The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008


If something is a fad in the restaurant world, just wait and it will soon become tired and passe, passed up by new thinking. Sometimes it's nice to be the person who never cared about the fad, and without doing anything different, is now the person in tune with the zeitgeist. I'm thinking of water.

Cincinnati was never as heavily into this water thing as other cities, but there was getting to be the danger that you would sit down at a restaurant, be asked whether you wanted still or sparkling, be brought a bottle of still and pay $10 or more for it. I don't like unclear charges--that's why they put prices on menus (also why I'm not a tipping fan, but maybe we shouldn't go there on this blog) --and I just could never bring myself to think that there is anything wrong with water out of the tap. So I always said tap water was fine, making me feel cheap and unsophisticated. Then they began to offer ice water, which is a nicer way of saying it.

Now, bottled water is becoming acknowledged as largely ludicrous, un-environmental, responsible for unnecessary solid waste, often not spring water at all (Though I don't think that's really the case with water sold in restaurants.) I'm happy, my inclinations have been blessed with the latest thinking, and I no longer feel like a rube.

In France, I felt soo American. "Un carafe d'eau," we'd beg after traipsing around all day in the heat, and get a tiny little pitcher. (Hmmm. maybe it's une carafe, and that's why we never got any.) I liked drinking mineral water there, but wished always for someone to come by with a big pitcher of abundant iced water. I do, though, love the idea of being given a chance to donate some money to the people in the world who don't have water when I drink that abundant cold glass.


at 4:41 PM Anonymous Eponanymous said...

The basic problem is that you are cheap Polly.

What is 'unclear' about charges for bottled water? Surely you do not presume that diners think that the bottled water is free? And kindly name one restaurant who does not clearly print their bottled water charges on their menu? If you do not want to pay for bottled water, than just say 'no thanks', and don't be embarrassed about it.

I find it annoying when a busser in a white table cloth restaurant automatically brings ice water to my table, because then I have to tell him or her that I would rather have bottled water-with fizz for me-, and then they have to remove the ice water, and thus unneccesarily dirtying up more glasses. Or I have to drink the funky tasting tap water, which I cannot stand.

Yes, many of us will pay a few bucks for spring water that actually tastes pleasant. I have not been charged $10 for a bottle of water even in Manhattan, by the way.

I also fail to understand what is 'unclear' or unambiguous about tipping. Unless you experience poor service, you are expected to tip 15-20% of your bill. Clear enough? If you ask for a lot of special requests, or find the service to have been truly superlative, then you tip closer to the 20%. Got it?

Tipping is not optional. Waitpersons make $2.50 per hour, because the bulk of their compensation comes from tips. In addition, they are taxed by the IRS on 10% of their customer checks (which about what the average waitperson makes at the end of the day, when you add it all up).

If you cannot afford to tip, then you cannot afford to eat in a restaurant. You need to stay home and cook.

If you receive truly bad service, bad enough that you would not want to leave a tip, the proper etiquette is to speak to the manager and address your complaint directly to him or her, and let them know why you are not tipping.

If you are one of those despicable types who doesn’t believe in tipping and who frequents the same restaurants repeatedly (you know who you are, Mr. $5 on a $100 check), I can gaurentee that you have ingested your server’s saliva at least once. The restaurant profession has the same percentage of crazy people that other jobs have. People can be really sick, especially after suffering repeated rudenesses without an option of talking back.

Conversely, if you are a good tipper, the servers fight over the chance to wait on you. You know that couple sitting next to you who get free glasses wine, and comped dishes? That's because they tip well. Period.

Incidentaly, I do not and have never worked work in a restaurant. I have known enough servers over the years, however. I also dine out a great deal, all over this nation and Europe. I'm the good tipper sitting next to you at the bar getting free drinks from the bartender.

at 7:24 PM Blogger Jaime said...

How can you be a food writer and not be a fan of tipping, are you kidding me?

Well I guess I'm not a fan of food writers who don't understand the restaurant industry.

at 7:36 PM Anonymous It's True said...

If you frequent an establishment, and if you tip the bartender more money and more often then is necessary, you will save money in the long run.

-Esquire Magazine's Rule #127

at 8:03 PM Anonymous Chad Edward said...

Wow. This wasn't even a post about tipping...

Polly, I think bottled water is like everything else. As it became a fad, poor quality waters flooded the market. (No pun intended.) It seems the nouveau riche will pay anything to mask their lack of actual good taste and class, right eponanymous? However, there are delicious bottles of water among the pretenders that are worth paying for.

I enjoy the tipping conversation. Since you've been ambushed here for its mere mention, why don't you actually post on it and explain yourself.

at 8:51 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's embarrassing to have a so called food critic be so cheap...and then brag about it. Classy.

at 10:09 PM Anonymous Mary D. said...

I am not 'nouveau riche', nor am I anything near wealthy, but I spring for bottled water when I am eating a nice meal out. I do not like the taste of our local tap water, the chlorine notes make it taste off. Nor do I like putting a lemon in my water. I do enjoy several brands of waters with dinner, including Voss, Fuji, Panna, Appollinaris, Badoit (my fav bubbly water), Vitell, and Evian. I consider all of these mineral waters to be of very high quality, and some of them to be of the highest quality. I will say that there are too many bottled waters on the market that are nothing but municipal waters, but you don't see these at decent restaurants.

There is no reason to feel so defensive because you don't want to pay for bottled water. Just say no thanks to your waiter, and make no apologies about it. It's your choice, and your taste, or lack thereof in some cases (just joking!).

As for the gratuity issue, it's just plain gouache and ill-mannered to not tip a waiter/ess. That's how they earn their livelihoods and feed their kids. These folks work their you know whats off, and I have a great deal of respect for them.

at 6:51 AM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

Some comic relief....

Dwight Schrute: (After he didn't tip the sub man) Why tip someone for a job I'm capable of doing myself? I can deliver food. I can drive a taxi. I can, and do, cut my own hair. I did however, tip my urologist, because I am unable to pulverize my own kidney stones.

This is supposed to be funny, so please don't attack me or spit in my food.

at 3:18 PM Anonymous soozycue said...

On the Waiterrant blog, there is a piece on "Source Municipal", a fancy name for tap water. It's a good read.


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