The menu doesn't have much information on the cuts of beef
Picking out a steak is sort of like shopping for a car. Not only do you need to know the basic style you want (the type of cut), you also need info about the specific model (in the case of steak: the marbling of the meat and how the cow was raised). If the restaurant doesn't have much in the way of descriptors of the steak on your menu, Huebschmann says "that would point to a restaurant trying to pass something off that's not great." The more info, the better.
Its center-cut steaks are weighed down with cheaper cuts
If you order a center-cut steak -- aka one of the tall, perfectly round cuts of steak you see on cooking shows because they are so flawless -- you better get a center-cut steak. While center cuts aren't necessarily more flavorful than other cuts, steakhouses can charge much more for them because of their visual appeal. Unfortunately, Huebschmann says some steakhouses will cheat you out of meat. "Chain steakhouses might charge $50 for a filet and tout it as center-cut," he says. "But it often has a 'chain' attached to it, which is a small side muscle that connects it to the exterior of the tenderloin. It's not a 100% center-cut filet, and they're charging you too much for it."
The dishes are made using crap ingredients
Asking your server about the dishes will go a long way in determining if the steakhouse is a flaming trash heap. Huebschmann says if the mac & cheese is made with a béchamel sauce using premium cheeses and king crab, then it's unique and probably worth the price. But if you find out it's a processed cheese, you might as well save your money and make a box of good ol' Kraft when you get home. While this means you have to be the annoying customer that asks your server a million questions, it's better than paying a ton of money for crappy food. Just be sure to tip your server a little extra for being so patient with you.
The staff has a bad attitude
A restaurant's front- and back-of-house staff should be excited to make sure your night is top-notch. "Everyone's attitude translates into the food," Huebschmann says. "If the staff is unhappy, angry, and not treating you politely, I imagine they're also cooking angry and the food will come out like crap." He notes that if a place has a bad energy, you'll be able to spot the bad vibes from the moment you walk in and talk to the host. If you get those vibes, walk the hell out -- no piece of meat is worth enduring crappy service for.
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