How I Order at a Restaurant Without Screwing It Up

Here’s a normal person’s thought process as they decide what to order at a restaurant:

“Hey, this looks good, I’ll have it!”

Here’s my thought process:

“The grilled cheese sounds good. But if it’s not, I’ll regret not ordering the spaghetti. But if I order the spaghetti, I might wonder if I should’ve gotten the salad. God, I hope I don’t screw this up.” Etc.

Maybe my decision paralysis comes from having too many options, or perhaps it’s because I don’t get many opportunities to eat at a restaurant. Regardless, I invented a sequence of rules for myself:

1. Is this restaurant well-known for a specific dish?

If yes, order it, obviously! If not…

2. Am I dining with a regular?

If yes, ask what their favorite dish is and order it. If not…

3. Is there anything related to Eggs Benedict?

I really like the whole Eggs Benedict family—Eggs Florentine, the one with salmon, you name it—but I am very unlikely to make Hollandaise sauce at home. Like, that’s never happened, ever. So if anything-Benedict is on the menu, I order it, even in non-breakfast situations. If not…

4. Order pescatarian

For about a year and a half, my older son was a vegetarian, and I ate pescatarian in sort-of solidarity. (Pescatarian is like vegetarian, plus fish. I don’t follow it all the time—see rules 1 to 3—but I generally have more energy and feel better about what I eat when I do).

Sometimes I’m still torn about what to order, so…

5. Go with my first instinct

It’s probably what I really want. But sometimes I’m not certain what my first instinct was, so…

6. Ask the server to decide

If I can narrow it down to a couple of options, I’ll often just ask the server to decide. After all, he or she is an expert on the menu. Better still, I won’t regret the decision—it was out of my hands.

I know, I’m insane. If I can’t bring myself to involve the server in my childish games, there is one more option…

7. Game-time decision

Just wing it at the last second. My fellow Time Dork John Zeratsky had the brilliant idea of calling this approach a “Game-time Decision”, which makes it sound like something you can be proud of. Yeah, I may be indecisive… but I’m a pro at it.

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