Afternoon Inquisition

AI: my usual please…

I only have to walk into my local cafe and a small latte appears on the table for me. I don’t even have to ask for “my usual” anymore…

Call me predictable, or call me decisive…this isn’t to say I won’t try something wild, like a crazy cappuccino…or a threesome with your best friend.

Be it food, drink or something more unusual, what’s your “usual”?

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52 Comments

  1. Hi there!

    I am SUCH a creature of habit. It disturbs me sometimes. :(

    Starbucks? “Venti White Chocolate Mocha”. Chinese Food? “General Tso’s Chicken if you please!” Gas Station? “Yeah, can I get $20 of regular?” Bar? “Jack on the Rocks, mac. Thanks”.

    Sometimes I’ll get something different JUST to make myself seem wild and unpredictable. But that seems disingenuous. I AM predictable! :( [sigh]

  2. I’m pretty boring and vanilla, so I tend to have a routine menu for food that I cycle through at home. Also, some restaurants get associated in my mind with one dish (“Empire? Gumbo, then). However, when it’s a Mexican or Italian restaurant, there is no “usual,” and my choice varies with my mood.

  3. I fluctuate between the ‘that was good last time I was here, I should get it again!’ and ‘I get something different this time!’ states of mind.

    Except in my building’s coffee stand. There I always get the 16oz Mocha Joe. And my non-alcoholic beverage is always sweet tea.

    …well, except when I’m in the unrefined north, where they seem to think that providing me with a sugar packet is the same thing.

  4. There was a while when I was first married that my wife and I went to the same Mexican place every week for over a year. By the end, the only question was whether or not she wanted a margarita that night. You could always tell new employees because they tried to hand us menus. The manager frequently greeted us with “I saw you in the parking lot; your order’s already in, pick whatever seat you want.”

    Sometimes I miss that.

  5. 90% of the time when we got to The California Grill at The Contemporary at DisneyWorld, Ken and I get sushi and flatbread. The regular greeters, servers and the manager know us on sight. The only questions are which sushi and flatbread and what do we want to drink. Occasionally they ask if we’d like to sit at the sushi bar instead of the lounge.
    I love being known as a regular. It’s comforting.

  6. I always have a 2-liter bottle of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi in the fridge, and I go through a little less than a bottle a day. Some people mindlessly sip on coffee all day, I mindlessly sip DWCP.

    It used to be Mountain Dew that I’d drink all day, but I eventually figured out how bad of an idea THAT is.

  7. The pub I used to drink in every Friday night in Bristol would start pouring my customary pint of Guinness as soon as soon as they saw me at the bar. I don’t believe I ever waited more than 5 minutes for a drink in that place. I miss it terribly – I haven’t found anywhere nearly as welcoming since I moved!

    Again, when I lived in my home town – I used to stop at Starbucks every morning before work. I was there as soon as it opened so my drink (skinny hazelnut latte) and a muffin (normally my servers choice!) were halfway to ready as soon as I was in the door. There are perks to being up that early!

  8. I have “usual haunts” that know what kind of coffee I take (long macchiato – double shot espresso, with a miniscule foam of milk). I change my food around just enough that they can never predict what I want though, but not enough that I’m unpredictable.

    My personal take on it is, if you like it, and gives you a happy, why is that a bad thing?

  9. I’m a culinary Magellan and I’ll try almost anything once. But I do have habits and my morning coffee is strong and black, in the summer my drink of choice is a G&T and I like single malt Scotch neat when it’s in the budget.

    The topic’s timing is amusing in that I’ve been talking with my wife about cutting out caffeine and giving up the morning coffee today.

  10. I don’t like being a regular anywhere. I prefer to remain an anonymous face in the crowd of customers. I don’t have a usual, I choose what I want depending on how I feel at the time. I don’t want a stranger knowing my food preferences anyway.

