Houstonians love food. Dining out is one of our favorite pastimes, and we embrace it like it's the official sport of Houston. We are a city of "foodies," and thanks to us, the restaurant industry is thriving.
Unfortunately, this insane love of food has spawned a culture of restaurant monsters — people who make dining out less of an enjoyable diversion and more of a nightmare. If you've eaten out at a restaurant recently, you've probably met all of them, and we're sorry you had to go through that. We're here to commiserate.
The Slave to Technology
She goes out to a nice meal with friends, and as soon as she sits down, her cell phone appears on the table, screen up, as if by magic. Is she a national politician expecting an important call from the president about the state of world affairs? Is she a world-renowned surgeon waiting for a transplantable organ? Is she a journalist anticipating a call about the scoop of a lifetime? It turns out she's not. She's just eager for a distraction. And she must know the precise moment that the hot guy from the bar texts her back. And then, as if to further emphasize how boring a lunch date you are, she'll answer the phone when it rings and talk loudly, oblivious to the fact that you're sitting there silently waiting for her to finish. But she can't be bothered with that. She needs the whole restaurant to know how important and popular she is. "What am I doing now? Oh, nothing; just out with some people. It's not important." And then you start plotting how to "accidentally" spill your iced tea on the table, which may or may not ruin any electronics in its wake. KAITLIN STEINBERG
The Single-Category Expert
He suggested the steakhouse because it's his favorite restaurant. He doesn't need to look at the wine list. He already knows his three favorite Cabernet Sauvignons without looking at the menu, and even knows where the vineyards are located. (Napa, of course.) He can tell you what part of the cow the steak comes from and why beef from some breeds is more desirable than others. It's a luxurious meal, and you want to return the favor. Would he like to come to your favorite restaurant, a nice mom-and-pop Indian restaurant just around the corner from your place?
"I'm not really into Indian," he says.
"Have you ever had it before?" you inquire.
"No," he replies curtly.
"No, I've heard that's really spicy. I don't like spicy."
"Okay, how about Vietnamese?"
"Listen, I'm just not into weird shit like you."
And that's when you realize that not only will you never dine with this person again, you aren't associating with him at all in the future. This isn't a food problem. It's a person problem. PHAEDRA COOK
The Food Name-Dropper
So you're out to dinner with a few friends and there's always that one "well-traveled" individual who seems to compare every single dish she orders or even you order to something she has had in Paris, Milan, Athens, Florence, Barcelona, etc. But it doesn't end at a simple "This tastes like the dish I had while studying abroad in Paris." No, the trip down memory lane continues as she babbles on about how the food in said country is a million times better than this food. "I will never forget the fresh, soft, homemade lasagna with a creamy béchamel sauce that we ate after we rode horses through the Tuscan countryside. If only this lasagna tasted as good as the one made by Andrea Accordi at his Michelin star restaurant, Villa La Vedetta, in Florence, Italy." Okay, it's great that you're a cultured individual and that you have a love for delicious food. I am sure that that dish was excellent, but seriously, don't make everyone else jealous of and annoyed at your culinary experiences by whining about the "lesser-quality" food in America. MOLLY DUNN
The Laissez-Faire Parent of the Hyperactive Roaming Toddler
I like little kids, especially chubby, bald toddlers who are just begging to be nicknamed "Porkchop" regardless of gender. You know what I don't like? Obtuse parents who let these otherwise adorable youngsters run amok and caterwaul to their hearts' content in upscale restaurants. What's that — you don't believe in "attachment parenting"? Well, Mommy, make a friggin' exception when you're dining in public and attach yourself to your errant offspring. Now, I understand children of a certain age can't be expected to sit still and shut up while the sommelier rattles off his pinot recommendations. If that's the case, leave them at home with a baby-sitter/trusted family member/neighbor. I want to relax and enjoy my duck confit in the absence of infantile shrieking, and the waitstaff wants to successfully transport plates of hot food without having to dodge roaming rugrats. And your kid? I'm willing to bet he wants to be home eating mac and cheese and building a couch fort. Leave him at home and everybody wins. Even you, I promise. JOANNA O'LEARY