16. The house salad
As with sprouts, salad greens are prone to bacterial contamination. (Most recently, in early December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 138 cases of E. coli in 25 states traced to California-grown romaine lettuce.) If you eat salad at home, you can wash the greens thoroughly yourself, but you don’t know how they’ve been handled when you’re out. Another reason not to order a simple salad in a restaurant: You’d likely be paying many times the cost of the ingredients for something you could make just as well (and more safely) at home.
17. Drinks garnished with citrus fruit
Slices or wedges of lemon, lime, or orange add flavor and color to cocktails and even to plain water. Unfortunately, the cut fruit is handled by bartenders and kitchen workers who may or may not wash their hands frequently or be wearing gloves, and the fruit often carries bacteria. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that almost 70% of lemon slices that had been placed on the rims of beverage glasses in 21 different restaurants showed microbial growth. When you’re ordering that drink, just say “No fruit, please.”
18. Tap water
The tap water served in most locations is probably perfectly safe, though it may have an unpleasant chlorine character or other off flavors and aromas. And sometimes it’s not all that safe after all, especially in rural areas: There are water systems in every state that violate the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act. Another possible problem is that, although it’s a violation of health codes, restaurant workers typically use their bare hands to move ice from the ice machine to glasses, possibly transferring bacteria at the same time. Bottled water that’s already chilled, so it doesn’t need ice, is safer — but raises its own environmental issues. The ideal solution, embraced by a growing number of restaurants, is serving carafes of (chilled) filtered or purified tap water — much safer than what comes straight out of the faucet.
19. More than two glasses of wine by the glass
This is simply a matter of economics. The standard restaurant pour for wine by the glass is about five ounces. A 750 ml bottle of wine contains just over 25 ounces. A typical wine list in an upscale but not super-luxurious restaurant might charge $15 for a glass of good chardonnay or $52 for a bottle of the same. If you’re only having two glasses, fine. If you’re ordering three, you’re paying $45 for three-fifths of the bottle when you could get the whole thing for $7 more. If you and your companion order two glasses each, it’ll cost you $8 more than the bottle price, and buying the bottle would give you one more glass to share. To look at it another way, ordering that chardonnay by the glass will cost you $3 an ounce. The price by the bottle is about $2.
20. Ice cream (unless it’s made in-house)
This is another economic issue. Restaurants typically charge the same for a scoop of ice cream that you’d pay at the store for a pint or even a quart — and in many cases it’s exactly the same product. Ice cream made in-house can be delicious, and well worth the money, but why pay multiples of the going rate for something you can dish up for yourself when you get home?