It is quite usual to drink cocktails before lunch and dinner in America and somewhat less usual, except in California, to drink wine with a meal. You can either have a cocktail in the bar, if there is one, while you wait for a table or for friends, or you can have one served before your dinner comes. At some restaurants the waiter/waitress will come to your table as soon as you sit down to ask if you want a cocktail, and you can then drink this while deciding what to order to eat. At others, there may be a separate cocktail waiter or waitress. In this case, you do not normally order wine from him or her but from the normal waiter- or the wine waiter is there is one.
Do not hesitate to order Californian wines. They can be excellent and in many parts of the country are cheap.
It is usual to have a salad with your meal, and a separate plate is provided for this purpose. The normal practice in America is to eat the salad before the main course. A wonderful American invention is the salad bar. In restaurants that have these salad bars the waiter does not bring your salad. You go to the salad bar and help yourself, usually to as much as you want. This is normally done after you have ordered your meal; you eat the salad while the main course is being cooked.
Choosing from the Menu 选菜
American menus can look rather confusing at first sight, for they may use some terms which are unfamiliar to most vistors. Here are some points which may be useful.
Fried mushrooms, fried onion rings (洋葱圈) and fried zucchini (小胡瓜) are sometimes served as starters (第一道菜).
Potatoes most often come "French-fried" or baked. If you order a baked potato, the waiter will ask you what you want on it. The choice is butter and/or sour cream and sometimes chives (细香葱).
Very often vegetables do not come automatically with the meal, and you have to pay extra for them.
"Scrod" (小鳕鱼), "red snapper" (啮龟) and "mahi hahi" are all name of fish. "Seafood"means lobster (龙虾), shellfish and fish, including,funnily enough, freshwater fish! Prawns (对虾) are known as "shrimp".
American beef is usually good and often wonderful.
American salt and pepper (糊椒粉) pots are confusing until you realize that the salt pot may look like a pepper pot except that the salt pot's holes are bigger. Pepper is normally black rather than white. American mustard (芥末) is mild and normally eaten with hot dogs or hamburgers rather than meat.
And that stuff in a dish that looks ice cream is actually whipped (搅拌过的) butter.
You have probably heard that in American restaurants, if you can't finish your meal, you can put the remains in a "doggy bag" and take them home. This is quite true. If you leave some meat, in particular, your waiter may ask you if you'd like him to put it into "a little bag", or you can ask him to do this.