Tipping at Restaurants Takes a Hit. Are Tip Jars to Blame?

Tipping at Restaurants Takes a Hit Tipping at Restaurants Takes a Hit. Are Tip Jars to Blame?In honor of Tax Day tomorrow (Have you filed your return — or your extension yet?), we’re talking about tipping again. Servers in Portland have seen their tips decrease. Some are blaming smaller checks, while several customers had little sympathy for the servers’ plight. Could it be that as consumers we’re now being hit up for tips everywhere we go? To wit, I was recently at a dry cleaner that had a tip jar. Really?! Hey, here’s an extra buck for losing my sweater for a week. Or for putting a crease in my pants even though I beg you not to EVERY SINGLE TIME. Thanks, and keep up the not-so-great work!

Meanwhile, last month, Cheryl Glenn, a lawmaker in Maryland introduced a bill that would ban automatic tipping in restaurants for parties of under 10 diners. Restaurant associations aren’t happy about it, but every diner has her/his own strategy for tipping that doesn’t always jibe with a gratuity automatically being added to their bill.

Are tip jars tapping you out? Causing you to tip less at restaurants? Are mandatory tips driving you mad? Weigh in here, or join the conversation on Facebook.

What It’s Like to Work at The French Laundry; Batali Goes Green

* It’s tough to get a reservation at The French Laundry, but it’s even tougher to work there. [Financial Times]

* …although the commute is probably tougher if you work at the world’s most remote restaurant. [Gizmodo]

* Mario Batali is known for his orange Crocs, but his restaurants, including Del Posto, Lupa, Osteria Mozza, and Otto, are sporting a more Earth-friendly hue. [The Huffington Post]

* There’s speculation about the name of the new Jose Garces restaurant in Philadelphia’s Centre City. [Philadelphia City Paper]

Continue reading…

On the Menu: Real Milk, Salted Butter, and Peter Rabbit?

On the Menu Real Milk On the Menu: Real Milk, Salted Butter, and Peter Rabbit?Ingredient-driven news from the world of food…

*New York restaurants, including I Trulli, SD26, and SHO Shaun Hergatt, are serving bunny. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. [NY Post]

* Could country ham be the new bacon? [Salon]

* Salted butter is back on tables at fine restaurants, taking some of the fun out of salting your bread and butter. [The Epi-Log]

* Finding sustainable fish is about to get easier, thanks to an eco-minded entrepreneur. [The New York Times]

* Milk is supposed to have flavor, and once again, some of it does. [Washington Post]

* Seasonal sweets are showing up in San Francisco restaurants. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Atlanta diners are giving quiche a chance at Au Pied de Cochon and Bistro Niko. [AJC]

Take the OpenTable Mother’s Day 2010 Survey!

Mother’s Day isn’t too far away, and OpenTable wants to know your thoughts on Mom’s special day. What’s your favorite cocktail — a Bloody Mary or a Bellini? Will you dine with your mother AND your mother-in-law? Answer these and other pressing questions in our short survey today. It’s free, it’s fast — and fun!

Click here to share your opinion.

What Sam Sifton Looks Like, How to Find Out What Michael Bauer Looks Like, and Other ‘Critic-al’ News

What Sam Sifton Looks Like What Sam Sifton Looks Like, How to Find Out What Michael Bauer Looks Like, and Other Critic al NewsRestaurant critics create the news, and sometimes they make the news….

* The New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton’s identity has been compromised by the sneaky peeps at Eater, while eating KFC of all things. [Gawker]

* New York Magazine reviewer Adam Platt clarifies a few things for those wanting to compromise his identity. [GrubStreet New York]

* Michael Bauer will willingly reveal his identity to you — if you win first prize in the “SFGate Top 100 Foodspotter Awards” and get to share a meal with the San Francisco Chronicle scribe. [SFGate]

* Mark Hayter, a new reviewer, reluctantly joins the mix in the Lone Star State and shares some of his self doubt about being critical. [The Courier]

* Canadian foodies debate the merits of professional food critics versus those of online amateurs. [Macleans]

