What Twin Cities Customers Actually Mean When They 'Minnesota Nice' a Bad Meal

waitress taking order
Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock (edited)

While we’re not exactly sure what the root cause is, “Minnesota nice” is definitely a real thing. All too often, Minnesotans are willing to display some hardcore acts of passive-aggressive behavior, while at the same time feeling a serious case of dissatisfaction. This multiplies enormously when it comes to dining out. Odds are when you tell your server everything is "OK" with a meal, there’s something wrong with it. Maybe it’s fear of blowback from the service staff or the kitchen, but there’s something within us that just wants to pass it off and move on. But not anymore...

Minnesotans, let’s take back our dining experience. Let’s pull up our big boy (or girl) pants and clearly explain what we want in order to make our time spent in a restaurant worthy of a return visit.  So stop using the below phrases and tell your server what you really mean (without going into jerk territory) when you get a bad meal.

man unhappy with food at restaurant
Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock

Minnesota nice: "It's fine."

Translation: I'm dissatisfied with something.
Let’s start with the most obvious. If you're saying this, there's definitely something not "fine" about the meal. But think about it this way: when a server asks if you’re enjoying your food, they’re giving you the opportunity to (politely) speak up. Now is your chance to get the meal that you, a paying customer, really wanted. So say something, be nice -- but not Minnesota nice -- and get the meal you asked for.

Minnesota nice: "It's interesting."

Translation: I hate It.
Remember this: just because you ordered it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck with it. If it doesn’t live up to your expectations, say so. This is your chance to shine. Instead of Yelping about how inept the restaurant is, let them know. Things will never get fixed if the issue is not addressed.

Minnesota nice: "I'm allergic to mushrooms."

Translation: I don’t like mushrooms.
Look, allergies are no joke. But what often tends to happen is that instead of being straight with a restaurant, people jump to the allergy claim. The problem with this is that it can bring a kitchen to a screeching halt because allergies are serious and additional steps need to be taken (the kitchen needs to stop and scrub everything down) so the staff can be sure not to kill you.

Bottom line: if you don’t actually have an allergy, you’re slowing down the whole operation for both you and everybody else in the restaurant. So please, stop making up weird kale allergies.

well done steak
Misha Beliy/Shutterstock

Minnesota nice: "Did I order this well-done?"

Translation: I definitely ordered this medium-rare.
If you’re food is not cooked to your liking, skip the game of 20 questions and say so. We all get that it can be a pain having to wait for the kitchen to re-fire your order while the rest of your table gets to chow down, but ultimately, you’re going to be happier at the end of the meal if you get what you wanted.

Minnesota nice: "I didn’t know mid-rare was this pink."

Translation: Can you cook this a little more?
If you’re used to hitting up Outback Steakhouse, your definition of medium-rare is probably a little closer to medium (or even medium-well). But when you go to an actual steakhouse, you might notice a difference: order it the way you normally would and it comes out more pink than you’d expect. This is because the food is being prepared by someone who actually knows what they’re doing and who understands proper temperature. If you’re not willing to experience the beauty of an accurately cooked, truly medium-rare steak, let your server know you’d like it put back on the grill for a few extra minutes. It’s easy to do and the kitchen will gladly comply. The same goes with fish and pork.

waitress taking order
Comaniciu Dan/Shutterstock

Minnesota nice: "I’ll have the fish, but can I get chicken instead, no garnishes, and a bun with cheese?"

Translation: I don’t like this menu at all.
A minor substitution here or there, or asking the kitchen to leave off an ingredient, isn't a big deal... sometimes. Believe it or not, restaurants go through a lot of work preparing the menus. If you’re going to ask for substitutions, omissions, or additions, at least try to be respectful about it. Don’t order something and then request enough changes to completely transform the dish into something else.

If, for some reason, you find yourself at a restaurant against your will, and there’s nothing on the menu you think you can reasonably choke down, ask the server if the kitchen can accommodate a special request. Don’t try to magically craft an entirely new dish through word wizardry.

Minnesota nice: "I’ll be sure to leave you a huge tip..."

Translation: I didn’t like the service.
Ditch the passive-aggressive BS and ask to speak to a manager. Don’t be petty by threatening your server with a small tip. In all honesty, if they're that bad, they probably aren’t expecting anything from you at that point.

Minnesota nice: "One word: Yelp."

Translation: I'm pissed.
Threatening to take your restaurant rage to the social arena is weak sauce at best. And if you’re actually going to do it, warning the wait staff ahead of time doesn’t do a damn thing to change the overall situation. Again, this is a job for the manager. Restaurants want you to come back (unless you’re an absolute jerk), and the manager will almost always do his or her best to take care of whatever issue you’re having. Restaurants are a part of the hospitality industry, after all. Hopping onto Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (HA!) isn’t going to do you any favors. It might actually make your friends and family think you’re some kind of rampaging asshole -- especially if this kind of behavior is a habit of yours.

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Keane Amdahl is a veteran Twin Cities food writer who just wants everybody to be happy. Follow his gleeful antics on Twitter @FoodStoned.