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15 things you should never order at a restaurant, according to people who work in the industry

15 things you should never order at a restaurant, according to people who work in the industry

We surveyed dozens of people in the restaurant business on what they never, ever touch, whether it's to avoid outrageous markup, food poisoning, or germ minefields. Watch for these offenders.

Iceberg lettuce

Wedge Salad
Germs can hide inside lettuce’s cracks, corners, and edges. 
Ralph Daily / Flickr

The iceberg wedge salad is one of the industry’s biggest rip-offs. Take into account that iceberg lettuce is about 98% water, and it’s easy to see why. “It’s marked up at least 20 times,” says Peter Chastain, executive chef and owner of California’s Prima Ristorante. Plus, germs can hide inside lettuce’s cracks, corners, and edges. “You think lemons in water are dirty? The salads are filthy,” Cannon says. Even if restaurants do decide to wash their greens, the lettuce is often served soggy, which is big red flag—standing water mixed with lukewarm, mayo-based dressing is a disaster waiting to happen.

Best sellers

vegan burger
Best-selling items are often pre-made. 
Joshua Resnick/Shutterstock

You might think best-selling items have high turnover. But to keep up with demand, fast-food restaurants and some other places pre-make their top sellers, which gives these wrapped and bagged choices plenty of time to develop food-borne illnesses. Instead, opt for the less popular options which are more likely to be prepared to order, says Howard Cannon, CEO of Restaurant Expert Witness and author of "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting A Restaurant," who adds, “Anything sitting in holding, covered with mayonnaise, is probably not that great.” Whatever, you do, don’t order these 8 dishes that are basically a heart attack on a plate.

Tap water

tap water
If you’re handed anything warmer than ice-cold, ask for a new glass. 
Cate Gillon/Getty Images

“One of the most dangerous items in a restaurant is water,” Cannon says, although anything that sits between 40 degrees to 140 degrees for more than a short time has a high potential to harbor bacteria. If your table is already set with a carafe of water, or you’re handed anything warmer than ice-cold, ask for a new glass.

Free bar snacks

Bar snacks are covered in germs. 

Since these nuts, pretzels, and other munchies are free of charge, restaurants and bars often don’t set out a fresh serving for each new customer. It’s like eating out of a stranger’s hand! Then at closing time they’re dumped back into a container, to be re-poured into dishes the next day. Try these bar snacks that are actually good for your heart.

Meat with the bone in

pork chop
Bone-in means less meat. 

Small cuts of meat, like bone-in pork or chicken breasts, are harder to cook thoroughly because their outsides easily char. This often translates to crispy on the outside and raw on the inside. Unlike undercooked beef—say, a rare burger or a steak tartare—undercooked pork and chicken are highly dangerous and could causes food-borne illnesses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Plus, bone-in means less meat.

Sauced-up specials

Chicken Marsala
Be wary of meat that’s been cut, braised, and disguised in a pasta, stew, or soup dish. 
smpics / iStock

To avoid running out of ingredients during the dinner rush, restaurants often order more food than they need. At the end of the day, surplus ingredients that haven’t expired can turn into tomorrow’s specials, disguised with sauce. “Watch out for an expensive item used in a way that’s minimizing its flavor,” says Stephen Zagor, founder of consulting firm Hospitality & Culinary Resources, in Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney. Be wary of meat that’s been cut, braised, and disguised in a pasta, stew, or soup dish. Check out these 20 tricks to eating healthier when dining out.

DIY grilling

korean bbq
Leave the cooking to the chefs. 
George N/Flickr

Restaurants with a built-in-grill dining table sound like fun. But: “Braised food from a steam table is fraught with peril—sneezing customers, improper cooking,” says Chastain. One Korean BBQ joint in Las Vegas shut down after earning an astoundingly disgusting 53 demerits from the Southern Nevada Health District. Leave the cooking to the chefs.


Order a burger or a steak. 
AS Food studio/Shutterstock

First, there’s often more filler than meat, but restaurants think if they drown the dish in enough sauce and seasoning, you won’t notice. To help sell it further, many menus use descriptive words like “homemade,” “home-cooked,” “home-style,” or worst of all, “Mom’s.” Don’t insult your mama! Order a burger or a steak.

"From-there" seafood

The seafood typically won't come from the location it's advertised. 
Flickr Creative Commons/y6y6y6

Unless the joint is known for its seafood, there’s no guarantee you’re going to get what’s on the menu. “About 70 percent of the time, for example, those Maryland crab cakes weren’t made using crabs from the Chesapeake Bay,” says James Anderson, chairman of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island, in Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney. And while the kitchen might swap snapper for a cheaper tilapia, many times the distributors do a bait and switch, too. Make sure you avoid these fish you should never order at a restaurant.

