Restaurant chefs, along with their mastery of recipes and cooking techniques, know something perhaps even more important: the ingredients of a true kitchen nightmare. Yes, many chefs have a bit of a Gordon Ramsay in them and know what will scare diners away from an eatery - and it's not always substandard food. What are the red flags that mark a restaurant for a less-than-stellar review? Chefs (and a few other restaurant workers) took to Reddit to share the warning signs that might make you search elsewhere for a place to spend your dining dollars.
Some of the answers might surprise you. Dirty bathrooms and bad service are obvious omens, but have you looked up at the ceiling, or considered the carpet? And how big is the menu?
Whether you're at one of the top-ranked restaurants in the country, a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood spot, or the place with a five-star review from Yelp or a critic, consider heeding chefs' insider advice the next time you belly up for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner.
When Your Meal Arrives Too Quickly
From Redditor /u/marahsnai:
If you order a meal that should take a long time to cook and it comes out very quickly, it’s been precooked...
This applies mostly to quiet nights. If it’s quiet and comes out immediately it’s just been sitting there. But if it’s busy, there’s enough turnover that it’s likely all right and chefs are just being prepared.
When There's A Multi-Page Menu
From Redditor /u/fancyfrenchtoilet:
If a restaurant has a one-page menu, that's usually a pretty good sign. It means their line cooks have become specialists and can usually nail all the dishes listed.
Conversely, if a restaurant has a giant, multi-page menu, that's a gigantic red flag. The longer the menu, the better the odds you're paying to eat a boiled-bag frozen meal.
When There's A Buffet
From Redditor /u/contrabardus:
Buffets are disgusting. Don't eat at buffets. Yeah, it's cheap, and often a "good deal" That "all you can eat" thing sure sounds appealing.
No matter how well managed a buffet is, it can never be sanitary. It is not reasonably possible to run a sanitary buffet business. This is true of salad bars, hot bars, desert bars, or whatever other kind of bulk food in a trough they are serving you.
You are relying on the sanitation habits of the general public... and underpaid employees who wear plastic gloves, had to watch a video about food safety once, and get told to wash their hands by an assistant manager every few days or so.
That oblivious 80-year-old... took a pair of tongs from the fried fish and used it to grab the piece of rotisserie chicken, green beans, three raw oysters, the pile of roast beef, and the pizza slice on his plate before putting it back in the pan where he found it, and none of the employees noticed.
Ignoring several easily visible signs that instruct customers not to reuse plates, some... lady decided she didn't want that piece of fried fish she took and put on the plate she reused for several trips to the food trough, and put it back in the pan on the bar again. No employees saw this happen.
That 8- to 10-year-old kid wiping his... nose into the sleeve of his shirt? He has been coughing into his unwashed hands all day and touched every utensil in every pan on every bar while trying to figure out what he might want before ultimately deciding on his third identical plate full of mac and cheese, spaghetti, a single chicken tender, and a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies.
That 6- to 7-year-old sucking on their own fingers and picking their nose at the same time? Yeah, the little germ ninja went up to the bar by themselves, avoiding the gaze of any employee and unattended by any adult, and just grabbed fistfuls of whatever is on their plate...
"I didn't pee on my hands, so I don't need to wash them": 60% of adult males and 95% of young boys.
You don't want to eat at a buffet. It's one of those things that seems like a good idea until you actually think about it. When you do, it just gets less and less appealing.
I have no idea how buffets are even legal in this country. Everything about them is a sanitation red flag.
When A Lot Of 'Specials' Are Available
From Redditor /u/Tickle_bottom:
Businesses with a bunch of signs/specials out front. "Lunch special: 4.99$!" "Free appetizer from 5-8 pm 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.