* Howard Kurtz ponders the merits of critics in general. [Washington Post]

How to Take Foodspotting Photos (Unless You’re at Alinea)

How to Take Foodspotting Photos How to Take Foodspotting Photos (Unless Youre at Alinea)From the “Not-Exactly-Breaking-News” files, food photography is rampant at restaurants, thanks to, first, Flickr, then Twitpic, and now Foodspotting. The act of creating food porn, as a lot of people call it, while eating out has become more acceptable, even though it annoys some diners. I admit I’ve done this a few times — but very surreptitiously and only to let a friend see what she’s missing. Cruel, I know.

The New York Times details the rise of food photography’s popularity and also provides a practical guide from blogger Andrew Scrivani to taking the best food photos on the fly. If you don’t want to offend your fellow diners, at Bon Appetit, BA Foodist Andrew Knowlton list three simple rules for taking food pics on the sly. Whatever you do regarding foodie photography, don’t do it at Alinea, lest you incur the wrath of the great Grant Achatz.

District, Epic, Harwood Arms, Square 1682, and Others Earn Rave Reviews

Argentinian Skirt Steak District, Epic, Harwood Arms, Square 1682, and Others Earn Rave ReviewsRecently reviewed restaurants on the OpenTable network…

* Chef Bruno Loubet is back in a big way in the UK with his Bistrot Bruno Loubet. [Financial Times]

* Authentic Argentinian cuisine is alive and well at Carlitos Gardel in Los Angeles. [Los Angeles Times]

* Newly opened in the City of Angels, S. Irene Virbila says don’t miss District. [Los Angeles Times]

* Chicago’s Epic lives up to its name, according to Phil Vettel. [Chicago Tribune]

* Bare Magazine recommends you gather up some friends and head over to Gather in Berkeley. [Bare Magazine]

* Giles Coren pays a satisfying visit to London’s first Michelin-starred gastropub Harwood Arms in London. [Times Online]

* Kith and Kin is  a win. [Chicago Tribune]

* The Mark by Jean-Georges hits it, according to Gael Greene. [Insatiable Critic]

* You’ll find big flavor in the small plates at Piccolo in Minneapolis, according to critic Rick Nelson. [Star-Tribune]

* Prasino gets praise for its potential from Phil Vettel. [Chicago Tribune]

* Baltimore’s Prime Steakhouse is just about perfect. [Baltimore Sun]

* There’s nothing square about the stylish Square 1682 in Philadelphia. [Philly.com]

Mother’s Day Reservations: Book an ‘OpenTable’ for Mom Today

Mothers Day 2010 preview Mothers Day Reservations: Book an OpenTable for Mom TodayIt’s still a bit more than a month away, but it’s never too soon to make a Mother’s Day reservation. OpenTable has launched our national page for Mother’s Day specials across the U.S. and in Canada and Mexico. There are tons of terrific prix-fixe offerings and special perks, such as the $10 bottomless glass of Champagne at Crab Landing in San Francisco (remember to take a taxi or enlist a designated driver!).

Beyond dining deals and discounts, you’ll also find an array of delicious dishes being prepared exclusively for deserving moms. The Harrison in Manhattan suggests their sublime Sunday sauce (just like Carmela Soprano would make — only better), while The Oak Room at The Plaza is making a decadent lobster eggs benedict. In D.C., Central Michel Richard recommends their take on a lobster burger, and neighboring Cure Bar & Bistro is baking up a special Maryland Blue Crab Pie. Chicago’s Park Grill has created a lemon verbena cheesecake (Before the perfume department at Bloomingdale’s was born, all moms smelled like lemon verbena.). At Salpicón, also in the Windy City, they’ve crafted a dish of prawns in tomatillo sauce, to appeal to mom’s spicier side. Spruce in the Bay Area is offering a super-seasonal, savory-crusted spring lamb. Bistro St. Tropez in Philadelphia is serving banana pan perdu — sure to satisfy mothers who have a sweet tooth. Speaking of sweet, LA’s Citizen Smith is offering a raspberry Pacific swordfish (I love savory dishes with a bit of sweet, don’t you?).

