Tuesday, November 11 at 11 AM

Chat with Todd about dining–and enter our contest celebrating three years of Kliman Online!

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype?

The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 a.m. on Kliman Online. From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

To read the chat transcript from November 4, click here.

Follow Todd on Twitter!

Producer's note: This Fall marks three years since Todd launched his chat on Washingtonian.com.

Three years? We know, we can't believe it either—time flies when you're talking food.

To celebrate this anniversary, we'd like to host another contest for the loyal readers of Kliman Online.

We're asking you to tap into your knowledge of Todd's tastes and devise the perfect three-course meal for our far-ranging and passionate restaurant critic.

Entering is simple. We just want you to create what would be Todd's favorite meal ever. Just list three dishes from three local restaurants—one for each course—and give a brief description of why you think Todd would enjoy them. The menu that captures what Todd loves most about Washington dining will win a gift certificate worth $150 to the Italian trattoria Notti Bianche in Foggy Bottom. 

Send entries to: candrews@washingtonian.com with the subject line "Todd's three-course dinner." The winner will be decided on November 17. 

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W o r d   o f   M o u t h   . . .

   … Sometimes it comes down to something as basic as: Do I enjoy spending a couple of hours there?
   I can rattle off the top of my head two dozen restaurants where, despite good food and drink, and despite impeccable service, I've walked away feeling that something essential was missing, some hard-to-define quality — warmth? authenticity? sincerity? I don't yet know enough about Taverna Kefi (11301 Fern St., Wheaton; 301-933-3338) to know whether its faults are sins of omission or commission, to know whether certain weaknesses are minor or fatal flaws. But I do know this: I like being there.
   Part of that has to do with the space. The building, in a former life, was home to a kind of United Nations of cuisine (Italian, Korean, and steaks in just the last few years), and had the look of a cursed space. The owner, Leo Mathios, who ran Barnaby's until last year, bought it and subjected it to a wholesale renovation. Now it has the look of a real tavern, with lots of handsome brick and tile and wood; you can drink at the bar or take a meal at one of the white tablecloth-topped tables. Families with kids are at home here, but so are couples on dates.
   The menu is divided into mezze and big plates, and both are presented with uncommon if unfussy flair, situating Kefi at the midpoint between a place like Mourayo and a Greek diner. The restaurant's version of taromasalata, the profoundly salty fish roe mousse, is served in three perfect quenelles arranged in the shape of a leaf and eats as good as it looks. Like many dishes here, it's served on the kind of plate you see in high-end home furnishing catalogues — squarish, stylish and bone-white. A marinated octopus salad is garnished with a sprig of fresh oregano. The saganaki is no grand production, aiming for understatement rather than empty theatrics: The salty slab of cheese is lit so quietly by a server, you might miss the moment if you were engaged in talk.
   All this emphasis on presentation is meant to position Kefi as the kind of restaurant where you don't blink about shelling out twice as much as you'd pay for an ethnic hole in the wall. Problem is, I don't think the cooking, for the most part, is as refined as the prices seem to suggest. (One notable exception: Thick slices of crusty-capped pork loin in a sharp mustard-cream sauce, shored up with lots of braised fennel and soft cooked rounds of potato.) And there are slip-ups.
   One night, I never did get the branzino I ordered. I did, however, get a past-its-prime glass of Greek red wine.
   To his credit, Mathios makes the rounds every night, a shambling, bespectacled presence imparting a sense of family and bonhomie. He replaced it free of charge with something more expensive. The staff, for its part, makes mistakes, but makes up for it with good cheer and attentiveness; also, by letting you sit and pick and linger — by making you feel that you had come to spend a couple of hours in the company of friends.
   These are hard qualities to ignore; some restaurants, veterans, never manage to tap into them. Barnaby's, a real gathering place, and one of the liveliest restaurants in the area, was one. I asked Mathios's wife one night if he had simply been unable to get the business out of his system. "Unfortunately," she sighed, and proceeded to recount to me the story of how her husband made his pitch to her about opening a Greek restaurant and serving the dishes his grandmother used to make. "I said, no, no, no — you're too old for this!" But who can blame him? Some people are brilliant cooks; some are brilliant businessmen. Mathios has a different gift — the gift of making spaces where people like being. …

