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Eating and drinking in America

Local habits


  • Americans generally take little time for meals. Only on holidays, or if there are guests there is more time for a real meal.

  • Eating out in America does not have to be expensive. Restaurants are also often visited by local people.

  • In a so-called service restaurant you are not expected to find a place yourself. There is usually a sign that says “Wait to be seated” from where you will be brought to your tabel by a hostess.

  • If soup or a salad is part of your meal then you are supposed to eat this first before the rest of your meal will be served.

  • A small or half'menu is usually sufficient for non-Amercians. A large Menu in America is really big and will be enough for two people. What you can not eat all you can ask for a Doggy Bag, which is quite normal.

  • You ask for the payment with questions: "Could I have the check please?" (If you want to pay alone) or "Could we have separate checks, please?" (if anyone wants to pay for themselves).

  • Paying is also different: usually the waiter will give you a coupon that you must pay at the checkout. Please note that in many restaurants the prices are quoted excluding taxes and service. Check the receipt whether a service-charge is already included, otherwise you are expected to leave at least 10% on the table, depending on the quality of the service.

  • Soft drinks and coffee and tea you usually pay only once - after that you can use the free refills.

  • Alcoholic beverages are not sold to persons under 18 or 19 years (depending on the state law). For pub visits the minimum age is 21 years.

  • In restaurants, a strict distinction is made between smoking and non-smoking areas.

The meals

Breakfast

Breakfast in a hotel or restaurant consists mostly of pancakes, bagels, muffins, sweet rolls ("Danish pastry"), yogurt with cereal / muesli, scrambled eggs, fried eggs (sunny side up ") bread with minced meat (meat loaf) or a sandwich / toast with jam and coffee. Most fast-food restaurants offer a cheap and very basic breakfast. A positive exception is the Cracker Barrel-chain. Among the many local, independent eateries (the "mom and pop's") you can always find a good breakfast.

Lunch

Lunch in the U.S. often includes a sandwich/bagel with salmon or cream cheese, hamburger, hot dog, donut and sometimes french-fries.

Diner

There is a wide choice of all kind and types of diner restaurants. There is an equally wide variety of regional food culture - steak in Texas, spicy food in Louisiana and traditional home-cooking in the northern and eastern states. At pizzerias, steakhouses and Mexican restaurants you can generally eat out inexpensive. In towns and along motorways you will find many fast food restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wendys, Jack in the Box Kentucky Fried Chicken.

  • Breakfast is included with most tours. At each tour the meal options are indicated at the details. When you choose a fully catered camping tour or an Event tour, meals are often served outside in buffet style. The emphasis is on low-fat and nutritious ingredients.

Bread - Sandwiches

The base of sandwiches is formed by white, brown or wholemeal bread, mixed with rye bread or bagels. Classic spreads are chicken salad, tuna or egg, smoked salmon ("lox"), cream cheese, corned beef and pastrami (a kind of smoked meat). Club sandwiches consist of three layers of toasted bread with lettuce, tomato, turkey, bacon or cheese in between. "Hoagies”, “heroes”, “submarines" and "grinders" are different names for baguette sandwiches stuffed with minced meat, sausage, ham, cheese, salami, onion, peppers, lettuce, tomato and olive oil.

Salad

Most ‘standard’ salads consist of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, but nowadays many restaurants have a salad bar, where you compose one yourself out of many types of raw vegetable salads. You can choose different salad dressings, such as 'French' (vinaigreete), "Thousand Islands" (mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, boiled egg), 'Russian' (mayonnaise and chili sauce), 'Italian' (olive oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs) or 'Blue Cheese' (crumbled Roquefort cheese, pepper, oil, vinegar).

Meat

Beef is still the number-one meat in the U.S., although an increasing number of Americans do not eat 'red' meat anymore. Beef is served in steak houses in huge portions. "Spare ribs” are fried or grilled pork ribs, marinated in a spicy sauce, fried and grilled. They are served in large portions and eaten by hand.

Fish

Both the seafish from the east and west coasts and the Gulf of Mexico and the fish from the mountain rivers and lakes is of excellent quality. Well known are the red snapper, mackerel (blue fish), sea bass, salmon and trout. Shellfish are mussels (clams and scallops), lobster, sea snails (abalone), oysters, crab and prawns (shrimp). Shellfish is mostly served fried, but you can also ask them boiled, baked or grilled.

Dessert

Ice is prepared in a wide variety of flavors the U.S. New flavors are created every day, but vanilla remains the most popular. A famous dessert is vanilla ice cream on top of a piece of apple pie (or another fruit pie). “Apple Brown Betty” is a kind of crumbled/flaky apple pie. Brownies are usually square pieces of chocolate cake. During the strawberry season there is "Strawberry Shortcake" (sand pie with strawberries, covered with lots of whipped cream).
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