Episode 106 • At the Restaurant
À la carte
Send something back
Frank: Hey, I’m so glad you agreed to go on a second date with me.
Mia: Of course! Is this where we’re going?
Frank: Yep. You’ll love it. I’ve heard the food here’s amazing!
Waitress: Hi! Welcome! Is this your first time here?
Waitress: Okay, so my name’s Emily and I’ll be your server for the night. Um, so, everything here is à la carte, and I’ll be happy to make a few suggestions if you want me to.
Frank: Actually, we’ll have one of everything.
Waitress: One of- everything?
Frank: Yes, we’d like to try everything.
Waitress: Okay, no problem. Here’s the wine list. I’m going to bring out the appetizers right away.
Frank: Actually can you bring everything out all at once?
Waitress: Um, okay. Yeah, sure.
Mia: My goodness, you weren’t kidding when you said you were a foodie.
Frank: Yeah, what can I say?
Waitress: Okay, so here are our filet mignon bites and our truffled cheese balls. Then you have our famous spaghetti alfredo and saffron risotto, then our cheese steak and tuna tartare. Enjoy!
Mia: Oh my gosh, this looks amazing. I’m starv-
Frank: I’ve got to take a picture first! I need to post them on my Instagram.
Mia: Oh. Okay. Can I-
Frank: No, I have to edit them first. Here, have some bread.
Frank: And this is the last one. Oh my gosh, look! The cheese balls already got 200 likes. Ready to eat?
Mia: Yes, please.
Frank: Oh no…
Mia: What? What’s wrong?
Frank: They filet mignon bites. They’re not cooked right. And look, the cheese balls aren’t perfectly round. Plus, everything else is cold.
Mia: Yeah, because it took you 30 minutes to post all those pictures.
Frank: I’m sorry. I’m going to have to send them back.
Mia: No, please. I’m starving!
Frank: We can’t eat this… Uhm, excuse me! Emily!
Mia: Fine, pass me the bread…
Lara: I don't know if you've had this experience, guys, but personally, it happens to me all the time when I go out to a restaurant with my sister. She's obsessed with taking pictures of what we eat because she wants to post it on Google. Has that ever happened to you, Mike?
Mike: Oh, yes, definitely. It's like I was telling you off the air, I used to work in restaurants as a server and bartender. I've definitely experienced that on both ends when you're bringing the food to somebody and they're taking pictures, and they're getting mad that your hands and stuff are in the way.
À la carte
'... so, everything here is à la carte...'
• If you can order à la carte, can you order food items separately or not?
Yes, you're ordering food items separately, basically.
• What’s the opposite of ordering à la carte?
Mike: That is ordering probably like in courses or a full course meal we would say.
Lara: Or like a 'set menu' too...
Mike: Yes, like a Tasty Menu.
• Think of the last restaurant you went to. Did you order à la carte?
Mike: Yes, I probably did.
Lara: What was it? What was the last restaurant that you went to?
Mike: Last restaurant that I went to? I haven't gone to a lot of restaurants in the last year because of the pandemic.
Lara: I wonder why... [laughs]
Mike: It's been a lot of ordering to go but typically, I think the last place I went to was actually like a Mexican restaurant and it was like Tapas style. I have this insecurity when I go to restaurants because I've worked in restaurants and I'm always like, "Oh, I hope I'm not ordering something and it's really difficult, or that I'm--" That character I was playing in the little sketch or skit we just did, that was really hard for me because I probably would never behave like that at a restaurant.
'Here’s the wine list.'
• What’s listed on a wine list? Food or drinks?
Lara: Yes, usually it's drinks and it's only wine, right? If it's a wine list. That's what it's there for.
Mike: Bottles, wines by the glass. The wine list is usually a lot more detailed than what's on the regular menu, right?
• Is the wine list included in the menu?
Mike: Usually not.
Lara: Yes, they bring it to you separately. They give it to you separately.
Mike: The last place I worked at it was like a big book.
• Do you always look at the wine list when you go out to eat?
Mike: I typically don't just because I usually drink a beer or something. My wife doesn't drink so I drink in a bottle which is being me indulging myself. [chuckles] It would get awkward probably.
Lara: Whenever they give me the wine list, I don't drink either, I don't like alcohol. I just don't like the taste of it. It's always awkward because I feel like a little kid because whenever they give me the wine list, I look at it and I'm like, "I don't know what to do with it." I don't even pretend to read it because I'm just like, "I'm not interested. Bring me those fries." And that's it. Let's move on to expression number three, appetizers.
'I’m going to bring out the appetizers right away.'
• When are you supposed to eat the appetizers? At the beginning of a meal or at the end?
Mike: At the beginning.
Lara: Yes, right.
Mike: Did I get it right?
Lara: Yes, that was right. [laughs] Before you start eating your main course or whatever.
• What are some of the most typical appetizers in your country?
Mike: Here in the United States, probably the most popular appetizers are like some sort of melting cheese, like a fondue or like an artichoke dip, and mozzarella sticks are also pretty popular, like fried mozzarella.
• Do you often order some appetizers when you go out to eat?