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The Current List: Where I'd Spend My Own Money

Komi, DC
Full Key, Wheaton
La Caraquena, Falls Church
Kotobuki, DC
Palena and Palena Cafe, DC
Citronelle and Citronelle Lounge, DC
Nava Thai Noodle & Grill, Wheaton
Johnny's Half Shell, DC
Ravi Kabob I and II, Arlington
Vidalia, DC
Pete's Apizza, DC
Poste Brasserie, DC
A & J, Rockville
Vit Goel ToFu House, Annandale
Ray's Hell Burger, Arlington
Oval Room, DC
Farrah Olivia, Alexandria
Cafe du Parc, DC
Hollywood East Cafe on the Blvd., Wheaton
Corduroy, DC

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Adams Morgan

Todd,

Wanted to get my two cents in on the pre/post tax tip issue.

My wife and I and our dining companions always tip post tax. Perhaps it is because the amount on the credit card bill and where you put the tip is post tax, maybe it is because the "final" amount is in bold and larger font than the pre-tax itemized list.

Not sure the reason, but for the past 10-15 years everyone I have dined with has tipped post tax.

I would love to be convinced that I am crazy for doing this, but there does not seem to be a consistent policy on this.

Can we get a delegation together that can settle the issue for the greater Washington, DC area?

I really do think it'd be good to get some kind of consensus on this.

And until I'm convinced that there's a need to change, I'm going to continue doing what I've always done, which is to tip (generously) pre-tax.

I've been asking around for the last couple of weeks, by the way, and most — not all, but most — of the people I've brought this up with have told me they tip pre-tax. Most — again, not all, but most — are insulted by the idea of post-tax tipping.

WDC

I was hoping the recipe sleuth could track down the recipe for Blue Duck Tavern's pumpkin gratin.

I had it a couple of weeks ago, and thought it was divine. It would make a great addition to a Thanksgiving menu.

Sounds like it would. I'm with you — I'm always looking for new things to do with pumpkin on T-Day. 

Let's hope they're willing to divulge the goods.

(Claudia, get cracking.)

 

Silver Spring, md
The best Greek pastry shop is Stella's on Rockville Pike, I heard they are opening a place in Silver Spring early next year.

You're so very right. And we wrote about Stella's a while back. Terrific stuff. I wish it hadn't slipped my mind.

Thanks for the write-in.

And thanks, also, for the heads-up; the area can always use another bakery. If it pans out, residents of Silver Spring are in for a treat. 

 

DC

Todd,

I tried your recommendation for South American food at Don Churro's Cafe. I was severely disappointed.

Service was lacking, (food took 45 minutes to come out after ordering), drinks were refilled once while we waited.

I ate the pulled pork special (only available on weekends), it was unimaginative, bland and fatty. The cheese arepa was bland and boring. My wife had the Gitana sandwich, that was was tasty. The churro that we had was heavy and doughy. Sorry, but I've had better churros from Costco or Sam's Club.

Still, we ended up tipping 15% pre-tax. If you eat in DC, its pretty easy to tip, just double your tax for 20%. I find it interesting that servers know what 18% tip is, do they go back and pull out the calculator? Often, diners tip well so that the wait staff has a favorable impression of them, rather than a reflection of service.

You didn't have anything close to my experiences, from the sound of it.

I had great service there, and the food never took forever in coming out from the kitchen. I didn't, however, go on weekends — that, plus a recent review, might have backed them up on their heels.

I think it's interesting, by the way, that you only ordered one of the (many) dishes I recommended. I don't think I painted a picture of the kind of place where you could just order anything at all from the broad-reaching menu and it would turn out to be wonderful. It's not that kind of restaurant. Not many restaurants are.

North Bethesda, MD

To the reader on Tuesday, November 4th edition who wanted Boston, MA restaurants, you are in a fantastic eating city.

Radius, No. 9 Park, & Rialto are all excellent, consistently rated well, high-end restaurants in the city.

East Coast Grill in Cambridge is a hot spot for Sunday brunch & very good, too.

La Famiglia is a tried-n-true spot in Little Italy for casual Italian & huge portions.

