Glenn isn’t the only one who knows a thing or two about a thing or two. My 10+ years in the service industry has given me an insider’s view of the world of dining out, and I’m hear to spread the wealth!
In honor of NYC’s first restaurant week of the year I’m starting a month-long series on how to maximize your dining experience, not act like a rube, and learn to eat-out like a pro.
Hit the jump for Jeanne’s genius!
PART I-Time and Place/Specials
Time and Place
Restaurant Row-46th St New York, NY (b/w 8th & 9th Ave)
Maximizing your dining experience starts way before you step foot in a restaurant. I never understood people who go out at 7:30 on a Saturday night get miffed when there’s a wait, it’s crowded and the servers all all pissey. If you INSIST on going out on a Fri or Sat, go somewhere that takes reservations and MAKE ONE. Call in the afternoon (don’t call in the middle of dinner rush hours, 5-8) a few days in advance and get there early, like 15 minutes, and grab a drink while you wait.
As I mentioned in ‘Jeanne Says…Read Free Local Papers’ it’s easy to find out when places have deals and specials. Most are Mon-Wed, the best days to go out to eat. It’s gonna be less crowded, no wait, and there’s most likely to be drink or dinner specials. If you’re gonna be in a certain area, check the websites of restaurants in the area, I’m sure you’ll find something.
Best times to go out to eat is early rather than later. Your server will be still be riding their pre-shift caffeine high, the kitchen won’t be out of anything and Happy Hour will probably be going on.
So that takes care of time – let’s talk place. Talk to your friends and family, a personal recommendation or warning is the best way to find a good spot. Yelp! is an OK resource, but personal is always better. There’s certain neighborhoods that have a ton of great restaurants, such as Franklin Ave in Brooklyn, Park Slope, Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, 2nd ave in the East Village and St. Marks Place. Those are some of my favorite areas to wine and dine. When you are perusing restaurants, it’s good to look at a menu first, a lot of places have them posted outside, and if not there’s no problem asking to take a peek before you commit to a table. If you DO decide to not stay, it’s not a big deal, you don’t have to run away or slink away or slowly back-pace out the door. When walking around, don’t forget to check out side-walk signs, a great way to find a spot or keep a place in mind for later.
As I mentioned earlier, most place have specials Mon-Wed and Happy Hour before 7 (a lot places also do ‘Reverse Happy Hour’ late night). Besides that, there’s usually a ‘Specials’ menu or insert that you should always check out and consider. When it comes to verbal specials, ask to hear them, and don’t hesitate to ask something that sparks your interest to be repeated. Specials are pricier (meaning a server won’t mind repeating it if you end up ordering a more expensive entree) but worth it. They’re SPECIAL which mean they’re not always available, and usually feature fresh, seasonal ingredients. Chefs who plan the specials take great pride in their dishes and will put extra effort into the preparation. As for drink specials, ask your server or bartender! That’s what they’re there for. There are also some specials available only at the bar ( bar dishes or appetizers, drink specials) and most places don’t mind if you eat at the bar. Bartenders will be extra attentive and you’ll be able to re-up your drinks quickly.
That’s it for this installment! Fellow restaurant workers, bartenders and (dare I say) foodies- give me your input! Let me know if there are any tips I left out or should include in later installments.
‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well ‘ Virginia Woolf
Next Time: Know Your Players! Who and What They Do!