Hungry yet? I know I am, and the dishes listed here are just a smattering of the great meals that await you and your family on Mother’s Day.  What is her favorite food to eat on her special day? Let us know what your mom has an appetite for and where you’re planning on taking her, here or over on Facebook.

Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants: Michael Bauer’s 2010 Picks Are In!

Bay Area foodies — and fortunate restaurateurs and chefs — rejoice! San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer has released his carefully curated annual list of the “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants.”

Cuisine types reveal the melting pot that the Bay Area restaurant scene is, with Asian, barbecue, California-Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Peruvian, and Vietnamese populating the list alongside California, Contemporary American, and Italian, among others. A very helpful feature of Bauer’s culinary guide to one of the world’s top cities for food is its noise ratings, a factor that can help diners in search of a lively experience or a peaceful meal. Bauer also points out house specialties to help novices order well. Insider insights regarding parking make arriving in time for your reservation even easier.

While we all may gaze at critics with envy, Bauer has revealed, in his blog and in the accompanying San Francisco Chronicle Magazine article, that putting together this exhaustive, impressive, and informative round-up is anything but easy. Call it a labor of love, but it remains a labor, with hard choices and harsh cuts right up until press time. He writes in the Magazine of the process, ” Maybe next year I should offer the Top 150.” Sounds good to us!

Honorees include: A16, Acquerello, Ad Hoc, Amber India, Ame, Aziza, Baker and Banker, Bar Bambino, BayWolf, Betelnut, BIX, Bottega, Bouchon, Boulevard, Cafe La Haye, Camino, Chapeau, Chez Panisse, Chez Papa Resto, COCO500, Coi, Cyrus, The Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton, Dosa, Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Flora, Flour+Water, Foreign Cinema, Frances, Frascati, The French Laundry, Greens, House of Prime Rib, Jardiniere, Kaygetsu, La Folie, Madrona Manor, Manresa, Masa’s, Michael Mina, Murray Circle at Cavallo Point, Neela’s, Nombe, One Market, Perbacco/Barbacco, Pesce, Picco/Pizzeria Picco, Piperade, Poggio, Press, Quince, Range, Redd, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Rivoli, RN74, Sante, Slanted Door, Solbar, SPQR, Spruce, Sushi Ran, Terra, The Tipsy Pig, Town Hall, Va De Vi, Wexler’s, Willi’s Wine Bar, Wood Tavern, Yoshi’s Jazz Club and Restaurant, and Zuni Cafe.

How many of Bauer’s best of the Bay Area restaurants list have you eaten at? What restaurants didn’t make the cut but should have? Let us know here or join the conversation over on Facebook.

Best Restaurants for Brunch: Announcing the 2010 Diners’ Choice Winners

Best Brunch Diners Choice 2010 Best Restaurants for Brunch: Announcing the 2010 Diners Choice Winners Everybody loves brunch! And now finding the best places to eat the Sunday meal with something for everyone is easier than ever, thanks to the release of the 50 restaurant winners of OpenTable’s 2010 Diners’ Choice Awards for Best Brunch. Derived from nearly four million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners of nearly 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list celebrates the restaurants that make Sunday one of the best dining days of the week.

Winners include restaurants that serve over-the-top brunch fare, such as Norma’s in Manhattan (If you haven’t had the Foie Gras Brioche French Toast or the Hudson Valley Duck Confit Hash, you haven’t lived) and Atlanta’s Relish (Krispy Kreme ® Bread Pudding) and those that turn out sumptuous favorites with local flair every weekend, such as Charlotte’s Pewter Rose (Fried Green Tomato Benedict) and Gertrude’s (Tilghman Island Eggs, i.e. fried oysters and poached eggs) in Baltimore.

Congratulations to all the restaurants recognized in the Best Brunch category. Find out if your favorite made our list, and reserve a table for this weekend, Easter, Mother’s Day — or any given Sunday — today.