Etiquette for Restaurants: Part 1

This is part one of two for restaurant etiquette. It was preluded with a rant yesterday. Yes, I’ll answer questions about going dutch, etc, but that’s next time. Tried to put this in the order it transpires on a date, but I’m sick and my head’s fuzzy.

I have had men saying women don’t respond to chivalry, and the chicks are just confused. I’ll write something about that in the next week or so, since it’s an important part of this topic, and maybe I’ll try to wrap my head around why that’s still happening and how to defuse it.

Anyhow, this is largely addressed at men, but there are women-related comments throughout, and a lot of it is knowledge both sexes ought to have about the dining scene.

Feel free to make comments about other areas of dining dates you’re not sure about how to behave during, and I’ll amend my part two posting if anything’s missing. Thanks!

Another thing? If you’re under the delusion that “manners” & “etiquette” mean the same thing, not true. Etiquette is about behaviour, social conventions, and even tradition. Manners have far less scope. This is Etiquette 101.

1. If you’re picking her up at her place and you’re seeing her pad for the first time, then find something positive to say about it. If you honestly love it, then flatter her tastes, tell her it’s very revealing. If it’s pretty uninspired, find a photo of her or something you can relate to. “Hey, I read that book. What’d you think?” Or “That’s a great photo of you. Was that in college?” Be interested. If you want us to care about sleeping with you, kissing you, or even just being with you, then be very, very interested in us. Women are like houseplants – give us a little attention, and watch us thrive. This’ll help you break the ice and give you a conversational direction to head in. It’s helpful on many levels.

2. Hold the door open. If I reach it first, I’ll hold it open for you – as any person ought to do for another. (Hear me, women?) When you’re holding it, look me in my eye. Don’t look at the ground like you’re sorry to be old-fashioned. Be proud, god damn it, and look at me as if I should know it’s that you respect me that’s spurring you to do it. It’s the kind of sexy thing Bogart would do. Be like Bogey. Smile, even.

3. Do I need to say this? Turn off your damned cell phone. Do not text message. Do not talk. Do not even acknowledge the thing in her presence. If it rings and is audible, shame on you. And women? Double for you! Jesus Christ, people. Put the fucking phones away on dates. I always do. Can we for five minutes pretend to be rapt in attention of those whose presences we’re in? Is it so hard?

4. When you’re seated at the restaurant, if the waiter doesn’t do it for you, put your napkin on your lap immediately. This signifies that you have class and upbringing. It also tells the service that they’re dealing with a well-trained patron, and they will give you better service (most of the time) if they see you know how to behave in such an environment. Believe it or not, I’ve read stories where waiting staff confess that a patron’s tendency to put their napkin on their lap influences whether the waiter thinks a good tip is coming or not — and you know what that conclusion means.

5. Your order will never get taken if you have your menu open. When she’s done and has decided and has closed her menu, casually pick it up and place it atop yours, the edge of them protruding slightly off the table, so the staff see you’re ready to order. Well-trained waiting staff understand this to mean “take our order, please.”

6. It’s all right to order for your date. It’s sexy. Don’t be a pompous ass and do it without her approval or input, though. Ask her what she’s leaning towards, and then casually mention that you’ll be happy to place the order for you both. If she smiles, you’re on. If you’re doing the ordering after she’s consented and the waiter asks you what you’ll be having, look him in the eye, then meet your date’s eyes, nod at her and smile, and look back at the waiter and state simply that your companion is having X, and you’ll be having Y. There are reasons she would decline you ordering for her, particularly if she’s a Meg Ryan type from When Harry Met Sally. I’ll have the dressing on the side, and your face in my lap, thank you.

7. Don’t order your drinks without asking the woman what she wants, either. Women know more about wine and drinks than they ever have, and you need to respect that. Ask her what she’d like. When the waiter comes over with a wine that you’ve mutually selected and you know your date knows wine, if the waiter extends the cork for you to inspect and pours a taster’s sample, tell him you’re deferring to the lady. Let her make the call. It’s sexy and shows you’re confident in yourself, and that you trust her judgment, and you don’t feel threatened. Hold her gaze as she sniffs the wine, tastes, and gives her verdict. Nod in agreement to whatever she says. Taste the wine, and hopefully you agree with her verdict. If you don’t, just keep quiet. Taste is subjective, and if you disagree, such is life. Next time, you can just make the move to order some for yourself. Or, you can cover your ass and ask the waiter to recommend something that complements both your meals. (Obviously, if the wine’s turned bad, it goes back.) And, DUDE, sniff your wine, not the cork. You sniff the cork, you’re smelling cork, not wine. Duh.

8. If you’re pouring the wine, never, ever pour it more than one-third to a half full, depending on glass type/size. Wine drinking is a subtle art, and science proves that 40% of our taste experience comes from our sense of smell. By filling a glass too full, you reduce the amount of aroma that “cups” in the wine, since it’s in swilling the wine around the glass that you cause the smell to rise & improve the taste. You’re throwing out flavour if you have a full glass. It’s uncouth. What’s more, it flies in the face of science!

9. When drinking, always hold your glass by the stem, particularly with white wines (less important with red). The more of your hand to cup the glass, the more heat transfers to the glass, thus elevating the temperature of the wine, thus doing bad things to taste. Common perception is that “room temperature” means whatever the hell the yuppies have their thermostats set to. Um, no, kids. “Room temperature” speaks to an era before central heating, to hundreds of years ago, to the temperature of natural caves and cellars. Somewhere around 14-16 Celsius, maybe 55-65 Fahrenheit. (Bad wine form irks me.)

More tomorrow. Sounds snobby? Hey, I come from relatively low-income heritage — farmers, fishermen, that kind of thing. We never had a lot of money growing up, but my mother taught me that just because I didn’t have money didn’t mean I couldn’t behave like I did. So, yes, class and etiquette instilled from a young age, and I’m grateful for it. It’s taken me far, in some regards, from my roots. Not an entirely bad thing, so long as your memory’s good. ;)