Tag Archives: how to dine out

Etiquette for Restaurants: Part 2

This is part two of the basic etiquette for restaurant dates. It began with a rant here, and continued with part one here.

First, a couple addendums raised in part one’s comments:

A. As mentioned by an anonymous commenter after the first posting, if you’re picking your date up, do not call her and tell her to be outside. Do not honk. Do not wait in the car. Go the hell in and get her. Yes, it’s nice to bring flowers if you want to, but try to avoid the clichéd dozen roses, and do not bring carnations. A single rose, or gerbera, or orchid, whatever, is always a nice touch. I could be wrong on this, but I feel corsages are dated and behind the times, and often plain unpractical. I’d stick with flowers for the table. What’s more, if it’s a nice date, she’ll enjoy the flowers more the next day.

B. It’s totally cool and actually good to help a date with a coat. Help take it off, help her get it on. It’s just a nice touch. Unnecessary, but certainly nice. Hand it to the waiter or give it to her to put on the back of her chair, if coatcheck isn’t an option.

Back to bizness. You’ve got wine, you’ve got food, and now you’re dining.

1. How you eat is important. Eat small bites. Use cutlery as much as possible. Cut your food precisely and delicately while being relatively strong and assertive about it. (Press harder with your knife, do controlled movements.) Try to not make noises with the cutlery or against the china. If you’re responding to her question or statement as you cut, make sure you at least glance up to make eye-contact as you’re talking. Always, always show you’re aware she’s present when you’re speaking. And hello? Small bites, please? Chew? With your mouth closed. Do not speak with food in your mouth. Remember in grade two when they said to chew every bite 17 times? Please do that on dates. BONUS: It will reduce the chance you’ll get gas later!

2. If you want a refill of coffee or something, inch the drinking vessel nearer to the edge of the table closest to where the waiting staff will pass it by. An industry professional knows this is the sign for a refill, so you shouldn’t need to shout for them.

3. Never take the last roll, butter, or bit of wine without asking her if she’d like it first. She’ll almost always say no (it’s a date thing) and give it to you, but give her the chance to do so. If she offers to split it with you, say no if you just can’t handle more, & say something like “I’d love to, but I’m set to burst.” Sharing’s nice though. It’s sexy and intimate, and feel free to take her up on the offer.

4. Tear off bits of bread as opposed to gnoshing on an entire piece. Tear it over the plate, so the crumbs don’t pile up on the tablecloth. Butter it as you go to prevent yourself from getting thumbs into greasy badness. If you’re dipping in oil and vinegar, please, don’t double dip, tear bite-size pieces for dipping.

5. If you’re still eating your meal, you rest your knife and fork at 4:00 and 8:00 on your plate, respectively, between bites. Don’t hold your cutlery through the whole meal. Keeping it in your hand all the time – especially for women – tends to look aggressive. Take moments where you focus on your companion. (Goes for both sexes.) When you’re finished and want them to take it away, you set your knives, forks, and spoons used thus far at the 5:00 position.

6. If your server is stupid and tries to take your plate before your companion has finished, then they have clearly missed the basic training course. Tell them you’re not through, and gesture at your companion’s plate. If they succeed and take the plate away, she’ll be left feeling awkward eating in front of you. This goes both ways, so be a man and say something.

7. If she’s getting up to go to the bathroom – it’s not necessary, but it’s extra special classy and will probably get a small grin from her as she walks away from you – you can always push your chair back and stand as she leaves the table. When she returns, you can stand upon her arrival, wait for her to sit, then give her the napkin, or better yet, lay it on her lap. (You can be sexy about it and “accidentally” brush a finger down her thigh as you return to your seat, departing-like.) As I say, this is a real throwback, and is probably a little over the top for most evenings, but if you’re having a more special dinner experience in celebration of something, then yes, go ahead. It’s quite formal.

8. After dinner, your napkin gets folded (casually, in a tidy bunch, whatever, just not tossed down in a heap) and placed BESIDE the plate, not on it.