    I’m not paranoid or anything. I just know from all my years of crappy retail, that they want you to be a regular, that way you spend more and don’t try new, potentially better places. I also like to relax and not have to make annoying chit chat with people. I know from experience that the workers don’t like making chit chat either. They’re just doing it because it’s their job. It’s not real, you might think they really like you, but they don’t. I imagine it’s like prostitution. (I may sound cynical but that’s only because I am). We don’t tip in NZ, but I bet that makes them pretend to care even more.

    Funny related retail story. I worked for Starbucks, which is not a franchise, it’s licensed so every store was run by the same company. So I would work at pretty much every store in the downtown area. Often I would work at different stores on the same day. In the morning I served this woman a venti caramel macchiato (and yes, we do judge you if you order caramel macchiatos and then pour another 5 packets of sugar in there). I went up to the next store, served her at lunch. Went up to the top store, served her in the afternoon. That’s when she got upset, because she specifically goes to 3 different stores during the day, so that we wouldn’t know that she was buying so much coffee. But I had blown her secret by being at all the stores that day.

  11. Every day without fail I have a bowl of a mixture of three breakfast cereals…I am waiting for the coveted triple dust day when the baby Jesus aligns the stars and I get a bowl made of the end of all three boxes…that day will come…and I will be a happy, happy boy.
    My “so usual my little Starbucks orders more in for me in the winter” is a Venti Espresso Light Frappé with an extra shot…rain, shine, hurricane, losing fingers from holding the cold cup in the snow…I will be drinking…you will have to wrench the straw from my cold, dead lips to stop me.

  12. @BeardofPants:
    Remember all those years I spent NOT finishing my degree? I spent those working in various food service and other retail positions. My experience working for independent businesses is that the profit margins are razor thin and every dollar you lose comes straight out of the owner’s pocket. So they are annoying tight-asses and regulars keep them afloat. They need you but they don’t like you. Also, independent cafes get their training from coffee reps, so they don’t know how to clean the bar properly. Check the steam wand when you try somewhere new, is it covered with white gunk? Don’t buy anything there if it is. Do they reuse coffee grounds? Do they resteam the same milk over and over? Independent stores may make you feel good but they’re in it for the profit too and they have to save money somehow.

  13. @Mykie: COTW! You should take charge of your life and grind the breakfast cereals into dust.

    I don’t have a “usual”. I try to vary my diet wherever possible. However, after a few days, my diet will inevitably repeat. If I ate noodles yesterday, I’ll eat noodles tomorrow. It’s like a pseudorandom number generator that always chooses the number 4 on a Tuesday.

  14. @Advocatus Diaboli: I worked at Dunkin Donuts for four years through college. The customers who were rude to me I didn’t like, and the ones who were pleasant to me, I did. A pleasant exchange with a regular or a new customer could make all the difference during stressful days! And from what I could tell, the customers (the nice ones, anyways) appreciated the fact that I gave them their coffee with a smile. Please don’t make ALL service workers out to be as surly as you apparently are!

  15. For a time in the first year after the divorce and before I got custody of the kids I spent a lot of time in a particular bar. One day I walked in after work. Said hi to the other flies and walked down to the bathroom to take a leak. I come back and my glass of Bass was sitting in front of my chair. I hadn’t ordered it. It was just there.

    Otherwise, not so much. I try to never order the same dish in a restaurant twice.

    But, at home, dry martini’s, one bleu cheese olive. Gin and Tonic. Rye whisky and seltzer wather.

    I make menus every week for dinner. I notice that french bread pizza shows up alot. As does bacon wrapped meat loaf, fettucini alfredo or any other pasta dish.

  16. Oh who am I kidding?

    I am the most predictible person alive.

    Everday is the exact same as the last and the one to come.

