BBQ Essays: 40 More Truisms, Observations, Mottos and Rules of Thumb
Here's a follow-up to last year's listing of truisms, observations, mottos and rules of thumb. Some have appeared before, some truisms lean more toward opinion and some are controversial, but I believe in all of them. I hope some are worth remembering, if not sharing.
41. When that moment hits that you're not going to finish your 3-meat combo and will be taking home leftovers, lay off the pulled pork. Better to save it for the doggy bag, since it's the most forgiving when reheated.
42. If your server mentions in the introduction that she’ll be “taking care of you,” she won’t be taking care of you.
43. If you've become a regular at a restaurant and get comped a dish or two or a drink or two, tip your server extra generously. A good starting point is at least twenty percent plus at least half of the comped value.
44. Never question why a friend chose restaurant A over restaurant B in your absence. Sometimes geography, work, family, traffic, weather and timing have more to do with the choice than whether restaurant A is better than restaurant B.
45. Stop saying "Nuoc Cham" and just say "Fish Sauce." Even if nuoc cham were fish sauce (in Vietnamese it actually means any kind of condiment), saying it makes you sound like Ray Barone’s in-laws. Vietnamese people just call it fish sauce and so should you.
46. Similarly, just call it "avocado cream" or "horseradish cream" and not "avocado crema" or "horseradish crema." No need to douche it up unless you really need to charge a few extra bucks or you're one of those chef-wannabe types who likes to play restaurant at home with pretend menus and hyper self-conscious plating.
47. Brooklyn has the best concentration of barbecue in the Northeast and some of the best barbecue in the country. That doesn't mean there's a Brooklyn style of barbecue.
48. Regarding greater Boston Mexican food: if your favorite place is Ixtapa, your taste buds are mixtupa.
49. If you’re reading an online restaurant roundup and the blurb for a particular restaurant says “look no further”: look further.
50. On a per capita basis, there are more man-crushes in barbecue than any other avocation.
51. Not that it makes any sense, but heed this warning: it is considered a far greater offense to refer to someone as a douchebag than to actually be the douchebag.
52. Before reading a restaurant website's ABOUT page, grab a pencil and paper or open Notepad on your smart phone to take notes. Before reading a restaurant website's OUR STORY page, also grab a pair of boots, because it's going to get deep.
53. Always watch Saturday morning restaurant shows with your smartphone or laptop handy. No, not so you can take notes, but so you can quickly research what the food really looks like when served to actual paying customers. (Note: food bloggers at blogger events aren’t paying customers.)
54. If you're texting and receive the thumbs-up icon/sticker, know that your conversation is done.
55. Recognizing one of your regulars immediately behind me in line and preparing his coffee or bagel before you prepare mine is a pretty good way of ensuring that I'll never become a regular.
56. If you're trying to date your server and want to leave her your number, your chances of getting her to call it will be exponentially raised if you a) actually say something during the meal to make an impression, b) leave more than a $2 tip, and c) have the balls to personally tell her and hand it to her rather than sheepishly scrawling it on the bottom of the check.
57. If a social media post starts off with "I'm so humbled," get ready to read the brag that not so humbly follows.
58. Food writers and bloggers: if a first email from a "fan" asks about going out to eat together, say no. If an invitation arises organically after much correspondence, take it.
59. Arts and crafts are wonderful and everything, but seriously: a $25 gift in an $8 basket beats an $8 gift in a $25 basket any day.
60. Restaurant owners bitching the loudest about the lack of knowledge and qualifications of online reviewers with negative reviews are also the quickest to take bows after positive reviews from other online reviewers whose credentials never get questioned.
61. Unless you're under the sheets with a Victoria's Secret model, it's better to pick up the pizza than have it delivered. And just as important: when picking up that takeout pizza, it's better for you to wait for the pizza than for the pizza to wait for you.
62. Nothing against showing off your food at its best, but if you only post a photo of that one time out of a hundred your brisket doesn't look dried out, you've forfeited the right to say "no filter," even if you haven't performed any photo editing tricks.
63. Little known fact: a restaurant review that calls out four things as being great, six things as being good to very good, four things as being decent and two as less than decent is a positive review. Maybe not a review that blows the chef/pitmaster as much as he's used to, but a positive review.
64. If you're under the sheets with a Victoria's Secret model, stop thinking about pizza.
65. “If the most famous thing on the menu is the biscuit, then the barbecue can’t be that good” might be a rule of thumb for some, but it’s a misguided one. That’s not to say the barbecue can’t be a letdown, but there’s really no connection. A standout side or dessert can get more play than any singular meat specifically because it’s a side or dessert, making it more likely to hit more tables than any singular meat.
66. Not all over-the-counter barbecue joints are alike. Some are order-pay-receive-eat, some are order-receive-eat-pay, and some are order-receive-pay-eat. At that last type, keep the ordering down to two meats and two sides, if possible, because at some places there’s a good chance the first meat plated will get cold by the time you bring the tray to the table. You can always go back for more in a second round.
67. If it weren't for women, guys would shower a lot less often.
68. There's no upside to a tongue ring.
69. If you're buying Halloween candy in September, you're not really buying Halloween candy.
70. If you and your loved one have to get so specific on what you want for Christmas that there’s no mystery left, you might as well just give each other cash.
71. I may not have a degree from Harvard, but I know this: even though Cambridge MA restaurants Cragie On Main and Alden & Harlow have two of the best burgers in the region, hyper focusing on them at the expense of the rest of their menus is a HUGE mistake.
72. If someone asks you where to find a Chinese American restaurant that does lobster sauce a certain way, and you know the answer, just say where. Even if you don't like lobster sauce and even if you know (as does the questioner, most likely) that it's not really Chinese.
73. Save a tree. If you're ordering a breakfast sandwich or two burgers to go, their wrapping alone should be sufficient; ask them to omit the paper bag.
74. If you ask them to leave off the fries that come with your burger but they come anyway, those fries have zero calories.
75. Although fresh from the smoker is always preferred, the real problem with the oh-so-common barbecue reheat isn't always the reheat itself. More often it's the way in which it's done: just like with the original cook, low and slow is the way to go, and a little planning goes a long way.
76. If we're claiming fresh fruit by letter, I'll take all the ones starting with P; you can have the rest. If we’re claiming Northeast BBQ joints, I want B and H; you can have the rest.
77. I'm all for tipping real servers generously, but the dude who delivers your mail every day deserves a more generous annual tip than the chick who pours your medium regular with extra sugar every day.
78. If you’re at Barnes & Noble after you and your wife headed to separate areas and you’re bored out of your mind waiting for her to show up, hit the magazine section and open up a Playboy. Guaranteed she’ll be there in a split second.
79. Even if it’s your favorite item, never take anything from a buffet tray that’s less than one-third full. Get something else, let the other suckers finish it off, and head back when a fresh tray comes out.
80. When the elevator door opens, people heading out get the right of way over people heading in. Period. End of discussion, other than this: anytime someone violates this practice and blocks/delays your elevator exit onto the first floor, be sure to press the elevator buttons for every floor, then say, "Enjoy the ride!"
The First List: 40 Truisms, Observations, Mottos and Rules of Thumb