Ask Dish: Answers to Your Stray Questions

Ask Dish: Answers to Your Stray Questions

. 8 min read

From the sublime to the ridiculous, I get a lot of random questions. I answer some of them here. Got a stray question?  Submit it using this link.

Dear Dish:

They added a 20% “fair wage service fee” to our restaurant bill tonight, and the waiter explained that the fee was shared by every restaurant worker. So how much do you tip on top of the 20% fee?

Dear Disoriented:

Short answer: No additional tip is required on top of the service fee. On most restaurant receipts you could cross out the service fee and substitute your own amount in as a tip, as you did but if you're not leaving it in cash then it likely doesn't all go to your server so I'm not sure you accomplished your goal. (Maybe you did?)  I pay the service. If I like the service I tip on top of the service fee - an extra 5% if it's good (less if it's pretty good, more if it's great but 5% is my standard addition for good service). The extra above the service fee I leave in cash so that I know that it goes straight into my server's pocket. I support the growing use of a service fee – it allows the restaurant to pay a fair wage to all of its employees, including dishwashers, etc.

Longer answer: I am invested in a couple of independent chef-owned restaurants and I was also a short-order cook and waitress at a diner in high school, so I am not unbiased. I have a tiny bit of insight into how hard everyone works, how hard it is to retain staff and how hard it is to run a successful restaurant. Selfishly, I want good, creative, independent chef-owned restaurants in my neighborhood, and those are the restaurants I want to try when I travel. So I'm going to do my part to make them successful. Or to at least stay fully staffed.

I know that we are all overwhelmed with tipping right now, as service people across-the-board that never got tips before expect them now. I am as confused as anyone else about whether and how much to tip my physical therapist, or guy handing me a donut from behind the counter. The one area I feel like I have a handle on is tipping at a restaurant where I am being served.

And here's where I think it's at. Twenty percent used to be the standard tip at restaurants; I think it's now 25%. If there is a 20% service fee, you are expected to pay that, and if the service is good and you are a generous person (I know you are), you might volunteer a cash tip on top of that to get to a 25% total. Tips have gone up like food prices, temperatures and the length of skirts at my local golf club.

Remember, food is love. Happy eating!

Dear Dish:

I have one child and I find it so insulting when solo friends with dogs act like their pets are as important as my child? (And why is it always dog people, and not cat, horse or carrier pigeon “parents” who do this?) Can I say something to them?

No you can’t.

And oh my god. Why do you care? It’s not like there are a set of finite rights and privileges that will attach to these people if they get “dog parent” status. Nobody is literally comparing themselves to you, or minimizing your huge, selfless sacrifice, love and commitment toward your child by suggesting that they are devoted to their dog. I think people understand that taking on the role of being a parent to children is a much, much heavier lift.

So, it’s not about you.

But I do think they are trying to communicate the important role their dog plays in their lives, emotionally as well as physically and financially. Which has not been universally recognized (though that is beginning to change). For instance, grief at the death of a dog has not been roundly seen as a big a loss as it feels to many of us. The grief is real. Consider that dogs can be near constant companions for many of us, and are a source of boundless love.

As a dog owner I can say for myself that if I talk about my dog I am not thinking about your child, or attempting to equate them. I am not explicitly or implicitly comparing my responsibilities to yours, or my joy in their company to yours. (Although, is your child the one who was throwing the melted M&M’s at your face for the 3.5 hour duration of my flight to New York? Not joyful for you!) I am talking about the amount of space my dog takes up in my heart — and my day, for that matter — and it’s a lot more than, say, my plants. Or even my friends. And since my family does not generally live with me, on a day-to-day basis my dogs take up more space than even they do.

Does a cat, horse or carrier pigeon follow on your heels from the moment you wake to the moment you drop, all the while looking up at you with adoring eyes? When they do I am certain those folks may start being called “parents” too.

Dear Dish:

I find my V.S.O.* really hot but she wears sweatpants and a t-shirt every night. Even on our prescribed at-home “date nights.” Can I surprise her with the gift of some sexy lingerie?

Don’t Like Drab

*Very Significant Other. Dear Reader, V.S.O. Is a thing now.

Dear Drab:

No, you can’t.

