Restaurant Warning Signs

Ten ways to know it’s gonna be bad

Ten signs of a bad restaurant.

By Lessley Anderson

Sure, you can bravely try the food, or first read reviews on Chowhound. But there are other ways of knowing, before you eat, whether a restaurant’s going to suck. Here are 10 signs that usually indicate a place is unpopular for a reason, uses mostly frozen ingredients, and/or hasn’t changed its menu since wasabi mashed potatoes were captivating the nation. And yes, we know there are exceptions to these general rules. (In fact, we encourage you to tell us your favorite exceptions.)

1. The restaurant’s got clogged pepper shakers or ketchup bottles with dried ketchup caked around the lid.

2. The menu is pointlessly long—anything in the neighborhood of five pages should be a warning sign.

3. The menu uses excessive adjectives in dish descriptions, particularly the word luscious.

4. The waitstaff immediately perks up because you’re the first customer to come in all week (or you’re the only person there on a Saturday night at 8:30).

5. You see bread in a bunch of prefilled baskets sitting in the back. They probably put them together hours ago, and the bread is likely to be dry.

6. The menu is under a piece of plexiglass laid on the table.

7. The mop sink is in the bathroom, and there are mops in it.

8. There are glasses hanging upside down over the bar, and they’re all dusty.

9. In addition to wobbly tables, there are sugar packets strewn under the table, once acting as table stoppers but never cleaned up.

10. There’s a “tent menu” on the table advertising specials, or a folded, creased, and stained specials page clipped inside the menu.