New Jersey Restaurant Pet Peeves, Idiosyncrasies, Humorous Musings, etc

Okay, so what drives you nuts? What things may you notice in a restaurant here in New Jersey that you won’t see elsewhere? Are there certain behaviors/ticks both for servers and us diners that are acceptable here but nowhere else, and vice versa? Or is there not much difference between the Garden State and the other 49? And non-NJ related, has someone at your or a nearby table ever done something that caused your jaw to drop?

Some personal examples…

More of a musing than anything: A few years ago, I was having breakfast with a friend in the middle of bumblefarg nowhere (Shippensburg, PA to be precise). The diner we were at was ultra cheap. I’m talking two gigantic meals and two drinks for like $13. My friend, who lives out there part-time, says he will pay the tab, so I said I would leave the tip. The waitress was really nice, so I threw down $4. Shocked, my friend asks me, “Are you sure you want to do that?” I momentarily paused, afraid I had done something offensive and was not leaving enough. I responded, “Should I leave more?” He says, “No, that’s a lot of money out here. You should really take a dollar back.” Now, my friend is no cheapskate (usually a generous tipper when we had dined in New Jersey). I never quite understood why this was such a big deal. I feel that had this same situation happened here, it would have gone unnoticed and the tip would proceed to be garbled up by the server without much thought. I always leave 20% except in incredibly rare circumstances. Sometimes more, as I am sure we all do.

As for pet peeves…

  1. Servers/Bartenders constantly hounding me if I want another drink. This is why I have so much respect for The Globe. They pour your drink and leave you the hell alone. The bartenders are older, the been-there-done-that-type that would rather get a good tip by making sure you are having a good time instead of acting like sharks in blood-infested water when your glass is half empty.

  2. Menus labeling everything “craft”, “small-batch”, “artisan”, etc. As @CurlzNJ and I discussed in another thread a few days ago. What state did this start in? Because Monmouth County is LOADED with it!

  3. Restaurants which blatantly label a menu with the wrong information. An example being saying a sandwich comes on grilled French bread and then serving it on a Kaiser roll (this happened to me last month). The @NotJrvedivici story of “that’s not a wedge salad” also comes to mind.

A million more will come to mind I’m sure. That’s all for now.


Referring to your pet peeves 2 & 3, there isnt much difference between the Garden State and my experiences on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

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This isn’t local to NJ but…

No salt and pepper on the table

Market price on certain items. A local pizza take out place near me just put all veal dishes as market price. I’ve never seen that before with veal.

Restaurants using the word kobe beef when you obviously know it isn’t kobe.

Rock hard butter served with bread


I have SO many pet peeves. These are not NJ specific:

  • Give menus (ALL menus, don’t make me ask for a wine list) when you are seated.
  • Charging for soda refills
  • Takeout that is packaged in a million layers, bags, Styrofoam, plastic, etc etc
  • Constantly needing to ask for water
  • Oddly priced menus. Appetizers that are nearly the same price as entrees.
  • Enormous portions. I realize I am likely in the minority on this one, but staring at an endless bowl of pasta or a tower of chicken kind of grosses me out. I can’t believe there is a lot of care or quality hidden in there.
  • Places that give you a ‘free’ salad but it is practically frozen, wilted and sad. Obviously prepared way before service began.

I am sure I have more. I’ll need to think.


I hate it when restaurants don’t leave the jug/bottle of water (or bottle of wine) on the table. It’s sort of OK if the staff are on the ball and spot that you need a top-up before you realise it yourself - but often they are not. Tends to be those pretentious restaurants that think they are better than they actually are.


Lukewarm coffee, old coffee, pass milk off as cream, outright lie about coffee being decaf.

Breakfast meals served in/on cold plates.

Stale bread baskets, def agree about hard cold butter.

Soggy vegetable side dishes.

Tables right near the restrooms.

Table size and tableware should compliment space wise.


I’m probably going to be revisiting this thread several times as things come to mind but here are my initial thoughts.

Regarding your #1 - I’m a drinker so this doesn’t generally bother be since I"m usually always ready for another, however Cuzins in Marlboro is a HUGE offender of this. I can be barely half way through a martini when the bartender is asking; “You ready for another? You ready for another?” Then they glare at you as if you are taking too long. This was my biggest turn off about this place.

This also goes along with the “up-sell” which I think is mostly a NY/NJ thing. If I order specifically Stoli vodka, I"m not asking if you have Stoli Elit or Goose. I’m a big boy (literal and figuratively) when I make a very specific order, I don’t need you double checking if that’s what I really want.