"Gourmet" burgers

truffle burger
Truffle oil is an overrated ingredient. 
Kurman Communciations/Flickr

By working in one expensive ingredient in small batches (see: truffle oil, fois gras), many customers are cheated into believing they’re getting a taste of highbrow fare for a relatively low price. Beware: Most commercial truffle oils are created by mixing olive oil with a lab-produced chemical. Zagat ranked truffle oil as one of the 8 most overrated ingredients, comparing the oil to trendy fashion labels: “it’s obnoxious, overpriced, and made with cheap material.”

Ice cream

Cookies and cream ice cream in a bowl
Just buy your own ice cream from a grocery store. 

Unless it’s exotic or made in-house, it’s not worth your time, money, or caloric intake. “The idea of dropping big dollars in a restaurant to pay for the same brand I can get from the local grocery doesn’t make me want any,” says Mark Ladisky, senior operations consultant for Synergy Restaurant Consultants.


Be bolder. 
Oksana Shufrych/Shutterstock

He who orders chicken is, in terms of ordering outside the box, a chicken. “There is typically nothing unique about the preparation that is worth my attention on the menu,” says Ladisky. It’s also cheap meat that gets marked up substantially. Be bolder. These are the secrets your restaurant server isn’t telling you.


The price of a pizza from a restaurant isn't worth it. 
Shannon O'Hara/Getty Images for Pizza Hut

Pizza is a gold mine for restaurants: cheap ingredients and big mark-ups. So buying pizza from a restaurant that isn’t dedicated to doing it right is a waste of money and tomatoes, according to Ladisky. “I can’t recommend throwing money away on a slightly upgraded freezer-section pizza baked in a toaster oven,” he says. One New York City pizzeria spends $3.64 on ingredients for a Margherita pizza and sells it for $10—that’s a 300 percent markup. Check out these 24 things restaurant owners wish they could tell you.


It's not worth the money. 

Though it might be the cheapest appetizer on the menu, it’s never worth as much as it costs. A giant 12-oz. steamable bag of edamame at the grocery store will run you the same price on average, if not cheaper. And all that goes into preparing edamame is a little heating up.

Bread baskets

bread basket
Don't be tricked into spending money on something that's usually free. 
Alice Salles/Flickr


A basket of bread is a restaurant standby—and more importantly, a complimentary restaurant standby. Don't be duped into doling out a few bucks, even if it's artisan-quality. Make sure you know the foods chefs never order at restaurants.

Read the original article on Reader's Digest. Copyright 2019.

Easy Kid’s Birthday Cake Ideas

Easy Kid’s Birthday Cake Ideas

I have made a lot of birthday cakes over the years. Today I’m sharing my top tips for making it simple. Take these easy kid’s birthday cake ideas as an inspiration for your own child’s birthday party. I get commissions for purchases made through the affiliate links in this post. 

Easy Kid’s Birthday Cake Ideas

Top with Toys

My favorite way of making a themed birthday cake is to choose some toys to top the cake. Sometimes you’ll actually find cake topper toys, but you can use regular toys, too. Just be sure the toys are washable (at least the part that will touch the frosting). You’ll also want to watch out for crevices on the toys that the frosting can get stuck in. You could add a bit of fondant for the toys to rest on. Wash the toys before placing them on the cake (allowing for drying time).

My family loves a boxed chocolate cake with store bought chocolate fudge frosting. My kids wanted a How to Train Your Dragon birthday cake with Toothless and the Light Fury. We had the perfect cake with the Dragons Hidden World Gift Set I bought online at Target.

How To Train Your Dragon birthday cake

Another option is to choose a white frosting (I like cream cheese frosting) and add icing color. (I use the gel icing colors from Wilton.) I did this for our Troll Hunters birthday party. If you get the white icing with confetti, you can add an extra special pop of rainbow color to the cake.

Troll Hunters birthday cake

Add Candy to Decorate the Birthday Cake

When my daughter turned one, I decided to have a polka dot birthday party. She had this adorable polka dot outfit and it was the perfect inspiration for party. I made her a special mini applesauce cake that wasn’t very sweet.

1st birthday smash cake

For the rest of the party goers, I baked a simple 2-layer chocolate cake. I iced it with cream cheese frosting and added M&M’s to dot the cake. Super easy and super festive!

