10 New Rules of Dining Out

It’s time to collectively update our etiquette manuals.

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

1. Pony Up!
While Danny Meyer may be debuting the tip-less guest check at his NYC outposts, most Cincinnati spots are still rocking the old-school gratuity system. Dear diner, 20 percent is the minimum standard these days. Remember: If you can afford the dinner, you can afford the tip.

2. Flour Power
If you’re looking for a basket of bottomless biscuits, head to Cracker Barrel. Chefs in the know serve high quality, scratch-made breads these days. Case in point: Cristian Pietoso is loyal to Blue Oven and Mike Florea swears by Sixteen Bricks.

3. Lone Ranger
To paraphrase Woody Allen, dining alone is enjoying dinner with someone you love. No partner? No problem. Nab a seat at the bar and chat with fellow singles, relax at a table for two and enjoy the company of a decadent book, or put on your super-mysterious face and pretend you’re a Zagat inspector.

4. Spendy Sips
Gone are the days of the cheapie amaretto sour, unless you frequent frat parties. Expect to spend $10–$13 for craft cocktails prepared with the same attention to detail that goes into your appetizer. Still got sticker shock? Check the wine list for a lesser-known wine by the glass (think Ca’Ernesto gavi from Sotto at $8.)

5. Covert Cuts
Teres Major isn’t the latest constellation to be discovered via the Hubble. It’s just beef tenderloin by another name. (Julie Francis and Jean-Robert de Cavel are both big fans.) It has the tender richness of filet but sells for a fraction of the price. Give it a go.

6. Mind Your Manners
Sure, you paid for dinner, tipped the valet, and maybe even the coat check girl. But that doesn’t mean those two little words your mother coaxed out of you at every turn aren’t still appropriate. A polite “thank you” is always appreciated.

7. Sweet Treat
If there’s one endangered species in the restaurant biz, it’s the highly qualified pastry chef. When you visit an establishment with a superstar on staff (Megan Ketover at Orchids, Suzanne Church at Metropole, and Randy Sebastian at Boca all come to mind) make sure to save room for the sweet stuff.

8. Party Like A pro
Industry insiders know that Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the wrong times to blow your bank account. More magnanimous service, a less harried kitchen crew, and a prime-time reservation are all yours on an average Wednesday night.

9. No Free Lunch
In case you weren’t sure, threatening any establishment—let alone one with an average profit margin of 3 percent—with a shitty Yelp review just to get food for free makes you a genuinely horrible person.

10. French Paradox
With the exception of a whole whitefish grilled with a little olive oil, most seafood dishes aren’t actually lighter options. Shocker, right? Scallops, salmon, and snapper are cooked with plenty of fat (butter) and tend to pair best with heavier sauces like Hollandaise or beurre blanc. So go ahead, order the rib eye and take half home.

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