Embarrassing Things You Should Never Order At A Steakhouse

Dining in a steakhouse may seem like one of the easiest things in the world. Yet, as is so often the case with deceptively simple things, your average steakhouse experience offers plenty of potential troubles that you need to recognize and navigate around. As a prospective steakhouse patron, you must be ready for the goodness that is heading your way but also prepared to summon the willpower to avoid some of the more questionable items on the menu.  

See, just because you can order everything on the steakhouse menu doesn't necessarily mean that you should. In fact, some of the orders you can place aren't just detrimental to your overall meal satisfaction — they're outright embarrassing. To minimize the possibility of unfortunate steakhouse experiences in the future, here's a list of steakhouse orders you can — and arguably should — avoid going forward. Today, we'll take a look at some embarrassing things you should never order at a steakhouse.

Well-done steak

To be fair, this one is by no means exclusive to steakhouses. There are all sorts of reasons why you should never make or order well-done steak. In fact, better to avoid even thinking about it, just in case.

Here's why. Eating your steak well done means that you're eating a dry, hard abomination that has been cooked well beyond what any quality piece of steak should ever endure. At this point of doneness, the juices are largely gone, the fibers are hard, and the eating experience is nothing short of disappointing because the flavor has quite literally been cooked away. The customer might as well ask the chef to cook the steak rock-hard and enjoy it with a hefty dollop of ketchup, as Donald Trump has been known to do. 

Knowing how much criticism the way the former President of the United States likes to eat his steak has drawn, just imagine walking into a steakhouse and telling the waiter you're about to join the well-done steak club yourself. They're not going to outright roll their eyes at your order or anything, but there's a pretty good chance that more than one person involved in the process will quietly judge you. Quite possibly, the people you're dining with count themselves among these ranks.

A burger

Let's get one thing out of the way before we continue: Burgers are delicious. It's just that when you're at a steakhouse, ordering a burger is a bit like ordering from the kids' menu. In fact, much like ordering a glass of milk in a Wild West saloon, looking at a menu full of delicious steaks and going for the burger option might brand you as the person who can't handle "real steak."

Now, don't take this statement to mean that we're throwing shade on what may very well be America's most iconic gift to global cuisine. It's just that there's a very specific place you should go to enjoy an opulent burger, and that's ... well, a burger joint. There's a reason why Mashed's list of best burgers in every state features places with names like Chubbfathers and Abbey Burger Bistro. Great burgers tend to come from establishments that focus near-exclusively on creating great burgers, and likewise, steakhouses are all about those juicy cuts of beef.

As such, while many steakhouses might have an afterthought of a burger haunting the tail end of their menu, chances are that it's not going to be the best thing they have — because if it was, the restaurant would focus on burgers instead of steak, wouldn't it?

Steak sauce

Slathering your steak with some delicious steak sauce can be an almost instinctive maneuver once you start eating. However, the addition of that pungent sauce on top of your carefully selected steak is practically guaranteed to single you out as a beef philistine.

The main reason behind bottled steak sauce's sidelined status is the fact that chefs dislike its tendency to mask the flavor of the beef. This wasn't a problem back when the steak quality was often more dubious, but today's beef is a far cry from the heyday of steak sauce. Besides, chances are that whatever dish you ordered already comes with a carefully selected sauce to bring out the best in it. "Before, you were masking something that was inferior, but as people gain a palate for higher-quality beef, they're more hands-off and letting the flavors of the beef sing," corporate chef Michael Ollier explains. "Or, they're finding more adventurous ways to balance a fatty cut like a ribeye."

In an interview with Mashed, Ollier further elaborated on the most suitable accoutrements for a great steak, advising that "a high-quality steak with a lot of marbling doesn't need anything but coarse kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper."

All in all, you might get away with a little bit of steak sauce on the side if there's already a bottle among the table condiments. Otherwise, it might be better to file bottled steak sauce under "only use at home."

The daily special (in some places)

This one comes with a bunch of caveats, but it's still something that you might very well end up feeling embarrassed about if you're not careful. Mashed has already told you that you should never order the special at a seafood restaurant due to the obvious and extremely embarrassing complications that might arise in the unfortunate event that the special is that particular restaurant's way to get rid of the proteins that are close to spoiling. As The New York Times notes, meats keep a little better than fish, but industry insiders have pointed out that the "avoid the special" adage applies to any and all specials, including steakhouse ones. 

