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Diners paid tab for bad appetizer

Q: I am writing to ask you when you feel it is appropriate for a restaurant to remove the cost of food from a dinner check. My wife and I dined out in Williamsville recently. Since we both like mussels, and are not big eaters, we asked to share the mussels appetizer. I specifically told the server to ensure that they were not overcooked, since then it is like chewing on pencil erasers. She agreed, and said they would be fine. They weren't.

My wife and I agreed that the mussels were overcooked. I tried two, just to be sure that the first was not an exception, and so did my wife. When the waitress returned, she asked if they were OK, and we said no. She said she would see what she could do, but returned and said they were not able to take them off the check. I paid the bill without a fuss, though I thought they shouldn't have charged us. What do you believe is the proper course?

-- David, Tonawanda

A: Assuming a substantial amount of mussels were not eaten, the cost should have been taken off the bill. At the very least, a manager should have come over (although perhaps the server never reported the problem). Next time, ask for for the manager and don't let issues fester.

That said, you did the right thing. And there's something else you can do even though time has passed: Vote with your feet. Don't go back to that restaurant and tell all your friends why.

But give them a chance to recognize the error of their ways. Send a polite letter to the management to tell them why you won't be back.


Q: Once you are seated, what is an acceptable wait time for:

1) Arrival of the server to take your beverage order?

2) Return of the server, with drinks, to take your meal order?

3) Arrival of all of your meal orders, and a query as to more beverages?

4) Plate clearing and dessert options?

5) Finally, the arrival of the check?

My wife and I occasionally go out, mainly for lunch or an early dinner. We have waited for what seems like too long a time for the server's arrival, or return, and often for the arrival of the check, when we are obviously ready for it.

-- Robert, Marilla

A: For (1), five minutes, and perhaps a little longer in exceptional circumstances if accompanied by a nod and a smile to recognize the fact that you are among the living.

(2) Ditto.

(3) Depending on what you order, 10 to 15 minutes.

(4) See (1)

And (5): Some restaurants wait for you to ask for the check, to give you time to relax. And believe it or not, that is the approved etiquette. If you are in a hurry, let them know.


Q: Perhaps worth adding to your restaurant ratings: restrooms. They should be modern; well-supplied; clean; have fixtures with no stains, rust or mineral deposits; reasonable stall locks; pleasing decor (or at least not peeling and dingy); and an adequate number of "stations" for size of the restaurant.

-- Peter, Amherst

A: I agree this is important. In fact, entire books have been written on restroom ratings. As you have probably guessed by now, I do not believe in suffering in silence. If you're unhappy, speak to the manager.

Next week: Where to eat on Sunday (or Monday).

Send comments and questions to News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at

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