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Go ahead, ask to see your steak

"Dear Janice, Some restaurants noted for their meat specials display the cuts of meat at the entrance to the restaurant. Would it be appropriate to ask the waiter if you could see the cut of meat you want to order before placing your order?"

— Harrison C.

?It is perfectly appropriate, Harrison and, it turns out, not all that unusual. After all, when you think about it, plenty of diners like to know what they are getting in advance. Some like to pick out the lobster they are going to eat from a tank full; some like to see the available desserts on an elaborate tray.

Meat can be a totally different thing, however. True, some diners simply don't like to look at meat before it's cooked, preferring to remain in blissful ignorance. But there are plenty of others who would like a beforehand peek.

And that's why many national steak chains once made such a big deal of showing off their (uncooked) cuts of meat. The plastic-wrapped bounty was brought to the table on a tray. In some places, it still is.

Here in Western New York, you can ask for a preview and restaurateurs will not be offended. Mark Warren from the Buffalo Chop House, for instance, says he's not surprised at the request. Customers do ask to see their steak in advance.

And that's easy to deal with. There is a refrigerated case in the dining room, says Warren, and the server can escort the patron over to it. Often, he explains, he says, the request comes from a patron who is unfamiliar with what different cuts might look like – a strip as opposed to a filet, for instance. One good look will help him make up his mind.

At E.B. Green's at the Hyatt Regency, the servers once brought a cart with plastic-wrapped samples of meat for customers to examine, but, says manager Julia Munn, that got pricey. (Unrefrigerated meat had to be discarded by the end of the night.)

Still, she says, plenty of customers still ask to see their steaks before they are cooked. "I think it's because we're at a hotel and we get customers from all over the world. Some people are not familiar with what our meat cuts look like.

"But it's not a problem. I go into the kitchen and ask the chef to pick out a nice steak, put it on a plate and take it out to show the customer," she explains.

Send your questions and comments about dining out to Janice Okun at She will respond in this column, which appears every Wednesday in the Taste section of The Buffalo News.