If you’ve seen the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” you know exactly what we’re talking about with this topic: people who order something on the menu with a laundry list of modifications.

“I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it’s real; if it’s out of the can then nothing.”

Harry stares at Sally in a combination of horror and disbelief, but she sees nothing wrong – she just knows what she wants!  We turned to the He Said, She Said team for an updated take on this ongoing battle of ordering opinion.

She Said – by Elizabeth C.

Order what you want, the way you want it.  There’s no need to be embarrassed.  Special orders are so common that Burger King created an entire ad campaign out of the concept with their 1970’s jingle “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us…”

When you visit a restaurant, you are typically out for a nice, relaxing treat and you should enjoy it.  If you don’t like tomatoes, it is perfectly fine to ask for your burger without them.   If you want your omelet made with egg whites, don’t be afraid to say so.  Most restaurants these days are so accustomed to substitutions and various dietary restrictions (peanut allergies, gluten allergies, low carb diets – you name it) that the wait staff won’t even bat an eye at your special request.

In my opinion, your restaurant experience should be enjoyable.  If that means substituting steamed veggies for French fries, asking for a burger with no bun or requesting your pasta dish be made with angel hair pasta instead of penne, it’s your world.  Chefs want you to enjoy your meal – after all, you are paying for it – and most will gladly accommodate your request.

I’ll allow for a few exceptions, such as premade entrees like chili, soups, quiches etc that already contain their ingredients, but for the most part you should feel free to order that salad with no anchovies and dressing on the side.  So what if it makes Harry – or whoever you’re dining with – temporarily uncomfortable?  If you have an enjoyable meal that’s exactly what you wanted, you’ll both be happier in the end.

He Said – By Phil V.

Ah, ordering outside of the restaurant’s menu.  For some reason this issue is one I am passionate about for no good reason, and will debate at length with anyone that chooses the opposing side (in this case Liz, but we seem to find ourselves on opposite ends of a debate a lot these days).  There is just something about that moment when a fellow diner starts a question to a server with “Would you be able to . . .” or “What if I asked for . . .” that fires me up to the point of having to say something.  *As a quick disclaimer I’m of course not talking about questions relating to food allergies or dietary restrictions.

My point is a simple one.  The restaurant has spent a lot of time, in some cases years, defining their menu and crafting dishes that gives their restaurant a unique identity.  By going outside the menu you are throwing away the time that was put in to finely cultivate the cuisine that the establishment has created for you.  You wouldn’t tell a musician to play a song a different way, or an artist to use a different technique, so why then would we ask a chef to change his or her expression?  The answer in my opinion is that we shouldn’t.

Any restaurant you go to is like going to a museum in a way.  Sure, not everything will be your taste, but the idea is to experience something different and to get a sense of a medium (in this case the art form is culinary) from someone else’s point of view.  This is the reason we dine out.  If I went to restaurant to get something I knew I could make just as well at home, then what is the experience truly offering me?  I dine out to experience cuisine from a talent that is different (and in every case much more talented) than my own.  I would never go to a concert and put on my headphones to listen to a different artist, so when you are at a restaurant you should immerse yourself in the experience that was created for you by someone else.

Now, there will always be times when you leave a restaurant unsatisfied, and that is fine.  I’ve heard many songs I don’t like, seen movies I didn’t care for and have viewed pieces of art I would rather not spend time looking at again, but at the end of the day I don’t ask those artists to re-craft their work to make it suitable for me.  My argument may seem over the top, and I understand that if you are at a burger joint you may not think this applies, but I am only stating that the food that is on a restaurant’s menu is a form of their expression as an artist and is their food the way they intended you to taste it.  So the next time you think of crafting your own masterpiece at a restaurant, just take a second to think about how by doing that you are giving up one of the best parts of the dining experience; experiencing cuisine the way someone else interprets it.  Had I not gone outside my comfort zone and trusted that the chef had a vision for his or her food, I would have missed out on some of the most memorable, and delicious, dining experiences I’ve ever had.

Who do you side with in this installment of “He Said, She Said?”  The debate goes on in the comments below!