8 Etiquette Mistakes Everyone Makes at a Steakhouse

Updated: Apr. 04, 2024

Steakhouse etiquette is designed to create a formal-but-friendly experience. Prep before you eat by learning some of the most common mistakes.

Food - Beef dinner - Delicious grilled stake and potatoes served on a wooden tableLeStudio/Shutterstock

The $65 steak entree isn’t the only intimidating thing about an upscale steakhouse restaurant; they can be stuffy and full of rules. Since most of us only go out to eat at these special-occasion restaurants once or twice a year, it’s hard to keep track of what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Once you’re brushed up with your steakhouse etiquette, find out where the best steakhouse is in your state and treat yourself to a meal!

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beef steak with sauce
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Dousing your steak with steak sauce

If the chef wants the steak to be slathered in sauce, it will come to the table that way. Otherwise, it’s a faux pas to dump A1 steak sauce on your meat, especially if you haven’t tasted it yet! If you’re a sauce-on-your-steak kind of person, ask the server about housemade sauces that will pair well with your particular steak. They probably have things like garlic butter, peppercorn sauces or chimichurri.

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steak in the restaurant on the table / dinner in the restaurant, meat on the plate, served steak and cutlery

Cutting the steak all at once

The best way to eat steak is one bite at a time. Hold the knife in your right hand with your index finger extended down the back of the utensil. Then, holding the fork in your left hand, pin down the meat and cut a single bite in a zigzag motion. Finally, place the knife on the plate and transfer to fork to your right hand to take the bite.

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Some people had a good meal and almost finished up everything on the dining table in a cafe.
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Eating every last bite

You might think a clean plate means you loved every bite, but according to etiquette experts, it actually sends the wrong message. Leaving one bite of food on the plate shows that you were satisfied but not so hungry you licked the plate clean, which may indicate that you weren’t served enough food. See what other polite restaurant blunders we’re all making.

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Holiday table setting with Linen napkins and rose gold cutlery

Putting your napkin on the table

When you excuse yourself, don’t plop the napkin directly on the table. Instead, loosely fold the napkin and place it on your chair. The napkin shouldn’t ever be thrown onto your plate, even when you’re finished eating. It should be placed (again, loosely folded) to the left of the plate.

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Steak on the bone. tomahawk steak On a black wooden background.
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Chewing on the steak bone

This piece of advice may seem obvious, but you should never gnaw on an animal bone at the table if you’re in a fancy restaurant. It might seem tempting if the meat is delicious, but it’s best to keep your fingers away from the food at all times. That’s what the fork and knife is for!

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Fresh grilled meat.

Spitting out chewy pieces into a napkin

Even if you’re at one of the best steakhouses in the country, you may find a gristly piece of steak in the mix. If you spit it into your napkin, you may forget it’s there, stand up and have the bite go rolling around the dining room. Discretely take the piece out with your fingers and place it on the upper left corner of the plate. If you don’t like looking at it, ask the server for an extra napkin to remove the piece from sight.

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Man's style. dressing suit, shirt and cuffs

Not following the dress code

Dining is an informal business in most parts of the country, but many high-end restaurants still have a dress code (especially in cities like New York, Chicago and New Orleans). No one wants to show up for their reservation and be told they can’t enter the dining room. Be sure to ask before you arrive! To keep it casual, head to one of the country’s top steakhouse chains instead.

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Fork with pieces of delicious barbecued meat on gray background
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Ordering steak well-done

You should order steak how you like it, so if that’s a well-done steak then go for it. On the other hand, most steaks taste juicier and more flavorful if they’re cooked to medium-rare or medium. (That’s just one of the secrets steakhouse chefs want you to know!) Strike up a conversation with the server and let them know why you prefer well-done meat. They may be able to suggest a menu option that will still taste great when cooked to well-done temperatures.