Restaurant Employees Share 10 of the Industry's Dirty Little Secrets

From Good Housekeeping

As it turns out, all menu items are not created equal.

In response to the question "What is something people order all the time that grosses you out and you would never eat?", restaurant employees shared their best advice on what to order and what to avoid. Here, we've rounded up 10 of their most insightful answers.

1. Consider skipping the complimentary bread before dinner.

Everyone's favorite part of a nice meal out - the complimentary bread that arrives at your table before dinner - might not be as exciting as we've always thought. "A lot of the time, if you don't eat it all, it goes right back to the bread warmer," to be reused Reddit user FernsAreFine warns.

2. Steer clear of the all-you-can-eat salad buffet.

If the all-you-can-eat salad buffet (or any restaurant buffet, for that matter) makes you feel a little uneasy, then your intuition just might be right. "Please be aware that lots of kids have touched it, and it is not sanitary," commenter Citizen-1 writes.

3. Avoid ordering soup, if you can.

As tasty as a hot bowl of soup might sound on a chilly day, Reddit user seagullhunter recommends avoiding the menu item at all cost. Why? It all comes down to a temperature issue: "[Soup] never gets cooled properly at night in the big container, so it stays lukewarm for hours," the commenter writes.

4. Choose the more popular menu item over the one you haven't seen a single person order.

Maybe it's "boring," but commenter ripewdecay advises sticking with only the most popular of menu items at any given restaurant - especially if you're particular about the freshness of your food. The ingredients used in less popular dishes are "turned over less," the Reddit user warns, and they might even be bad, picked over or have freezer-burn.

5. Ask for your drink without a garnish ...

You might want to rethink your standard "water with lemon" order: "The lemons, limes, oranges, etc. are almost never properly washed," Reddit user bgar0312 writes. "They are handled with the waiters' bare hands or bartenders' bare hands literally 95% of the time."

6. ... or ice.

Come to think of it, you might want to forego your iced order, as well. "The machines rarely get cleaned and often have mold issues," commenter BlueberryFish writes. Um, ew.

7. And maybe avoid ordering a soda altogether.

Water, coffee and even wine is a safer (and cleaner!) bet that soda in many restaurants, Reddit user candydaze advises. Just like with the ice machine, the nozzles of a soft drink gun or machine are rarely cleaned properly. Plus, this problem can be even worse in sandwich shops or other places where bread is baked on-site. "The warm, damp and yeasty air is like an aphrodisiac for mold," the commenter warns.

8. Be aware that your veggie meal might not be entirely meat-free.

Most vegetarians don't need to be told this twice to believe it, but commenter Maysaa91 reminds us that many line cooks won't clean their hands in between cooking up a burger and plating a pescatarian or vegetarian meal. "When [our cooks] get an order to make a fish burger, they touch the lettuce, cheese, etc. with the same hand that made contact with the bacon," the Reddit user writes.

9. Never order food right before closing time.

If you think you're oh-so lucky because you caught a restaurant before it shut its doors for the night, think again: Reddit user AlNemSupreme cautions any time someone places an order shortly before closing time, their food is sure to be cooked and served at a lower temperature than it should be. "They turn off most the burners and such in order to clean [them]," the commenter writes.

10. Don't order anything that doesn't fall under the restaurant's niche.

This one seems fairly self-explanatory, but commenter Mitch_from_Boston gives us a little friendly reminder that anything that seems out of place on a restaurant's menu, well, probably is out of place. "You're at a seafood place? The pizza probably sucks. You're at an Italian place? The hummus plate probably isn't great," the Reddit user writes.

[h/t Reddit]