Restaurant menu

Restaurant menu items and food dishes that annoy a food critic the most

Sometimes when you go out to eat, you need a Rosetta Stone to decode what the menu is trying to get you to order. What is “parmesan snow”? And sometimes the descriptions are the most valuable, twee, exaggerated descriptions of food ever put on paper. Food critics also see these descriptions because they often eat out. Here are the most boring items on menus, according to food critics across the country.

“Parmesan snow”

“My friends and I saw ‘parmesan snow’ on the menu and immediately assumed it was plain old grated parmesan. Parmesan snow is, in fact, a separate thing – there are recipes in line that involve blitzing cheese with lemon and gelatin — but restaurateurs should keep in mind that if you use such language, ordinary people, and even fairly sophisticated diners, might assume they’re have them one way or another.” — Brian Reinhart, Dallas Observer

“Fresh food

“I don’t quite understand when restaurants list this or that item as ‘fresh.’ card you accompany them with have been hanging around since last week? It’s another one of those words, like “natural”, that restaurants like to use to make diners feel better, and maybe deploy to add a buck or two more on every plate.” — Zacharie Fagenson, Miami New Times

Any described dish with a ton of ingredients

“I can’t pick just one, because too many food menus look like ‘craft’ cocktail menus, listing all the ingredients. I could appreciate what a particular salt or spice might do to a dish, but I don’t think the majority of diners care. Nor should they have to study the names of local vendors in the litany of sources. If the chicken is raised nearby with organic food and it’s allowed to roam freely, isn’t it the waiter’s job to tell me about it? There’s something to say for simplicity. You sell fried chicken? Call it fried chicken. — Ligaya Figueres, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Everything “homemade”

“As diners, we expect restaurants to be restaurants, not grocery stores, and therefore use their kitchens to do things. Of course, brag a little if you’ve made your own duck prosciutto in a custom drying cabinet or a cultured yogurt, but “home-made fries? Mayo? Puh-bail.” — Laura Hayes, Washington City Paper

Massaged kale

“I don’t want to think a food is massaged. I understand the reasoning behind that – fiber breakdown and tender greens – but still. Don’t touch!” — Amanda Faison, 5280

“Living foie gras terrarium”

“Locally (at NOLA), the most ridiculous thing I tend to think about is when I had ‘a living foie gras terrarium’ in Root, with foie gras cotton candy and Pop Rocks at the liver as part of their playful liver trio. But strangely, it wasn’t overworked as much as it was accurate. You really do get what appears to be a frog or chameleon habitat that also happens to be edible. And contains foie gras. It’s weird and hilarious, but that’s what they were. So, really, it’s a WYSIWYG menu item. Cue the golf clap. — Scott Gold, extra crispy

Deconstructed Nachos

“Separating nachos into perfect bite-size pieces assumes everyone deserves equal enjoyment. This burnt fry with a wedge of cheese and a split black bean is for your moocher best friend and your ex. God intended nachos to be a reward.” — Brandon Watson, Austin Chronicle

All dishes that contain “torn mint”

“Here’s something I’ve seen recently, and a few other times in slightly different iterations. When listing all the ingredients for a dish (in itself, a bit boring), I encountered things like ” ripped mint “Come on, do we really need to know this level of detail about an herb?” — Nicole Sprinkle, Seattle Weekly

Anything “fresh” or “prepared”

“‘Fresh’? I certainly should hope so. (Chefs, the free use of that word makes us think you’re protesting too much.) your supplier’s checklist.” — Katherine Spire, THE weekly

Any dish described as “farm-to-table”

“I’ve been farm-to-table for so long that I’m getting tired of it. After a decade of overuse, many restaurants have decided that the practice should just be the norm wherever possible and have started to challenge farmers on the menu instead of praising themselves for cooking a carrot that wasn’t grown in a petri dish like Soylent Green Tell us who grew it, not that you bought it. — Chris Chamberlain, Nashville Scene

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist and loves kale that’s been rubbed. Follow him into the leafy greens @LeeBreslouer.

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