POSTED: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 3:00am
UPDATED: Sunday, January 13, 2013 - 3:04am
CNN — This is the third installment of "Eat This List" - a regularly recurring list of things chefs, farmers, writers and other food experts think you ought to know about.
Yesterday, I was happily slurping away at my noodle and bok choy soup, when suddenly I felt it: sand rasping against my molars. I pushed the bowl away and swished my mouth out with a few tall glasses of water, but I was haunted by phantom gravel for the rest of the day.
Yes, there are far more pressing issues in the world than a little bit of foreign matter in my food, but we've all got our issues. When a restaurant can't take the time to properly rinse its greens, I can't help but wonder what else they're skimping on. I have an intense and visceral reaction to the feeling of grit in my food and if I do happen to return to a restaurant where that happened, I find myself bracing before each bite. It's mostly easier for me not to return.
Was I too easily aggrieved? I turned to Twitter to ask people what might cause them to cross a restaurant off their list. The answers came in fast and furious from food writers, chefs, servers and diners alike.
@kittenwithawhip: I can forgive an awful lot of cooking flaws. Gritty food, however, is something that might make me not return to a restaurant. Your turnoff?
Here are a few of the most frequently mentioned or just plain nasty restaurant turnoffs:
1. Butt out!
@ChefChrisCody: "A dirty restaurant: dirty ceiling fan, unkept restrooms, servers w/ any towels, notepads, or nething touching their butt."
Say what? The New Orleans chef clarified.
"You never see waitstaff hang towels or put things in their back pockets?...I have staged at some high end places where the chef wants you to hang your towels from your front or backside. Just watch.
2. Hairy situation
@loganpass: "Curly hair in my omelet. The restaurant has since been overhauled, but I feel like it's cursed."
@QueenCityCookie: "Hair always a bad sign"
The frequency of errant hair might be why planting it is a go-to trick of dirty-dealing diners looking to get their meals comped.
3. Beastly bathrooms
@JeeWPark: "A dirty restroom to me equals dirty kitchen."
@shilo101: "Dirty restrooms are the worst. if they don't keep it clean where customers CAN see, imagine what they can't. (Bourdain)"
@KatieBe_NC: "I have cut restaurants for dirty restrooms."
(And yet, that doesn't stop some people from going ahead and chowing down in a stall.)
4. He who smelt it...should get the heck out!
@ChristineMuhlke: "That dish-room smell (sad mats)."
@AmyTaraKoch: "Septic-like stench (paris), waitstaff eating/ chomping gum, bugs in water, dirty cutlery/ napkin"
5. Halt the salt! Or, conversely, don't be stingy
@dollopfinefoods: "UNDER seasoning combined with arrogant lack of good salt & pepper on table"
@RLStrickland: "Over-salting. If you can't nail salt, I have a lot of trouble trusting your palate."
@CourtsBS: "SALT! Too much in everything & I won't be back"
@RDclark4: "Oversalted food is a sure fire turn off....no coming back from that!"
Chef Wong knows of what she speaks. Not only did she finish in the top four of her season of Top Chef - in her subsequent tenure as culinary producer of the show, she saw her fair share of cheftestants pack their knives and go home for the crime of insufficient seasoning.
6. Pasta that's a flop
@loves_zin: "Over cooked pasta"
@shirtlessjosh: "Wet pasta."
@local_kitchen: "Gummy pasta. And it happens so often. Al dente: it's not that hard, people."
7. Worst of all: service with a shrug
@fordgal15: "Slow service, cold food and dirty tables!"
@CozyHerbivore: "Service with attitude, a boring menu. So many great restaurants in Philly, why waste $$ on mediocre?"
@jenniferjnelson: "I won't go to restaurants in which management stands arms folded while staff, customers need things. Service starts at top."
@pinkleopardello: "Rotten service. If you don't like dealing with the public, maybe it's time to fulfil those dreams if becoming a tram driver"
@Unchainedfoodie: "Restaurant Turnoffs -- nasty restrooms, no server eye contact, long unbussed tables."
@NYTFridge: "Biggest restaurant turnoff is inattentive, unprofessional or sloppy service. Guarantees I'll never return."
@bosiechampagne: "Turnoff: When you can tell that nobody working there cares about the food or the service...or even wants to be there."
@newriversbeau: "Turnoff número uno: lazy, disengaged service. Doesn't need to be 'perfect', but apathy is the biggest sin."