When it comes to eating out, it’s a bit tempting to order the cheapest item on the menu. This is practical, sure. But it’s not exactly the smartest thing to do. In fact, when you really come to think about it, it may be smarter to look at the menu and pick the most special thing you find. And no, special doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.
Avoiding the Ordinary
People eat out for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s because they want to celebrate a special occasion. At other times, it because they’re too lazy or too busy to cook their own meals at home. But whether it’s the most convenient option or it’s a special treat that you’re giving yourself, you might as well make the most out of eating out. This begins with the food itself.
Think of it this way. When you’re eating out, you’re paying someone else to prepare your food for you. You’re willing to pay extra because someone else is doing all the preps, the cooking, and even the presentation to make sure that your tummy is happy. Now why would you order something you could prepare yourself, in exactly the same way?
Making the most out of eating out means treating every dining experience as a culinary adventure. There are many restaurants that you can go to, with a variety of cuisines that you can choose from. Pick something out of the ordinary. Pick something you have never tried before, or something you’re sure you can never make at home. This doesn’t mean you have to pick out something expensive, but it does mean you should pick something with a hint of special in it.
Your Money’s Worth
This is not about picking the most complicated item on the menu instead of spaghetti with meatballs. It’s about getting your money’s when you’re eating out. When you order a plate of spaghetti and meatballs (which you could very well prepare for yourself at home), you’re not just paying for the dish itself. You’re paying a premium for the service as well as the ambience that you get in the restaurant. Now if you’re paying premium anyway, you might as well make sure that every dollar is worth it.
And if you’re eating at a really good restaurant with a renowned chef, you should take advantage of this and really make it an experience you’ll never forget.
How to Spot that Little ‘Extra’
Given that a menu has so many items in it, how do you spot that little ‘extra’? How do you know if it’s special and worth trying?
Spot the list of specials.
Restaurants usually have a special spot on their menus reserved for the special items, and this is a good starting point. Otherwise, look around if they have a special board or posters and leaflets that indicate if there’s something new and worth trying. There are also some restaurants that offer a special for the day, an item that you don’t usually find in their regular menu. You could go with this as well.
Look at the ingredients.
Another way to go about it is to spend a few minutes scanning through the ingredients. Many restaurants give you a detailed list of ingredients per dish, and by looking at this list you can more or less see if a certain dish is worth trying or not.
Pick something you can’t pronounce.
If it’s something you’re not familiar with or something you can’t pronounce, it’s probably because it’s a dish from another country. That doesn’t automatically make it the most special thing in the menu, but it guarantees that it’s something that was inspired by some other country’s culinary practices, and that makes it worth trying.
Get the best of both worlds.
There are many restaurants that specialize in fusion dishes, or dishes that mix two distinct cultures. By picking these types of dishes you get the best of both worlds, and you’re more likely to get something that’s not available elsewhere. That’s because this is usually the chef’s own unique interpretation of a certain dish, or a chef’s imagination at play.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s good to do your research beforehand and glance at a restaurant’s menu before you go there, because this will ensure that you don’t waste too much time looking at the menu before eating. It also removes the pressure of picking something fast, way before you could absorb what you’re reading.
Of course, an easier way to do it would be to strike a conversation with your server. Ask what specials they have for the day. You can give him or her an idea of what you want and you can be pointed at the right direction.