9. Paying! All the guys want to know this. Going Dutch is fine, but really, if you make more than her – she’s a student, you’re working in an office – then it ought to be on you. If you asked her out and chose the location, then it ought to be on you. If she asked you out, then it should rightly be dutch, unless she’s making your salary look comical. But if you want to feel like your balls are intact at the evening’s end, you probably shouldn’t let her pay, not entirely, but that’s your call. Some women will judge you for not paying. You know I’m right, as much as it galls you. A good move is always to pay, especially if you like her, and playfully ask if she takes trades for a home cooked meal, or tell her she can get coffees later or something. (If she balks at paying anything ever, then she’s a money-hungry minx and you need to be wary, in my humble opinion. Anytime a woman or man feels entitled to something, it’s time to be wary. Me, I like a man to pay, but I’ll always insist next time I do some cooking, and the way I cook, it’s a win.)

10. If it’s old-school car locks and we’re driving for the night and we let you into the car first, lean over and open our lock and let us in. Women, if a guy lets you in first, you don’t have to lean over and let him in, but it’s the kind of small gesture a guy really digs. Ever seen that old Cameron Crowe film Singles, when Keira Sedgwick lets Cameron Scott into his car? He’s bowled right over and is in love from then on. It shows you can not only graciously accept his chivalry, but that you’re woman enough to not feel threatened by reciprocating. Me, I’d always let the guy in. It’s just the right way to act. [Ed. Note: Do people even have these locks anymore? Lots has changed in the four years since this first was posted!]

11. When you’re dropping her off, and this is for anyone dropping a woman off – date or not – always, always wait until she’s gotten inside before you drive away. It’s a sign that you’re concerned about her safety, and honestly, our entrances aren’t always as safe as we’d like.

12. Not related to restaurants, but time to be said. Can we, for once and for all, move past the “don’t call the next day” bullshit? Call. Tell us it was a good time. Even easier and just as good, in the age of email, send her a quick note. “Wow. I had a great time. I’ll call you later in the week. Looking forwards to more with you.” That’s it. “Ooh,” we’ll think, “a guy who doesn’t play games.” You’ll get laid sooner, you know. Drop the bullshit head games. Keep it casual, light, and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Call her later in the week, don’t mention a specific day, but you’ve bought yourself time now. Just a note! A text! A quick email! It’s a lovely way to play.

If there are other dating scenarios you want the etiquette for, let me know via comments or emails. Happy dining this weekend, kids.

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. ;)

The Modern Man (& Woman) & Manners

A reader wrote me recently to say that I need to comment more about the modern man’s condition. We both agree that men are caught between what they want to be and what they think they have to be, so they’re essentially lost.

In not so many words, I’ve recently alluded in an email with him that I feel the modern man is some kind of throwback to a troubled Winslow Homer painting, a boat being tossed about a churning sea, straight out of Good Will Hunting. Any port in the storm, boy.

Let it be said: I hate the divide between the sexes as it presently exists. I hate what this so-called “feminism” has done to the modern guy, but I wouldn’t give up any of the advances my sex has made, and I feel there is more for us to achieve, too, but without continuing to erode masculinity. That’s a bigger topic, that’s a fucking book, for god’s sake. We’re not going there. Yet.

That said, there’s absolutely no reason we can’t have old style manners and charm and etiquette make a comeback while we’re striving to find both genders’ new identities.

I hate that etiquette is a thing of the past. I hate that chivalry is practiced almost apologetically. I hate that the black-and-white movies seem to be more an anthropological reminiscence than a cultural record.

“And exhibited here in this celluloid document is the now-extinct Homo Erectus, a classical beast with style and grace not seen in today’s beaten, confused specimens. Note the confidence in the gaze, the subtle mannerisms of gesture, the attentiveness shown with a slight tone of deference yet dominance toward the female of the species. See the strength and prowess he exhibits in stride. The species was noted to have danced precipitously on the edge of extinction in about 1965, as seeming collateral damage in the Battle of the Sexes. Fortunately, the species has held on, if even barely so. Scientists today are working with remnant DNA in an attempt to create a hybrid of the Homo Erectus Pastus and the Homo Erectus Presentus for a species to be dubbed Homo Erectus Potentius.

