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8 Steakhouse Etiquette Mistakes You May Be Making

Updated: Jan. 25, 2024

Steakhouse etiquette is designed to create a formal-but-friendly experience, but all those rules can seem stuffy. Warm up the experience by learning some of the most common mistakes to avoid.

steakhouse restaurant table with white linens and a plate of steak plated professionally
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Steakhouse standards

The $65 steak entree isn’t the only intimidating thing about upscale steakhouse restaurants; they can be stuffy and full of rules. Knowing how to follow steakhouse etiquette is important to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself or your dining companions. After all, you don’t want your etiquette mistakes to be what your waiter first notices about you!

Since most of us only go out to eat at these special-occasion restaurants once or twice a year, it’s hard to keep track of what you should and shouldn’t be doing when it comes to dining etiquette. We’re here to help! And don’t forget to watch out for these rude restaurant behaviors you shouldn’t do anywhere.

beef steak with sauce
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Dousing your steak with steak sauce

If the chef wants the steak to be slathered in sauce, it will come to the table that way. Otherwise, it is definitely a modern etiquette faux pas to dump A1 steak sauce on your meat—especially if you haven’t tasted it yet! If you’re a sauce-on-your-steak kind of person, ask the server about house-made sauces that will pair well with your particular steak. They probably have things like garlic butter, peppercorn sauce or chimichurri.

Close up of a cutting a fillet steak at a steakhouse restaurant
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Cutting the steak all at once

Believe it or not, there is a correct way to cut steak, and it involves cutting one bite at a time. You should hold the knife in your right hand with your index finger extended down the back of the utensil. Then, holding the fork in your left hand, pin down the meat and cut a single bite in a zigzag motion. Finally, place the knife on the plate and transfer the fork to your right hand to take the bite. This is the basis of not just steakhouse etiquette, but good table manners in general!

Some people had a good meal and almost finished up everything on the dining table in a cafe.
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Eating every last bite

You might think a clean plate means you loved every bite, but according to steakhouse etiquette experts, it actually sends the wrong message. Leaving one bite of food on the plate shows that you were satisfied but not so hungry you licked the plate clean, which may indicate that you weren’t served enough food. Don’t forget to read up on these other polite habits servers dislike.

used grey linen napkin on a steakhouse restaurant table
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Putting your napkin on the table

When you excuse yourself, don’t plop the napkin directly on the table. Instead, loosely fold it and place it on your chair. The napkin shouldn’t ever be thrown onto your plate, even when you’re finished eating. It should be placed (again, loosely folded) to the left of the plate. At the end of the meal, here’s how to know how much to tip.

Steak on the bone. tomahawk steak On a black wooden background.
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Chewing on the steak bone

This piece of steakhouse etiquette may seem obvious, but you should never gnaw on an animal bone at the table if you’re at a fancy restaurant. It might seem tempting if the meat is delicious, but it’s best to keep your fingers away from the food at all times. That’s what the fork and knife are for! Find out more impolite restaurant behaviors.

Fresh grilled meat.

Spitting out chewy pieces into a napkin

No matter how fancy the steakhouse, you may find a gristly piece of steak in the mix. If you spit it into your napkin, you may forget it’s there, stand up and have the bite go rolling around the dining room! The best steakhouse etiquette is to discreetly take the piece out with your fingers and place it on the upper left corner of the plate. If you don’t like looking at it, you can ask the server for an extra napkin to remove the piece from sight. Watch out for these mistakes you make when cooking steak yourself.

Man's style. dressing suit, shirt and cuffs

Not following the dress code

Dining is an informal business in most parts of the country, but many high-end restaurants still have a dress code (especially in cities like New York, Chicago and New Orleans). No one wants to show up for their reservation and be told they can’t enter the dining room, so be sure to ask about the dressing etiquette rules before you arrive.

Fork with pieces of delicious barbecued meat on gray background
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Ordering steak well done

You should order steak how you like it, so if that’s a well-done steak, then go for it. On the other hand, most steaks taste juicier and more flavorful if they’re cooked to medium-rare or medium. Strike up a conversation with the server and let them know why you prefer well-done meat. They may be able to suggest a menu option that will still taste great when cooked to well-done temperatures. If you have leftovers, this is how long cooked meat lasts in the fridge.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home