Dear Dine

Tray with tasty cold oysters and lemon on grey table

The etiquette of stacking dishes,
and eating oysters and frites.

Dear Dine,

“Should a diner stack plates when they are done eating? What is good table etiquette for the end of a meal? I have been told it might be a younger generation thing where Millennials stack plates, but Boomers do not. Is it helpful to stack, or am I rushing the wait staff?” – Shannon N. 

In having experienced a wide variety of restaurant settings, Nick Bartholomew, owner of Over Easy and Dandelion Pop-Up, shared his observations. He said, “I believe the generation gap answers the stacking plates etiquette question. For Boomers, they saw it as a treat or an occasion to go out to eat. They treated an evening out almost like a vacation where they were taking the night off. Millennials, from one time in their life or another, have held a restaurant job so we saw it as a helpful thing to a server or busser so they didn’t have to make extra trips. Millennials stack based on empathy, and Boomers don’t because they want the full experience of being waited on.” 

He further explained, “Helpfulness is when the waiter asks ‘Is everyone finished?’ and begins to clear the table. Helping stack at this point is ideal. Stacking prior to wait staff’s presence is saying something completely different.” 

Dear Dine,

“Are you supposed to turn your disposed shell upside-down on a half shell platter?” – Darla T. 

There are several ways to handle this situation depending on how the restaurant serves the platter. Some restaurants may supply a separate share plate for discarded shells, while others expect the shells to be placed back on the ice or platter in which they were served.

In reaching out to Plank Seafood Provisions, Chris Akers, a Corporate Chef at Flagship Restaurant Group, agreed to the flipping method in stating, “It is the polite thing to do, but not always necessary. Most people do flip the shell after eating!” 

Dear Dine,

“I always feel silly eating frites at a fancy restaurant. What is the proper way to eat frites?” – Justine P. 

A familiar dish that highlights fries as “frites” would be the menu item Steak and Frites. With the elegance of the steak and often a fancy steak knife, it can be confusing how the dish should be eaten.

Erin Leick, Front of House Manager at Dario’s Brasserie said, “At Dario’s, we take frites as seriously as any of our entrees. The long cut means they stand up nicely to a dipping sauce—we like ketchup and herbed mayo, but you can do any sauce. The key is to make sure your sauces aren’t too cold so they nicely coat the frites. We also love to serve them on the side of a protein with a Belgian beer-based gravy. Lately, we’ve done lamb meatballs and rabbit, and the frites are perfect with the rich sauce. Serving them on the side instead of poutine-style makes sure they stay crisp to the very end!”

As far as the question of using fingers or a fork, Leick confirmed, “Definitely your fingers! You can use a fork to get the last few small ones properly sauced and avoid dirty fingers, though.”

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