Hi! I have always wondered what to do if the thing I want has a whimsical or sometimes downright silly name. (For example, I recently found myself talking around ordering an “OMG & T” in a pub.) I feel weird about saying it, but I feel like pointing at a menu and vaguely describing the dish at best makes me look awkward and at worst make me look like I think the server is stupid. Do I grit my teeth and say “I’d like the Yummy Scrummy Chicken”?
I Have Enough Social Anxiety Already
My anxious dear,
If it makes you feel any better (and I sure hope it does), this angst around menus with silly names is usually pretty one-sided. Yes, some restaurants are way too eager to show off their creative genius, and menus can often go overboard naming drinks and entrees with puns and pop culture references and god knows what else. What grown-up wants to go out for a nice meal and be forced to say, “I’ll have the Kale-ing Me Softly salad, please”?
Don’t want to play into their fun and games? Totally fair. Conveniently, a lot of the places with wild names for their entrees tend to have dining rooms that are just as boisterous as the menu; when you’re in a loud, lively restaurant, it’s a great excuse to not shout at your server and instead just point to the menu item and maybe summarize it briefly (“I’ll have this burger right here”). Whimsy defeated. Problem solved.
But sometimes it’s pretty obvious that you just don’t want to be caught saying something utterly humiliating. And you know what? That’s fair, too. You’re a paying customer and that’s not what you came to this restaurant to do. Certain names aren’t just silly; occasionally an overgrown adolescent is tasked with naming the dishes, and the stuff they come up with just can’t be said aloud in polite society. (I’ve seen cocktail names that would make a Sex on the Beach blush.) But whatever the case, the vast majority of servers will understand if you prefer to point. For all they know, you have laryngitis. But more importantly, a good server genuinely wants you to be comfortable and have a good time—after all, their tips depend on it. Whatever ordering method puts you at ease is just fine by them.
But do go ahead and point right at what you’d like, rather than “vaguely describing the dish.” Don’t make this a riddle for your server to solve. Instead, make it a smooth ordering process for both of you. Now, excuse me while I finish this cup of plain old coffee. (Let’s see them get clever with a name for that.)
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