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20+ Tips From People Who Only Dine at Good Restaurants (Because They Used to Work in the Food Industry)

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According to statistics, restaurants in general become more popular with each passing year. People like to visit them and order take-out. We also like to go out to eat but we want to be sure that we are making the right choice. So, we decided to make note of these life hacks from Reddit users. Chefs and waiters described the signs of a restaurant that no one should ever eat at, including you.

At NY Searchs, we put together a list of tips that you will find really useful if you plan to visit either a small family cafe or a posh restaurant.

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  • Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. This tip works for most seafood. © heroesforsale

  • This approach works for a lot of things as well. If you’re eating in a place that serves meat as its specialty (like an upscale steak house), the same can be applied to their meat. I worked as a server in a place where we were all briefed every night in absolute detail. We had to know where the meat and fish on the menu was from, for the meat — who the farmer was, how many days it was dry aged, and what the particular breed of cow, pig, or lamb it was. It’s a very good sign. This means that the ingredients are of the highest quality, and the restaurant employees are proud of their job. © lunarjam

  • I clean kitchen exhaust systems. If you walk in a restaurant and can smell grease, walk out. That means the place isn’t clean, from the exhaust system to the cooking equipment. We clean some places where grease drips off the hoods onto the cooking surfaces. © FoxZach63

  • I’m a pastry chef. As much as people say avoid specials, I can’t speak for everyone but at least in desserts/breakfast pastries, if you see something new, it’s worth trying. Chances are it’s something the chef has been working on for weeks on their own time, and there’s a lot of love and effort put into it. © robotran

  • I cook for a small Mexican restaurant. I always look at how the staff interacts with each other. If they all seem to enjoy being there, and coordinate well, more often than not it’s because everything is running smoothly and they have a good system. This usually means they know what they’re doing and you can expect good food. That’s how it always is for the smaller, family run restaurants I frequent anyway, which I believe always have the best food. © ruizpancho

  • How does the place actually smell? Does it smell like perfume or too sterile when there is clearly food on the tables? That could be a bad sign that they are trying to hide something less than pleasant. © CrossFox42
  • I’m not a chef... I’m front of the house. When my boss (the owner) used to host and people would complain to her about the hour wait on Saturday night at 7pm and then threaten to leave, she would tell them, “If the restaurant you choose does not have a wait on a Saturday night, you may not want to eat there.” And then turn her biggest grin on them. © newgrl
  • This isn’t so much about sanitary red flags like most of these, but more about saving you money. If you’re going to get sushi rolls, make sure you read the ingredients. I worked at a Japanese restaurant for a while and we had this thing called a Volcano roll and it cost $7.25. A California roll there cost $3.75. The Volcano roll was a California roll cut into the shape of a triangle and topped with spicy mayo that has been heated up, with about $.10 worth of fish, literally just a few bits that were not worth it. I’ve seen this at a couple of other places too where they slightly dress up a California roll and jack up the price. © -eDgAR-

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  • Businesses with a bunch of signs/specials out front. “Lunch special: $4.99!”, “Free appetizer from 5-8pm weekdays!”, “BOGO main course Wednesdays all day!” That kind of thing. It usually means they’re going under and are trying to drum up business. Unless they’re a chain. © Tickle_bottom

  • I’m a Swedish chef. If I’m ordering a piece of meat served with sauce, for example red wine sauce, I always ask for the sauce á par (on the side). Drenching meat in sauces is the number one way to cover up over/under-doneness and if the meat is about to go bad. © skikibobski

  • Stay away from buffet and salad bars. A lot of the time it is the same stuff that just gets refilled over and over. It’s super gross. © hugsfrombugs
  • Don’t order fish on Sundays, most places get their fish deliveries on a Monday and on a Thursday, fish goes bad fairly quickly and on Sundays, it’s really not that great. © thefabulousbomb
  • The first thing they tell you in culinary school when you are learning the basic rules for food safety standards is if you enter a seafood restaurant and smell fish, leave. © XxcontaminatexX
  • I’m in culinary school currently and every single Chef Instructor says the same thing, if a dish is misspelled on the menu, it’s done on purpose, so they don’t have to sell you the real thing. A prime example is “Krab Cakes.” © Splinkyyy
  • If your plate is hot it doesn’t mean your food was microwaved. Every restaurant I’ve worked in has kept their plates in a warming drawer or oven to keep them hot. © Lattes1

  • I look for dust. Dust on the ceiling tiles or in the air conditioning vents. I also have a habit of running my finger along chair frames after I sit down to check for dust. © biology_is_destiny
  • It’s a bad sign if an owner is arguing with a reviewer. I saw an argument on Facebook where a lady complained her chopstick or something was moldy and gave them one star. While it was super unfair to give one star over something they didn’t do, the owner got into it with her and they started fighting. Owners that are willing to yell at people who are spending money in their establishment are likely to treat their staff the same or worse. Meaning their employees are either pissed, or the turnover is high and no one is trained well. © Tickle_bottom
  • This tip works best with smaller places, not big fancy 5 star type things or whatever. Probably works there too, but I never worked at a place like that so I can’t speak for sure on those. Try to get there at shift change and grab a seat as close to the kitchen / door to the kitchen as you can. After they switch over and let the night crew come on or whatever, they probably go to the bar and grab their shift drink. They will be laughing, telling jokes, hugging each other, buying each other shots, etc. Keep going to that restaurant. © Orval

  • I’m a former pizza chef. If the kitchen has large windows you can see into, or open style cooking, it usually means everyone is proud to be on display to the public and that they are not microwaving every meal. We would often joke around with each other and get caught laughing while cooking. Customers loved it. © motomouth3

  • I was a chef for 4 years. Honestly, if you’re ever curious, go hang out near the back door/ trash cans. If it’s a good restaurant, it’ll look like a regular back door trash can area. If it’s somewhere you shouldn’t eat, it’ll look like a disaster zone. Cooks who can’t keep up in the kitchen, can’t keep up with breaking down boxes and taking out garbage, so they just throw stuff outside and deal with it later. Full sized, un-collapsed boxes, garbage bags not in the dumpsters, food waste leaking out of orifices, etc. A messy outdoors is a reflection of a poorly run kitchen indoors. © liberty285code6

  • Those lemon wedges that a lot of restaurants offer for tea and water? Yeah, you don’t want those either. They are probably prepped by servers and not kitchen staff, are likely handled too much, are quite possibly older than they should be, and are likely not really kept at an ideal temperature.© contrabardus

  • I’m not a chef, but I ride motorcycle long distance, so I have some experience. Generally speaking, if there’s a bunch of signs, but it’s a small restaurant, avoid it, unless there are a bunch of cars. Small restaurants with no signs don’t need to advertise. They know their food is good. © PhoenixKnight777
  • There’s an easy way to tell if Mexican food will be good. If the salsa is bad, then the food is likely bad. Mexican places that take pride in their salsa take the same pride in their food. If you get the watery, tomato sauce with chips then more than likely the food will be uninspiring. © aquinasbot

  • I work in a pizza restaurant and we have a Thai chicken pizza with peanut sauce as the base sauce. It’s our least popular pizza and the peanut sauce is almost ALWAYS expired... point being that if there is an item on the menu that has an ingredient you don’t see anywhere else on the menu, it’s a red flag. © landofthebunnies

How do you guess whether a restaurant is worth visiting?

 

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