Sunday Dinner: Restaurant Etiquette

In this weeks blog, as prefaced by the title, we are talking about how you SHOULD act while out to dinner.  Whether it is by yourself, a date, or a group of friends, there are certain unwritten rules that we as servers, bartenders, managers, owners wish that you would adhere to and follow.  On the flip side, there is also a server/bartender code of conduct that gets often overlooked and not talked about enough in these types of blogs/posts.  So, I’m going to get into that as well.  Now this is in no way a judgement of, or belittlement of restaurant patrons, think of it more like a guide to get the best experience you can while out to eat!

Before I get into the nitty gritty, here is a story about my earliest restaurant experience that I had as a child growing up.  Bassett?  Bassett party of 5?  Yea, going out to dinner as a party of 5 on a Friday night, good chance there was always a wait at our favorite family spot.  If you are from the Northern Virginia area, and have been here for quite some time, you may remember the Chesapeake Bay Seafood house.  It was located in what is now the remodeled,  “glamorous”, Hybla  Valley shopping center.  Back then however, it was not so nice looking.  My favorite thing to order here was the fried baby gulf shrimp and french fries from the kids menu.  The fries I could have really done without, but I loved the shrimp.  The best part about the kids menu was that it was all you can eat.  Back then, I could crush some food, and especially those shrimp.  One night while there, I bet my dad I could eat 10 bowls!  He accepted my challenge, and Man vs Food was officially created.  I don’t even remember what the “bet” was.  It doesn’t matter, because whatever it was, I did not get to enjoy it.  While I finished all 10 bowls of shrimp, my stomach HATED me for about 2 days.  I was so stuffed and full, but I was determined to eat those 10 bowls.  In all honesty, I probably should have stopped after number or 7 or 8, oh well.  So what does this story have to do about restaurant etiquette?  Absolutely nothing, but this next part does!  I grew up with two younger brothers, and we were true boys.  Always being rambunctious, loud, fighting, all of that.  We learned at a very young age that that type of behavior would not be tolerated, especially while out to eat.  If we got out of line, we very quickly got “the horse’s tail”.  What is the “horse’s tail” you ask?  The horse’s tail is how my dad referred to his left hand, you know, the one with the wedding ring on it.  When you would least expect it, BAM right to the back of the head, and damn that ring stung.  That was your first and ONLY warning that that type of behavior would not continue.  If for some reason we were having issues understanding that, we were simply told to go sit and the car and wait until  everyone was finished.  No food, no doggie bag, no nothing.  You just were not getting dinner that night.  Needless to say, the horse’s tail was usually all it took!

I get a lot of questions regarding restaurants and how much should I tip? Do I tip on carryout? Why can’t I find my server? Why do I have to pay to bring my own cake/cupcake/bottle of wine?  Let’s get into it!

For the Patron:

The standard tip is 20%!  This is the STANDARD.  Now, if your service was poor, your order was messed up, your server never came to check on you, fine, it is appropriate deduct from the tip.  Just make sure you started at 20%.  Falling in line with tipping, YES you should be tipping for carryout as well.  They are providing you a service and helping you out.

Reservations:  If you are more than FOUR people, make that reservation.  Even if it is on a cold rainy Monday night.  The reason being, most parties are 2’s and 4’s.  Most tables only seat 2 or 4 people.  If you have a party larger than 4, some tables may need to moved to accommodate your group.  If you have double digit guests in your party and you do not make a reservation, please do not get up set at the host while they frantically scramble to see what they can do to help you out.We want to help you, we want to get you a table and spend money with us, it pays our bills.  Staying with large parties, NO we do not want to do 15 separate checks for you.  Do you realize how long that takes to do?  While we are running your 15 credit cards, 3 of our other tables need a water refill, or want dessert, and you are wondering what is taking so long to get your bill, because you want to go home.  All the while EVERYONE (the server included) is getting angry, and the tip starts dwindling away.  Also, the reason you see on menus that they will take a MAX number of cards per check, we as owners are charged a fee for every card that is swiped, and we do not like those fees.

Kids:  Look, we get it, you are trying to enjoy a nice night out with your significant other after a long week of work, and the last thing you want to do is deal with the kids during dinner.  That does not mean we as workers in the restaurant want to babysit your kids either.  We do not want to refill and reorganize the sugar baskets that your child just dumped all over the table, decided to rip open and pour sugar everywhere.  Please do not let them run around the restaurant.  It is a business, not a playground, and we do not want to be yelled at because we tripped over your child and spilled hot coffee on their head (yes I have seen this happen. more than once). Oh, when they are kicking the booth, the table behind you feels that and would like for you to ask your child to stop.  Please be considerate of our space.  We want to cram as many tables and chairs in our restaurant as possible.  This leaves little room for all of your strollers, plus they create a fire hazard as they are left in the middle of walkways.  Those folding ones are great, we have plenty of corners to stuff the in until you are ready to leave.

Why am I being charged for my cake/cupcakes/wine/anything I bring in to consume in your place of business?  Well first and foremost, THIS IS A BUSINESS.  We are here to generate revenue.  You want to drink wine?  Great, check out this ENTIRE list of beverages, wine included that I have here.  Yes, I even have desserts for you to purchase as well.  That is what we do here in this business, sell food and beverages.  So yes please, bring your own if you like, we are just going to charge you a small fee for it.

Some of you may feel that that was a lot, some may agree, and some may have more questions or comments.  Please let me know!  Drop a comment, DM me on IG, whatever, I love a good conversation.

Now, because I am a fair person, here is what we restaurant guests are tipping you for.  You know, so you can make your money, pay your bills, pay for school to become a doctor, whatever it is you are working for/towards.

