Restaurant Wars

Most of the time, I can handle any situation in which I find myself.  I have developed fairly good coping skills to avoid drawing attention to the fact that I have low vision.  One of the places that it is most difficult for me to “fake” that I can see is in restaurants.  The lighting is usually dim.  The menus are often written in small, fancy, unreadable type.  There are usually other diners within earshot of our table.  Sometimes, I feel like I am at war with the restaurant and I need to develop a good battle plan in order to make it through the meal.  Last night, John and I went out to dinner with a good friend at a really, really nice restaurant – the kind where I most definitely do NOT want to embarrass myself or draw attention to myself.

We sat at our table in this beautiful restaurant and the waiter handed me a menu.  I opened it and, as I feared, I could not read one word on the menu.  In my purse, I carry a little light-up magnifying glass that I can use in low light.  I could have pulled it out and used it, but I just didn’t want to.  So, I decided to use a couple of other skills that I have learned.  The waiter told us the specials.  I find that this is often a good way to choose a meal without needing to read the menu.  (At restaurants where the waiter does not suggest a special, I often ask what he or she recommends or what is his favorite dish.)  As it happened, one of the specials sounded wonderful, so I was pretty sure that I was going to order it.

Just as a backup, I use my husband John’s knowledge of me and the type of food I enjoy.  John is perfectly willing to read me an entire menu.  Sometimes (like last night) this feels awkward and inappropriate to me.  Instead, I like to ask him what he thinks looks good on the menu.  He then describes a couple of items that he thinks I would like.  Last night, between the specials suggested by the waiter and the menu items described by John, I knew I could make a good choice.

I ordered a very delicious salmon dish, one of the specials described by the waiter.  It was heavenly.  I may have missed knowing all of the items available on the menu, but I felt very comfortable with my choice and my method of choosing.  I like a choice such as salmon because it is easy to eat.  I usually avoid messy or hard to cut food at restaurants.  In dim light, it can be hard to handle cutting up steak or dealing with foods (poultry or fish) that have a lot of bones to work around.  I try to keep it simple. My salmon did come garnished with a few long, thin onion straws that were difficult to see how to manage.  I just did the best I could with them, trying not to drop them in my lap.

At the end of the  meal, we ordered coffee.  Along with our coffee, the waiter brought a tray filled with little containers.  I was at a loss to know what they all held.  Because the tray was placed near our friend, he took the opportunity to describe each of the treats on the tray: cream, raw sugar, cinnamon sticks, whipped cream, rock sugar sticks, chocolate shavings.   I did not feel awkward about needing them described.  It seemed just like he was exclaiming about each item he found on the tray.  I think he actually enjoyed giving me a rundown on the treats available as we added our choices to our cups.

The evening was totally wonderful.  I think the waiter and other diners were unaware of my visual impairment.  It’s not that I am ashamed of it.  I just did not want it to become the focus of conversation for the evening.  I wanted us to be able to relax and have great conversation with a great friend.  And that is just what we were able to do.  The restaurant was a tough opponent, but I won.


8 thoughts on “Restaurant Wars

  1. I have the same feelings about restaurants you described in this post. I’ve found that depending on who I am eating with, that will dictate how I handle the situation. For instance, if I’m eating with someone at Red Lobster and really really want crab, I will request that the crab be cracked in the kitchen. I’ve never had a waiter or waitress refuse to honor this request. If I’m eating with a group of people, I will order something easy to eat, often that doesn’t require lots of cutting. I don’t order steak at a resaturant because I’m not good at cutting this food. Even though I like steak, I feel like this often isn’t appropriate to order in the situations I find myself in. Even when the C&T team goes out to lunch, I will order something easy to handle because I’m very self-conscious eating in front of my direct supervisor. I shouldn’t be as he is the director of Project Life Skillz, but nevertheless, I tend to order something easy when in his presence.

    • Thanks for the great suggestions, Alexis. I never would have thought to ask about having crab cracked in the kitchen. I didn’t know you could ask for such a thing. That is great news! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Belinda – if you know where you are going ahead of time, you can usually find a restaurant’s menu online before you leave the house. I always check this out, since I have a variety of dietary restrictions, and the last thing I want to do is hold everyone else up at ordering time by going through each item, “Hmm, no, I can’t have that, or that, or that…” Might make you feel more confident going into the restaurant.

    • You are right and I am so glad that you added this comment. This is a really good suggestion. I look up menus ahead of time when I think of it (and know where we are going). This is a coping skill that can really relieve anxiety. Thanks again.

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