Room service can be an exercise in contrasts. It's often fussy, fancy, and pricey. But it's also frequently unappealing, given the distance it's traveled from the kitchen, and the time its taken to arrive.
“I simply have gotten burned — so to speak — way too many times," says Chef Rob McCue of The Fat Monk in New York City. "Food is always cold!" While he may not be satisfied with most room service, he's not surprised either: "You cook a burger and wait to have it ordered into a basement kitchen then wait for it to be picked up from that kitchen and then have that burger travel 18 floors!" he says. "So you're left with a cold burger with soggy fries, with an overwhelming waft of stinky onions that were shredded hours ago."
Well, what's a person to order for the safest, most-likely-to-appeal menu option when it's late at night, or other food options are otherwise hard to come by? “I say your best chance for a decent meal would be a cold turkey club," he suggests. "Yes, cold: That's the way your food's coming anyway. Also, I know that moves out of the kitchen and it's popular no matter where you go."
So there you have one chef's opinion on the safest choice. And here, others weigh in on six categories of food you might want to avoid ordering from room service menus, and their professional opinions on why.
Room service breakfasts are a classic, and eggs are a mainstay. But whether you love those eggs scrambled, over easy or as an omelet, you might find they don't meet your standards, because they are best when served immediately. “Flavor and temperature go downhill quickly when removed from the pan (soft or hard boiled in the shell are an exception),” says chef and producer Hope Cohen of Crave Philly.
If you're projecting a bit ahead, you'll realize the smell of fish is not what you want to fall asleep to. But there are additional reasons you might not want to order it from room service: “'Shellfish and [other] fish vary on cooking time. [Allowing for the additional] time it takes to get to your room, it could actually be overcooked,” says chef Chris Ivens-Brown, senior vice president of culinary development and corporate executive chef for the Compass Group of North America.
Pasta is one of the ultimate comfort foods, especially after a long travel day but if you're a discriminating pastaphile, avoid this one too. “By the time it gets from the kitchen to the room it’s either sticky or cold or the sauce has totally fallen apart. Good pasta is meant to be enjoyed immediately and if you order from room service you’re going to be paying a lot for a really subpar product,” says Bradford Phillips of Troquet River North in the Hotel Felix in Chicago.
A burger is a standby choice for many — and fries seem like a slam dunk no matter what. On the contrary, what you expect to arrive as crisp refreshment might instead be a total soggy mess — and one with an aroma that lingers a bit too long. “French Fries get cold and soggy quickly, and who wants their room to smell like a McDonalds,” Cohen says.
5. Desserts and pastries
Feel like something sweet at the end of your meal? Choose carefully. “Depending on the ranking of the hotel, if it doesn't have a baking shop on the premises, pastries like muffins and croissants could be served dry, stale, not fresh," says personal chef Francesco Casetta. Higher-end hotels may have pastry chefs on property, where these baked goods are a safer bet. However, pastries decorated with creams might sit for longer than you expect, and those served with ice cream might arrive as a melted mess.
6. Foods that depend on precise cooking temperatures
Items that require cooking temperatures from rare to well-done such as a filet, beef, salmon, tuna or breakfast items like eggs over easy or sunny side up, are always risky. “If they are not served cold such as in a salad, they shouldn’t be ordered because by the time they arrive in your room they could be over-cooked,” says Casetta. “If you don’t have a very skilled kitchen, [you might get] a filet either under-cooked if [rushed for an on-time delivery], or over-cooked because the wait staff let it sit too long before delivery."
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