Stephanies & Sonsie on Newberry Street is great for people watching when the weather is nice.

The list goes on & on… You are so lucky to be there.

And we're so lucky to have so many well-traveled, food-loving chatters, eager and willing to help. Thanks for writing in, NB.

Alexandria, VA

Todd, I've been looking for your annual Thanksgiving Restaurant Guide and it appears that what I'm looking at is last years listings.

Also noticed that most places listed are in DC & MD. Any suggestions in VA., Colvin Run Tavern comes to mind. e.d. in alexandria

You're in luck, e.d. in alexandria.

The T-Day restaurant roundup will go live this afternoon. You can see it at washingtonian.com/thanksgiving

Colvin Run Tavern, by the way, has been out of business for about a year now.

 

Germantown MD

More on the tipping debate: Is good service in DC worth 4% more than good service in MD? I'm not aware of anyone who uses a post tax total as a basis for computing a tip.

I am from Philly and my Husband is from the DC area. We most often eat out with friends of ours who are transplants from the Mid-West. Hubby and I generally use 20% of pre-tax as a starting place for our tipping going up or down from there if we felt service was lacking or stellar.

Our friends from the Mid-West use 15% of pre-tax as their starting place. So, as another chatter mentioned, there may be some regional bias as to what constitutes a "good" tip.

You make a good point, Germantown. A very good point.

And your starting point is my starting point — up or down from 20%, depending on the quality.

I still haven't heard a really good argument as to why we should tip post-tax. Not that there's anything wrong with that … ; )

Baltimore, MD

Hi Todd.

I know you probably don't give much love to chain restaurants, but what is your opinion of Fogo de Chao? I'm curious b/c I have some friends who want to go (or at least to that TYPE) of restaurant but I would like to know if it is worth forking over the dough.

I think it is. But be advised: It's a LOT of dough.

It's fun, though — lots of atmosphere, lots of meat … a kind of nightly carnival. (Not Carnival; sorry.) 

Order a bottle of wine, and you could be in for a very, very expensive night.

Fairfax, VA
Where is a good place to go for a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner in Northern Virginia?

Restaurant 2941 I believe will be doing the T-Day dinner, and also I believe (don't hold me to it, but I believe) L'Auberge Chez Francois — the one more mod, the other more charming. Both are good restaurants.

Cupcake Wars
So what is it with the cupcake wars in the Post Food Section? I didn't realize that so many people having a huge craving for cupcakes. Wondering, have you also seen this trend in the restaurant dessert menus too?

No, but cupcake places — cupcakerias? — are popping up left and right. At this rate, they might overtake wine bars (!)

There must be cravings if there are that many shops.

Still, I don't think it requires weeks and weeks worth of coverage, with an NCAA Tournament-style one-and done. Sample the cupcakes, see which one you like best, and be done with it. (Christ. I'm sounding like my grandmother.)

As for dessert menus — not much of a trend, I don't think. Pastry chefs in this town are still cake-averse.

I'd much rather see the return of cake and pie — good cake and pie, imaginative cake and pie — than something so nostalgia-fied and cutesy as … cookie plates. 

(Just for the record: I love cookies. But I'm tired of cookie plates. Which almost always come without milk. I mean, what the hell?) 

Joe (Washington, DC)

Todd: I'm going to be in Philly after Christmas and we'd like to go out for a nice meal with some friends.

I'm eager to try Vetri (if I can snag a table)…do you or some other readers have any other recommendations for fine dining in the Philadelphia area?

If not, and actually even if — try Osteria, the more casual Vetri.

There's also the small, personal Lacroix, the venerable Striped Bass, the BYOB Italian Melograno …

Anyone else have anything to add–? 

Silver Spring, MD

Hi Todd, I have to chime in (late) in support of tipping post-tax.

I used to be pre-tax until years ago when I started to heard differently (there was clearly a divide). I know some people treat it like "Why let the server benefit from what the state takes away?"

But I also understand the other side. On a bar tab or a moderate meal, it really doesn't add up to much more (tipping on 21 dollars versus 23? Come on…it's not that much). But, I understand others may not be able to afford to do that. I choose to, and it works for me.

On another note, I'm amazed at your encyclopedic memory of meals!

