Order like a restaurant critic with tips from Clark County food writer

After writing about food for six years, I developed a method for knowing what to order in a restaurant. Like any system imagined by a human being, it is not infallible but often effective. After years of pandemic-era takeout, dining at a restaurant is a special event with anticipation. Different groups or occasions call for special venues – a girls’ night out, a romantic dinner or a family party. To make sure everything goes smoothly, it’s good to plan ahead and peruse the menu carefully when you arrive.

Research before dinner

Researching a restaurant before you go increases the chances that you will have a good dining experience. If you know what type of food you want, you can search the internet for trade names. For example, search for “nearby seafood restaurants” or “nearby cocktail bars.” Then search for the name of the restaurant and see what pops up. Professional advice can be helpful.

Yelp is less reliable but nonetheless useful. People who review restaurants on Yelp either love a place like it’s the best thing that ever happened to eat or hate it and write nitpicky paragraphs lambasting the servers and owner. Negative Yelpers seem to collect all their disappointments in life and focus that rage on one business. For example, a search for a local taco yielded both a five-star review and a one-star review. The complaint? Burrito juice dripped onto the examiner’s pants, shirt, and car upholstery. I don’t know what a lack of skill in burrito eating has to do with food quality, but that’s how Yelp rolls.

Photos on Yelp are more reliable. These aren’t great photos taken by a professional photographer employed by the restaurant or photos from an Instagram influencer who may have been paid for praising the business. These are photos taken by regular customers that show the good, the bad and the unsightly. Weird lighting can lead to photos of food with weird, unappetizing colors, but if someone finds a cockroach in their food or a dirty bathroom, that’s telling. To get an idea of ​​how clean a restaurant is, you can also view Clark County Public Health Inspections online at clark.wa.gov/public-health/restaurant-inspection.

If anyone in your party has any dietary restrictions or preferences, check the menu online to see if there’s anything substantial to eat. I had been a vegetarian for many years, and I was tired of eating sad salads with a plate of fries with my beer. If there’s nothing good on the menu, call the restaurant and see if they can put together something that’s satisfying and meets any dietary restrictions or preferences. If there is nothing for the person to eat, try another place. Some restaurants use symbols on their menu to let diners know which dishes are vegan or gluten-free. This shows that they are interested in preparing food for special diets.

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Sandy A. Greer