Poll: Ordering off the menu


And, of course, the logical follow-up:


(On the occasions when I’ve need a little extra cash I’ve moonlighted as a waiter. It’s decent cash in your pocket, and it generally comes with a discount on meals at the restaurant. I’d go so far to say that, like the Swiss concept of compulsory military service, people should be forced to work in a restaurant for a year after secondary school. I’d be interested to find anyone who has ever worked in that industry that wouldn’t agree with me on that.)

But I’m getting off the topic.

I order off-menu more often than not. I don’t make a big deal out of it, but it does get noticed and remarked on by people with me. I do get the social pressure they are succumbing to in thinking that ordering off-menu is verboten. I just don’t think they’re right.

The stuff I order off-menu isn’t unreasonable. I’m not going into a Mexican restaurant and ordering Chicken Marsala. I’m doing simple things like saying instead of the alfredo sauce can I get just olive oil, or no hollandaise, no onions, but what other veggies can you throw on there?, etc. I will occasionally order something that isn’t even hinted at on the menu, but only if I’ve had it there before and know that the kitchen can make it, it’s just been taken off the menu.

Why do I order off-menu so often?

First, I’m hyper-conscious about what I eat. I’ll sub out sauces and sides every time for something healthier. That comes with fries, okay? Um, no. What do you have that’s green? Yeah, 99% of the time the only green thing they have is broccoli, but I’ll still take that over fries or slaw.

Second, I know that in the most modern restaurants, it’s not any more effort to get it my way. Ingredients are ingredients. The exception to this is the large chain restaurants that do things like ship entree-packs to their stores instead of the component ingredients. I’m not going to put up a fight if they say those veggies come in a pack—I’m not a complete jerk. But it’s still worth taking the time to ask, right?

I also think I have pretty good estimation of timing when it comes to ordering off-menu. There are some restaurants and occasions where it just is not appropriate, and I think I am appropriately sensitive to that. I also start small and work my way up, always asking questions instead of demanding satisfaction. What other sides do you have? That mostly sounds good, but I’m not keen on that sauce, what else can you recommend?

By Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.