10 Dining Tips… A.K.A. Things I’ve Learned

Cupcake research is underway.  More details to come!

Cupcake research is underway. More details to come!

Instead of recording yesterday, Tammy and I got busy in our search for Chicago’s best cupcakes, site improvements, and social networking opportunities. Stay tuned for more details, and expect a return to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

In the meantime, here’s a list of my top ten tips for dining out in Chicago in no particular order… tricks-of-the-trade that I’ve learned on our quest to become more seasoned diners:

10. Call ahead. Even if a restaurant doesn’t officially take reservations, some will let you put your name in when you’re on your way there. Shorter wait times are good. When you call, also double check wheelchair accessibility. Just because Metromix says a place is accessible, doesn’t mean it is.

9. Order the staff favorite. If all of the waiters are eating a particular dish, it’s likely the freshest and most flavorful on the menu. Asking a waiter what he really thinks can improve the entire evening!

8. Ask about special discounts. Many Chicago restaurants offer tasting menu and drink deals on weeknights that aren’t well advertised. Expensive menu options can be made affordable.

7. Expand your horizons. Food in the city’s ethnic neighborhoods is almost always 20-times better than what you’ll find at a Gold Coast chain. Period. Something on the menu kind of scare you? Order it! I ordered gizzards once, and Tammy tried them too. I liked them!

6. Plan for the occasion. The type of place you’d want go on a date is likely very different from the place you’d take a party of 30 for a Birthday dinner. Think about what kind of restaurant really fits the bill.

5. Make a change. Don’t eat at the same place every Tuesday night. Spread the wealth, and try the place next door. It’s always worth it.

4. Set dining goals. Trying one new restaurant every month is a good place to start.

3. Get a tip card. It’s not only handy… it’s my favorite accessory.

2. Don’t hesitate to send food back. I’d never done it until recently, and although it is something I don’t enjoy doing, I always have a good reason for it.

1. Be honest. When servers and chefs ask how my meal is, I tell them. I try to be respectful and courteous, but also bluntly honest. That’s because Chicago’s restaurant scene is cutthroat, and I’m not doing anybody any favors by sugar-coating my experience.

  1. Karen B. left a comment on April 28, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Applause all around! What a terrific list. This should be the first chapter in your book on the urban dining experience.

  2. Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet left a comment on May 5, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Great set of tips there. The advice about asking for specials is spot on. Chicago has a ton of great deals that are impossible to find unless you hear of them.
    Really cute site. I’ll look forward to browsing the next time I’m deciding where to go out!

  3. Bridget left a comment on May 6, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Thanks for the comments ladies! Glad you found the tips useful.

  4. Angie left a comment on May 13, 2008 at 11:48 am

    You don’t need a tip card. Look at the total–now move the decimal place one spot to the left. $20.00 becomes $2.00. That is 10% of the total. Now use that to calculate your tip.

  5. Chou left a comment on May 19, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I especially like your suggestion to try new things. It’s a bit scary from time to time, but generally worth it. Great post.

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