Hi Salty. I’ve been friends with three women since childhood, and we’ll be friends forever. We try to meet once a week to catch up, and make an attempt to explore a new restaurant. But one of my friends, I’ll call her “Emily,” is the furthest thing from an adventurous eater, while the other three of us are.
In fact in the last few months, she’s been pushing back against our suggestion of trying some off-the-beaten-path places. Begrudgingly, Emily would tag along, and she’d always order a bland appetizer. We still have a fun time, but it does change the vibe of our outings. It’s to the point where the other three of us are considering secretly going out to those adventurous restaurants we’re dying to try.
We value Emily as a friend, and we don’t want her to feel out-of-place at a restaurant the others like. What to do?
This is one of those Salty questions that I feel like points to issues bigger than restaurants. Basically, that there are people in the world who feel like everything revolves around them, and have a hard time seeing things from the other perspective. Is Emily an only child? Just a hunch.
I remember when I was temping back in my pre-diner days, and some girls at the office and I were heading to lunch, craving the Friday margarita special (it was a really boring office). On the way out, we ran into our own Emily, who asked where we were going and if she could tag along. What were we gonna say, no? When we told her, she immediately squirmed, “Oh, I just had Mexican yesterday. Could we go somewhere else?” Essentially, she invited herself to join our plans, then wanted to change them! Fortunately I was salty even back then, and firmly told her, “No, we’ve decided on this restaurant. If you don’t want to come with, then maybe next time.”
You seem to want to maintain a relationship with your Emily (friends from childhood can be extremely valuable, I get it), and apparently she has other fine qualities, so I’ll take your word for it. So, we have a few issues here. Not that it’s your job to try to open a grown adult’s mind about food, but have you ever encouraged her to try one of the dishes that’s a non-appetizer but still relatively mild? If she’s wiling to get a bit more adventurous, your problem is solved.
If she’s not, though, your problem remains, and thy name is Emily. You may have to play a little hardball here, I’m afraid. The next time you’re out, go ahead and pick one of those adventurous restaurants. When she squawks, you can suggest, “Oh, I’m sorry you’re not into that idea, Emily. Why don’t we have an early dinner and meet you for drinks afterward? We certainly don’t want you to have to eat food you’re not into, and the rest of us are really excited about it.” That way, you’re (hopefully) making it seem like you’re trying to accommodate her, instead of excluding her.
Will she buy it? Maybe. If she presses back, maybe strike a new deal: Everyone in your restaurant group gets to pick the place on a rotating basis. Of course, that may mean that you’re destined for a plate of potato skins, but hey, I never turn down a Red Lobster dinner.
Another option: What if you change your restaurant group to a drinking club, checking out new breweries or wineries every month? Or start a book club instead? Or even a regular Real Housewives viewing? With your social obligation bases covered, hopefully you can then tell Emily, “Oh, Marcia and Jan and I checked out that new Cuban restaurant last week. Wanna join?”
Yes, there are still possibilities for hurt feelings (please refrain from IG posts featuring your pals and their empanadas with the hashtag #bestfriendsforever). That’s unfortunate, but in the larger scheme of things, I don’t see why you and your friends have to deprive yourselves of the food you want to try just because of one person’s opinion. Like I said, that’s really on her and people too short-sighted to see how they’re inconveniencing others, and not on you.
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