Author Topic: Ordering "off menu"  (Read 6824 times)

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Bexx27

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Ordering "off menu"
« on: June 06, 2014, 04:22:29 PM »
There's a Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood that we've ordered from at least once a week for many years. The food is of average quality overall, but there are certain dishes they do really well. There's a particular entree I love there and it's what I get every time. For me, nothing else on the menu even comes close. Last time we ordered from them DH asked for that dish and they asked some confusing questions (do you want it fried? with broccoli?) that made him think they didn't know which menu item he was talking about. The order was correct when it arrived, but we learned that the restaurant has changed ownership. The chef is the same, but the menu has been drastically streamlined and no longer includes my favorite dish. :'(

So my question is, would I be a special snowflake to continue to order my favorite dish "off menu?" My understanding is that people who order "off menu" are generally regarded as rude, or at least pretentious and annoying. Or is this one of those "OK to ask" situations?
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lowspark

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2014, 04:27:15 PM »
Definitely ok to ask. I've done it. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. As long as you're ok with taking no for an answer I don't see why it's bad to ask.

rose red

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2014, 04:30:44 PM »
As a person with family in the restaurant business, I think it's OK as long as they have the ingredients and know how to make it. And if you accept no gracefully. It also gives them a chance to know what's popular for future menu tweaking. If it's a family business, they'd also want to keep your loyal once a week business rather than have you go somewhere else for that particular dish.

Surianne

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2014, 04:32:05 PM »
I agree, I think this is a case where you're fine to as ask long as you're not upset with a no (and you sound very considerate so I don't anticipate that!).

In similar situations I'll say something like:
"Is it possible to order X?  If not, I have another dish as my backup" (I'm a picky eater so I'll do this with substitutions..."I'd love to try the salad but is it possible to get it without onions or tomatoes?  If not, no worries, I'm happy to order the fish and chips instead."

Or, if you're *only* ordering because of that dish:
"Is it possible to order X?  If not, no worries" and then if they say no, "Thanks away, I'll place an order another time but tonight I was just craving X."

Basically I go a little over the top in making sure they know I'm not going to fuss if they can't/won't do it  ;D

Edit: Rose red's point about letting them know it would be a popular menu item is really clever, I'd never thought of it that way!

Arila

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2014, 04:35:46 PM »
We ordered off menu the other week. I saw someone else order one of my favorite dishes, and I asked where one could find it on the menu. The server said it wasn't on the menu, because sometimes they didn't have all the necessary ingredients, but they obviously did that day, so we requested that dish.

At another place, they changed the menu, and I wanted to give them feedback about removing my favorite item-- turns out they can still make it, and it's actually still in the computer as an option, just not on the menu, so I was able to order it anyway. Actually, now that I think about it, this exact same situation has happened more than once at two totally different places. Actually, one restaurant had a sort of secret menu of old recipes that they would still make if you knew to order them.

TootsNYC

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2014, 04:55:00 PM »
This is a business, not a social situation. Ask them if they can make it. They can tell you that no, they don't want to. Or maybe they will see this as an opportunity--a business opportunity--to make a customer happy. Which could make them more money in the future.

You are offering to purchase something.

This isn't like at someone's home where it's rude to ask them to change their menu.

weeblewobble

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2014, 04:58:47 PM »
I think it depends on the owner. You might ask management.

Personally, I don't find it rude. My family has a favorite local sushi place. Mom asked if they could replace the eel in a role with avocado as she doesn't like the texture of eel. They cheerfully did so and it was delicious. The WeebleMom roll is now her favorite to order. And the owner says that the chef is happy to make special rolls for repeat customers. It makes the customers feel appreciated and will keep them coming back. The chefs keep a little list of the special customer rolls, where they have the customers' names and a short description of the preparation, to guarantee consistency.

MrTango

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2014, 05:13:20 PM »
Definitely ok to ask. I've done it. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. As long as you're ok with taking no for an answer I don't see why it's bad to ask.

I agree.  It's okay to ask, but one needs to be willing to accept a "no."

shortstuff

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2014, 06:13:14 PM »
I've asked for "off menu" before, but in a very casual salad place, so I'm not sure if that would change the answer or not.  What happened was this salad place had an item I loved, but after a couple years they changed the ingredients, and added a lot of things I didn't like.  When I asked for Item X, the counter guy who made the salad informed me it was now Item X-with-changes, but they could still make the old recipe for me, as many people still ordered it anyway.  All the salad bar ingredients were there, so he just combined them in the way I wanted.  I didn't feel rude asking, and was still pleasantly surprised when they accommodated me. 

BigBadBetty

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2014, 06:25:23 PM »
I agree with the others to ask but be prepared to hear no. I think asking may make them consider putting on the menu. I've been to quite a few restaurants where a dish is named after a customer or employee who asked for special dish.

Tea Drinker

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2014, 07:29:29 PM »
I don't think it's rude to ask, if you're prepared to accept a no.

At least in New York, Cantonese restaurants are often willing to do that sort of thing, if it's "can you make the Chicken XYZ without snow peas" or "I'll have the thus-and-such, and would you be willing to add asparagus?" rather than requesting a special sauce or a kind of preparation they don't usually do. I think that's partly because the stir-fry process makes it relatively easy to add or subtract a vegetable from a dish.

Something like "I really like the Special Something that you used to have on the menu, can you still do that?" is easier than asking for a change out of the blue, because there might well be someone there who knows exactly how to make it. I had good results with that at one place for a year or more after the item came off the menu, though it never went back on. I think the trick, as other people have said, is to ask rather than demand, and have a fall-back, whether it's being okay with the unchanged version of the dish, or something else from the menu, or a polite "Thanks anyhow" if you're calling about take-out.
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ladyknight1

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2014, 09:21:23 PM »
We have a local seafood restaurant that serves many items, crab cakes and tilapia among them. They have a special offered occasionally that is a stuffed tilapia filet. It has a crab cake on top and is delicious, one of my favorite dishes.

I only ask for it if they aren't very busy, as I know it is more work than just one other dish. I'm always prepared to be turned down.

AngelicGamer

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2014, 09:23:41 PM »
Interesting topic!  Only time I've ordered off topic was at Panera with wanting a half iced tea / half lemonade.  Otherwise, it's been more secret menu dealing with Starbucks and wanting a peppermint mocha in March.  ;D




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Hmmmmm

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2014, 09:27:23 PM »
I think it is fine to ask. There are a couple of long time restaurants in my city that have items that used to be on their menu but aren't anymore. But old timers like us know we can still order them nd if they can't make it they tell us. No big deal

GrammarNerd

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2014, 11:02:32 PM »
There's a frozen custard place by us that has THE BEST sundae.  After ordering it a bunch of times, once we went in and I ordered it like normal.  I think the person said something to me about it not being on the menu anymore (which made me look, and it wasn't!  Oh, the horror!) but that they could make it.  I asked about it and they said they took it off the menu, but we could just ask for it if we wanted it.  Relief!!  I think it may have even appeared back on the menu at some point.

So the moral of my story is that if you visit that restaurant, rave about the dish, and ask if they'd still be willing to make it since you've always loved it so much and you order so frequently.  And who knows?  They may just decide to put it back on the menu!

(You never know how they chose dishes to keep when they streamlined the menu.  Feedback like yours could be an important factor in tweaking their 'new' menu.)