As @corvette_johnny said salt and pepper shakers. Yes, I prefer to have them on the table but a pet peeve if I’m dining at a restaurant with table clothes not only do I expect there to be salt and pepper readily available if they are not FULL I get pissed off. Any table clothed restaurant should be on top of side work and all utensils and condiments should be full. (including ketchup and the like)

Seeing servers or bussers carrying drinking glassed by their top, placing their fingers in the glass. It also bothers me to see this practice when clearing / cleaning a table, simply because bad habits carry over, if you allow them to place their fingers in glasses when cleaning, they will be more likely to do so when serving/setting up.

A take off of this is serving without a napkin. Treat every plate as if it’s hot and serve it via a napkin insulating your hands/fingers and my plate. I already know there is a line cook back there with no gloves on finger f#cking my chicken before it gets plated. Do me a favor and don’t put your fingers all over my plate, use a napkin when serving.

Specials way out of line with the rest of the menu. I don’t need to hear the price of a special because as a professional I don’t expect to be raped when ordering one. If the average menu price is say $ 30 per entree I will give you up to 1 & 1/2 times your average price as a special (say $45 cap). If you price specials at double the average menu price then you are ripping people off. I actually had this happen over the weekend, I went to a place with an average menu price of probably $ 25. (I know the owner and I’m intentionally not calling him out publicly) and he came over to tell me about an “off the menu” special he could make me. It sounded great so I ordered it, as did my buddy. The items we were going to order prior to my “friend/own” selling us on the off menu special was $ 24…well I was a little surprised to see that the special he made for me was $ 70 EACH. I was very surprised by this, but I should have known better and asked, still I think it was bad business practice to do this, the couple we were with will never return. I probably will but I will never order the “chef’s special” again. Terrible business practice.

Telling me the wait is going to be 10-15 mins and after 45 mins I haven’t even seen one table leave. Listen working the FOH is an imperfect science, but you should have a reasonable ability to tell within 15 mins of when tables will become available don’t lie just to get me to the bar for an hour.

This isn’t something most people see, but it does go on so I do my part to end the practice. This is especially prevalent in diners but honestly it happens in even the higher end restaurants as well. Things like pickles, cole slaw (in the little plastic cups), wrapped and sometimes unwrapped butter any kind of accompaniment get’s recycled if it’s not obviously used. So even if I don’t eat it, I cut the pickle smear the butter and empty the cole slaw cup.

Servers who smoke. The smell of second hand smoke on a server is an immediate turn off. If you allow your servers smoke breaks then a manager should sniff you before you return to the floor.

While I might be a bit of a stickler for details and have my own management style, I do not think the runners should be serving the food. Use a runner to expedite the food from kitchen to table, but (especially in a larger group of people) I don’t want to hear; “Grilled chicken with side of vegetables” / “Grilled Chicken with mashed potatoes” …the server should serve the food and they should know who ordered what. (again table cloth establishments)

Alright I’m taking a break, not because I don’t have more to say but because I actually have work to do. lol


Luke warm soup

I like my soup piping hot. I can let it cool if too hot.


I got charged for 5 sodas at brothers, yeah lol. The soda bill was more than the pizza :confused:

I was dehydrated.

I hate when places charge top dollar for tinny lobster. That pisses me off. They should say if they are serving tin cans and charge accordingly.

And another one…

I frequent a local pizza joint near me. A little while back I asked for some grated cheese. The guy wants to charge me a dollar for a small thing of cheese to go. I told him I will just use the one on the counter.

The same place charges me a dollar to add hot peppers to a sub they have. I asked them to replace the sundried tomatoes with cherry peppers. Obviously sun dried cost more and they add a buck anyway. So I save them money and pay more. I realize these are people working the counter but imo the owner should train the staff. Asking for a cheaper substitute, with no less labor, should not warrant an upcharge.

Big time agree on number two, esp if place has liquor license i don’t think it’s resonable to hit me with a 9 dollar tab for 3 cokes.

Prob just me but I hate when places don’t list kids menu online. It looking for such at Nicholas or a truly high end joint but a mid level casual or similar spot not puttin ng one up makes me think that they don’t want kiddos around so I tend to avoid. Woodys was a good example. They have menu listed but no kids menu so makes me think they don’t want little ones around. Keep in mind when we take little ones we go at 430/5 to avoid ruining people’s romantic or relaxed nights out anyaway, but having the menu online at least is a signal you are ok with little ones early on in the evening.

