Yesterday, a Reddit thread asked chefs a slightly terrifying question: "What red flags should people look out for when they go out to eat?"
The thread quickly went viral, as chefs (and other restaurant employees) started sharing the gross stuff that customers need to watch out for while dining.
Here are some of the most eye-opening responses:
1. "The first thing they told us in culinary school when you're learning food safety is: If you enter a seafood restaurant and smell fish, leave."
2. "Carpet is a red flag. Yeah, it's quieter and doesn't get slick, but it is one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen in restaurants. Vacuuming only goes so far in a restaurant and I know they never, ever shampooed the one at my place."
3. "If a restaurant has a one-page menu, that's usually a pretty good sign. It means their line cooks have become specialists and can usually nail all the dishes listed. Conversely, if a restaurant has a giant, multi-page menu, that's a gigantic red flag."
4. "If a restaurant has a HUGE menu...it's all frozen."
5. "Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. Same for most seafood."
6. "Most often, lemons for water are really gross and dirty."
7. "Stay away from buffets and salad bars. A lot of the time it is the same stuff that just gets refilled over and over. Super gross."
8. "No matter how well managed a buffet is, it can never be sanitary. It is not reasonably possible to run a sanitary buffet business."
9. "If you are seated right away during peak hours, that is a red flag. The common folk aren't eating there, and for a good reason."
10. "If you order a meal that should take a long time to cook and it comes out very quickly, it’s been pre-cooked."
11. "'Catch of the day' restaurants better have a lake or an ocean within a 50-mile radius. If they are advertising fresh-caught Alaskan salmon and you aren't in Alaska, chances are that shit is not fresh."
12. "When there are pictures of food on the menu that clearly aren't from the restaurant."
13. "Seeing fruit flies. Fruit flies are an indication of a dirty kitchen."
14. "If the area is busy but the restaurant is empty, that’s usually a bad sign."
15. "In culinary school, every single chef instructor says the same thing: If it's misspelled on the menu, that's on purpose. It's so they don't have to sell you the real thing. A prime example is 'krab cakes.'"
16. "When the menus are super dirty and never cleaned, that means everything is super dirty and never cleaned."
17. "I always look for how the staff interact with each other. If they all seem to enjoy being there, and coordinate well, more often than not it's because everything is running smoothly and they have a good system, which usually means they know what they're doing and you can expect good food."
18. "Watch the wait staff. If the majority of them seem disgruntled or upset, things probably aren't great. They probably don't care about your food if they aren't being treated fairly."
19. "Don’t order fish on Sundays. Most places get their fish deliveries on a Monday and on a Thursday. Fish goes off fairly quickly, and on a Sunday it’s really not great."
20. "If your server’s response to 'How is the [item]?' seems disingenuous, that’s a big red flag. They know what goes on in the kitchen, they know the complaints, and they know which items to stress over when they deliver them."
21. "I look for dust. Dust on the ceiling tiles or in the air-conditioning vents. I also have a habit of running my finger along chair frames after I sit down to check for dust."
22. "How does the place actually smell? Does it smell like good food? Then it likely is. But if it smells like perfume or something sterile? That could be a sign that they are trying to hide something unpleasant."
23. "If a pitcher of water touches your glass, it has also touched everyone else's glass. Also, if you can't see them pour your water, there's something wrong."
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.