Miami Restaurants Want Your Full Order for Service's Sake

There's a strangely familiar way too many meals proceed. The menu offers hardly a clue as to what's an entrée or appetizer. A bubbly server greets the table, takes the drink order, and then explain how this restaurant is a sharing concept because they want you to get a taste of everything. Sounds interesting, fun, right? He or she may mention the kitchen is "order-fire." That's restaurant jargon meaning food will be served as soon as it's ready. 

Awesome. Time to order. The hamachi collar. The roasted Brussels sprouts. The shaved kohlrabi salad. And, oh, toss in a half-dozen Kumamoto oysters too. Things then proceed in a few ways. Everything might be placed on the table at once and summarily devoured. There might still be some hunger pangs, leading to a request for a few additional plates. Or things arrive in a peculiar order forcing the table to begin with that hamachi collar and end nibbling on the sprouts that arrived 20 minutes after everything else was finished. 

For this, you can thank a decade of proliferating small-plates restaurants that blur the line between appetizers and main courses and don't mind serving them in any order. "You may get a steak before you get your salad — it doesn't make sense," the Vagabond Restaurant & Bar's Alex Chang says. The days of such travesties are coming to an end. A handful of restaurants are requesting your order in full, a once-commonplace practice that allowed servers and the kitchen to properly pair dishes of each course and send them out at a leisurely, sensible pace. What's old is new again, and the clock can't wind back fast enough.

"Some of the dishes may fit in certain places better than others. We like to course it out so there's not too much or too little food on the table," Chang says, noting servers at the Vagabond have been trained to ask for full orders since the restaurant opened. "Most important is getting the order for the dishes that take longer so we can get them working."

The same goes for Giorgio Rapicavoli, whose servers at Eating House and his newly opened Coconut Grove spot Glass & Vine act as a link between the kitchen and the diner. 

"There’s nothing worse than getting four dishes at the same time. How are you going to enjoy it?" Rapicavoli says. Still, he stands by the move to offer smaller portions, saying most people prefer to try eight things over four. 

The appeal for full orders has ruffled some feathers. A friend, incensed, emailed me after a waiter at Danny Serfer's Mignonette made a similar request. But this just proves how twisted diners' minds have become after years of frequenting restaurants with servers and kitchens that don't understand how to pace a meal.

"Say you order a couple of appetizers and some oysters, and once you're done with those, you order a whole fish. You could be waiting for 20 minutes, and we don't want that," Serfer says. "Let us provide you service; let us take care of you and have your whole order."

There's nothing quite as glorious as a well-paced, well-served meal regardless of whether it's on a white table cloth or a bar counter. As small-plates restaurants have multiplied, that element of grace is often nowhere to be found. There's no time for servers to offer fresh plates or silverware as your table weathers a barrage of dishes. Perhaps it's a little stiff or old-fashioned, but people in Miami complain about lackluster service all the time. Maybe the answer is simply giving your order in full.

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