Thanks for weighing in, Silver Spring. And thanks for the nice words (I wish I had the same encyclopedic memory for differential equations!)

I think clearly we're in the middle of a major debate. I'm glad we're having it. 

Shall we convene a panel? 

WDC

Todd, I have friends in from out of town next weekend and was looking for a place in the District where my friend's wife can have food made-to-order (she is breastfeeding and her son has pretty severe food allergies).

I get the sense that the Top 100 restaurants are less likely to deviate from their works of art. Someone suggested Founding Farmers – yea or nay, and if nay, other ideas?

Really interesting question.

Here's the thing. The best restaurants are the ones best equipped to handle these kinds of specific requests — although you help them (which of course helps you) by looking over the menu and then calling the GM/chef to discuss the situation. I'd give them at least a day's notice, if you can. 

I'd feel comfortable with any of the restaurants in the Top 40. 

Give it a try, and let us know which restaurants you called and how things turned out. Okay? 

Washington

hey Todd love your chats, I am a waiter that wants to be a bartender which restaurant do you think could teach me to be a bartender?

Or who should I talk to to learn how to make a cocktail? Thank you

If you want to learn how to make a cocktail, you could try calling on some of the old veteran barmen in the area — the ones who work at the St. Regis, or The Willard, or the Hay-Adams. Those vets know their stuff.

Now, if you want to learn to be a "mixologist" — which is a bartender, basically, but with a creative license and a head for p.r. — then you could try hitting up one of the men or women who have gained a name in recent years in this town: Todd Thrasher at Restaurant Eve and P/X, Justin Guthrie at Central, Gina Chersevani at EatBar, Owen Thompson, Derek Brown.

 

Cheverly, MD

What are your favorite area bar menus?

After a particularly arduous day yesterday I went by Vidalia and lounged about on their sofa, had a glass of wine, soup and some bread. It was lovely and I felt like I was spoiling myself (although the tab was less than $20)!

I typically want to eat something like salad, soup, bread, etc, for dinner and not get an entree, and bars menus in upscale restaurants seem to welcome this. Where else should I try?

Vidalia's one of the best. Great nibbles, and you can drink really well — sample lots of tastes, from lots of places — without spending a lot.

Westend has a good one, too. Restaurant Eve. Poste. … There's more; my mind's just drawing a blank right now. 

I'd be interested in hearing where you all like to go when it's been a long, hard day and you don't feel like going home just yet and you don't feel like a big meal, either. 

Restaurant Refugee

Two Pizza Places and a Riddle

In the rush of attention paid to the newer pizza places in town, a couple of recent visits to older places reminded me why they are still relevant in the discussion.

Coppi’s provided a great backdrop for an unplanned date last week. Two seats at the bar, a solid wine list that is better than it has to be for a place not know for wine, a couple of shared appetizers delivered in hunger-induced coma preventing speed, a very good pie, and extremely warm service only cost me $75 including tip.

The half price beers and discounted pies at Pizzeria Parradiso’s basement beer garden make their happy hour worth blocking time on your calendar. BP has one of the most interesting and well run beer programs in the area and all of the tap lines are discounted during happy hour. In tight economic times, BP represents outstanding value for hop heaps.

On another note, you once described the décor of Napoleon Café as resembling a 17th century French Bordello. What newish Georgetown restaurant shares their design philosophy?

The Refugee is back! Long time, no hear … 

I agree with you re Coppi's, which is why I included it in the big roundup I did of pizza spots last year. Good pies, good atmosphere.

And I agree with you on BP — aka Birreria Paradiso, downstairs from the Georgetown Pizzeria Paradiso. Even without the happy hour discounts.

As for the riddle … clearly, you read carefully. Wow I'd forgotten that line.

Anyway, dunno — who? 

 

Gaithersburg, MD

After reading your "First Look" article about Sushi Damo in Rockville, MD, I went this weekend. Great sushi, by the way,…but that's not why I'm writing.

Not to muddy the waters on the "tipping" issue that has been discussed lately, but I wanted to add my experience from this weekend. The bill, pre-tax, came out to exactly $27. After MD sales tax, the total was $28.62. At the bottom of the receipt, there were "Gratuity Suggestions" that stated that 15% would be $4.00 and 20% would be $5.50.