On that note as well I hate spots that list kraft Mac and cheese as a kiddo item or sends out blatant frozen chicken. Again, if I’m at a chain or some diner it’s one thing but if I’m at a place that at least claims to put out thoughtful food with effort you’re telling me your kitchen staff can’t fry a piece of chicken or made a real batch of Mac and cheese? Makes me wonder what other lazy short cuts you take if you’ve got Sysco stuff lying around.+

Will also add (not restaurants but delis, sandwich shops, etc- what I like to call the “Magic Gloves” phenomenon. Where employees seem to think that wearing gloves is some sort of magic barrier to germs. Using same pair of gloves at cash register to also make my sandwich or meal, wiping nose, face, or hair is somehow not an issue or my new fav- going strait from sweeping, cleaning counters with cleaning solution, picking stuff up off of floor or the like to making/preparing food is just peaches
Also- delis where they never clean slicer so my turkey takes like the pepper ham or liverwurst from 5 people ago. It takes 10 seconds to take a wet rag to clean the slicer (did it all the time myself in younger days-slicer was spotless); also- don’t eat slices while your doing my order/making my sub

Related-I stopped getting burritos at chipotle b/c they don’t understand that making a burrito on the bare counter they never clean isn’t sanitary (the little piece of foil covers like 50% or less of the wrap, while they change the bins with the water from the heat try dripping into my meal…lovely)


Music that is way too loud or inappropriate for the type of venue or majority of the patrons.

Taking away the bread plates with the first course dishes. The bread and butter/oil remains on the table but no plates.

Places with a liquor license topping up the wine glasses when they are still 1/2 to 3/4 full trying as hard as they can to sell more bottles.

Community tables

Asian restaurants that have a non english menu that has the same dishes for a lower price than the english menu.

Calling baked rice and seafood or chicken paella.


Kind of funny but when my kids were younger I was the complete opposite. I LOVED when a place had kraft mac n cheese, because my kids knew it and loved it. My 2 year old(s) didn’t know what gruyere or truffle was and they didn’t want to find out!!

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Oooh, @gcaggiano what a great thread! Off the top of my head:

  1. Typos on the menu. I know I’ve ranted about this before, but if your menu hasn’t been proofread and ESPECIALLY when basic items are misspelled (CAESAR salad, ferinstance), I can’t help but wonder how much attention you’re paying to other details. (Note that I know plenty of people are terrible at spelling–find someone who isn’t and have them do a review! Don’t count on spellcheck. EVER.)

  2. Specials. If I’m going to listen to a server recite the specials, I want to hear the prices TOO. Don’t make customers feel ashamed for asking. Otherwise, run a quick printed copy off each day and list the specials and their prices.

  3. OVERfilled salt/pepper shakers. Such a dumb thing, but when I go to use one and it’s so full that nothing comes out, I’m wasting your $$ by opening the lid, making a mess, and pouring off some of the contents before I use it.

  4. Pepper shakers. It’s 2019. Can we do away with pre-ground pepper? Trader Joe’s sells whole peppercorns in a grinder package for all of $1.99 each. Invest in some grinders at Restaurant Depot and buy the whole peppercorns.

You KNOW I’ll have more… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Another one…

Why are places so cheap with pasta and starch?

I rarely call out places but birravino, the old basil t’s…I’m calling this out.

When they transitioned their name they decided to offer smaller plates at a lower price. The chicken scarp dish is a fantastic plate, not cheap but at 28 or 29 bucks I used to like it. Then they cut the portion in half and charge 24 or so. Half the protein and here is the kicker… I got 1 fingerling potato cut in half. Really? You can’t even make the dish look a little more impressive with some cheap ass potato? I gave up on this place a long time ago.


OR that have a separate non-English menu they won’t share (or translate)!!!


Funny story, for my daughters day of graduation dinner we went to a local restaurant. We were there at 5pm just as they opened and we were initially the only table. They were playing some odd music and I inquired about it and they said they stream their music from a cell phone via pandora or the like.

My dad is an old country music fan so I requested if they could put a Hank William Sr. station on, which they gladly obliged. As a few more tables came in, the song “Cocaine Blues” by the late great Johnny Cash came on, for those unfamiliar this is the opening to the song…

“Early one morning while making the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down
I went right home and I went to bed
I tucked that loving 44 beneath my head”

Needless to say “Baby I’m Could Outside” would have been a very welcome substitute.


I should prob qualify- don’t need gourmet Mac and cheese (truffles, gruyere, pancetta, ramps, etc) but a decent roux with elbows and cheddar for a place that claims to be a real restaurant shouldn’t be difficult…maybe I’ve just had a bad run but the places I’ve been as of late with the Kraft have usually put out garbage for kids- lukewarm at best or some other garbage frozen, Sysco stuff, not even executed well. If it at least came out hot the last cpl places I’d prob be cool…

BTW- the wegmans mac n cheese I next level better compared to Kraft; while you may be passed those days yourself…jsut throwing to out there…and .33 a box usually


yup- when I see a main of spaghetti and basil tomato nearing 20 bucks a plate now it infuriates me…like come on man…

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Maybe they should have cranked some clapton. “She don’t lie, she don’t lie…”

If you want to hang out, you’ve gotta take her out…


I actually won a free dinner at Jose Teja’s back when I lived in the area. (early 90’s) They played an endless loop of Gun Fighter Ballads by Marty Robins and I bet the manager I could repeat the lyrics to every song. (little did he know I had listened to them my entire life) Winner Winner Chicken Frajita’ Dinner !!

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