Table Manners is an etiquette column exploring modern dilemmas related to food and drink. From eating at restaurants to entertaining at home, including quandaries such as how to best return cell phone calls at the table, columnist Helena Echlin offers expert advice. See all of Helena's columns in chronological order.
- How to Dine Out
- How to Tip
- How to Entertain at Home
- How to Use Technology While Dining
- How to Dine with Family
- How to Date and Dine
- Miscellaneous Modern Dilemmas
On choosing a restaurant, ordering, behaving properly in public, handling the bill, and more.
Can vegetarians demand meat-free environments?
Is it rude for two diners to halve one dish at a restaurant?
The greenest takeout packaging.
Are you supposed to drink at a business meal?
Should you pick up the tab for jobless friends?
Is it acceptable to eat off other people’s plates?
Is it impolite to blow your nose at the table?
Modern bread-plate etiquette.
Do you have to split the bill?
Caesar salads, sushi … where do you draw the line?
When should a server take your plate?
Is it OK for a restaurant to abuse its customers?
Is it OK to ogle other people’s orders?
Can a restaurant kick you out when it’s busy?
The dos and don’ts of dining solo.
When solo diners aren’t looking for company.
Must you dress up for nice restaurants?
Should regulars get special treatment?
Can grown-ups get little burgers?
Is it OK to send vino back if you hate it?
How to cancel dinner reservations.
Is saving leftovers ever a bad idea?
What to do when the table next to you is noisy.
When to stop thanking your server.
Is it rude not to want to share your fork?
Is it OK to apply lipstick at the table?
Restaurant food poisoning etiquette.
How bad is it to pilfer pints?
Does your server really want to know how your meal was?
The etiquette of approaching celebrities in restaurants.
How should a restaurant handle bugs in your dish?
How to tell waiters to let you drink at your own pace.
Sending food back that you simply don’t like.
Do restaurants ever waive corkage fees?
Should stingy restaurants be put on notice?
Is there a polite and graceful way to ensure my order is gluten-free?
Is physical contact between waiter and customer OK?
Are waiters being too personal when they introduce themselves?
Before visiting a winery, what do I need to know in terms of "proper" behavior?
I'll be the judge of whether I like the wine or not.
What should you do if your waiter is high?
Taking the stress out of hypoglycemia.
What is up with the no-substitutions policies?
I was brought up to remove my hat whenever I was indoors. Have manners changed?
What is the best way to approach a community-style shared table?
How to divvy up contemporary composed small plates.
Should diners feel guilty for not ordering alcohol?
Is it rude to request that a restaurant turn down the volume?
What is the correct way to behave at a sushi bar?
When to tip more, or less, or perhaps not at all.
How much should you tip on drinks?
When should you leave more than 20 percent?
Is it ever OK to stiff the waitstaff?
Should you tip baristas, and if so, how much?
Should you augment a bad tip, and how?
On being a gracious guest or a consummate host at everything from fancy dinner parties to casual potlucks.
How to escape bores at parties.
What’s the right answer to “Can I bring anything?”
Don’t bring food to a dinner party.
How to get your friends to tell you if they’re coming.
Or are my friends thieves?
What to bring to a funeral.
Is it wrong to ask your hostess to pass the salt?
Is eating really slowly rude to your fellow diners?
Are you obliged to reciprocate dinner party invitations?
The dos and don’ts of last-minute canceling.
What’s with the “shoes off” rule?
You lose cred when you use paper.
Way beyond hugs and air smooches.
How to let a lingering guest know that it’s time to leave.
What do atheists say when asked to say grace?
Tips on how to host a successful potluck.
When can you leave a boring dinner party?
Lie, confess, or order pizza?
Is it OK to ask friends to help with your reception?
The absentee cocktail party host.
Are ambush visits rude?
How much can I tell a dinner-party host about my eating habits?
Are hosts required to share their gifts?
Is it OK to leave a dinner party early?
When dinner guests don’t say thank you enough.
Keep your secret ingredients secret.
How to exclude certain coworkers from a party invitation.
How to get a wedding speech right.
Staying home is the new going out.
Economical, festive, and good for Sundays.
Is it OK to hit two dinners in one night?
She came last year, must she again?
Can you undo a false food compliment?
Can you serve leftovers to guests?
Are you entitled to Thanksgiving leftovers? And other holiday conundrums.
How to deal with prissy nondrinkers.
Why people should always RSVP.
How to deal with the chronically late.
There’s negligible contamination, but it’s still unacceptable.
When it’s not OK to bring your dog to a party.
How to be a good weekend guest.
Keeping pace with the host.
How many event reminders must a person send out?
Can you ask guests to bring their own cups?
Help! I’m not cut out for cake-cutting.
How to deal with tense dinner party hosts.
Is it selfish to guard a recipe?
None of the planning, all of the fun.
Do most people secretly wish you would not offer dessert?
Is it OK to scavenge bones from guests' plates to make chicken stock?
Why won't they come to our house for dinner?
The generally accepted rule for repaying your host.
How much am I supposed to do to accommodate vegetarians at a barbecue?
Providing "help" at the grill without being asked is a major faux pas.
Can you have a dinner party where the guests don't sit around a dining room table?
I'm concerned that some of my guests won't leave until after midnight.
Is it micromanaging to specify a dress code on the invite for a holiday party?
