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Room service sounds like the ultimate luxury when you stay at a hotel. You can get a grilled cheese, eggs Benedict, or a plate of veggies sent up to your room without even putting on real shoes or changing out of your pajamas. (And you don’t have to turn off your movie either.) Many of us love room service and what it represents. Others feel wary — or even guilty — about calling a stranger to send them food they could probably procure elsewhere for a lot less money. But there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of this iconic amenity — so long as you know which items on the room service menu you should skip.
Read on for 15 foods you should never order from room service, no matter how swanky the hotel.
1. Dishes that need to be served hotIf you’re staying on a high floor, your food might be cold by the time it reaches you. | iStock.com/sogcrt01
Condé Nast Traveler recommends if your room is on the sixth floor or above, you should order something cold. “It doesn’t matter what you order if you’re on a high floor in a skyscraping hotel,” the magazine warns. “The food will be cold. Even with dedicated dining elevators, the logistics of delivering from a basement kitchen to a penthouse are challenging.” Choosing between a cold sandwich and a bowl of soup? Definitely go for the sandwich.
2. Seafood or anything else with a pungent smellYou’re staying in a small space, so avoid foods with odors. | iStock.com
Considering ordering fish from the room service menu? Think again. Fish doesn’t travel well. And seafood smells. That means the odor will probably linger in your hotel room. Condé Nast Traveler also points out onions and blue cheese as potentially smelly foods you should probably avoid. Both foods “won’t just stink up that suite until the maid appears next morning, but also make you perennially unpopular at breakfast meetings.”
3. Shrimp cocktailYou probably won’t get quality shrimp. | iStock.com/MSPhotographic
As with other kinds of seafood, you have no way of knowing how long the shrimp cocktail has been sitting in the hotel kitchen. Condé Nast Traveler notes the shrimp cocktail could have been “pre-made hours ago from barely defrosted bulk-bought shellfish.” Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it? If you don’t know what to order, you can always ask the order-taker. They’ll usually tell you which dishes to order, if only because they know the taste and freshness of the food will affect the tip you leave for the waiter.
4. Steak well-doneYour steak will continue to cook in the warming trolley on its way to your room. | iStock.com/Lisovskaya
Though you’ve heard plenty of arguments against ordering a steak well-done in general, Condé Nast Traveler offers a compelling reason why you should avoid requesting one from room service. The trip up to your room in the warming trolley, or hot box, will continue to gently cook your steak as it makes its way to your door. The best move? Order your steak one shade rarer than you normally would.
5. EggsEggs also continue to cook on their way to your room and could turn rubbery. | iStock.com/martinturzak
Your order of eggs, like a steak, will probably continue to gently cook as it makes its way to your hotel room. But with eggs, that can mean your breakfast arrives rubbery and inedible. Especially if you like your eggs with a soft or runny yolk, those eggs really need to be eaten piping hot — and not overdone. Take your chances with a room service order, and you might be sorely disappointed by the meal the waiter eventually delivers.
6. Gourmet pizzaRoom service pizza might actually just be frozen pizza. | iStock.com/Ikonoklast_Fotografie
The pizza on the menu might sound fancy enough to order from room service. But it’s unlikely those pizzas are actually made in house. The kitchen likely keeps frozen pizzas on hand. Then, staff either warms up those pizzas and sends them to guests as is or adds a few toppings or garnishes to make them seem more fresh than they really are. If you really want a good slice of pizza, you’ll probably need to venture outside the hotel.
7. Dishes with pesto or avocadoSome items often sit out for a while before they’re used. | iStock.com/rez-art
Condé Nast Traveler advises against ordering dishes with pesto or avocado. Both ingredients often sit out on a counter in the kitchen. And they quickly become discolored. Even though they’re safe to eat, nobody really wants to eat toast that’s smeared with brown avocado or pesto that looks like it’s been sitting in the refrigerator for a week. Do yourself a favor, and pick something more likely to withstand the delays of a hotel kitchen.
8. Fries, mozzarella sticks, or onion ringsCrispy items often get cold and soggy in transit to your room. | iStock.com
Even if you don’t mind making a few unhealthy choices, you should steer clear of anything fried and crispy. That includes sides, such as mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and shoestring fries. The reason why? They’ll get soggy by the time they arrive at your door. Nothing is more disappointing than cold and soggy fries. So if you really need to have some, make sure they’re steak fries, which at least have a fighting chance of arriving at your door somewhat fresh.
9. SouffléYour soufflé might fall by the time it reaches your room. | iStock.com
The Daily Meal points to a soufflé as an item you should never order from room service. The reason why? “If you’re hoping for a beautifully risen, perfectly formed lemon soufflé, you’ll be left with a cold, sunken mush, as the room service staff simply couldn’t carry it from the kitchen to your room fast enough.” With room service, you should always expect delays — and select foods that won’t get completely ruined by them.
10. Ice creamMelting is almost inevitable. | iStock.com/AnnaPustynnikova
Conversely, you might want to think twice about ordering a dessert, such as ice cream or sorbet, if you aren’t on one of the first few floors of the hotel. The New York Times mentions ice cream as a challenging item for the hotel to get right for room service customers. Some upscale hotels will put the ice cream on ice — but that’s not guaranteed at many chains. If you need your ice cream or sorbet to be perfectly frozen, as if you’d just scooped it from the carton, pick a different dessert.
11. CoffeeOdds are that coffee isn’t fresh. | iStock.com/warrengoldswain
Don’t bother ordering coffee from room service. Either make it yourself with the coffee maker in your room, or bring your own coffee maker from home to brew a fresh cup. The coffee that comes up from the hotel kitchen has likely been sitting in an urn for hours. At best, it won’t taste fresh. And at worst, it might even taste burnt. Do yourself a favor, and don’t add a coffee to your room service order.
12. Anything when the weather is terribleA busy kitchen might lead to issues with your order. | iStock.com/shoot_nik
Unless you want to wait forever for your food, don’t call room service when the weather is terrible. Everybody else in the hotel is thinking the same thing. That probably means major chaos and delays in the kitchen. As Condé Nast Traveler explains, people in almost every room might call for room service during a big storm. That means the kitchen needs all hands on deck — even, in some cases, hotel staff members who aren’t qualified to be cooking dinner for you.
13. Complicated dishes late at nightThe night staff might not be able to handle complex meals. | iStock.com/logoff
You might have just gotten off a plane or finished with a work event. But don’t assume the kitchen staff on duty at 3 a.m. will have the same skills as the staff that prepared dinner at a more popular hour. After midnight, you should probably stick to items that are relatively simple to prepare. And if the hotel doesn’t offer room service all night, don’t be the person who calls in an order five minutes before the kitchen closes.
14. Anything that isn’t on the menuThere’s a menu for a reason. | iStock.com/FlairImages
Room service sounds incredibly indulgent. So the chef probably doesn’t mind if you request something that doesn’t actually appear on the menu, right? Wrong. The hotel provides a menu for a reason. The kitchen might not have the ingredients — or the time — to spontaneously whip up whatever it is you feel like eating. Stick to the menu, and limit your requests for modifications.
15. Anything you can order on SeamlessA food-delivery app might be better than room service. | iStock.com/fizkes
When you’re relaxing in your hotel room and don’t want to leave, you might assume you can only get something to eat by ordering room service. But you actually have plenty of other options, thanks to your smartphone. You can probably order just about anything you want on Seamless, Postmates, or one of the dozens of other food-delivery apps. In fact, many hotels have opted to discontinue room service precisely because so many guests use these apps instead.
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