How to Fine Dine Like a Pro

Author: Jason Collmorgen

For many people, myself included, dining at an upscale restaurant is something reserved for special occasions or celebrations: anniversaries, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or even a wedding proposal.¬†As such, we may find ourselves a bit rusty on proper dining etiquette. The following tips will help you ensure your fine dining plans go smoothly.


Many fine dining establishments, if not most, require a reservation. How far in advance largely depends on the popularity of the restaurant and the time of year you will be going. Do not wait until two days before Valentine’s Day to reserve a spot for you and your sweetheart at the city’s finest restaurant. Fine dining establishments in some larger cities like New York, may be booked weeks–even months in advance. When it comes to upscale dining, planning is key.

Dress Code

While making your reservation, be sure to ask if the restaurant has a dress code. Some restaurants still require gentlemen to wear sports jackets and/or ties. With the frequent changes in fashion, however, even some of the most upscale restaurants have relaxed their dress codes.


Upon arrival and once seated, it is customary to place your napkin in your lap. If your napkin is a large one, you can fold it in half as you lay it across your lap. When excusing yourself from the table for a moment and once the meal is over, simply fold your napkin loosely and place it either to the left or right of your plate.

Utensils and Place Settings

Don’t let the silverware and drinking glass arsenal intimidate you. Most fine dining establishments serve more than one course. The selection can vary by restaurant, but typically you can expect to see something like soup, bread, salad, your main entree, and a dessert. This assortment of food requires more silverware, plates, and glasses than your typical casual dining setting.

In general, where silverware is concerned, you will work from the outside inward as each new course is brought to the table. As you finish each course, leave the silverware neatly on your dish. Used silverware should never be laid back on the tablecloth. Your wait staff will remove your utensil and serving dish when you finish that course.

Other Pointers

- Pass food from the left to the right.

- If someone asks you to pass salt or pepper, pass them both together and place them on the table within reach of the person. Do not pass them hand-to-hand.

- Butters and dips should be transferred from the serving dish to your own plate before you spread them onto your food.

- Bread should not be cut with a knife; it should be broken instead.

- When eating soup, dip the soupspoon into the bowl at the edge closest to you and move it away from you into the center. To avoid spilling the soup in your spoon, fill it only 2/3 full. Sip from the edge of your spoon. Don’t slurp. When finishing the soup you may tip the bowl slightly away from you to scoop up the remainder.

- When cutting meat or fish, only cut two bites at a time.

- If eating something difficult to pierce, like peas, you can use a piece of bread or your knife to help push the items onto your fork, but do not use your fingers.

By planning ahead, following good manners, and keeping the above pointers in mind, you will enjoy a more relaxed and memorable fine dining experience.

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About the Author

Jason Collmorgen operates a guide to Eureka Springs, Arkansas providing information on dining in Eureka Springs. For more information visit: Copyright 2008 all rights reserved. You are free to republish this article as long as the author information and hyperlinks remain intact and active.