"Specials are there to disappear throughout the evening," Gordon Ramsay himself has noted (via Modern Restaurant Management). "The daily specials are usually made up of ingredients that are the oldest in the kitchen," an unnamed restaurant worker has concurred (via The Independent). 

Others agree, but if the steakhouse in question is known for a relatively experimental approach, there could very well be another side to the story. The daily special might be the restaurant's way to offer delicious seasonal ingredients and dishes along with the more established main menu — or even a trial run for a potential new dish, which means that the fortunate soul who samples it might get to taste an upcoming hit dish well ahead of the masses. 

The wrong cut of steak

By its very nature, a steakhouse is the perfect place to fill your belly with a fine steak. However, if you dive in unprepared, the steak you might end up getting isn't necessarily one that you enjoy eating. After all, there are many different cuts of steak, and in an establishment that's staffed and visited by people who are very, very familiar with steak, ordering the wrong thing might very well become an embarrassing experience.  

To be fair, a lot of your work is probably already done with you here because it's pretty hard to imagine a steakhouse peddling round steak as Porterhouse ... at least, if they want to stay in business for more than five minutes. Still, it's absolutely worth taking a moment to learn the subtle differences between, say, top sirloin and bottom sirloin, if only to know what you're getting and how chewy it's going to be. No one wants to be the person who orders a vacio steak and complains that the texture is different from a filet mignon.

Speaking of filet mignon, ordering this perceived monarch of Steakland might also earn you some weary sighs (per Thrillist). Many experts consider it — as well as the tenderloin in general — the most overrated cut of steak due to its sheer lack of fat and flavor.

Anything vegan or vegetarian

While many steakhouses offer perfectly decent vegetarian and even vegan options these days, avoiding meat in an establishment like this is still likely going to be an embarrassing experience — not because there's anything wrong with keeping your diet meat-free but because trying to do so in a steakhouse is the equivalent of attempting to negotiate a T-bone steak at a salad bar.

"A vegan walks into a steakhouse" might seem like a setup for a joke, and to be fair, it does seem like an unlikely kind of scenario. However, there are moments in life where you might find yourself in a steakhouse yet craving something decidedly more plant-based than anything your average steakhouse has to offer, sides notwithstanding. In a situation like this, it's unlikely that you've walked in entirely of your own accord. Perhaps it's a work thing, or a family thing, or all of your friends just happened to get a hankering for a ribeye and you were too polite to argue. Regardless, figuring out what to order in one of the most notorious types of restaurant vegetarians should avoid is almost certainly going to be an arduous experience ... and the best way to get through it is likely to avoid it altogether.

Anything that's not on the menu

You probably know that there's a very specific subset of people who insist on ordering what they feel like eating, regardless of what type of restaurant they're in. As Felicity Cloake of The Guardian has noted, it's a move like that'll only make the customer seem self-important or an unnecessarily picky eater. In fact, one could argue that the best possible guide for going fully off-menu with your order would simply be the word "don't," written in all caps.

Granted, ordering off the menu isn't always done out of malice or entitlement. There might be legitimate dietary or health reasons for requesting a few changes to the dish, or the customer might be privy to a secret menu item they want to try. However, ignoring the menu and ordering whatever you feel like simply because you happen to want it is generally a bad call and one that's likely to elicit plenty of mental groans and sideways glances from everyone present.

As one unnamed restaurant worker pointed out (via The Independent), staying within the confines of the menu — and, preferably, the core content of said menu — is ultimately just common sense. "If it's a steakhouse, I don't order the pasta," they said. "If it's a burger joint, I'll probably order a burger, not a chicken wrap. Don't send the kitchen into a frenzy because they can't remember how to prepare your food. And order something they're good at making."