By my calculation, these don't add up correctly for the pre OR post tax percentages. 20% of the pre-tax total, for example, would be $5.40 and post-tax, it would be $5.72. What's the deal? The restaurant, therefore, made up some weird hybrid of a pre/post-tax gratuity percentage. Now what do I gather from this?

Good sushi, though.

That's odd.

Although it's not far off — a dime off. But rounded up, in the restaurant's (server's) favor. 

So, what'd you tip? Pre-, or post-?

adams morgan
Hi, When I have had a long day, and don't feel like cooking but don't want a huge meal I always head to Cashions. I usually have a soup and a salad and a glass of vino. Perfect! Or sometimes a salad and one of their yummy desserts. I recently had fried apple pies, so so good!

Yep. It's been a while, but I've spent a good number of nights eating and drinking at the Cashion's bar, myself.

Thanks for the reminder …

Bar Menus
By far, mini-burgers for me are the best bar food around. The Source has the best and one of the most attractive bar and bar food I have seen in DC, love Matchbox's mini burgers, even though the bar is small and tough to find a seat, and WestEnd Bistro's mini-burgers are just as tasty. PS7 bar menu include some delicious tuna tartare mini-bites. Delicious.

The Source lounge has what might very well be the best far food, top to bottom, in the city.

The Kobe sliders are fabulous, I love the pork belly dumplings with black vinegar, the spring rolls with scallop and shrimp are super-crunchy, the chicken wings are the best around, and the masterfully spiced arctic char is about the closest you can come to pork belly without their being pork (soft and luscious meat, beautiful, crunchy cap of skin).

 

WDC
Hello Todd, Now that it's getting colder, I'm really craving a good lamb tagine with prunes. Pyramids used to make a great one but since it closed up shop I have not found another restaurant that offers the same quality. Suggestions?

Oh, that was a great dish, wasn't it? And cheap! Khadija Banoulas is a talented, generous cook. Pyramid is gone, but I'm holding out hope that we haven't seen the last of her.

I like the tagines at Kasbah in Reston, which I wrote about not too long ago. And you can also find tagine at Figs Fine Foods, on MacArthur Blvd., in the Palisades.

I still miss Pyramid, though. And that wonderful bistilla. So good, so so good …

Rockville, MD

Greeting Todd.

So I have the chance to pick any fine dining restaurant (price no object and we love tasting menus) that my nice brother is treating me,. I cannot decide between Adour, Komi, Minibar, or Restaurant Eve (we have previously dined at 2941, the Source, CityZen, and Citronelle).

Can you help me decide? Thanks!

In order: Komi, Eve, Minibar, Adour. 

Enjoy, whichever way you go, and check back in and let us know how things turned out.

Washington, DC
I'm meeting a friend for lunch, and she wants to go somewhere near 17th and Rhode Island. Any suggestions? What're our best bets?

Skewers, Luna Grill, Beacon Grill, Nage, Daily Grill, Tabard Inn, Malaysia Kopitiam — all within easy striking distance.

Skewers is fun, MK is funner, Nage is decent fine-dining, and Tabard is your best bet for something more refined and pampering. 

Dupont

Amen, Todd! I would LOVE to see the return of good cake and pie!!! wow!

Also, my mother is coming to town this weekend. We have reservations at Minibar, but I couldn't get into Komi. My mom likes it "fancy" so would you suggest Adour or Corduroy? Btw, she loves Le Paradou….

Corduroy. 

And I think you'll have a great time.

Drop me a note next week and let me know …

Bethesda
Another recipe for you guys to work on- I LOVE the Tavern salad at Liberty Tavern. The ingredients speak for themselves but its the dressing that I really need the recipe for…. Much appreciated!
Claudia Bahar, our intrepid Recipe Sleuth, is on the case. Thanks for writing in.
DC

After following the chat the last 2 weeks—and being a bartender in 2 different price points of dining establishments–I looked at almost every credit card receipt last week.

I would say that on cc's it appeared most people tipped post-tax, this could be b/c they are looking at that number and not thinking about the tax amount. Opposed to people who are paying cash seem to look at the pre-tax amount, b/c they are looking at the actual itemized bill. Just my two cents.