Someone somewhere got everyone drinkin’ the Kool-Aid that somehow being polite to women meant you were disrespecting them. This is the most ludicrous bit of irony to ever be swallowed by the masses. By demonstrating respect, you are disrespecting. Say what?

And the funny thing, chivalry went out the window, and since then, everyone’s forgotten what the hell manners are. Look around you! We’re ruder than we’ve ever been. Road rage, aggression, never looking passers-by in the eye, never saying hello, yammering on your fucking cellphone as some person assists you at a counter, not reserving in advance for parties – fewer people than ever understand basic manners at all.

Being well-mannered isn’t just for patsies, man. It’s necessary for the human condition.

We’re a tribe, people. We need to get along. We need respect. We need a code. It gets us through.

I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve declined dates based on manners. I don’t associate with people who lack them. It’s unpleasant and uncouth. Behaviour is the best bit of evidence anyone has as to the kind of person you are. What does yours say about you? Your body language, the way you carry yourself, the way you defer to others, speaks volumes louder than your words. How’s your posture? Do you speak clearly? Do you make eye contact? Do you know the proper way to shake hands?

Men and women today both need to learn better manners. Women need to be gracious and accept a door being held open for them, and they need to return the favour. The only way men will feel welcomed to begin being gracious to us like in the old days is if we reciprocate and we say thank you. There’s no damned reason we ought to feel threatened by chivalry. If so, what the hell does that say about the woman? She’s too insecure to allow for assistance? Pfft.

I practice what I preach. I thank men for holding the door open, I smile. I’ll pick something up for a guy if he drops it. What’s the problem? When did it become a competition? It’s like we’re waiting to see who’ll crack first.

My manners make my life more pleasant. Sure, when I say thank you or have a nice day or make small talk, half the time I get looked at like I’m some homeless bitch begging for a crack fix, and the rest of the time I get these warm, grateful smiles that I’m bringing some old-style charm back into the mix. I make a friend for two minutes and I wander on.

And I don’t care what the world expects, I know what I expect, and furthermore, what I demand. I don’t compromise my standards just because the world’s too fucking stupid to adopt them. And you know what? I’m part of a growing minority. But where do you stand?

So, here’s the deal. This stuff may seem mundane and stupid, but manners count. If you’re on the rise professionally, if you work with the public, if you’re trying to woo a woman just outside of your class, what have you, then you need to know this.

This is my introduction to what’ll be a truncated guide on basic etiquette for dinner dates and such. Some of this is perceived as old-fashioned, out-of-style, and that pisses me off! Gah! That’s so stupid I can’t even see straight, man!

It’s like these people who go to expensive restaurants wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Can’t some things be left exclusive? Sigh. Nothing is special anymore. Jesus.

These will be the kinda things I want my men doing. I’ve been turned off just by a guy who left his napkin on the table during a meal. I’m a hard-ass, but then you’re learning from the right chick, aren’t you? And you know I’m more fun to party with than Miss Manners, so, don’t think this makes you out-of-date.

This will make you retro cool. It’ll give you a classy mystique the other dicks you know don’t have. In the future, I’ll be returning to this topic of the modern man and how he can better find his place in today’s world with today’s woman. The sensitivity post of last Saturday was only the tip of this large iceberg.

Oh, and if you’re thinking, “What’s this got to do with sex?” Well, it’ll teach you how to say pretty-please, for starters, and it’ll get you to the end of the date in one piece. We’ll get to that part another time. It’s a big fucking topic.

Those tips start tomorrow. It may be two more postings. (On restaurant etiquette for men, primarily, with some tips for women thrown in.)