    I wake up at 5:00 am and masturbate for an hour. At 6 I empty all the buckets and hose down the cell. Then I shower and spend 2o minutes in self flaggelation. After that I make a pound of bacon to go with my dozen eggs and half gallon of whisky. Off to work. 14 hours later I come home, eat 6 steaks and a dozen potatos. Then I run for 20 miles and collapse into bed. 4 hours later the cycle starts again. I am so bored.

  17. @ Gabrielbrawley

    ONE HOUR of masturbation EVERY day? Continuously? You must practice the art of onanism very gently, complete with the best lotion and gentle caresses, or it won’t be just the breakfast cereals that you’ll grind into dust!

  18. What’s sad is that it’s not me, it’s my son… my 2 1/2 year old son… who is the regular with a “the usual”.

    He eats at a small Italian restaurant by my parents’ house, usually with us, sometimes without. He gets a special order (read: not on the menu) of asparagus risotto and a cranberry w/sprite. He eats rosemary focaccia as he waits for his food. Then he has strawberries for dessert.

    Last night we were there. People introduced themselves to my husband and me. “You’re Moose’s parents!”

    All the regulars know him. The cooks know him… because he goes into the kitchen sometimes (escorted by the chef) and gets his own strawberries out of the fridge.

    Though, for the last 9 months my drink order has been Pellegrino. Now it’s back to gin and the chef’s recommendation for the red.

  19. Great, I shuffle through my pics to create the gravitar and the only one I successfully download is one where I am all dressed up, not that that’s a bad thing, but it’s just not how I usually present myself. And why is it squinched? Any why did I have a problem with downloading another? And blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine.

    Anyway, thanks BeardofPants. It’ll suffice.

  20. I can’t think of anything that’s predictable about my eating-out habits except for one thing: if there is soup in a bread bowl on the menu, I will order that. Even better if it’s sourdough bread.
    But I’m on the side of Advocatus Diaboli here. It bothers me when staff remember me and what I eat. I was going to a local farmers’ market every week to get produce, and after a few times the seller remembered me and what I had been buying. I stopped going for a year. Then I want back and she said, “I haven’t seen you for a while. I know you like our oranges.” That kind of thing does feel a little manipulative. I don’t stop at that kiosk to make friends, I buy their product because I want it or need it.

    This is a difficult thread to read when I’m hungry. I love hearing about what other people eat at restaurants. Carry on!

  21. @kitty:
    Fair point! I am overly surly. I’m not saying that retail employees aren’t friendly nice people. They usually are. But it is about the bottom line.

    Like @k-rex says, it feels manipulative when they pull out the sales-techniques. But I know it’s not the retail slaves’ fault, they have to do what they have to do.

  22. @Advocatus Diaboli: Aw, that kinda makes me sad.

    I’ve actually had the opposite experience re: indie/corporate. The chain places tended toward lazy and icky, and while I’ve seen the indie cafes of which you speak and refuse to ever, ever spend my money on their rancid milk and scorched brew, both of the ones I worked at were almost annoyingly fastidious about their machines. My portafilters gleamed, dammit. We also had some pretty dedicated regulars, who I genuinely liked despite their often not-so-charming pre-caffeine personalities. (And I’m a pretty crabby misanthrope myself.) And when I bartended, I considered many of my regulars to be my friends… with some, even two years after moving to another city, we still talk.

    Regardless, I think regulars are awesome. They’re that little bit of stability in a day of chaos, and even if they don’t have a “regular” themselves, you know what you’re dealing with when they walk in. They understand when you’re busy, and chat when you’re not. They generally tip well, which is always appreciated, and they’ll often be a buffer against the idiots and the threatening boors. They can be entertaining, understanding, generous, sympathetic, and, most importantly, always there. Even when they’re just camping out on the cheapest item they can buy, sometimes that’s all you need to keep you from gouging your eyeballs out in boredom, or even help attract other customers simply by being there.

    I mean, I’m not going to become everyone’s BFF, I know damn well that some folks are just there to buy stuff and I like to think that I can tell the difference and act accordingly. But I guess I’d better turn down those wedding and housewarming invitations if showing interest in my customers makes me creepy.

