Top Five Dining Companions to Avoid

Even though I enjoy eating alone, I regard dining out with a friend to be one of life's supreme pleasures. But sometimes your "friend" reveals him or herself to be a less-than-ideal consumption companion. These defective diners in disguise might be otherwise normal people but in a restaurant setting prove just unbearable. Here are Five Dining Partners to Avoid (if you can help it).

5. The Malcontent. Sometimes one in the same with the excessively picky eater, the Malcontent is always dissatisfied with something, be it the service or the entrée selection or the seat cushions. "Horrible food and such small portions!" is the typical complaint of the Malcontent, whose Debbie Downer attitude prevents her and you from enjoying the meal.

4. The Drunk. I like to get hammered at a restaurant as much as the next person. But I, like most responsible, functioning alcoholics, try not to get plastered to the point of not being able to modulate the volume of my voice or make my way to the bathroom without falling into other tables. If you want to eat with the Drunk, get takeout.

3. The Forager. My personal pet peeve. I am big on eating and not on sharing; therefore, it's rare I don't want everything on my plate. The classic Forager under-orders ("a cup, not a bowl"; "the side, not the entrée salad please") and then picks off others' plates to round out his meal. He may not be in touch with his hunger, he may not like to spend more than a few bucks, but he's definitely annoying, so leave him at home.

2. The Obnoxious Gourmand. Hypocrite, I hear some of you hiss. True, I love waxing on about the origins and history of food. HOWEVER, my medium is writing, not speech, and when I'm chowing down with a friend, I shut the fuck the up about the cacao content in my chocolate pudding.

1. The Under-Tipper/Under-Payer. Nothing casts a pall over a heretofore pleasurable meal like the nincompoop who looks at the bill and says, "So, my share is $50...guess I'll leave $3 for tip?" I understand math is not everyone's forte. If you missed the unit on percentages in school, then please rely on an electronic device to calculate gratuity. And as for the Under-Payer: Woe to the diner who, after three rounds of drinks and appetizers, slams down a fiver and says, "Gotta run, that's for me!" Yeah, you better run.

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Joanna O'Leary