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 EuphemismThe Truth
ModernWear black Spandex
FashionableWear a little black dress
Upscale casualWear black jeans
EclecticWear as little as possible
Proper attire requiredWear underwear
Sports barValium for men
TrattoriaPasta: variations on a theme
BistroWould you like the beef or the chicken?
BrasserieWe didn't know what else to call it
Live musicAmateur night
KaraokeJapanese for run far, run fast
Jazz brunchBloody Mary hangover cure
Complimentary valetTip big or kiss your SUV bye-bye
No reservations neededBring a book; we suggest War and Peace
Reservations suggestedReservations required
Reservations requiredEnjoy 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 readyYou're not worthy
BuffetThe three tenors: salmonella, lysteria, and e.coli
Daily specialsYesterday's leftovers
Soup of the dayYesterday's leftovers in liquid form
Fish of the dayThe most inexpensive guppy on the market
Free-range chickenOne pricey bird
OrganicGrown in manure
WildGrown in bear shit
HydroponicGrown in pot
BiogeneticNot grown in nature
HeirloomNot grown anymore
MicroAkin to bonsai, first cousin to nouvelle
Prix-fixe menuYou cheap bastard
Dessert menuBill padding
Side dishBill padding
Palmetto bugBig discount
Free refillsPlease tip the bathroom attendant
Evian or Pellegrino?We'll need a down payment
Can I take your order? Hurry up and eat so I can turn this table over
General managerSwelled head honcho
No smokingOur ashtrays are broken
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No cigars or pipesMarlboro addicts welcome
Fifteen percent gratuity added onYou must be a tourist
Fifteen percent gratuity suggestedYou look like a tourist
Twenty percent gratuity suggestedYou look like a sucker