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Is it rude to drink only water at a restaurant?

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The question

I don't drink alcohol and, when I go to restaurants, some servers make me feel like a heel for ordering water. Are they justified in any way?

The answer

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If you don't drink, you don't drink. Rather than give you grief, restaurant staff and management should go out of their way to offer interesting non-alcoholic choices. (This is something that domestic hosts should do, too.) A growing number of restaurants do homemade sodas blended with fresh fruit purées, herbs and aromatics; some of the better places even offer juice pairings matched with every course. Order these if they're available. ("I'll just stick with water" is restaurant speak for "I'm a classless tightwad and am actively considering a vegan lifestyle." Beverage sales are how many restaurants pay the rent each month.)

In any case, what you drink is no excuse for shirty service. If your server is openly hostile, don't tip. Be sure to tell the management why on your way out the door.

Chris Nuttall-Smith is The Globe and Mail's food critic. Have an entertaining question?

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