You’ve waited three weeks to score reservations at a restaurant you’ve been dying to try and the moment is finally here — obviously you’re going to order appetizers, an entree, dessert, the works, right?
Before you spread your napkin across your lap, there’s something you should probably know: a lot of folks make one glaring mistake when ordering appetizers and it could mean the difference between fully experiencing your dream restaurant and wasting your precious reservation.
Foodie and Writer Cia Bernales of Writing With My Mouth Full says one of the biggest errors people make when ordering appetizers is not scanning the entire menu first to get a feel for the ingredients a restaurant specializes in preparing. Put bluntly, if you’re going to order a miniature chicken pot pie just because you love chicken, there’s a solid chance you’re missing out on a chef’s specialty. Likewise, an appetizer should be considered as a component of your entire meal, and not as a separate entity from your entree.
“I’m not going to pay for bruschetta unless it comes with homemade ricotta, especially if I know I’m getting pasta as my main course — that’s just too many carbs,” Bernales says. “I also avoid fried foods and basic salads. Soups, too. Ditto on chips and dip. I’m falling asleep just thinking about them.”
If you can easily recreate an appetizer at home, it stands to reason that your money will be better spent on foods that are hard to find or require a chef’s skills to bring to life in your own kitchen.
“Some of my favorite appetizers consist of seafood,” Bernales says. “I can never pass on octopus, anchovies, sardines, or any crudo. That stuff I don’t, or I rarely, make at home so I’m always happy to pay for those outside.”
Finally, if a restaurant has reserved all of its most original ingredients for its appetizers, there’s no shame in focusing solely on starters.
“When I’m dining out I try to eat food that’s seasonal, something I haven’t had yet or in a long time, or something I never make at home,” Bernales says. “When a restaurant has exciting and creative appetizers, I have no problem ordering three to five of them and skipping the main course entirely.”
For more food tips, check out The worst foods to order at a sports bar, according to a bartender and Why you should never order meat at a fast food restaurant.
Follow me at @lisacfogarty on Twitter.