Fish or chicken

Ordering either seafood or chicken at a steakhouse is unlikely to earn you as much unwanted attention as sticking to salad would, but those in the know may still sadly shake their head at your less-than-informed order. Chicken is arguably the worse offender of the two, seeing as many chefs think you should never order it while eating out. An often-quoted reason is that many establishments tend to cook the chicken far too dry, but some chefs simply think it's boring compared to other, more interesting proteins (per Salon). As Chef Tadaaki Isizaki has noted, there are also other matters of concern. "The amount of chemicals in chicken just personally scares me," he said. "If the menu doesn't list the provenance of a chicken, don't order it unless you want a plate full of hormones and antibiotics."

As for fish, Josh Ozersky of Esquire notes that it's entirely possible to get a nice fish dish at a steakhouse. However, why would you want to? After all, it seems like a pretty big and needless risk to assume that steakhouse fish is good when you could just cut to the chase and go to a seafood restaurant instead. 

The wrong wine

Much like it's difficult to stop and ask for directions when you're lost, some customers may find it unsavory to let an expert take the reins of their wine pairing. Unfortunately, if you don't know what you're doing, this can easily lead to a red face to go with your red meat. 

It's easy to assume that the worst wine-ordering faux pas is to select white wine with beef. However, this isn't always the case. According to Forbes, pairing white wine with steak — dry aged in particular — has been in vogue in high-end steakhouses. "Dry aged beef has a lot of stuff going on with umami, and with a big red, the typical pairing, that might just get lost," food writer Tony Naylor explains the trend. That's not to say all white wines are a great match with steak, though. For example, Riesling is simply too light to keep up with the flavor of beef. 

There are several different aspects to consider when finding the ideal wine to go with your steak, from the fattiness of the cut to the other components on your plate (per Forbes). As such, there's zero shame in asking for assistance and potentially plenty in neglecting to do so. Still, if you really feel like flying solo when it comes to ordering wine, a dry, high-tannin red like Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the better all-round performers with steak.


Since President Donald Trump's tendency to eat his steak well-done and with ketchup surfaced in 2017 (per Eater), the tangy tomato sauce has enjoyed a particularly sketchy reputation as a condiment for beef, to the point that a recent Mashed poll discovered that 35 percent of people would never put it on steak. As such, you can probably imagine the looks your fellow diners would give you if you reached for a bottle at a steakhouse.  

To be entirely fair, not everyone is ready to join the anti-ketchup army, at least in certain situations. Alton Brown has said that he's fine with cold steak and ketchup for breakfast. In an interview with The Ringer's Kyle Brandy (via Twitter), Guy Fieri was also fairly cool with the prospect of wanting some ketchup on your steak, stating that it would be a far bigger sin to overcook the steak than to eat it with quality ketchup. "But quite honestly, if it's your food, and it's your choice, and it's your palate, and that's what you like? Do what you want," he said. 

This is a pretty good point of view, but since you're probably not going to earn too many gourmand points at the steakhouse if you drown your T-bone in ketchup and start quoting Fieri, we advise that you keep your possible steak-and-ketchup habits within the confines of your own backyard BBQ. 

Gold leaf steak

On occasion, you might be tempted to find ways to make your lovely steak even more luxurious. For some, this is where edible gold comes in. The harmless but also completely benefit-free ingredient can add a touch of sheer opulence in your meal, and as you're about to find out, some steakhouses absolutely use this to wow you. If that's your thing and your wallet can take the hit, go right ahead. Just be aware that the world will happily beat a path to your door ... most likely, to point and laugh at you.

One of the more visible proponents of gold-plated protein is Nusret "Salt Bae" Gökçe, the Turkish-born restaurateur known for his flamboyant salt sprinkling technique. A peek at the chef's Instagram reveals that he's quite fond of giving his steaks an opulent gold foil veneer, which is certainly one way to achieve that ultimate "luxurious dinner" vibe. Unfortunately for people who are willing to dish out up to $1,939 for one of his steaks (per The Guardian), this particular type of dish has received plenty of backlash. Notable British restaurant critic Jay Rayner conducted his review of Salt Bae's Nusr-Et Steakhouse in London by eating an affordable doner kebab outside the restaurant and raining written bile on the concept of absurdly expensive gold steak. People from soccer stars (via The Independent) to notable politicians (per the BBC) have received criticism over this particular dish for various but invariably scathing reasons.