Peggy and I are not big on going out to a lot of ritzy, swanky, hi-class restaurants. I really don't need someone with a towel over one forearm handing me the cork for my sniff-test, or anyone wearing a tuxedo, or a chance to demonstrate my college French, since I'd probably wind up ordering fried tablecloth.
We love Friendly Farms and the Double-T diner and the Cracker Barrel, and none of those places are good places to find snobs and gourmets.
You know what else we like, is to talk to the people in restaurants...fellow diners, and staff. I love people and their stories, and some of the nicest people in the world are people at places like those mentioned above.
And, you know, when you pay for your food, you're paying the people who own the joint. The American custom is to tip the server who has taken your order and brought you everything from a relish tray to a cup of Almond Joy ice cream.
We understand that, but there are plenty of people out there who look for ANY way to chisel the server out of his or her tip.
"Why, I had to wait to be seated!"
"Gee, my fourth Pepsi didn't have enough ice!"
"For the love of Pete, they ran out of cocktail sauce!"
"Well, all she did was bring the food!"
I know that there are hundreds of phony reasons why people wouldn't leave a tip, but they're all pretty poor. Unless the server is actively hostile toward you and your party, unless he deliberately dumps salad dressing down the back of your jacket with one hand while holding the neck of your jacket with the other, and/or unless she not only fails to bring your food out of the kitchen but somehow obtains your cell number and calls you from the kitchen to taunt you by saying that she and the dishwasher are chowing down on your chow...then you need to tip, 20% at least, please. It's part of the dining-out experience.
Proposition 30 was a ballot initiative on the California election last November, and it passed, meaning that sales tax went up for everyone, and income taxes on people who make more than a quarter of a million dollars per year will go up as well. "From those to whom much is given, much is expected," as John Kennedy said.
"Pay your taxes and pay a nice tip to someone who brings you dinner, and act like you've been out before," would be my advice.