How many times have you been jealous of your dining companion's menu order? Jack Serpentine introduced me to a game with no formal name that we call "Winning the Order", wherein your dining party can compete to see who chose most wisely.
The game was a big hit last month among my NYC friends, who caught on quickly despite the lack of set rules.
After a brief consultation with Mr. Serpentine, I've constructed the most basic tenets of Winning the Order:
1. You must order an entrée off the menu. No substitutions are allowed. You may not compose a meal out of side dishes.
2. If your order is duplicated by another in the dining party, the orders are cancelled out and neither person can win the order. It's best, of course, to keep your order to yourself until the waiter prompts you.
3. The winning order is the one that draws the most jealousy (or reluctant admiration) from your fellow diners. Put simply, if everyone wishes they would have ordered your item, then your item wins.
4. Ingredients matter, to a point. You may love pickled herring, but you can't expect to win by ordering it. On the other hand, your pizza shouldn't be disqualified just because one freak at your table doesn't like the texture of mushrooms.
5. Price doesn't matter. Sandwiches and steaks are judged on the same, even if one cost $10 and the other cost $20. There are no explicit points for value. However, if your meal is both exceptional and reasonably priced, it's certainly a bonus.
6. French Toast can’t win. Jack Serpentine made up this rule during a DC brunch to disqualify me. It's an absurd yet enjoyable tradition that you are under no obligation to share with first-timers until their french toast is sitting before them, looking delicious.
7. Lobbying for your victory is encouraged. In this completely subjective game, skilled persuasion is your only hope for victory. You can and should brow-beat your compatriots until they are cowed into recognizing your ordering brilliance.
We're still working out the kinks in transferring from an oral tradition to a written protocol -- leave your suggestions in the comments.