6 Tips for Gaming the Restaurant Menu

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There’s always that one person in every group who orders the best dish at the restaurant, while you're stuck looking at a sad plate of wilted greens or over-sauced fish. That’s because there are actually tricks to deciphering a menu and figuring out the best thing to order—no matter where you are. Chefs and restaurant professionals share their tips for scoring the perfect meal.

1. SKIP THE RECYCLED DISHES.

If you’re at a burger joint, don’t order the beef tacos, says Laura Soncrant, owner of The Growling Rabbit in Chicago. And if you’re at a barbecue place, don’t order the pork pasta. “They’re trying to get rid of what doesn’t sell any other way,” she tells Mental Floss. So the burger place will use its leftover meat in burritos, tacos, or a pasta sauce, Soncrant says. You’re essentially eating leftovers at that point.

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Go onto the restaurant’s Yelp page. At the top, the site always pulls out key words that reviewers use over and over again when describing their experience at the restaurant, says Stephen Varela, manager at Villa Berulia restaurant in New York. At his restaurant, for example, reviewers on Yelp often write about the chicken parmesan or the flourless chocolate cake—so these words are highlighted at the top of Villa Berulia’s Yelp page. “These are the dishes that everyone is talking about, so you know that you should be trying them when you come into the restaurant,” Varela says.

3. TAKE A CHANCE ON THE SPECIALS.

Often, the chef will have a vendor who gets a great batch of a certain ingredient (say, beets). "It looks great and fresh, and I say, 'Let me create a dish and see if people are interested in it,'" says Amy Le, co-owner and executive chef of Saucy Porka and Spotted Monkey in Chicago. "A lot of times, it's experimental—it depends on your personality as a diner, if you like to try new things." You can always come back to the restaurant and try the staples over and over again, but if you want to be daring, you can try the specials that may not last, Le says.

4. SEEK OUT HOMEMADE DISHES.

"Scan the menu for these phrases: 'house-made,' 'from scratch,' 'homemade,'" says Soncrant. "These show that the kitchen is doing something from scratch, and it makes a big difference."

5. TALK TO YOUR SERVER.

Don’t ask your server what the most popular dish is, Varela says. Ask what his favorite dish is – or just trust the chef. "Some of our regulars don't even bother looking at the menu," Varela says. "They just ask the servers to tell the chef to make them something delicious and fresh." Since the waiter works for tips and since the chef is flattered by the responsibility, you’re guaranteed to get a fabulous meal this way, Varela says.

6. LOOK AT PHOTOS.

Reading reviews—by both customers and professional critics—is a no-brainer for savvy restaurant-goers. But Varela takes the extra step of checking out the restaurant’s Instagram page prior to dining so he’ll be to be lured by the photos. "I check out the pictures and look at the comments," he says. Part of dining is having all your senses seduced, and this is an easy way to guarantee that it'll work out.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

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Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!