"Janice, Do you know why we cannot order by portion size in a restaurant? There are some of us with small appetites who don't care for leftovers and hate wasting food. I would think it wouldn't be all that difficult. Thanks!"
-- Ellie P.
A: First of all, Ellie, you might be in the minority. Western New York diners have established a reputation for seeking huge portions -- at least local restaurants seem to think they do. Many diners confuse quantity with quality. That's why the servings are so large in some restaurants.
That could well be the reason, as you have noticed, that, aside from soup, which often comes by cup or bowl, and steak, which comes in Queen Cuts, King Cuts, or their equivalents, few restaurants indulge in portion control.
One that does is the well-known Chef's, 291 Seneca St., where almost all the pastas are offered in small or large sizes. Spaghetti Parmesan in the small size is $9.75, large is $11.50; the much vaunted Eggplant Parm is $9.95; large, $10.95. There's even a miniature ("semi-miniature" would be more accurate) Chicken Cacciatore for $11.50; large, $13.25.
But there are other ploys to ensure you exit well fed but without a Styrofoam shell in your hands. You have to learn to play the game. One technique is to consult the "Small Plates" section of the menu. (Sometimes it is called "First Courses" or "Appetizers.") Choose carefully and you will be served a satisfying yet not overwhelming meal.
Small plates are so trendy now they appear at restaurants of all price levels. Hutch's,1375 Delaware Ave., one of the first in the area to offer this format, has Half Rack of Ribs for $12.50 and Fried Calamari with Asian Vegetables for $10.50.
At Protocol, 6766 Transit Road, in addition to differently sized appetizers (one crabcake as opposed to two), you can order under "Light Fare" the Petit Filet and Shrimp with fries or salad for $18.
Two other options: Patronize places that offer prix fixe meals -- a certain number of courses for a set amount. Portions tend to be a little smaller, although they are certainly more than adequate.
Romanello's South, 5793 South Park Ave., Hamburg, offers a Dinner for Two for $44 that includes soup, salad, ice cream dessert and choice of entrees like Stuffed Chicken Breast or Prime Rib. (You do have to order before 7 p.m.)
And finally, share with your dining partner! This is especially easy in Asian restaurants, but almost any place will oblige. Sometimes there is a small charge, but there will be no waste. Or leftovers.
Why do restaurants serve "bottomless" cups of coffee but not tea or pop? Is it OK to ask for more bread, even if you already have your meal? If you wonder about these or other dining out questions, send them to longtime News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.