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Let the menu be your guide, and always trust your server

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I don’t know what it is about restaurants that makes them difficult for some people. The concept is as old as time itself. You choose food from a list of available foods. The food is prepared for you. The food is delivered to you where you are sitting. You pay for said food. You eat the food.

On most menus, the descriptions of the available foods are pretty concise. Most of the time, even if it is an item familiar to most everyone, the ingredients are listed for those who might otherwise be uninitiated. A club sandwich is pretty basic and might have a variation or two, but a club sandwich is pretty much a club sandwich regardless of the variation. This would prove difficult if you have no clue as to what a club sandwich is. This is where the descriptions on the menu come into play.

This is not a hard concept to grasp. Find something on the menu. Pick it. Eat it.

This is not rocket surgery, folks. People have been doing it for generations. Kids who can’t even read can do it. Point at the big picture of the food and show the server.

Fast-food places don’t even have words on their menu boards any longer. Point at the big picture of the cheeseburger and grunt like a caveman. The person behind the counter knows what you mean.

This does not work with some menus as there are no photographs of the food. You need to know what you are ordering. In some restaurants, such as a French or an Italian restaurant, you might have to be somewhat bilingual when it comes to your food. I’m not 100 percent sure I know what “fra diavolo” means, but I know I had something once that was “fra diavolo” and it wasn’t bad.

I know picky eaters can be stressed at some restaurants. My wife is pretty particular and does not eat anything that would require her to be a little adventurous. As mentioned in this column before, her palate is pretty simple. It makes for a cheap date, but she is happy with her limited diet and we have adjusted.

What I don’t get is a picky eater choosing a complicated entree and removing an ingredient or substituting one until they finally get a dish that resembles nothing like what was featured on the menu in the first place. Imagine one’s surprise when they receive a salmon dish when they started ordering the bacon cheeseburger.

Some folks are simple. I have mentioned my father-n-law’s dislike of cheese in this column. He is not dumb and will not order a cheeseburger and tell the server to remove the cheese. Being a smart man, he would order a hamburger and ask nicely for bacon on it. This way, he can get a “deluxe” burger and not have to worry about a special order. The hamburger is usually cheaper anyway.

My mother-in-law likes vegetables and sometimes will get them instead of fries with something. This isn’t particularly troublesome to a server, because the vegetables are featured as sides. These folks know how it works and they don’t tie up a server’s time with ridiculous requests.

We were traveling this past weekend and we took our younger daughter and her boyfriend out for dinner at a well-known sit-down burger place. We all ordered our food and waited patiently. At an adjacent table, a guy was ordering a big cheeseburger that came with a unique barbecue sauce and caramelized onions on it. It had bacon and a few other things on it as well. It was about a $15 meal.

He asked that it not be on the special bun, but on a regular bun. He wanted ketchup and not the barbecue sauce and he didn’t want the onions, but wanted lettuce and tomato. When the server tried explaining to him he had just ordered the basic cheeseburger that was $4 cheaper, he was insistent that he wanted this one and he wanted it the way he wanted it.

The server was trying to save this guy a few dollars and the guy just wasn’t having it. The server explained he could get the cheaper burger with the special cheese on it from the expensive burger at no extra charge, but the guy again insisted that he wanted the expensive burger. My brain hurt.

The server shook her head and ordered the guy the expensive burger. I don’t know if the guy ever caught on that he was spending more money than he really should have.

When I got our check, I noted that it was wrong. The server didn’t charge me the correct amount for my burger. It was about $2 less. I asked the server why, as I am an honest guy and didn’t want the server to pay for the error at the end of her shift. She looked at me and smiled.

“I tried to tell that guy he was paying too much for what he wanted and tried to save him a couple of dollars.” she said, “I figured if he didn’t want the discount, I’d give it to someone.”

I smiled and thanked her. When I paid the check, I added an extra $2 to the tip.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.

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