Is it ever appropriate to give party guests a tour of your house?
From iPhones to digital cameras, new technology presents new etiquette dilemmas.
Is it OK to answer your cell phone during dinner?
How to politely photograph restaurant food.
Nowadays there are endless ways you might use your phone to enhance your dining experience.
The ins and outs of dining with your kids, parents, and in-laws.
The etiquette of nursing in restaurants.
How to deal with your mother-in-law’s bad manners.
How to politely tell guests not to bring their kids.
How to get your way on Mother’s Day.
Which table manners your kids should mind.
Can you tell a friend not to bring his parent to your party?
Should you go on the wagon in solidarity with your pregnant spouse?
How should restaurants handle misbehaving children?
Can you tell a pregnant boozer to stop?
Is it wrong to ask minors to mix martinis?
When relatives drink and embarrass you.
Should you make them eat their broccoli?
Table Manners weighs in.
How do I break my vegetarianism to my boyfriend's meat-loving family?
Is a casserole still the go-to dish?
How can I make her stay out of the kitchen and stop trying to control the menu?
Tips for those with toddlers.
What are polite ways to steer family members toward better food choices?
How can I steer my mother-in-law away from a grocery-store turkey injected with weird saline and chemicals?
Is it rude to clean out old food from your parents' kitchen?
On romancing, proposing, breaking up, and dealing with friends’ dates.
It’s bad manners for couples to form social units.
A Valentine’s Day dinner date that doesn’t imply everlasting commitment.
Is it OK to break up in restaurants?
No fondling over dinner.
How to stop a friend from salting your game.
Is it shallow to consider diet when dating?
What should you do if a stranger buys you a drink?
How to propose in a restaurant.
Which foods might not get you to third base.
The dos and don’ts of inviting the unattached.
Better ideas for dining with your sweetie.
How to teach your mate good table manners.
On guys ordering for gals.
Can you really trust someone who doesn't care about food?
If I take a girl out to dinner, will I look cheap if I ask the server to apply my Groupon?
Must the guy always be the one who pays for the first date?
What you should serve to create the right romantic atmosphere.
Whether to drink before yoga class, what food to give to the homeless, which fork to use, and more.
How much can you try before you purchase?
When are you supposed to stand at a meal?
Noodle-eating etiquette according to ethnic tradition.
Oral hygiene among friends and associates.
What not to eat on planes.
It’s a matter of respect, for your food and your company.
Even when food is the subject, they still annoy.
How to stop office kitchen thieves.
Influencing an overweight friend’s eating habits.
Is it rude to admire a woman’s appetite?
How do you change people’s recycling habits?
How to handle embarrassing party photos.
Does using the right utensil even matter anymore?
How to help yourself from your neighbors’ trees.
When offering gum doesn’t cut it.
Is it bad form to go to happy hour first?
Is it rude to put your elbows on the table?
My roommate is stealing my food.
Does bringing your lunch hurt your chances for success?
What—and how—to feed the homeless.
The dos and don’ts of election conversations.
Looking back on my bad advice.
Can I give my seriously rude friend a talking to, or is that just rude?
Is it rude to eat on the subway?
How to turn down social plans for alone time.
How to avoid forest faux pas.
How to address ethically challenged eaters.
Don't encourage the wine bores in your life.
Is it OK to tell people to stop bringing in sweets?
The infamous "French leave."
Is it wrong to bring your own popcorn?
How to party with your friends on the cheap.
How do you get out of empty gestures?
How healthy and homemade should you be?
Is it bad etiquette for employers to ask employees to pitch in?
Is "Are you a foodie" a rude question, and what is a good answer?
Does a guest have some sort of obligation to mingle?
Tips on bringing your own containers.
The etiquette of urban homesteading.
Bad things happen with low blood sugar.
They open the door; you feel guilty.
Basic behavioral guidelines for market day.
Is it wrong to refer to Chinese food as "Oriental food"?
Should I include my non-meat-eating friends in my whole-animal birthday dinner?
Is European cutlery usage more cultured and cosmopolitan than the American style?
What are the customs around drinking wine in French restaurants?
Have email and texting replaced a handwritten note?
What is a polite way for me to stop my roommate from wasting food?
How can I tell my brother, tactfully, that culinary school is a bad idea?
How do I delicately broach the topic of not wasting water with my roommate?
How to handle an over-the-top pet-sitting request.
When peer judgment threatens to supersede nutrition.
Is it rude to rummage through a business's trash?
From food safety to food rejection.
I pump milk at work for my baby. Is it OK to store it in the office fridge?
Has placenta-eating become mainstream enough that it's politically incorrect to have a problem with it?
Should I tell him the truth?
Am I being a cheapskate for being annoyed that I am expected to chip in?
Is it tacky to list such an expensive gift?
Why are foragers so secretive about their mushroom patches?
Is it bad form to cherry-pick which houses to hit on Halloween?
Is it so wrong to talk about my diet with my coworkers?
Please explain to restaurant diners that it is perfectly OK for servers to drink in moderation while they are working.
Why did a customer make such a fuss about me eating behind the counter on my break?
What's the etiquette for staff behavior in an open kitchen?
How does a bartender decide when someone has had too much?
Is modern etiquette in decline?
What to expect—and what not to bring—when attending a Seder.
Helena Echlin says good-bye.