Portland Handbook 2018
“Etiquette” is not a word you’re likely to encounter around here. Portlanders tend to shun convention and enjoy the spirit of counter-culture that has long characterized our little town. We’re more Courtney Love and less Emily Post, and the concept of table manners is the stuff of old boys’ clubs and sexually repressed debutantes. However, in a city that’s fueled by a food and beverage economy, a city in which a Yelp rating holds more authority than the common clergyman, it’s disappointing to witness the proverbial foodie make some rather unsavory choices while eating out. Next time you’re in the mood to pay homage to our dining mecca, consider the following.
It goes without saying you should be tipping 20 percent or more for an average-to-good experience at a bar or restaurant—but here I am, saying it. Why? Because so often the self-described “foodie” at the table is also the one who will likely take up a server’s time mansplaining the wine list, demanding information about the origin of the oysters, complaining that this is not the way they do it in France, and ultimately hovering just above the 10 or 15 percent mark when leaving a tip.
Sure, the host put you at a table that was kind of close to the bathroom, and you didn’t like the way the bartender pronounced Lillet, but restaurant workers are forced to claim their tips, which are then subsequently taken out of their paycheck. Moreover, that money is pooled among the entire restaurant staff, from the person who set your table to the person who washed your dish. Kitchen workers are generally grossly undercompensated when one considers the number of hours and labor that go into meal production in a city with an overwhelmingly competitive dining scene. If your packed meal schedule has you feeling stingy, consider how much you might have to tip before ordering, or go to a place where robots make your food.
And while we’re on the subject of (artificial) intelligence, I assure you that one’s brain and mouth can be used at the same time! Restaurant etiquette goes far beyond the 20 percent rule, though gaggles of men in flip-flops did not get that memo this season. I became aware of this while I was working at a quasi-classy restaurant this summer and witnessed more than one patron slipping his flip-flops off in order to rest his bare feet on the booth banquette across the way while chomping down on a $39 rib eye. That’s a solid DON’T, fellas. Besides, haven’t we all agreed that flip-flops are only for the beach and Dave Matthews concerts?
Of course, bad behavior knows no socioeconomic status or gender when it comes to being hangry, and after years of experience in the industry, I can attest that an empty stomach and a sophisticated palate often bring out the worst in people. That said, the following are a very specific set of rules you should consider the next time you go out to eat:
1) When the host asks for your name to put you on the waitlist, don’t chuckle and say, “Harvey Weinstein.”
2) When your definitely-not pregnant server approaches your table, don’t point to her stomach and say, “Congratulations!”
3) If you need the attention of an employee at a bar or restaurant, it’s best not to tug on their hair.
4) Maybe just don’t touch strangers at all!
5) Try and avoid asking your ambiguously non-white server, “What are you?” (Before you know it, foodies will eventually screw this thing up so much that the answer will be, “Well, sir, I’m a robot.”)