I always tip post tax, and start at 20%. Not to say anyone else should have to, it is just what I choose to do.

PS. 15% pre-tax will always make me question what I did wrong. As everything has gone up in price, we are still making $2.77/hour which doesn't even cover our taxes.

I'm glad you wrote in, DC. You offer an interesting perspective — two restaurants, two price ranges.

And I think people need to hear what you said — a 15% pre-tax tip will make you question what you did wrong.

We really do need to convene some kind of panel …

Dupont Circle, DC
Any thoughts on where a large group of 20 somethings (probably 14 of us) should meet for dinner tomorrow night? Some where in the chinatown/metro center/penn quarter area is best.
Poste? Oya? Oyamel? Zaytinya? Cafe Atlantico? All lots of fun, all in Penn Quarter.
Arlington, VA

It has always been pre tax since I waited tables back in the mid 70's. This a ploy by current servers to get a couple more bucks out of us for service that is just average.

My suggestion is be a better server and earn those extra bucks the hard way.

For large parties restaurants calculate the tip on the pre tax amount.

Sorry I am not going to calculate your tip on the total including tax.

Drop it! There is no controversary. This is all being started by greedy no account lazy servers.

As Jim Rome would say: Bringing it STRONG to the mike!

DC – cakes, pies

Dear Todd,

Why are pastry chefs cake averse? I don't think they are particularly difficult, so it can't be the level of skill in question? Pies, now that I cold understand. But, there are a plethora of pies everywhere–and, it's much easier to make a mediocre pie crust (hence, pie) than it is to make a fabulous one.

Would love your take on this. Thanks

I think it's because cakes don't seem "difficult" enough. I think, to some pastry chefs, they don't seem to be that great of a vehicle for creativity.

Cake and pie tend to be things you see on menus that are more hidebound and conservative. This city is only recently emerging from that perception of a very stolid, very cautious, restaurant town. Steakhouses and formal French dining reigned for a long, long time. And cakes and pies were big — typically, a generation ago, dessert came down to things like cake and pie.

Pastry chefs want to show their stuff, want to show their relevance. And that's great. But a beautifully well-made slice of cake or pie is a wonderful thing, with timeless appeal. It should not be a victim of fashion.

Bethesda, MD

A while ago, I wrote in asking you for a fun restaurant for a group- one place you recommended was Cork. My group of 4 finally went there this weekend….and we loved it!

The wine was fantastic, the service was friendly and prompt. We literally ordered almost every single dish on the menu (two in our party are big eaters) and we really liked every single one.

My personal fav was the roasted tomatoes and goat cheese, but the steak, the avocado thing, and the wild mushrooms were big hits too.

Thanks for the advice, I will definitely be back! My only regret is that our party perhaps drank a bit much and definitely added to the already high noise level there….hope we didn't ruin anybody's night!

I seriously doubt anyone could hear you — heck, I have doubts you all could hear yourselves. ; )

Thanks for writing back. And I'm glad it worked out so well. 

Waited tables in 70’s
This is 2008 – buddy – things have changed a lot since then – Most people that I know tip 20% flat out and do not take out the tax…

And again — bringing it strong to the mike!

Or would Jimbo say — SMACK down. 

100 very best restaurants
when is likely to come out? Dec or Jan ?

February, actually.

Every fourth January, the magazine honors its long-standing tradition of putting the newly elected president on the cover.

So, we're being bumped a month this time around.

Bethesda MD

Re:tipping

There is really no point in tipping post tax as it may differ from region to region.

The food or beverage price is governed by factors such as–cost of sales, rent, kind of place etc. You may choose either way of calculating, all it does is that you are a better tipper if you go the post tax route. In effect when we give a discount to a patron we are still liable to collect the sales tax on thepre-discount price.

Uncle Sam does not spare you by the logic that it is a marketing technique and thereby the full amount is taxed. By the same token one should ideally consider the pre-tax and pre discount amount for tip calculations. For wine by the bottle, one of my friends always tips at the lower-level price range even though he might order a higher priced one.

His contention is the amount of service required by the waitstaff is the same irrespective of the value of wine. This savvy person always calculates on pre-tax amount and always tips aminimum 20%.

