Red Flags on Menus?

Are there any things you see on menus that immediately make you stop and think, “Hmmm…do I really, really want to risk ordering this?”

For me, anything that’s enclosed in quotation marks will make me pause:
“Gramma’s” or “Nellie’s” or “Uncle Joe’s” or…etc.

Why the need for the weird punctuation?

Through years of ordering dishes with descriptions containing quotation marks, I’ve learned it’s just a bad idea:
There was that “Classic” Caesar Salad which contained grapefruit segments, tomatoes, and a citrus vinaigrette - or perhaps I’m conflating that with the “Traditional” Caesar Salad which came with diced avocados and…bacon bits, along with a balsamic dressing!

Then there was the “Homestyle” (what does that even mean?!) macaroni and cheese that was - I’d almost swear on a stack of holy books - some off-brand of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

What gives you pause?

1 Like

not trying to sound flip, but i can’t remember the last time i saw stuff like that on a menu…

where do you live?

Just have to know why that’s weird punctuation.

1 Like

Uncle Hansi’s Onion Tart, the Alsatian onion tart at Brasserie Jo in Boston, was the best savory tart I have ever eaten.

Two Brothers’ Special Shrimp is a favorite of mine at Chen Yang Li in New Hampshire.

1 Like

On Long Island, the words California or Health, both of which suggest something from a 1980s low-fat diet

I’ve noticed that, in the Bay Area, the Sichuan dish “ants climbing a tree” is only on Chinese menus aimed largely at non-Chinese (that doesn’t indicate quality, just clientele).

I’m usually averse to “authentic”. Perhaps the most meaningless word in the restaurant dictionary. “Traditional” I can live with. Of course, if it’s on a menu and enclosed with quotation marks, then that’s just downright silly with no meaning whatsoever.

1 Like






Ah, yes, “artisanal”.

The word seems much used in America and is a very recent and successful import into British food language. So, we now have “artisan bakeries” and “artisan cheese”, which replaced our longstanding “craft bakeries” and “farmhouse cheese”. As with other imported American language and customs, their displacement of often centuries old language and customs has been astonishingly fast. Really astonishingly fast. It says something about the nature of British society - although, in truth, I haven’t quite worked out what.


“what” is internet and social media.

1 Like

“Locally-sourced” with no source indicated

“Farm Fresh” is usually flat-out BS unless they go on to tell you what farm it came from, and when.

Any cutesy terminology–there was a local place that actually listed some sort of sammy (personally, I prefer to eat a sandwich).

And agreed with artisinal; I’m never exactly sure what is meant by that term.

There are two local spots that list their suppliers–farms, dairies, bakeries–these are the only two whose “farm-to-table” claims I really believe.

Especially when they misspell “artisanal”, which happens with regularity!

1 Like

Pretty sure I know what it’s supposed to mean, but the term has been over-used and has no real, enforceable guidelines or rules behind it that I know of.

In the beer world ‘craft’ has a similar connotation and is ‘supposed’ to have guidelines imposed, but I’m pretty sure AB InBev is powerful enough to get that term attached to brewery products that are light years away from your local guys around the corner turning out a few barrels a day.

I kinda got into it here over the feeling I have that Vivian Howard’s Chef & The Farmer really does try to stay true to named local sourcing for the most part. I can’t be sure though, from 3,000 miles away.

1 Like

boozy milkshake

terroir, merrior




1 Like

Well, I have recently visited Corner Bakery. Considering that have Kale Caesar Salad, I suppose they have to call their previous one the “Classic” Caesar Salad.

1 Like

On a menu:

  • Tapas (unless I am standing at a bar in Spain)
  • Meze (unless its a Greek restaurant)
  • Small Plate
  • Designed to share
  • Selection of… i.e. a few mean little portions
  • Market price
  • Warm bread rolls

And when selecting a restaurant to start with:

  • Family
  • Childrens Menu
  • Multiple languages
  • Time limit on tables
  • No reservation

Farm to table

Help cover Hungry Onion's costs when you shop at Amazon!

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr