Restaurant Red Flags That Scream 'Don't Eat Here'

cockroach waving a red flag
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

Sometimes you can walk into a restaurant and have a sixth sense that your experience is going to be horrible. After all, it doesn't take dining with the ghost of Bruce Willis to realize that the food's going to suck and the service is going to be worse. But be careful: there are certain features of a dining establishment with red flags that you might never pick up on. If you see any of these, dine at your own risk.

Servers are pushing a seafood special a little too aggressively

It's not your job to eat the stuff management can't convince people to order. Especially something perishable like seafood. Speaking of which, if you regularly eat in a half-price sushi joint, you deserve whatever's coming to you.

The dishes are all labeled with another restaurant's logo

Hats off to them if they're trolling, but you probably should've just gone to the other restaurant.

The food in the cold case looks like it's mummified

Perhaps you'd be better off going home and eating a bowl of Fruity Yummy Mummy cereal from 1983.

The menu's the size of a book

This is not a subliminal slam on Cheesecake Factory, which has a legendarily large menu. The potstickers and flautas go surprisingly well with the fettuccine, we hear. But the majority of restaurants offering up a million dishes on one menu are probably not experts in every cuisine under the sun.

There's a velvet rope outside, but no line

The bouncer doesn't even look like he's interested in taking his lunch break there. And what is he bouncing exactly?

You're waited on by a single server in an otherwise empty restaurant

Unlike sitting in an empty movie theater, which can make you feel like a king (a king seeing this Matthew McConaughey movie, probably) -- sitting in an empty restaurant is super uncomfortable. Especially if the owner knows that no one's showing up, so they only staff the place with one server. And usually that server is either super incompetent and doesn't bother waiting on you, or way too attentive and you have to keep brushing them off. Also, what does it say about a restaurant if the place is always empty? Usually it says: this place will close for good soon.

The wall is full of unsigned celebrity portraits

It's like they're just waiting for Christina Aguilera to come in and sign that thing.

Cockroaches are your dining partners

A bug in a restaurant is not going to kill you, unless that bug is a brown recluse spider and it bites you immediately after you sit down. Even a few flies or a spider shouldn't be enough to dissuade you from a meal at a restaurant you love. But cockroaches are nothing to play around with, because if you see one, chances are there are others lurking about. And in a worst-case scenario they might all fall on your head at once.

The name is suspiciously similar to a better restaurant's

We're sure Fame-ish Ray's is great and all...

The restaurant specializes in cuisines from two distinct culinary styles

We're referring to restaurants that claim to make great pizza and gyros. Sorry, but it takes serious culinary skill to do either one of those dishes justice. No chef is going to make top-notch pizza and gyros. Do you think you can get excellent gyros at any of these pizzerias? No. No you cannot. Would you ever eat in a restaurant that served Tex-Mex and sushi? Then it's probably not advisable to eat in a Thai spot that makes sushi, either.

The staff constantly insists they're "under new management"

A restaurant "under new management" is like a guy who cheats on his girlfriend and then begs for forgiveness because "everything is different now!" But nothing really changed, Jennifer! Especially if the decor, staff, and menu are basically the same as they were before the management "changed"… if it sucked before, it'll probably still suck.

The food is served through bulletproof glass

We're not saying this is a totally bad sign, but if the glass has impact marks on the inside, something might be amiss.

There are suspicious banners outside

We'll forgive some "Grand Opening" banners hanging for over a year. Hell, who hasn't left their Christmas decorations up until February some years? But the banner that says "No E. coli for 40 Days and Counting"? Not so much.

There's a parking space outside marked "Reserved for Exterminator"

Chances are the food in the restaurant will really bug you.

A sign in the window offers discounts for Yelp reviewers

Bribery, plain and simple.

You keep noticing delivery guys bringing food in instead of out

The second after you step inside, you should step outside.

When a server asks you, "Are you sure you want to order that?"

Same goes for if they chuckle and shake their head when you order something. You have two options at that point: listen to the server (because they know more about the food than you do), or run like the wind. We suggest lacing up your favorite cross-trainers and Usain Bolting the hell out of there.

The kitchen is a symphony of beeping microwaves

On the plus side, it does kind of sound like a Skrillex B-side. And at the end of the song you get barely edible meatloaf that belongs in a TV dinner!

The employees beg you to stop in as you walk by

No way! Unless there's a discount for Yelp reviewers…

There is a dead person in the middle of the floor

We're guessing his last meal wasn't what he was expecting.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and enjoys cooking at home. Follow him to home cooking @LeeBreslouer.