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The Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.  

Hey Salty, I live in a foodie-friendly city that allows my burger-loving heart (philosophically, not physically) to try out a new burger joint almost every week. I’m not terribly picky, and love trying out specialty burgers. If there’s an item that I’m not super fond of, I’ll usually try it anyway to see if they can change my mind about it. That being said, I do have one consistent request for my burgers and I’m wondering how much I’m getting judged for it, or if it might even be considered rude.

I need my burgers well done. I really do. I don’t have any medical diagnosis requiring this, but any sort of pink grosses me out to the point that I really can’t power through it. Some chefs will cook it medium-well when I ask for well in hopes of convincing me (I think), and it leaves me shamefully eating the outer ring of the burger and leaving the pink center. It’s childish, a bummer for me, and a culinary slight, I know. I just can’t get down with it.

My question is, how grumbly are chefs about requests like this? I don’t insist and I won’t send things back (unless it’s straight-up rare), and typically I even apologize for my choice. Some places even put a disclaimer on their menu stating that the chef isn’t responsible for taste if an item is requested well done, and even then I timidly go ahead and ask that mine be well done anyway. Is this insulting to the chef? If I do get a burger that’s underdone, what are the chances that it’s intentional and not genuine error? Am I a monster?

Sincerely,
Charred

Dear Charred,

I’m gonna go ahead and say this first to save commenters the time: “How can you like burgers if you get them well done?!”

But I’m not here to burger-shame you. You do you, honey. That’s the point of going out to eat, right? I mean, unless you’re sitting down at the chef’s table at some white tablecloth place, you’re in a restaurant to get what you like. So if you like well done charcoal beef briquettes, then that’s what you like.

Just don’t expect the kitchen to be stoked about it. I suspect that when your burger turns out less done than you wanted, it’s not because the cooks are evil and trying to mess with you. It’s probably because they’re used to cooking burgers to medium and so even medium-well looks way “over” to them. And maybe one man’s well done is another man’s medium-well... these aren’t written in stone. The cooks want your burger to taste good, which to them probably means erring on the side of pink-ish.

So yeah, maybe they’re judging you a little bit. But unless the restaurant has some kind of policy against well done burgers, you should order yours the way you want. You’re not a monster—I save that term for my ex-mother-in-law. At worst you have questionable taste in meat temperature, hardly a crime. If your burger comes back with pink in it, you’re within your rights to send it back. It’s easier to cook a burger until it’s more done than it is to take a well-done burger and turn it back to medium-rare, after all.

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But I do wish there was some way I could convince you of the joys of a pink-centered burger. I’ll say a rosary hoping you one day see the light.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

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