Can't Decide On A Dinner Order? Stick To The Restaurant's Theme

Picture it: You're at a new restaurant, pouring over the menu, looking through appetizers and drinks, and you can't help but feel kind of nervous. All of these new choices are appealing and you're not quite sure what to order. At the restaurant you usually frequent, you know what's good, but here, you're swimming in foreign waters. What do you tell the grinning server who is waiting for your order?

The art of choosing is one that takes center stage at a restaurant, right down to good table manners and proper etiquette. Whether you're following Eater's advice on how to choose which restaurant you'll go to, or taking Insider's tips on how to order the right wine when you get there, choices can make or break your evening out. But when you're at a new restaurant, one you've never been to before, what do you do? How can you decide which menu item will tantalize your taste buds? Is there a sign to look for when you're perusing a new menu?

Perhaps the simplest piece of advice we can offer is to look around and base your options on what the restaurant is trying to accomplish.

Base your order off the restaurant's appearance

If you're having trouble deciding on a dish, keep this question in mind: What is this restaurant trying to go for? Are you sitting in a place that bills itself as a steakhouse? Are you placed in front of a giant hibachi grill? Does the restaurant proudly feature any kind of seafood or meat in its logo?  According to La Cuchara chef Ben Lefenfeld's advice (via Food & Wine), knowing the theme of the restaurant will help you figure out what to order.

An example Lefenfeld gives to this principle is simple He says, "Do not order fish at a steakhouse or steak at a seafood restaurant." If you're in a restaurant that focuses on serving up steak rather than vegetarian or fish options, it's best to focus on what the restaurant does best. Think of a seafood restaurant, where the decor is nautical style and everyone's wearing lobster bibs. Would you order a hamburger or a shrimp dish? 

Just keep in mind what the restaurant is built around, be it steak, Japanese cuisine, or barbecue, and focus your order on that. If the restaurant has made a certain food or food group its headliner, it's a good idea to try it and see what all the noise is about.

But what if you're in a restaurant that doesn't have a clear theme? What do you do then?

Get a recommendation from your server

If you're in a restaurant with no clear theme, as in it's not exactly a steakhouse but it serves a whole lot of food, then what can you base your order off of? The answer is quite literally standing at your table — your host or server. According to Reddit, it's smart to ask your server what they would recommend, considering that they work there and know more about the food their restaurant is serving.

"As a former server, we are really good at helping people pick stuff and," advises the Reddit user, adding, "if the place is high end, you SHOULD ask the server for their recommendation." By asking the server this question, you can also get a "vibe" about the food in general. If the server gives an answer along the lines of "it's all good," they may not know much about the food being served. If the server does offer a suggestion, such as "try this appetizer" or "I recommend this dish," then you at least know the server has some idea of what they're talking about.

Some, like the Washingtonian however, recommend avoiding this method, as your waiter may be trying to "upsell" on a dish or item that you may not have wanted in the first place. Although this may be true in some cases, remember you're merely asking for an opinion and only you can make the choice for yourself.