    But yeah, I’ve got regulars. And they’re pretty damn cool.

  23. coconut ice cream please, with or without chocolate chips.

    for quite a few years i went to this same ice cream place every saturday night. i always had the same thing, though the flavors of ice cream varied (they had a good 50 flavors they made on site, and about half were available at any given time) – except that if they had coconut, i always had some. After a while, they started saving me some coconut ice cream on saturday nights. Yummy.

    also, trivial pursuit. I own about 13 editions and wish people would play it with me more often. it seems to take too much time for most of the people i play games with though.

  24. Pens.

    I am a huge fan of the Mitsubishi Uni-Ball Eye, and rarely use anything else (unless I absolutely have to). I supply my own pens at work, used the same pens for all of my undergraduate exams (and use them when I’m doing research for my Masters degree!) and use them for completing patient report forms when I’m working on an ambulance.

    I think that’s my only real “obsessive” usual.

    Oh, that and hot dancing bois on a Saturday night. But everyone has that as a usual, surely?

  25. COWT? a bit harsh…
    My breakfast game amuses me and I’d prefer to delay gratification and not destroy a box of cereal.
    As for a varied diet, I have work so designing a selection of breakfast choices is really not on my agenda when groggy and up early…I’m think many, people are in the same situation.
    Mikhail Bragoria if I was eating cereal every meal maybe you’d have a point…did you miss the Q about your “usual”? or where you too busy thinking of not so witty retorts to everyone else’s posts?

  26. I don’t eat out enough to be a regular anywhere, but I’m a creature of habit, so people who know me can guess what I eat and drink.
    Breakfast: rolled oats with milk
    Lunch: two sandwiches, one salami, one brown cheese
    Dinner: not the same every day, but little enough variation you’d be right 1 out of 5 guesses.
    Beverage of choice: Norwegian orange soda “Solo”.

  27. @nickelking: Actually, I’m very happy with the purchase I talked myself into. I now have 4GB of RAM, enough for everything I do. The cheaper model only had 2GB. My memory usage is usually about 2.0-2.5GB. I shudder at what could have been…

    …and Grandma probably doesn’t know what a quad-core is, so maybe you should tell her and give her a good price when she realises that she needs one. She might not need one, but what about the grandkids who come over to visit?

  28. I like being a regular at establishments, especially at bars. It’s nice to know the bartenders, and like BonnieBeth, some of them are now my friends (even after they left their tending gig!). It’s nice to go socialize where you know the staff and clientèle, and don’t have to be in first-impression chit-chat mode.

    Coffee shops are different, and I don’t go to them enough to know what it’s like to be a regular there.

    As far as being predictable, anytime I, my boyfriend, my cousin, or his boyfriend go to a certain Mexican place in Chicago, we order:

    Combo fajitas – steak and chicken no skin no butter and refried beans substitution.

  29. Very much a creature of habit, I’m afraid…Starbuck’s and I are mortal enemies. (At airports, we called them “Fourbuck’s because there was nothing on their menu for less than that amount.) All their coffee tastes like French Roast to me. :-P

    Before 0900: Arabica-based coffee with light cream, thanks. Every damned morning, a local muselix-style oatmeal. (Burp. Excuse me.)

    Jersey Mike’s subs…a #6, please. Mike’s way.

    Local diner: Unsweetened iced tea with lemon, please.

    A few dinner spots: A cold Guinness, please. Or a Beck’s Dark, if you have it.

    I’m always nice to the help and tip heavily. Too many family members, including me, have worked in food or customer service. (Spending 20 years working the airline’s ticket counter taught me that. Always be nice to the help, no matter what happens. They’re human, too. Really.*) Besides, you have to be pretty stupid to piss off someone who’s making your lunch…especially if you’re a regular.