Mike: I often don't. Obviously, it's different if it's like a formal event or if it's a special occasion then maybe it's more like oh, let's start with an appetizer and stuff, but just going out to eat to like actually have food.
'My goodness, you weren’t kidding when you said you were a foodie.'
• Who can be considered a foodie? Someone who works in the food industry or someone who likes food?
Mike: Someone who likes food.
Lara: This person doesn't necessarily have to work in the food industry. They could but it's not a requirement to be a foodie.
• Is a foodie someone who always likes to eat a lot?
Mike: I would say no on that one. You might disagree with me, but I think it's somebody who more likes to show their sophistication and their knowledge of culture on what they--
Lara: It's more about the quality for a foodie as opposed to the quantity. They don't care. They don't want to eat a lot but they want to eat well, that's the main thing for a foodie.
Mike: A stereotypical foodie is like somebody who asks 150 questions about the food and the ingredients and where the food came from, what as far as the source and then probably writes a lot of reviews on like Yelp and other online restaurant review websites and stuff. They probably do what that person does and takes pictures and puts them on Instagram or social media.
Lara: I don't know if it's just me, but whenever I think of a foodie, I associate it with an annoying person. If you're a foodie, good for you, that doesn't mean that you are annoying, but I think it's a little pretentious maybe sometimes. Some foodies can be a little pretentious.
Mike: Yes, with my examples, that's what I was trying to say. I was beating around the bush a little bit because I didn't want to alienate your audience right there saying they are annoying.
Lara: Even if you are a foodie and you're listening to this, just be aware that sometimes it's a little annoying.
Mike: There's plenty of other great qualities about you, I'm sure.
Lara: Yes, exactly. And again, it's not always the case, but typically, you associate foodies with people that are a bit pretentious and a bit annoying.
Mike: Typically, yes. I don't know --
Lara: Of course, it's a stereotype but yes, it's true. It's a stereotype but no, it's true. No, I'm kidding.
Mike: It's a stereotype but it's definitely true. There's false ones and there's true ones and this one, we pretty much hit the nail on the head.
• Are you a foodie or do you know someone who is?
Mike: I would say my palates evolved in my older age. With the years, I developed more of a taste for finer foods. There was a time where I would be like Taco Bell and Carl's Jr. and I'm good to go, but as I get older, I start to see the distinctions between a burger from a fast food place and a burger from a nice restaurant and I think that's part of the life experience.
Lara: No, definitely. I think I recognize the difference too. It's just I don't care. I really don't. As long as I put food in my mouth, I'm happy. I have this whole thing with my boyfriend because he loves cooking and he likes to make all these intricate dishes and experiment and everything, and I'm just like, I'll just have a sandwich. I don't even like- I'm fine. Just give me some bread, I'm good. Definitely not a foodie.
Mike: I definitely would not consider myself a foodie.
Send something back
I’m sorry. I’m going to have to send them back.'
• If you are at the restaurant and you send something back, where will the food go? To the kitchen or to another customer?
Mike: It would go to the garbage probably.
Lara: Probably, yes. Hopefully not to another customer, that would be gross.
Mike: That would be funny in a movie, but in real life, probably pretty unhygienic and against lots of health code violations.
Lara: Especially now. Does it always go to the garbage, I mean, let's say that my steak is undercooked, will they cook it a little bit longer, will they just --?
Mike: Yes. It depends on the mood of the chef, on the kitchen in the night.
Lara: On the restaurant probably.
Mike: Yes, the moment, all that and yeah --. It's really funny because I don't think there's a standard procedure. When somebody tells you they're going to send it back or they can't eat it or something's wrong with it. It's always a new adventure you're about to embark on [chuckles] when you go take that food back to the kitchen.
• Why would you send something back?
Mike: You would send it back because there was something wrong with it. Maybe it wasn't to your liking in terms of seasoning or something or presentation wasn't good or there is the temperature.
• Have you ever sent something back?
Mike: I don't think I ever have unless there was something in the food or it wasn't what I ordered or something like there's maybe a hair in the food or something then-- I mean, I'd probably address it. I won't be like, I need to send this back or whatever, but I might point it out like, "Hey, there's something wrong here."
Lara: Has one of your customers ever sent something back and what was the reaction from the chef in that case?
Mike: There's a lot of times, yes. There's a hierarchy, a chain of command, you have to go to the chef and if you talked to the cook who made it, maybe they'll argue with you. You might talk to the chef, the chef might also disagree. It's like going before a court, having judges and a jury.
Lara: I like that idea. I'm picturing it. I'm picturing the whole courthouse in the kitchen.
Mike: The funny thing, a funny story with the hair in food, one time this happened and everybody working in the kitchen was bald. They were like, "I don't really know where the hair would have come from."
Lara: This happened to you?
Mike: Yes, yes, yes.
Lara: Good. All right. Mike, thank you so much for coming on here and for helping me out with these expressions. Guys, don't forget to go check out his Instagram account, it's learn.english.expressions and I'm going to link it in the description of this episode. Thanks again, Mike.
Mike: Yes, thanks.
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