Have you ever been out to eat at a restaurant and gotten the sinking feeling that perhaps not everything is at it seems. Wondering if you will be rudely awoken in the middle of the night with the sudden need to race to the bathroom?
Yeah… well, there are apparently certain “red flags” that everyone should be watching out for when we go out to eat. At least according to several chefs on Reddit.
Here’s some of what they say to keep an eye out for when doing some fine dining…
Top answer (36.0K votes): “Former Health Inspector here: If there’s a self serve soda machine go ahead and take a napkin around the inside of the Sprite/clear-soda-available nozzle. If your napkin comes out pink, brown, or orange SKIP THE SODA.
“A Sprite nozzle should come out clear. If it’s pink or orange then it’s slime mold (it’s actually a bacteria, but that’s what we called it). If it’s brown, it’s likely cola. But if the cola nozzle was put on the Sprite dispenser and is still brown you know the nozzles aren’t being cleaned properly.
Also go ahead and look closely at the ice chute. I see green algae in those a lot.”
Blerrrghhh… I may just avoid self-serve beverage dispensers completely from now on… and beer from a tap based on this follow-up comment by MattieShoes…
“…let me share the story of the rec centre (bowling, poolhall, arcade, nightclub hybrid) that had never had their beer lines cleaned. It took the professional 3 full flushes before mold stopped coming out. They only hired him because the returned pitchers of beer (for tasting nasty) was starting to outweigh the cost of the flushing.”
Number two answer (24.4K votes): “You might have to be a chef to recognize this, but my red flag is going into a busy restaurant and noticing none of the tables have food, or not many customer are yet eating. This usually means the kitchen is going down in flames. One time I noticed this and could see some food slowly stacking up in the window, but no orders coming out. I mentioned it to the server and he replied, ‘I wouldn’t suggest ordering food.’ He brought our drink check and we left. He was tipped well for his honesty.”
honeybadgergrrl agreed: “It’s a clue that the place is horribly mismanaged/don’t know what they’re doing and you’re in for a bad time.”
Number three answer (19.7K votes): “Overworked staff. What cleaning jobs do you think are getting missed if staff are far to stretched and or unhappy at work?”
Unhappy employees handling my food? That’s a no for me dawg.
Number four answer (19.1K votes): “Too many menu choices… Dirty restrooms… Server staff seems ‘meh’ or anxious.”
This answer somehow devolved into a gigantic conversation about what makes a good Asian restaurant if you want to know all about that.
Number five answer (15.5K votes): “Salt shaker. If the holes are clogged and the top is dirty, that thing has been refilled 100 times without washing.”
Paranoidas adds, “Wiping them down isn’t going to do much. When I worked food service we would empty all that shakers and run them through the dishwasher every Monday.”
Number six (15.1K votes): “Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. Works for most seafood.”
Also, if their answer is “the freezer” you might want to just move along.
Number seven (10.5K votes): “Actual former chef here. These comments saying, “don’t eat (whatever food) on a (day of week) because it’s leftovers…” This is called utilization. Specials are just that. Things that we’d rather sell than throw out. Those of us who actually know what we’re doing, carefully cool down and store things so they have as much menu life as possible. Only an idiot would throw away perfectly good, saleable food if it didn’t sell on the first night.”
“Yes! As long as it was labeled and dated properly. I’m always after my coworkers to put the dates on things they prep, it’s so important and so many cooks are so frustratingly bad at it,” commented miss_antlers.
Number eight (10.1K votes): “For my NYC people ‘Grade Pending’ doesn’t mean that the restaurant is awaiting judgement on their health inspection. It means that they failed and are given a grace period to fix their wrongs.”
DracoBalatro had this to add: “That’s not exactly true. I worked a couple openings in NYC and you get a “Grade Pending” sign up until you’re first inspection, which can take a few months sometimes.”
Also, it doesn’t mean a hard Fail. It usually means you didn’t immediately get an A and want to try. I have been places that just barely fell into the B category and wanted to retry for the A because most New Yorkers have been taught that anything less than an A is a filth-hole, and restaurants don’t want the stigma.”
Number nine (5.1K votes): “In addition to a super large, diverse menu being a huge red flag that you’re getting frozen meals run through the microwave, watch for No Substitutions. If the place makes it’s own food, they can sub virtually anything for anything else. While they may try to play it up as ‘Our food is perfect and we refuse to change it on moral grounds,’ its almost always a sign of ‘This was made 2 months ago and all we do is reheat it.'”
Speedly elaborated, writing, “I used to work at a place that had no substitutions, but they made everything to order and as close to “from scratch” as possible. Why did they have the policy? Because during the rush, people would come in and sub something so much that it wasn’t even a menu item anymore. This would throw off food costs sometimes, and make tickets drag out of the kitchen a lot. You know what makes people bitch more than anything else? Slow food on their lunch break.”
Number ten (2.0K votes): “If your meat or pasta, for example has dry spots as if it was left out to dry for a good time, the kitchen is not properly covering/ storing their prep correctly. The walk in is most likely not taken care of.
“Edit for clarity: on let’s say chicken, its still raw. Someone leaves it out, it forms a skin looking almost like jerky. Chewy, an orangeish/yellow color. That spot wont go away because someone has cooked it. Same kind of thing with pasta but the pasta is always pre- cooked, waiting for you. There is no reason for your sensitive products to be left uncovered for that long.”
Check out the rest of the responses, including all the “not a chef, but…” comments over at Reddit.