The Skinny on Dining Out


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I love eating out but let’s face it; I will be on a budget until the day I die. So, on the rare occasions that I actually get to have a fantastic, fine-dining meal I find myself feeling like Tai (pre-makeover) from Clueless.

Cue Brian Michael Lawrence- Editorial Director for Sinclair Broadcast Group, former Editor of Baltimore Style, and a man who is always eating at the best restaurants. You know the ones that have a four-month wait list. I cornered him recently and got the skinny on how to eat large.

Q: What are you biggest dining pet peeves?


-People who take too long to decide what to eat. I just want to say “Just order something! It’s not your last meal—you’ll have opportunities to eat again!”

-People who dicker over check-splitting—the worst! If you’re dining out with a group, split the check equally– pay whatever your split is. The one exception: the person who insists on ordering ridiculously expensive bottles of wine. If you’re that person, the polite thing to do then is to tell everyone at the table that you’ll cover it.

-People who are under-dressed for fine-dining restaurants. Restaurants have really fallen down recently about enforcing dress codes—and it spoils the experience for everyone else in the dining room. They should be given the option to eat in the bar, or politely turned away. Same goes for clueless clods who wear hats into the restaurant. They should be told to remove them by the hostess or maître d’.

-People who insist on trying to substitute items from what’s being offered. The chef has put thought into how the dish is prepared and what it’s served with—go with his vision

Q: I often have food envy. How do you always get the best thing on the menu?


-A tip from several chef friends of mine: You’ll always get a great steak at a seafood restaurant (and vice-versa). The rationale is this: in the kitchen at a seafood house, there’s one person whose job it is to cook a steak order if it comes in, and they’ll put the proper attention into it to make sure it’s the best-done steak coming out of that kitchen.

-I’m a believer in asking the waiter for their recommendation, or telling them my top two or three choices and asking which I should go with. They’ll rarely steer you wrong.

Q: When traveling in the United States, where must you dine?


-NYC: Old favorites include Balthazar, Minetta Tavern and Pastis. However, a newer go-to is Nomad.

-New Orleans: Strictly old-school—Galatoire’s. Right on Bourbon Street, and Friday lunch there is an hours-long, booze-soaked bacchanal. So Southern.

-LA: Not to be cliché, but we always eat in the courtyard at the Chateau Marmont. I know, I know, but seriously—it really is great food—especially the spaghetti and meatballs. Also for an Old Hollywood Atmosmphere try Musso & Frank.

-Miami: Barton G has a gorgeous outdoor garden dining space. I Love everything on the menu at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink. Also, The Dutch at the W Hotel for casual dining, and the Cypress Room, in the design district, for a nice meal. Oh, and I love the whole experience at The Forge: an old-school dining experience with a super-cool modern spin.

-Aspen: Another classic—Ajax Tavern. Right in the center of everything. YOU MUST ORDER THE DOUBLE CHEESEBURGER. That is all.

Q: I am always jealous of the people who are obviously loved (and taken care of) by the wait staff. How do you achieve that level of familiarity?



-Have a standard cocktail order. They’ll remember you for it. (Frankly, everyone over the age of 30 should have a standard go-to drink that they can order without thinking. No dithering over a “martini list”—that’s a contradiction in terms right there.) **bonus points if you figure out “your drink” in your 20s.

-Eat at the bar sometimes. Aside from saving a wait for a table, you’ll be served faster, and have a chance to become acquainted with the bartenders and other people around you, who are likely regulars.

-Dine at a place semi-regularly, so you’ll become familiar, and call ahead to let them know you’re coming. It’s good to get your name out there.

-Tip well. Always.

Keep all of this in mind and you really should be on the road to dining heaven. However, I have one last tip. If you have a great experience, always ask to thank the manager. Giving thanks is always a way to get some extra loving. This was how I recently got a view from the top of D.C’s acclaimed Charlie Palmers elusive roof top deck. Thank you goes a long way.

By Faith Albert

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