant advice I've ever read. My friends and I almost always do this wrong and it's so nerve-wracking. The only useful thing I sometimes do is to study the online menu in advance to make a tentative choice in advance or at least be better oriented to it. Thank you, Josh!

Expand full comment
Mar 2Liked by Josh Barro

This is such a great post. My husband gets so annoyed when I get frazzled if we order the same thing and I know it’s something I need to get over and I’m working on it. Showed him the headline when he got home today, he laughed and said “hope you read it and took it to heart!”

Expand full comment

As a rule if I'm at a decent restaurant dining as a pair, I'll order something different. There's going to be at least 2 good things on the menu, and I always find it weird to sit there and eat the same thing where there were other options - live a little, eat that slightly less obvious choice.

But if you're the 80 year old president of the united states eating with your wife of 46 years, get the pasta if you want the pasta. You're not in need of broadening you horizons.

Expand full comment

This was one of the stupidest “controversies” I can remember. I cannot figure out why WaPo chose to ask a 24 year old about this either. I’m not against a 24 year old having opinions, but that seemed to be their main qualification. Pretty much everyone who has been 24 and is now older knows that new college grads have no idea what they’re talking about regarding restaurants. That said, I do enjoy the throwback to truly stupid controversies vs. “are we in a capitalist hellscape” (no) controversies.

> If the menu is built around shared plates, someone needs to be in charge.

There are some places where this works, but it’s far fewer than the number of places that tell you to do this. It’s my biggest eating out pet peeve. I am extremely good at ordering the food I want to eat, in the quantity I want to eat it in, and I would almost never prefer one serving of 5 things to 5 servings of the best thing. If you ask me if I want to share plates, the answer is no and you should just get better at ordering yourself. Dessert is the only exception, but only because I usually try to limit myself to one bite of the best thing.

Expand full comment

Totally disagree with your point about placing the entire order at once. Placing it all at once means that 95% of the time your entree will arrive before you have finished your appetizer. Only if you are in a hurry should you place the entire order at once.

Expand full comment

Also, ask for the check when you order dessert. So many times I've found that the server's attention to the table falls off a cliff as the meal progresses. Getting the check with dessert allows you to pay, enjoy your dessert and maybe hang a bit more to finish drinks and then simply go. Don't wait to get the check when you're ready to go--it's already too late.

Expand full comment

So you’re suggested you’re the Tapas Top, if you will.

Expand full comment

The bourgeoisie was maligned in the past, often unfairly, as more recently were yuppies. We should be tolerant of other’s neurosis and social insecurities.

That said, if, as a society, we don’t want the children of corporate lawyers, lobbyists and lifestyle journalists to rebel and become Marxist revolutionaries we may have to crank up the ridicule of their parents at times like these.

Expand full comment
Mar 1·edited Mar 1

It can be fun to have little debates about what looks best and even a slight preference for ordering something different from your partner or friends if you are a small group. This is a way of getting excited about what you're about to eat.

I think this is a matter where having opinions that are too strong, *even if they are sensible,* is a bit neurotic. Everybody should order appetizers and the main at the same time, but if somebody won't order the duck because I'm ordering it, that's fine. If they make a little remark because I pick the duck after they did, I just say "but it sounds so good!"

If they actually get annoyed at me, *that's* neurotic, but this kind of opinion tends to be lightly held.

Expand full comment

Not sure if this is obnoxious, but when dining in a large group at an excellent restaurant, I will just ask the waiter to bring me what he thinks is best. I may not get the very best thing on the menu *for me*, but the odds of me being satisfied are high. And I’ve yet to have a waiter screw me with “Market” something or other.

This lets me keep my focus on socializing/drinking, while getting some additional value from the soon-to-be-well-tipped waiter.

In lower stakes places, I’ll often ask their opinion between my top two choices.

Expand full comment

Josh, how do you feel about substitutions/modifications? I'm not talking about cases in which the restaurant encourages it on the menu, which, as a vegetarian of many many years, I certainly take advantage of from time to time.

I'm talking about "I'm not used to eating [dish] with [ingredient], so I'd better have them leave off the [ingredient]."

I certainly know how *I* feel.

Expand full comment