When it comes to restaurants, I usually eat with only one other person. By way of slightly separate reasoning, I have a general rule that requires me never to dine with more than five others. There is something chaotic about a party of sixteen that I would rather not be a part of. Also, I don’t think I have fifteen friends.
One of the reasons I like smaller tables is that you have a better chance of avoiding the Repeat Order (RO). The RO creates an infuriating situation in which everyone’s plate looks the same. Same hunk of protein, same rosemary sprig, same decorative sauce drizzle. It makes me feel like the restaurant, no matter how upscale/exclusive/unique, is just a food mill — no different from McDonald’s. When I see coq au vin (x4) at the table, I can’t help but think chicken nuggets. Don’t get me wrong — I love chicken nuggets. Once had them four days in a row. But if I’m going to have to google the pronunciation of my entree, I’m going to be special dammit, and it’s going to be the only one on the table, and I’m going to offer you a taste, and you’re going to accept because you don’t have your own fancy chicken in front of you.
So I do one of two things: 1) call dibs or 2) sacrifice and go with something less popular. Calling dibs is my choice preference because — well, I get my way. As long as my dining partner(s) are versed in social etiquette, they will understand that by musing, “Mm, the scallops look good,” I’m really saying, “You are not allowed to order these scallops and should immediately announce that you already have your eye on the barramundi.” Immediately, so I don’t get nervous.
I also try to order first so that it’s official, and everyone involved (including the server) is on notice. Even if something goes wrong, the server will know that I wasn’t the one who screwed up — that I respect restaurant code. It’s inevitable though. Every once in a while, I’ll sit down with someone who doesn’t understand the sin of the RO, at which point, I have to make a big deal out of it by interrupting the ordering process and picking a lesser alternative. “I think I’ll have the scallops too” will elicit, “Oh, I didn’t know you were having the scallops like me. I suppose I’ll just go with the cod then because I don’t see why we should both have the scallops when there are other things on the menu.” That’s true sacrifice, you know — snarky, unwilling sacrifice. Just uncomfortable enough for you to learn not to do it next time.
Luckily none of these things came to pass this morning when I went to brunch with some friends at Bru’s Wiffle a Waffle Joint in Santa Monica. It was a party of five (just under my six-person limit!), and I ordered first (phew). Behold — the banana split waffle.
The waffles were deliciously delicate, the toppings weren’t overwhelmingly sweet as long as I stayed off of the maple syrup, and I got to have some ice cream for breakfast. Everyone else RO-ed and had chicken and waffles. I stayed silent on the issue — I figure it’s not my business as long as no one eats what I’m eating.