    *Tip for those dating: If you are out with someone and they treat the help badly, RUN, don’t walk to the nearest exit. If they do that to the help, they’ll do it to you eventually. Also, never date someone your cat or dog doesn’t like. They’re better judges of people than we give them credit for…

  30. I like being recognized as a “regular” customer, even though I am always switching up what I order. I am always perusing the menu to find something I haven’t tried before. I’ve had so many great meals when I didn’t speak the language and just pointed at stuff without knowing what it was. But, I’m not a picky eater. I suppose if I was then that approach could be fraught with anxiety. I’ve worked on the fringes of food service, and hated it, so my default position is to tip around 20 percent or so. I do enjoy being recognized and treated well, and if someone brings me a drink that I’ve ordered before, (even if I’m not in the mood for that particular cocktail) I drink it with pleasure, then order something else. The servers will recognize that I’m eclectic, sometimes wanting scotch neat, sometimes a martini, or a hendricks gimlet, or an aviation, or a double bourbon on the rocks, but the fact that they recognized me and wanted to make me feel “known” makes me feel good.
    I took a trip to Ireland many years ago, when I was 18, I think, and there was a little country pub I used to go to. One day instead of my usual guinness or Jameson’s, I asked if they had tequila. The bartender thought for a bit, then looked around on the top shelf, pulled down an unusual bottle, and blew the dust off it. Poured me a generous dram in a tumbler. I asked for salt in a little saucer and some lemon (they didn’t have lime) and did a shot. The bartender and the locals down at the end of the bar thought this was great fun, and from that day forward I would walk in to the pub and they would set me up with tequila, whether I wanted it or not. The locals thought I was a hoot, and pretty soon they had to order some more tequila because everyone began drinking it with me when I came in. Ireland was a lot of fun.

  31. Coffee: regular or iced with soymilk (nothing fancy, just give me coffee please.) I used to be really into Red Eyes until I started having anxiety attacks and didn’t know why :-P

    Drink: Long Island Iced-Tea

    Chinese: Lemon Chik’n (don’t eat meat, so that’s my regular at the veg chinese place near me) fried rice and chow mein.

    Breakfast: Slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and half a grapefruit (I literally eat this EVERY MORNING.)

  32. I tend to find a restaurant and cultivate it. For a while, I was going tot he taqueria near us so often that I didn’t have to ask for an iced tea, and most wouldn’t bother with a menu.

  33. Skyy & Sprite at the bar.
    Chips and Queso and Baked Potato Soup 3-4 places.
    Pizza Sandwich (extra everything, add garlic and Parmesan) at Which Wich and in my kitchen.
    Cheerios or Multi-Bran Chex with Supermilk and applesauce for breakfast (almost every day).
    Yup, I’m a creature of habit.

  34. Something about me hates predictability. I hate catch phrases and slogans, and when someone asks if I want “the usual” I’ve been known to change my order for that reason alone. I mostly stopped doing impressions because I hated doing them on command and didn’t want to be “that guy”. Left to my own devices I tend to settle into patterns, but the minute anyone notices I am apt to change them.

  35. Ancient history. Before I took the red pill. Back when I made gobs of money and actually had health insurance.

    A nice little shit kicker bar. Lunch. The Guiness arrives before I do.

    Barmaid, ah, sweet Val. She used to dip her nose in that creamy Guiness head.

    I am not worthy.

  36. I don’t really eat or drink anywhere regularly enough to be a regular anywhere, but sometimes I become a short term regular.

    Couple of years back, I spent one week hanging around a university campus for a music thing that was going on. Their selection of beers was mediocre, except for one rather nice black ale called Toohey’s Old. Now perhaps I was distinctive for being the only adult there under 60 years old (it was a trad or dixieland jazz event), or I was particularly consistent with my orders, but within a couple of days all the bar staff new me and my drink and would have my “pint of old” poured before I could reach the bar. Even gave me a couple on the house, which I never expect and really do appreciate.

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