Let me lead with this, good help is hard to find!  Having been in this industry for over 25 years, I have seen and heard it all. Believe me when I say, we appreciate those of you who work hard and work to perfect your craft.  You all are amazing.

Now to the grumpy asshole bartender that is mad at me for asking him to do his job.  THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE HERE FOR.  No, I have not heard of that beer before, why is it an issue for me to ask you about it?  Don’t you want me to know what I am drinking?  Or would you prefer that I just order it, drink 1/4 of it, tell you its nasty and I don’t like it, can you pour me something else? Side note:  to the guy that asks to “sample” 8 of the 10 beers I have on tap, you are just being greedy, and a jerk.  Seriously though, with all of the beers, wines, and new spirits coming out what seems like daily, I just want a little information to make an informed decision.  You can go back to watching tv, playing on your phone, or flirting with the hostess shortly.

Servers are the PETTIEST creatures I have ever met in my entire life.  You are mad if it is too slow.  You are mad if it is too busy.  The other server has more covers (guests) than I do.  Why did you just double seat me?  These people are seriously never happy.  Look, I just want to come in and eat a nice meal, have a drink or 5, not have to wait forever to get served, and leave in a timely fashion.  I promise I did not come in to you ruin your day,and then pay for it.  If you are truly that unhappy with your job, go find a new one!  There a million new restaurants opening every day.  I am sure one of them would like to have you.

I am actually feeling myself get mad as I write this, lol, so I am just going to end this littelerant here.  If you have more thoughts, feel I left something out, or want to add, please let me know!  I would love to hear form you

Sunday Dinner: Valentines Day

First off, I would like to welcome you to my weekly “Sunday Dinner” blog!  So what exactly IS “Sunday Dinner”?  Sunday Dinner is going to be  place where we can talk, share ideas, ask and answer questions, and just enjoy.  I’ll also be sharing a lot of personal stories here as well so that you all can get to know me a little better outside of some of the places you have seen me before.   And of course there will be recipes to try as well.  Growing up, my family had a sit down family dinner every night.  Once I reached high school, and then my younger brother the following year, those dinners did not happen as much.  Being involved in sports, and other activities, it just didn’t happen.  Sundays however, we had those dinners.  It was a time, like I’m sure for most families, to sit down, talk, catch up, and just get ready for the next week.  I have always said that food brings everyone together.  Even when those conversations about touchy subjects get heated, when the food is good, a lot of the non-sense can be put to rest, at least while the food is still there!  So that is why I choose to call this blog “Sunday Dinner”.  The week we are talking Valentines Day.

Tonight’s Menu (Recipes to follow at the bottom):

Surf & Turf (Filet Mignon & Lobster Tail

Italian (or Tuscan) Kale

Polenta Cake with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

This was the first Valentine’s Day dinner (and possibly REAL meal) that I cooked for my wife Candiace.  We had not been dating long at the time, and I really had a love/hate relationship with this day anyway.  Working for over 0 years in the restaurant & hospitality industry, Valentine’s is one of the busiest days of the year, so I always found myself working.  This year was no exception, as it fell n a Sunday, so I had a random Friday night off, and that was when we decided to celebrate!


Apparently I deleted the original picture form my phone, so you all get this lovely IG post picture!  Not my best “plating’ work, but you get the gist of it.

I used to be a BIG fan of Valentine’s Day.  I would buy lots of gifts, plan the whole day, and really go all out.  Unfortunately, a woman who shall remain nameless, ruined it all.  After we broke up, I hated it, I became a very selfish person, the romantic in me had left the building.  There were no more random flower purchases, date nights, celebrating Valentine’s Day, NOTHING.  This is definitely one of the many reasons that my first marriage ended up not working out.  It really took a long time for me to find that part of me again.  I definitely did not find it on my own though.  Candiace played a huge roll in that.  Just getting to know her in the first few months of our relationship, she was slowly opening me up.  I think it takes a really special person to see your flaws and faults, and understand them, and understand you, and STILL accept all of that and want to help you grow, not only in your relationship, but as a person as well.  She was bringing the fire back to me for sure.  Now, I still do not bu random flowers, mostly because they end up dying anyway and just feel that it is a waste of money.  Luckily for me, she is “mostly” ok with that, even though she still hints at it from time to time.  Every now and then I buy some, but those usually end up being for her birthday or anniversary.

Ok, that’s enough of the mushy stuff.  Here are my “tips” for a great Valentine’s Day:

  • STAY HOME, either order in or cook a special meal.  There are too many distractions when you are out and about.  Go out to dinner another night!  Side Note: if you do not have a designated “date night”….MAKE ONE
  • Make sure you have your favorite his & hers beverages to enjoy before, during, & after dinner
  • PUT THE PHONES AWAY, these are just a distraction, and the day IS about love and each other, so keep it that way
  • Actually talk to each other, not about “how was your day”, but meaningful conversation
  • Enjoy the alone time with each other!!

Now, if you have kids, I understand this is tough to do.  The real key is to just get some quality time alone without the distractions.  Hope you all enjoy your Valentine’s however it is that you choose to.  Now go check out the recipes below, and don’t forget to send me any questions, comments, topics for our next Sunday Dinner!


Valentine’sDay Menu























Yelp’s Grand Experiment

Yelpers got the chance to learn a thing or two about mixology at Trademark Drink + Eat with Chris Bassett himself. The yelpers were challenged to create the best cocktail out of the bunch, which would go on to be featured as a specialty cocktail on Trademark Drink + Eat‘s menu during restaurant week. Learn more about the grand experiment here.