The idea of whether to order an appetizer as your main course is a controversial one.
On the one hand, the loyalists believe the idea of using an appetizer as the main dinner pervades the very essence of appetizers as the dishes to kickstart an awesome dining experience.
But equally significant is the group that believes if restaurants didn’t want you to focus on appetizers, they wouldn’t be the finest menu items the kitchen has to offer. So is it rude to order appetizers as the main course?
Appetizer-only orders are only rude if you request every possible add-on, especially during rush hours. Otherwise, it’s not a problem, because even the chefs are happy to have some variety and especially with appetizers, they can let their creativity run wild.
What is an Appetizer?
Appetizers are things served before the main dish. These are usually light delicacies to kickstart your dining experience as the chef works on your main order in the kitchen.
In some restaurants, appetizers can also be offered for free to shorten waiting times.
Traditionally, appetizers were not complete meals, and they still aren’t, but in the interest of getting consumers to dine out, restaurants have allowed chefs to unleash their creativity, and increasingly appetizers are becoming the most exciting part of the menus far from the boring plates of main courses.
Increasingly, many consumers are realizing that they can put together an exciting meal at a somewhat cheaper price by focusing only on the appetizer section.
You will even notice that in hotels with both restaurants and bars, the bar’s appetizers are smaller versions of the main dishes served in the restaurant. For example, instead of getting a $28 crab cake main course (with 4 crabs, some starch, and greens), you can just order a $12 three crab cake app and $4 fries from the bar, and you are good to go.
Increasingly, the case on whether to use appetizer as the main dish is becoming easy to make, from the consumer’s perspective. If it suits your situation, why not?
After all, this is where chefs are putting all their talents and skills before they turn to the dutiful routine of preparing those main course orders.
So, if you were wondering whether it is rude to order an appetizer as the main dish, the answer depends on who you are asking.
It is part of restaurant etiquette to order appetizers first once you sit down at a table. You don’t want to sit, waiting hungrily for your order, sometimes especially during rush hours, orders take longer to get ready, and sitting there idly, hungrily waiting is going feel embarrassing fast.
You won’t even get away with it by trying to stare hard at the menu as other customers busily go about tearing down their dishes.
Appetizers were created for exactly moments like this. Especially when dining with friends, they are used to setting the tone and boosting the dining experience as you and your mates grab bites, dishes or share the same drink.
Appetizers show that you are there to delight in each other’s company. A pre-course to join in the group dining experience and try out a variety of menu items beyond the one-and-done main course meal.
And that is why appetizer loyalists respect the hell out of it. Their jaws drop whenever someone orders an appetizer as the main course. They feel like it’s cheating, a crime of the highest order that should be punishable even.
That you are taking an item out of a section that’s supposed to be shared for your satisfaction to them is a pervasion of the group dining experience. A disregard of people around you and what could have been a celebratory moment.
Well, that is according to appetizer loyalists, but who likes debates about food anyways – food is meant for the stomach, alright?
We would all like to live in a perfect world, dipping or grabbing bites from the same dish or sharing drinks, accompanied by lively chatter as we wait for some awesome main dish but due to budgetary constraints or sometimes due to small appetites sometimes this a dream far away from reality and a person has got to live his truth.
The service industry
According to most people from the service industry, appetizer-only dining is not rude at all if you do it right. To most of them, orders are hardly ever the rudest thing.
Certainly, the restaurant owners don’t care what you do with the food you order as long as the money ends in their pockets. Mostly, what the kitchen staff cares about is how difficult and time-consuming your order is.
Appetizer-only orders are only rude to the kitchen staff if you request every possible add-on, especially during rush hours. But again, during rush, even the smallest order can seem rude.
Try augmenting your appetizer with an entree.
If you don’t want to feel guilty with an appetizer-only order, try pairing an appetizer with an entrecôte or two. You will never feel guilty if you decide to mix match. How about some salads to go with your crab cake appetizers or some soup with your sandwich? Get the best of both worlds at a cheaper price without guilt and of course, don’t forget to tip accordingly.
Consider splitting up the main dish.
You can also split up the main dish and use appetizers to fill up. In the case of smaller appetites, this is a great solution. Share the main course with your partner, then suddenly you are not too full, and you can now try out the appetizers. That way, you get to reduce your menu and try out the kitchen’s finest offers while not seeming like a party pooper.
People waiting outside during rush hours
Appetizer-only dining in crowded restaurants is a very rude thing to do. So probably go in during slower hours so you won’t feel like a party pooper because if patrons and customers are waiting outside and you are occupying a table with your appetizer-only meal, then it’s going to feel rude. You can also just opt to order a takeaway.
Another rude thing to do is use an appetizer-only snack to hold a table as you do your freelance or undergraduate writing. If you can’t pay for the commons, then please try a café or go to the library.
There’s nothing rude about wanting the best experience for your money. This is the hospitality industry, is it not?
Most restaurant owners always want to think about every little gain margin, but if you have a few pocket changes to spend and still thought of the restaurant, that should be enough nice gesture of your loyalty. If the restaurant thinks your money is not good enough for them then take your business somewhere else, they’d be glad to have you.
Go in, tell the host you are just in for an appetizer and drinks, and probably get a nice seat or table in the bar area.
Also, try ordering something that is not too labor-intensive, especially during crowded hours. That said, the old dining rules are going out; who wants to sit down for a boring traditional dinner when you can create a fun, exciting small plate from the appetizer section and have the meal of your dreams?
Where to go for appetizer-only dining experiences
You can taste your favorite appetizer-only dishes at various restaurants across the globe.
Many restaurants are shifting away from the traditional 3-course set menu which involved appetizers, main dishes, and desserts afterward in favor of affordable appetizer-only plates. Even renowned chefs are heard saying they’ve lost interest in preparing and eating full-course meals.
Small plates are becoming popular among the new generation of consumers who see restaurants as some kind of game where they have to taste as many amazing dishes as they can and sticking to the traditional 3-course menu style is not the way to go about it.
Restaurants have awakened to this realization too and it’s now possible to find eateries going against the norm by providing menus of appetizer-only plates to pander to the new generation of eaters.
Do a search on Yelp
So, you want to know where to find appetizer-only eateries close to you?
Search on Yelp, just write appetizer restaurants and you can filter by location and dollar amount. You will get a list of restaurants that provide a smorgasbord of flavor-charged plates and drinks.
Ask a friend
If in doubt, ask an experienced friend, the one who is always telling you they are restaurant connoisseurs, now is the time to use their experience to navigate the crowded city restaurant scenes. They may even give you information on the best time to check in, how to place your order, and stuff.
So, don’t feel shy because appetizer-only menus are the ‘it’ thing in dining experiences now as $20-$50 main courses become the norm.
Don’t get shy now, just go into the restaurant and politely tell the host you are there for only an appetizer and drinks, you will probably get a nice table by the bar or if it’s too crowded, consider ordering a to-go.
If that’s not enough for you, consider splitting the main dish with your buddy and filling it up with the appetizer.
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.