1st birthday polka dot cake decorated with M&M's

My niece asked for a Willy Wonka themed birthday cake when she turned 7. The inside of the cake is rainbow with 4 layers each a different color. I used the store bought colored cake mixes to make it easy. The cake is supposed to look sort of like Willy Wonka’s hat so the brim of the hat was made from purple fondant. We added a variety of candies to complete the picture.

Willy Wonka birthday cake - purple frosting decorated with candy

Use a Special Shaped Pan

Wilton makes a ton of cake pans in different shapes. I created an airplane birthday cake using their airplane shaped pan. Before buying the pan, check to see if your library or some other local place lets you borrow the shaped pans. Otherwise, use a coupon if you buy it at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, or Jo-Ann’s.

The cake pans come with instructions and ideas for decorating the cake. Be sure to grease and flour your cake pans so the cake comes out clean. Or you can use Wilton’s Bake Easy. This non-stick spray makes the cakes come out super clean.airplane birthday cake

For the airplane birthday cake, I used store bought chocolate frosting and vanilla frosting and used M&M’s to complete the picture.

For Lily’s Hello Kitty birthday party, I used Wilton’s Hello Kitty pan. I coated the cake in a layer of frosting and then used tubes of gel icing to make the details on Hello Kitty’s face. The gel icing was kind of difficult to work with. It didn’t want to cooperate so I ended up with a messy cake. It still turned out okay. I would probably use buttercream and proper piping tips if I had to do it all over again.

Hello Kitty birthday cake

Get the Right Shape Cake Pan

For Aiden’s Minecraft birthday cake, he had to have a square cake. This meant getting square pans. I used 4 boxed cake mixes to make a square 4-layer cake. I covered the whole cake in lots of store bought chocolate frosting. I even did a crumb coat.

I used a recipe to make homemade buttercream frosting and colored it green. I used a star tip to create the grass on top of the cake. The cake is supposed to look like a block of Minecraft grass.

The final touch was adding Minecraft toys to the top of the cake. This cake was huge and pretty heavy. But totally worth the impact. Everyone loved it.

Use a Sphere Shaped Cake Pan

Wilton makes a 3D Sports Ball Cake Pan that I’ve used to create Aiden’s Jupiter cake and his Golden Snitch cake. You bake the two halves separately and then use icing to combine them. A crumb coat is definitely need in order to get this cake decorated well.

Aiden requested a Jupiter cake for his space themed birthday party. And he wanted it to be an actual ball shape not flat. Thankfully, I found the sports ball cake pan. I followed the directions for baking the cake and cut off any cake that baked above the edges. After the crumb coat was chilled, I added more store-bought frosting (I love that shortcut). I colored some of the frosting using Wilton’s icing colors.

Jupiter birthday cake perfect for a space themed party

My first and only attempt at making cake pops was to have Jupiter’s moons go along with the spherical planet. The cake pops were absolutely delicious but they took forever to make. I wasn’t very good a dipping the cake pops in melted chocolate. The cake pops came out lopsided and uneven. Since they are Jupiter’s moons this were perfectly acceptable and maybe even looked as if I did it on purpose. The cake is sitting on a piece of foam wrapped with aluminum foil. This makes it easy to stick the cake pops in.

Jupiter cake with moon cake pops

For Aiden’s Harry Potter birthday party, he wanted a Golden Snitch cake. This cake did not turn out exactly how I imagined but he loved it nonetheless. I used Wilton’s buttercream yellow icing color to color cream cheese frosting. I used more buttercream yellow to add the details of the snitch. Aiden wanted the wings of the snitch to be made out of edible paper. I used Wilton’s sugar sheets but they were heavier than I thought. Wafer paper would have been a better choice.

Harry Potter birthday party - golden snitch cake

Combine Cake Pan Shapes

To make Elon’s volcano cake, I use a small bundt cake pan and a 6 inch round cake pan. The bottom of the bundt cake pan was the same size as the round cake pan. After baking and leveling the cakes, I stacked the bundt cake on top of the round cake. I added the cake scraps cut off from leveling to the sides of the cake. This helped make the sides of the volcano more mountain like.

Next, I added colorful homemade buttercream. I wish the buttercream was a little tighter. It would have piped easier onto the cake. Overall, we ended up with a pretty cool volcano birthday cake.

volcano birthday cake decorated with red, orange, yellow, and green buttercream frosting with dinosaur toys

Use Modeling Chocolate

If you can’t find toys to match your birthday party themed, you can make your own cake toppers out of modeling chocolate. It’s surprisingly easy to work with. It handles just like modeling clay. The modeling chocolate becomes softer and easier to manipulate as you heat it up with your hands. Check out how I used modeling chocolate to make the cake for our Dragons Love Tacos birthday party. The method is easy but it is time consuming. It took quite a while to get the dragon just right.

