Two Menu Staples Restaurant Critics Never Bother Ordering

Restaurant critics are living the dream. Who doesn't want to be paid to eat exquisite food and share their opinion with the world? Sounds better than most jobs, that's for sure. Food critics work hard to develop and nurture their reputations as diners with good taste, making their opinions a reliable resource for readers who visit a restaurant and don't know what to order. So what do food critics avoid eating at restaurants?

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells and critic-at-large Tejal Rao shared some insight about how they make sense of restaurant menus and formulate their orders. It may be surprising to hear that Wells rarely orders a steak, as he finds them rather bland. A good ribeye or filet mignon is something most people view as a celebratory, night-on-the-town type of dish, but it appears Wells finds other items more interesting. He also almost never orders a burger out. Rao, on the other hand, steers clear of any braised short rib dish. She elaborated, "Short ribs are served on airplanes and at catered parties, and it's because they are a cheap, forgiving cut." Noted!

What's wrong with burgers and short ribs?

Steaks and burgers are longstanding menu staples, as they can be found on the majority of menus across the country. A OnePoll survey (via SWNS Digital) found that the average American enjoys roughly 60 burgers a year. It's interesting to hear, then, that a restaurant critic would rarely order a burger out, as it seems like a menu item people would really want to know about. Per Wells, though, they're pretty consistent from chef to chef, making for a dining experience without surprises.

Braised short ribs are a little less common than burgers, but they're still a classic winter dish. Who would have thought that such a delicious cut of meat could be so deceptively simple that a restaurant critic would avoid ordering it? Home cooks, take note: "It's hard to mess it up," Rao said about any short rib recipe, likely referencing the fact that as long as you slow-cook them in the oven with enough liquid and for enough time, they'll turn out meltingly tender. Knowing this, you can save your restaurant meals for something harder to make at home.

Just because a restaurant critic doesn't order something at a restaurant doesn't mean you shouldn't either — this is just handy food for thought the next time you dine out. Still looking for guidance from the pros? There's one dish chefs order to judge Italian restaurants, in case you want to get your critic gears turning.