1.When unsure of what to order – The first item on a menu is almost always either a popular dish or a specialty. It’s a good rule of thumb if you’re ever in doubt about what to get and the waiter isn’t helpful. This applies for the appetizers, entrees, and especially dessert.
2. A note on health ratings – A restaurant with a B health rating is usually a sign of bad food. I never let a B stop me from walking in, but I’ve realized that I tend to be disappointed more often at these places. One exception is in Chinatown eateries. You only should start to worry when there’s a C health rating.
3. Don’t stick with just water – Always order a drink with your food, unless you can only choose from Coke, Sprite etc. This rule is especially important if you’re eating at an exotic restaurant. Quite often, the food and drink will pair well together.
4. Learn the art of chopsticks – This doesn’t concern many of you who already are skilled in chopstick-use, but I wasn’t when I first started (and still am not). If you’re eating Asian food, put the fork down and pick up a pair of chopsticks. If you’re starving, you’ll learn pretty quickly.
5. Find a Chinese friend – If you’re going to a restaurant in Chinatown, bring a friend along who’s Chinese. Every time I’ve (unintentionally) done so, I received fantastic service and learned a few things about the dining culture. This doesn’t apply if you bring a Chinese female friend along. You’ll just get nasty looks from the waiters.
6. On bakery goods – Never buy baked goods after 3pm. Whether it’s doughnuts, bread, or pastries, when you eat past the lunch hours, you’ll get a sub-optimal experience. They’re all baked early in the morning, and that’s the best time to go. If you insist on eating past the prime hours, don’t judge too harshly if you’re not satisfied. Yesterday I grabbed a doughnut from my beloved Doughnut Plant at 6pm, and had no one to blame but myself when I didn’t enjoy it.
7. Bad service and coffee – If you’re on the hunt for good coffee, you’re bound to run into a hipster’s natural habitat. The baristas are often antisocial and condescending. Be prepared to work around their attitude. I personally like to see how uncomfortable I can make them by being extra friendly.
8. Never drink Starbucks – Starbucks is the fast food of coffee, but somehow it managed to brand itself as a premium product. To mask the taste of their cheap, flash-roasted beans, they burn their coffee too fool consumers into thinking it’s a dark roast. The only reason you should ever walk in to a Starbucks is to wait in line for the bathroom or make us of the free WiFi.
9. On using bathrooms – Whenever you’re using a restaurant bathroom, turn the faucet slowly. Many times, because of the angle of the sink, I almost left the bathroom with water stains all over my clothes because I underestimated the water pressure. Don’t let it happen to you.
10. On favorite restaurants – Your favorite eateries will always let you down at some point. It may be that you ordered the one good item on the menu before, or that they put too much chili mayo on your sandwich. Don’t be too depressed about it.