Dragons Love Tacos birthday cake

My Final Advice

Don’t be afraid of decorating a cake yourself. My cakes never look like a professional did them. I’m totally okay with that. They are personalized for my children. Some of them take time to get just right. Others are ridiculously easy.



source: inspirationlaboratories

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them

Nowadays, the internet is literally crazy about life hacks and this is perfectly understandable because they allow us to save money and time. There are some tips that seem to be crazy in the beginning, but they actually work great. Could you ever imagine that it would be easy to clean a toilet with Kool-Aid and that you could iron clothes with vinegar?

We at Bright Side are in a constant search of ideas that can make your lives significantly easier. So, here is the result of our work: simple life hacks that will allow you to clean your house faster.

1. A life hack that will reduce the consumption of detergent

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them
If you are out of liquid soap or you just want to save money, this tip will save both your money and your time. Make a hole in your dish sponge and put some gritty soap inside.

2. Kool-Aid can clean a toilet just as well as a special detergent.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them


Kool-Aid and other similar drinks contain lemon acid which is a perfect natural detergent. This is a great alternative way to clean your bathroom and toilet.

3. Micellar water whitens the soles of sneakers.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them
This beauty product will help you to “revive” your old sneakers and leather shoes. Put some of the liquid on a cotton swab, rub the dirt, and wash it off with water.

4. Whiten and disinfect cutting boards in the kitchen.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them


15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them

Mix the following ingredients: 3-4 tbsp of baking soda, 1 tbsp of detergent, and 1-2 tbsp of hydrogen peroxide. Put the paste on the surface and wait for a few hours (you can leave it overnight). Read more here.

5. Toothpaste can replace special tablets for the toilet.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them


If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on special toilet tablets, you can use a toothpaste tube. One pack will last for 3 months, the toilet will smell minty, and the soda in the toothpaste has a whitening effect. Just make a few holes in the tube and put it in the toilet cistern.

6. A spray that irons out clothes just as well as an iron.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them
Mix 1 tsp of hair conditioner, 1 tsp of vinegar, and 2 glasses of water. Spay the mixture on your clothes, iron them with your hands and wait until they dry. See a full description of the tip here.

7. Cat litter removes unpleasant smells.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them
Put a little cat litter in your trash can or put it inside a thing you want to remove an unpleasant smell from. It can be anything from shoes to mats — usually things that are difficult to wash. So, place cat litter + the object inside a plastic bag and leave it for several days. Read more here.

8. A trap for fruit flies

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them

In a house where there is fruit, these insects reproduce lightning fast. And a simple trap can help you defeat them: put any fruit into a cup, cover it with plastic film, and make a hole in the film. The flies will be able to get in, but won’t be able to get out. The author describes the method in detail here.

9. You can hide nail holes with a piece of soap.

15 Life Hacks That Seem to Be Wild Until You Try Them
Take a piece of white soap and rub it on the necessary spot in circular motions. The nail marks will be almost impossible to detect. You can find a lot of photos and a detailed description here.

10. A rubber band will limit the expense of liquid soap.

A rubber band will cut down on the amount of liquid soap you use. Here is the blog of the inventive housewife who designed this life hack.

11. Hairspray and a rubber glove will help to remove pet hair from furniture.

Put some hairspray on a rubber glove and touch your couches, armchairs, and carpets — all the places that it is very hard to remove pet hair from. The author describes this method here.

12. Sponges keep vegetables fresh for a longer time.

If you put dish sponges in the section for fruit and vegetables, they will absorb all the moisture and smells and the foods will stay fresher for a longer time. Read more here.

13. Alka-Seltzer removes the stains from tea and coffee cups.

Put a pill in a cup of warm water, wait a few minutes, and wash the cup. You can read about the tip here.

14. You can keep sauces in an egg carton.

This is great life hack for those who hate to shake the leftovers from sauces bottles. If you keep them upside-down in empty egg cartons, you won’t have to shake them.

15. Sandpaper removes pilling from clothes.

This is a quick way to make your clothes look as good as new: sandpaper can substitute for a special device for removing fuzz balls. Read more about this life hack here.

Do you use life hacks in your everyday life? Or do you prefer “the old way” and you don’t trust tips from the internet? Tell us how you do it!


Source: Bright Side