Survey any number of my friends and they will tell you going out to eat is my external happy place. New scenery, insatiable dishes that I’d normally be too skeptical to ever try and having an overall fabulous dining experience? That’s what life is all about.
But with every unforgettable night out comes an experience that leaves a sour taste in your mouth. From iffy menu options, to horrible customer service, you name it and it is bound to happen. That’s why it’s so important to cover all your bases to ensure you have the best night possible.
Want to have the ultimate dining experience, no matter where you go? Get into these eight tips you need to turn your night out into an amazing one:
1. Read Restaurant Reviews
Before I make plans to go out to eat, I like to read a few online reviews of the restaurant so I know what to expect in terms of dress code, quality of food and customer service. Yelp! and Eater are two of my go-to sites, they normally have pretty reliable ratings. Be sure to read the reviews carefully, some customers look for any reason to complain. That low rating you see could be the result of something silly, like a guest not getting enough ice cubes in their drinks. Know when to weed out the ridiculous from the truly helpful.
2. Make Reservations
I cannot stress this enough. With the holiday season approaching, restaurants are guaranteed to fill up quickly. And the last thing you want to do is get all dolled up just to find out there is an hour wait – or worse – flat out turned away because there is no availability. Put an alert in your phone days or weeks in advance to reserve a table. Doing this will alleviate stress, and you will get to enjoy yourself the night of.
3. Have A Dining Backup
Let’s say you made your reservation and you’re ready to go, but you suddenly decide you have a taste for Mediterranean instead of the little Italian restaurant where you’re booked. What then? That’s why it’s always smart to have a dining backup. In case your taste changes – and it might – having a backup means you’ll still be able to take advantage of a night out and still have a great dining experience. Choose a backup restaurant that has equally delicious food and doesn’t fill up too fast, just in case you need to arrive last-minute.
4. Prep and Arrive Early
Now that you’ve made your reservation, leaving the house and getting to the restaurant on time is another hurdle to overcome. Whenever I make plans, I swear I’ll have enough time to get dressed, and do my hair plus a full face of makeup. Yet the hour rolls around and I’m stuck standing in front of the bathroom mirror, hair pinned and one eyelash on. Words of caution: don’t be like me. Start getting ready a few hours in advance by ironing clothes and setting out accessories. Whatever you need to do to pull it together. That way you won’t have to rush to get to the restaurant on time. And the bonus is, if you arrive early, you can make any seating changes within the restaurant you may find necessary.
5. Be Adventurous, But Don’t Overdo It
There’s just something about reading menu items that makes you want to try every last one. I know I’m not alone. Each dish described sounds so good and the pictures make your mouth water. You’re thinking, “It’s my night out, let me try something new.” And while it is certainly great to broaden your palette and step out of your comfort zone, there is a chance you won’t like the taste of something even if the picture of the food looks handcrafted by angels. I try to stick to what I know and add a little umph. I love all types of fish and know that I normally can’t go wrong with a seafood dish. It’s all about understanding what you like and catering to that.
6. Alert The Waiter of Any Dietary Restrictions
As I’ve been focused on leading a healthier lifestyle, I know I cannot eat everything I used to. Which also means I can’t have certain foods prepared the way I’m used to. So I have to alert the waitstaff of any concerns I may have early on. Whether an entrée is cooked with dairy products or includes processed ingredients are real concerns for me. Letting the staff know early on gives them a chance to recommend the best menu options and accommodate me throughout my meal.
7. Take Your Time
This is so important. I can’t tell you how many times I have been so hungry that I practically inhaled my food. Minutes later, I couldn’t even tell you what I had just eaten. Taking the time to really savor each bite makes the dining experience that much more enjoyable. You can take in the full effect and really enjoy the dish that the chef has crafted so beautifully.
8. Turn Off All Technology
Sometimes sitting down at a dinner table is the only chance you get to have an uninterrupted conversation and share a similar thought with friends and family throughout the week. You can’t enjoy yourself if you have work emails, text message dings and calendar appointments constantly popping up, disrupting the moment. It’s okay to silence your phone or even turn it off and give the experience your undivided attention. It’s hard to believe, but trust me, the world won’t stop just because you’re disconnected for an hour or two.
Okay, now that you’ve checked everything off on your list, you’re ready to have a worry-free night with great food, great company and even better vibes?