I love going out to eat.
But there's no doubting that leaving your meals up to strangers comes with some risks.
1. "A sick waitstaff. If restaurant owners encourage their waitstaff to work while sick (or don't help to find a replacement), you can count on getting sick too."
2. "For my NYC people specifically: 'Grade Pending' doesn’t mean that the restaurant is awaiting judgment on their health inspection. It means that they failed and are given a grace period to fix their wrongs."
4. "Does it sound like it could be two or more restaurants? For example, sushi and pizza at the same place. They probably can't do either well."
5. "How happy is the staff? Do they seem like they like their jobs? If the staff are miserable, you're not going to get quality food or service. It's worth seeking out restaurants that treat their staff well. If they're treated well, they'll treat you well."
6. "If your meat or pasta has dry spots as if it was left out to dry for a long time, the kitchen is not properly covering/storing their prep correctly. The walk-in is most likely not taken care of. For example, if someone leaves raw chicken out, it forms a skin that looks almost like jerky — chewy with an orange-ish/yellow color. That spot won't go away because someone has cooked it. There is no reason for your sensitive products to be left uncovered for that long."
7. "Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. This works for most seafood."
8. "I was employed by a national pest control service and the salespeople told me if the dining room is dirty or gross, do yourself a favor and walk out because their kitchen is gonna be much dirtier. There are also roaches at expensive restaurants — the same as there are at cheaper places. It's the restaurants that don't clean kitchens properly that attract pests and have continual problems."
9. "My red flag is going into a busy restaurant and noticing none of the tables have food or not many customers are eating yet. This usually means the kitchen is going down in flames."
10. "A large menu. Chances are, a lot of things on a menu means that they are frozen. Also, it's difficult to train people to be good at making 40 different things so the quality is going to suffer."
11. "If you actually smell fish at a sushi restaurant, it's in your and your insides' best interest to hightail it out of there."
12. "If you ever order something with crab, always ask, 'What kind of crab is it?' Even though it might sound like a snobby question, it will reveal whether it’s canned or not. My favorite answer when I went out one time was, 'What are you talking about?', clearly indicating it was not fresh."
13. "High turnover. It usually means poor management and that means unhappy employees. Unhappy employees means that they don't give a shit about you or your food."
14. "Watch out for 'no substitutions.' If the place makes its own food, they can sub virtually anything for anything else. While they may try to play it up as, 'Our food is perfect and we refuse to change it on moral grounds,' it's almost always a sign of, 'This was made two months ago and all we do is reheat it.'"
15. "If you can’t see their health inspection score posted out in the open, it’s probably not very good. some googling around and you can view most restaurants’ scores online for free."
16. "Hot food should be hot and cold food should be cold. Also, look for food handlers and notice their hands. If they look like they are greasy and not using gloves, that’s a big red flag for me."
18. "My ex-husband was a chef. We always left if he saw workers not wearing nonslip shoes. He says that’s super important and if they don’t care about that, he doesn’t even want to know what the kitchen looks like."
19. "Any big space that's empty during a rush period. Honestly, I know you shouldn't always do groupthink but if everyone is choosing to stay away...there's probably something to it."
20. "If you can smell the fryer from outside the building, get back in your car and drive on. If they don’t maintain the fryer oil, they don't deep-clean at all."
21. "If you walk into a restaurant and it smells like old socks, leave. German cockroach pheromones (the most common restaurant roach) smell like old sweaty socks and there needs to be A LOT of them to make the odor noticeable."
22. "This isn't true 100% of the time but my roommate, who is a chef, said it's not worth the risk to dine at places that are very dimly lit. He said some restaurants do this to cover up the lack of cleanliness."
24. And finally, "Ceiling tiles. It sounds strange but if the ceiling tiles are stained, dusty, or otherwise in poor condition, you can bet that there are things being overlooked. And if there are tiles actually missing? Run."
Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.