Dining Out in Mexico

    Vino por Vino Culture Alert:  Dining Out, Mexican Style – There are some fascinating  differences in the foodie experience here. 

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Keep in mind, the restaurant service focus in many other countries is ‘Greet ‘em, get ‘em a drink, get the order, get the food out.’ Especially in busy places – it’s called ‘Turn and Burn.’ The service focus here, on the other hand, is guest comfort – don’t bug the clients. It’s to the point in some restaurants that you have to ask the server to bring you a menu! The idea is when the guest is ready, the guest will let the servers know.

    Once you are seated you might get a menu. If you do, you can decide on drinks and meal right away, or if you need more time, call over the server and order your drinks. Remember when you order water it’s going to be either still (natural)  or sparkling (mineralizada). If you don’t want to pay for bottled water and just want a glass of water remember this. You will (almost) never be served tap water; but it will come from big water coolers of safe water – ask for agua de garrafon or vaso de agua. Also ice (hielo) is something you often have to ask for, even with soft drinks.

    In other places, when folks enter a restaurant waiting for a table, or get up to leave, there are these uncomfortable moments when the seaters make eye contact with eaters. Everyone averts their eyes, no one tries to notice what each others are eating. Here in Mexico, diners look you right in the eye and wish you ‘Buen Provecho!’ Or just ‘Provecho!’ It kinda means ‘Bon Appetit,’ and the proper response is ‘Gracias!’ Try it next time you catch a Mexican in mid-meal.

    Finally, when you have had, we hope, a wonderful repast, you have to ask for your check. Most places will absolutely not pester you with a check, until you ask. Tipping (propina) is a sort of social experiment in San Miguel de Allende. Up until recently, locals didn’t tip. This is the case  all over Mexico. Because of the influx of foreigners, however, there are a lot more gratuities going on. here  Ten percent is about right. Finally, don’t be a twerp and leave US dollars, it’s a sort of hassle to change for regular folks. Buen Provecho!

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