Yet another perspective in a seemingly endless debate …

Thanks for writing in. 

washington dc
Hi Todd, Tonight's food fight -? Is it worth going to?
I think it'll be fun.
Tipping etiquette

For me, it's a no-brainer simply because everywhere I've ever lived, I've had to just double the tax to tip the said-appropriate rate at that time. Really, only a coincidence and I'm not trying to be cheeky. It's a good way for those who might be math-challenged.

Now that said going rate is 20% – and with the state of the economy, etc. I will admit that if service has been unusually below par, I will tip at a lower rate (woe is me, I know) to indicate such.

I'm not talking about so-called penalising someone for an honest mistake or where it's obvious that they are trying…. I'm talking about where someone is rude, obnoxious, and makes mistakes without acknowledging or trying to fix the way. To sound grade-school like–there is a lot to be said for effort. After all, how many of us get it right ALL THE TIME.

I think it's perfectly fine to tip less than 20% if you didn't think service was up to snuff — remember, it's tipping; it's not mandatory.

And yes, there's a lot to be said for effort. Effort, energy, kindness — these are more important, in the end, than knowledge and deference, etc. 

adams morgan–bartender

I wrote in earlier to give my opinion, it was just that. I didn't take shots at anyone who tips less than me, just explained my point of view.

I am not lazy, nor am I trying to "sneak" a few extra dollars off of you. I am really good at my job, which is what it is to me. My job, how I pay my bills etc. There is no reason to attribute my opinion to laziness or poor quality of my service. I am a professional, just like you with your 9 to 5, even if you might not want to see it that way.

There was a time when everyone considered my job a profession, but prohibition hurt that. I find your comment insulting, not adding to the discourse.

Glad to see you came back on and stuck up for yourself and your fellow servers. Good job.
DC bartender

I think this chatter hit it right on the head when saying that people just tip 20% post tax because it's easier math. Seriously, this is what I do and what most people I know do. So if the post tax total is like 81.75, for instance, I just double the 8 and tip $16 bucks.

MUCH easier than looking back to find pre-tax amt and/or trying to figure out 15%. I may just be a worse math student than your average diner, but hey that's why I went to law school.

But wait a second — that's not really post-tax. Sixteen bucks is under a 20% post-tax tip.

 

Washington DC
Chicken Tikka Makhani recipe from Indique please… we have gotten addicted to it.
On it.
Washington, DC

I tend to tip post-tax without thinking much about it. Often when I eat out with friends we pay with more than one credit card. When you get your slip you don't see the itemized bill, and so if you were going to tip on the pre-tax amount you'd have to get the itemized bill (if the server brought it with the credit card slips), figure out the pre-tax tip, then divide by two, and add it to your slip.

Do people really do that?

As to the issue of whether it makes sense to tip on the tax, tipping as a percentage of the bill doesn't make sense from the point of view of how hard or well the server worked anyway. A server doesn't work harder bringing me one $35 steak than two $12 small plates in the same restaurant, but our convention is to tip as a percentage of the bill.

At the end of the day, isn't the difference pretty neglible? If I have $60 worth of food and drink, the tax is 10%, and I'm tipping 20%, isn't the pre-tax tip total $78, and the post-tax tip total $79.20?

You're right, it's not that huge a difference.

But I think for a lot of us, it's just the way it's always been done — and if the difference is that negligible, what's the big deal?

The important thing for a lot of us — for all of us, whatever side we come down on — is that we reward good service. That matters. That matters a lot.

It's a hard, often thankless job, and when people have a bad time out, they tend to blame the server. The server takes the brunt of the criticism for a bad outing — much, much more, in my view, than he or she should. That server is a reflection of management. If management put that person on the floor, and that person is less-than, then management is to blame. You hear a lot of talk, a lot, about a lack of skilled waitstaff in this town. Well, that's not the fault of the waitstaff who are hired. What is missing, is training. And that comes from management. Management, which is too often too quick to want to open a business and start brining in some money.

Off the soapbox …

Gotta run. Eat well, and be well, and let's do it again next week at 11 …

Didn't get your question answered in this chat? Submit it in advance to Todd's chat next Tuesday, November 18 at 11 AM.    

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