A couple of years ago travel writer Mac Seligman sent a letter in which he wrote about how when you travel, what you expect -- or are led to expect -- is never what you get. To that end he'd prepared a list of "travelese," a compendium of terms that tell it like it really is. For instance "all the amenities" actually means "free shower cap"; "tree-lined boulevards" means "no sightseeing"; "secluded hideaway" means "impossible to find."
Mac is on the right track, obviously: It's all about semantics. And in my opinion the restaurant world could use the same kind of demystification. Because clearly if you've ever felt let down by a restaurant, chances are it's not the restaurant's fault. It's yours. Your expectations were too high. You misinterpreted. You didn't order correctly. Whatever the reason the eatery is absolved, and you're to blame.
But relax. The following glossary will be helpful so you'll never make the same mistakes again.
The Euphemism•The Truth
Contemporary•Wear blackModern•Wear black SpandexFashionable•Wear a little black dressUpscale casual•Wear black jeansEclectic•Wear as little as possibleProper attire required•Wear underwearSports bar•Valium for menTrattoria•Pasta: variations on a themeCafé•Limited menu
Bistro•Would you like the beef or the chicken?
Brasserie•We didn't know what else to call it
Live music•Amateur night
Karaoke•Japanese for run far, run fast
Jazz brunch•Bloody Mary hangover cure
Complimentary valet•Tip big or kiss your SUV bye-bye
No reservations needed•Bring a book; we suggestWar and Peace
Reservations suggested•Reservations required
Reservations required•Enjoy a ten-dollar glass of wine while you wait for your table
Do you have a reservation?•I'm a god and you're not
Your table is ready•You're not worthy
Buffet•The three tenors: salmonella, lysteria, and e.coli
Daily specials•Yesterday's leftovers
Soup of the day•Yesterday's leftovers in liquid form
Fish of the day•The most inexpensive guppy on the market