I once had a new boyfriend who came back from a trip to New Orleans and surprised me with “something special for me.”  A Hello Kitty animal print catsuit from Trashy Diva in the French Quarter:

I use “once” purposely here. And I like animal print *and* lingerie. But at this stage in life, we should all know when we’re really buying a gift for ourselves but pretending it is actually for the recipient. I had a problem with this on two fronts. One, it was jumping the gun since it was an intimate thing that he couldn’t have known whether I would like yet and two, he was 50+ and didn’t know the basics of gift giving. He probably bought his ex-wife a waffle iron for Christmas because he likes waffles.

Just in case you, dearest Drab, don’t know either (I’m sure you do!), here’s an example: let’s say *you* have a birthday coming up and she inquires about what you want. You can ask her if she’d be up for dressing up like a pussy cat. Or whatever. It’s fair to ask. If she agrees, you’ll treat it like what it is — an act of love for you. A fun and adventurous one that you hope she’ll enjoy as well, but that’s a gift for you.

Unless your partner has coyly slipped you the number of their favorite salesperson at Agent Provocateur, it’s a bad idea to buy lingerie for someone else cold and out-of-the-blue. Period. There are important elements of consent and empowerment, but also the reality that most people our age have a decided view on what best displays our assets. That little Trashy Diva number, for instance, works best for smaller-chested women.

Another long-term boyfriend knew I liked the tight grasp of a corset. When he gently asked I pointed him in the direction of Agent Provacateur's Raphaela Corset and it worked out deliciously all the way around.

Here's hoping you have a birthday soon, Drab.



Dear Dish:

I love having friends over but so many guests have so many food restrictions! It makes it so difficult to host and takes all the fun out of it. How do you deal?

Constricted in the Kitchen

Dear Constricted:

Hosting these days can feel like a plateful. I surveyed friends who are frequent hosts for you, and they shared many ways to deal with the prevalence of food restrictions. These thoughtful hosts shared everything from soliciting all food allergies in the invitation and altering the menu accordingly (easier done with smaller dinner parties), to serving a vast cornucopia of options so that absolutely everybody has something. Some select a menu that sidesteps the most common allergies on the assumption that if somebody’s restriction is a rare one they have figured out their own strategy (like eating in advance), while others serve what they want to serve but keep a number of “totally safe” plates of “off menu” items in the kitchen, just in case.

My friend Diana and I hosted a dinner party for 10 recently and went in the opposite direction. We wanted to attempt an ambitious menu of recipes from a private cooking class we had taken with Marc Vetri, a highly acclaimed chef and restaurant owner in Philadelphia. The slow-roasted lamb from his Rustic Italian Food cookbook was the only straightforward (and least rich) of the menu items. To address the food restriction conundrum we decided to attach our full menu to the invitation, which we attempted to word with humility and humor:

“Diana and Dish cordially invite you to join us

In our attempt at the undoubtedly ambitious Marc Vetri menu attached.

We’d be so grateful if you agreed to be a tester.”

The not-so-subtle suggestion we hoped to convey between the lines was: Here’s what we are serving. It’s a lot of work. It’s ambitious and we’re doing it ourselves, so this is all we are going to be able to do. If it looks like there’s something on here you can eat, please join. We stopped short of saying “No substitutions.”

Most everyone we invited came. Everyone who came ate everything. It was a very fun night. Try it!



Dear Dish:

Did you watch Fleischman Is In Trouble? What’d you think?

Time Crunched In Atlanta

Dear Crunched,

Totally get it. There’s a reason it hasn’t been featured in our DEVOUR column, which I co-edit with Lisa Ellex and in which we recommend the shit we love. It was a grueling slog to get to the last episode of Fleischman. The acting was good, and the storyline was important (in short, a midlife marriage falls apart and our sympathies shift, shockingly, from one partner to the other as our perspective changes from the husband’s to the wife’s). I slogged through it. But long-winded overly-analytical midlife relationship dramas are my favorite form of self-flagellation. Maybe that’s your thing too but if not, since you don’t publish The Crush Letter and so don’t have to be on the continual prowl for entertainment for PrimeCrush Readers to devour, I’m not sure you would want to watch it.



If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend!  And I'd love to have you join us on instagram, facebook & twitter.

The Crush Letter
The Crush Letter is a weekly newsletter curated by Dish Stanley on everything love & connection - friendship, romance, self-love, sex. If you’d like to take a look at some of our best stories go to Read Us. Want the Dish?


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