Photo: Malkovstock (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
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, If I order an entree that features meat as a significant portion of the meal, such as pasta with a chicken breast, or a salad with salmon, is it reasonable to ask that they reduce the price of that dish for me? Often the kitchen doesn’t even add extra of the other ingredients to it which would somewhat make it better as I would be getting more of the other ingredients since I didn’t get the meat portion. A lot of times I end up with a salad that costs $18 all because it is supposed to come with salmon.

Thanks,
Kevin

Hi Kevin,

I see where you’re coming from but that’s… not how this works. It’s understandable that you’re bummed to pay $18 for a salad, but restaurant prices aren’t negotiable. Think of the slippery slope—should that salad cost $17 if someone orders it with salmon, but without heirloom tomatoes? How much should my bacon cheeseburger be discounted if I ask them to hold the bacon? Chaos would reign. And I’m not justifying an $18 salad made of iceberg lettuce, but keep in mind that non-meat ingredients can be expensive too—those heirloom tomatoes and local pasture-raised goat cheeses don’t always come cheap.

That doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to overpriced salad, though. You mention that restaurants aren’t adding more of the other ingredients to make up for the lack of meat. Have you tried asking? It can’t hurt to ask whether you could substitute mushrooms or eggplant for the chicken on that pasta, for example. Worst the server could do is say no, and then you’re no harder up than where you started. Best case scenario, they say yes, and it encourages the restaurant to think about putting actual vegetarian options on its menu. Restaurants are generally way happier to honor substitutions than they are to negotiate prices.

Another option is to order two meatless appetizers or sides instead of just one entree, which could give you more bang for your buck: $8 bruschetta + $10 lentil salad sounds more satisfying than $18 worth of greens. Ask that the two plates come out with everyone else’s entrees—that shouldn’t be a big deal. And if you’re disappointed by a restaurant’s refusal to substitute or accommodate these small requests, it’s time to find a new restaurant. These days, even the most podunk of places are putting some meatless dish on the menu.

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Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or just a general question about life we can help you with? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com

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