Eating out is one of the finest pleasures that can make the challenges of life more bearable. However, there are still some hurdles you might face when going to a restaurant.
Several factors can make or break the experience. Even the menu can be a minefield you need to navigate carefully.
Think about it: You just took a seat at the Doors Freestyle Grill in Dubai and was handed the menu. Upon opening, you zero in on the perfect main course and decide to order it.
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But as you’re about to call for the server, you see another enticing prospect for the main course from the corner of your eye. Now you’re not so sure.
And that’s just for the main course.
Imagining just how many appetizers, beverages, and dessert options are available could leave one overwhelmed.
This scenario illustrates how difficult it can be to pick the perfect food, especially if you don’t have a clue what you’re in the mood for. Of course, ordering everything on the menu isn’t always the best solution.
To help you out, this article compiles seven useful tips to help you decide what to order if you’re torn between different dishes or have no idea what you want to eat.
1. Go with the theme
When dining out without any inkling as to what to order, one of the safest courses of action is to stick to the theme of the establishment you’re at.
In short, eat sushi when you’re in a sushi bar. Order steak in a steakhouse.
Many restaurants have a specialty that is immediately apparent the moment you enter. Stick to those items, and you can narrow down your options significantly.
2. Follow your gut
The only issue with the first tip is that sometimes restaurants specialize in several food items. Going back to the example in the intro, Doors Freestyle Grill has a wide range of steak and seafood menu. This can make it difficult to choose dishes based on a theme.
Lucky for you, there are more useful tips you can try, like this second one that recommends following your gut — both literally and figuratively.
Allow yourself to gravitate towards certain dishes on the menu. This is where pictures become useful. Go with those that catch your eye instantly.
You can also look for the ingredients you love. For example, if you’re a lover of everything that has mustard, you can start by ordering dishes that include this particular ingredient.
3. Ask for the server’s recommendation
Another great idea to narrow down your options is to ask for the server’s recommendation. In short, let those who have more knowledge about the menu pick out something for you.
Remember that servers are your greatest ally when faced with an overwhelming or foreign menu.
A good server will set aside their personal taste to help you discover dishes that will suit your taste. The better the food establishment, the more knowledgeable and helpful the staff are.
Of course, you can help them help you. Offer them something to work with.
Are you looking for something light or something a bit more filling? Do you have any inclination towards a specific cuisine? Are you allergic to or have an innate dislike about certain ingredients?
Answer these questions even before they are asked, and you’re likely to get an excellent recommendation from the server.
4. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous
While often considered the last resort for timid people, going with an adventurous option can yield enjoyable results when eating out.
Start by choosing some challenging dishes that you can share with a companion. These are those that sound challenging to prepare or which may be a stretch from what you would normally eat.
Don’t be afraid to have a gastronomic adventure. Who knows? Maybe that single dish can introduce you to a whole new world of flavors.
5. Consider your health
Some people consider the health factor when dining in a restaurant. This can also help you choose a meal that will tickle your taste buds and leave you fully satisfied at the same time.
For example, if you’re in an Italian restaurant and you find yourself overwhelmed by the choices of pasta, you can narrow down your options by sticking to the healthier versions of it.
Remember that pasta isn’t bad when consumed in moderation, and there are ways you can enjoy it without compromising your health.
Often, restaurants serve about four to five cups of pasta. However, you only need half a cup to fill you up, especially if it’s paired with nutrient-dense side dishes or veggies. If this is the case, split the pasta with a companion.
Besides portioning, some people also consider the gluten content of a dish to determine if it’s a healthier choice or not. However, being gluten-free doesn’t automatically make a dish healthy. The diet trend involving “gluten-free” products is misunderstood, as these dishes have almost the same number of calories as their gluten-rich counterparts.
Instead, consider the number of calories posted on the menu (or ask, if it isn’t indicated). Of course, don’t forget to account for some extra calories to accommodate the 20 percent window of miscalculation.
6. Adjust your pace
Another trick you can try when choosing dishes from an unfamiliar menu is to adjust your pace. Rather than choosing only one dish, order several — though gradually — throughout your meal. This means you can start with a small plate of an appetizer to leave room for pasta, meat, or fish.
You can also do this with a friend or partner who can share different dishes with you. This way, you can expand your capacity to taste more recipes and get a sense of every part of the menu before you’re full.
7. Be on the lookout for relationships
In some menus, you’ll find signs of a partnership between food establishments and local produce suppliers. Be on the lookout for these relationships by searching for items named after a specific place or farm.
This means that the dish represents something more than profit. It reflects that that particular dish has something the restaurant would gladly highlight and that there’s something good about that specific menu item that the establishment is proud of.
Time to Order
Choosing what to order from an unfamiliar or overwhelmingly foreign menu greatly affects your entire dining experience.
When in doubt, consider the tips listed in this article and order meals that are sure to leave you satisfied.