Ask The Salty Waitress: How Do I Ask For A Restaurant's Recipe?

Hi Salty,

There were very few restaurants open after our church got out Sunday evening, so we went to this place nearby and I got their margherita grilled cheese with roasted tomato soup. I loved their soup but I wanted to tweak it. I felt like it could be even better.

Is it uncouth to ask my server for the recipe? Are they allowed to give out such privileged information? I'd be ill-at-ease asking for something that isn't readily given.


Dear Andrew,

You church-goers are so polite. It's really refreshing! I mean, of all the bat-shit wacko things customers do, asking for a recipe ranks pretty far down the list.

"The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask" is a cliché, but I think it's true here. What's the worst the restaurant can say? "Sorry, that's a 'secret' [wink wink]." I guess if they just dump the soup out of a plastic tub from Aramark, they might not want to tell you.

I definitely wouldn't mention that you want to make their recipe better—that might be a bit rude. Instead, lie! (I know, God will forgive you this time though.) Tell the server you loved the soup and want to make it at home so you can get your fix when the restaurant's closed. Who knows? The restaurant might have published a cookbook already that they could point you to. Or maybe they have a website with some of their recipes on it. Or maybe they'd just hand it to you on a slip of paper. Even if they don't give you the exact recipe, the server might be able to tell you what the defining ingredient is: "Oh, the kitchen uses a ton of bell peppers in there" or "The heavy cream really makes it" or something.

I don't think the restaurant would at all be offended by your question. Even if they don't give out the recipe, I assume the kitchen would be flattered to know you asked. If you really can't stop thinking about that soup recipe, you could always try requesting it from that fancy-pants magazine Bon Appetit's RSVP column.

Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: