The Top 5 Do’s Dining Tips In America

Every country has something to offer. It is up to us, as visitors, to explore and find that out for ourselves. So, during my recent trip to the fast-food nation, America, not only I want to debunk the stereotypes but also to make most out of my culinary experience.As one would have guessed, I was appointed the task of ‘food/dining itinerary’.These tips are based on my personal experience. So, don’t shoot me!

1. Pleassseeee tip! ( I can’t stress that enough!)

I know I know. It can be quite a daunting experience for a newcomer. Not only you are confused if you need to tip everyone who serve you, but also if you tip too little, you’ll probably be labelled as a ‘ tight a*** ‘ and may  even find unidentified object for your next visit (just joking!) and too much (is there such a thing?) you may feel the pinch of throwing your hard earned money away.A simple trip to a restaurant could turn out to be a nightmare when the bill is in front of you. So, the question is Why tip? How much? Where?

Why tip?

Is it optional or some unspoken rules? Should you tip even though the service is lousy? Is it even a right practice? Well, firstly, it is good to have an understanding of how things work and its history. Every country has its idiosyncrasy and we ,as a visitor, is not there to debate and create a forum. As the saying goes, when in Rome, do what the Romans do.In the USA,most waitress/waiters and bartenders in restaurants are paid below the minimum wage. Some are paid as low as $2 plus/hour ( Now you understand why!). So, they depend on the tips to make up their wage. They are even taxed on the tips earned!

How much?

As a general rule of thumb:

Restaurants with table service: Tip 15% of the bill, based on the quality of service. If you receive exceptional service, 15-25%   is customary. In most major cities of the U.S. however, 20% is considered to be a “good tip”.

Please note: A large group of ‘6’ or more may have a service tax (labelled as ‘gratuity) of 15-20% added to the bill. Please check the bill carefully before paying.

Buffet restaurants with limited table service, a tip of 10% to 15% of the bill is still recommended because the servers typically work harder keeping the buffet line stocked and clean, and often provide table service for drinks.

Counter service/fast food restaurants often have tip jars out, but you are not required to tip.  If the service is exemplary or unusual requests are made, then tips are appropriate.

Bartenders: $1 – $2 per drink, or 15-20% of the total bill.

In any case you are confused, just tip. I guess no one will ever complain about that for sure!

* information are extracted from Trip Advisor

2. Order a smaller portion

It’s not an exaggeration that everything is supersized in America and that even includes the fine dining. I made a mistake by ordering  4 courses instead of 3 like everyone else..( I’m just a   greedy/glutton  food lover!). One can only understand why judging from past experiences of ‘microscopic‘ food on large plate at fine dining. So, I would like to suggest to you to order either  ‘entrée’ size (it is called ‘starters’ and entrée is actually a main) instead of main and less one dish than what you would normally do in shared dining to ‘test’ the portion for the first time. Oh,you can also always ask for a ‘doggie bag’ (container for leftover food) if you can’t finish your food. You don’t want to waste the food, do you?

3. Try ‘local’ specialities

No, I’m not talking about McDonald’s here! ( I better stop this fast food stereotyping before getting shoot here!). What I mean is that try the fresh produce of the area and what can’t be found in other states. For example, in San Francisco, stuff yourself with seafood! It is simply a seafood heaven for me. Seafood is cheap and fresh and easily accessible (Different story if you visit say midwest state where sea is just a dream or frozen seafood is more common). In LA, please do me a favour and track down the ‘Kogi‘ truck! If you haven’t heard of it, I don’t know where you have been! This famous food truck served fusion Mexican with Korean BBQ and is the first food truck operated by a ‘real’ chef . He (Roy Choi) even won the ‘Best New Chef’ in Food & Wine 2010 and was here in Melbourne recently in the Food & Wine Festival. For a taste of what San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas and New York have to offer, check out my video of ‘ Taste of America’ as we eat our way across these cities!

4. Make Yelp! your best friend

I’m talking about the most user-friendly search website designed for real people with real reviews.It is like having a ‘local’ tour guide. These reviewers are usually locals and as one know,locals always know the best spot! You can also be as specific as you want in your search, for example vegetarian restaurant,location with certain budget. The most amazing thing is that these reviews are by people like you and me and sometimes, it’s may be the best indicator.I’ve managed to convince my friend to book this fine dining restaurant in San Francisco with a sheer 2000 over reviews! Top that! If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will! (Click the link here!)

5. Try what the nation is famous for

No, I’m not talking about McDonald’s ( Ok,Ok, this is the LAST time I’m mentioning the M word..). But, it’s close. Please at least try a hamburger for goodness sake! There’s no other nation that make it as good as the creator . I am amazed with the many varieties on the menu. If you have some extra cash to spare (inclusive of tax), you can try the most expensive burger with a hefty price tag of $5000 ( No, you read it right! ) I’m serious! It’s called the Fleur  de Lys burger 5000,which is created by a famous chef, Hubert Keller. So, unless you have $6000 to eat up, I would suggest trying out cheap, quick and tasty hamburgers at various locations such as Napkin 5 Burger at NYC, In-N-Out hamburger joints across the country etc. ( You can search the best places based on location at‎the-top-5-dos-american-dining-tips


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