Food blog

Fish Ordering Faux Pas: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes Everyone Makes When Ordering Fish

There are many reasons to enjoy a nice fish dinner. Fish, whether it’s seafood like shrimp, lobster, oysters, a flaky white fish, or a piece of salmon, is simply delicious. And under the right circumstances, it can feel like a special treat, no matter the season or where you enjoy it.
But more than just delicious and versatile, it’s also healthy. So healthy, in fact, that the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you eat at least 2 to 3 servings of seafood each week. But on the way to all that delicious, healthy food, there are a lot of mistakes we can make when ordering or eating fish.

Ordering fish on a Monday

It may seem like any day is a good day to order fish, but the reality is that the day of the week really does matter when it comes to ordering that blackened salmon or seared scallops.
In fact, one of the greatest celebrity chefs of his time, the late Anthony Bourdain, was quoted as saying that he never ate fish on Mondays because it was probably pretty old. Bourdain warned that if you order fish on a Monday, there’s every reason to believe it’s leftover from the restaurant’s weekend seafood order. That means the fish was delivered on Friday, giving it several days to lose its freshness.
Bourdain wasn’t the only chef to think so. “Fish orders almost never come in on Sunday or Monday, so ordering on Monday means you’re probably eating the old fish,” Devan Cameron, chef and owner of the food website Braised & Deglazed, told Mashed.
That said, avoiding fish on Mondays isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule for all restaurants. In fact, some restaurants get their fish delivered every day. But if you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution. “If you don’t trust the restaurant, don’t order fish on Sunday or Monday,” Cameron says.

Go for the manager’s special

It may seem obvious that the manager’s special at a restaurant is probably what’s really good and worth trying. After all, why else would it be a manager’s special? That’s sometimes true, but it’s also sometimes one of the riskiest things you can order.
“Special” can be a tricky word in a restaurant. In some places, it can mean anything from the fact that it’s refrigerator clean-out day to the possibility that the chef is trying to deal with an overabundance of an ingredient that he’s trying to get out of the kitchen as soon as possible. For many diners, this aging fish can quickly sound like too much of a risk.
Fish specials can be something to avoid if you don’t trust the restaurant or the chef, or if you can’t quite figure out why a special is considered a special. “In a good restaurant, the fish special is a fresh catch of a limited amount of fish that is likely to sell out quickly. In a bad restaurant, the fish special is a way to use up fish that’s about to go bad,” Cameron told Mashed. Well, that’s certainly a lot less appealing.

Ask for cheese with your fish order

While everyone is entitled to their own personal taste, and there are definitely exceptions to almost every culinary no-no, it’s generally frowned upon to mix cheese and fish. Mostly, this is out of respect for the delicate flavors of many types of fish, which can’t always stand up to, say, a salty Parmesan or a chunk of pungent blue cheese. In general, the delicate flavor of seafood can be drowned out by the heavy, rich texture of cheese. And why would you want to overwhelm something as delicious as a fresh piece of ahi tuna or a gorgeous piece of king salmon?
Still, there are always a few defectors. “We have a spaghetti alle vongole on the menu that’s delicious on its own,” says Cameron. “Some people ask for Parmesan cheese with this clam pasta, but that’s a bad choice because the two don’t go very well together. Parmesan makes the clams taste old instead of fresh and light the way we prepare them. There’s a reason we didn’t add the cheese to the dish.”
Ultimately, we urge you to respect the fish and enjoy it on its own terms, without the cheese. Remember, you can always save the cheese for pasta or pizza.

Not checking if the fish is sustainably harvested

Fish can be delicious and healthy, but how healthy it is for you often depends on where it comes from and how it’s caught. A common mistake people make when ordering fish is not checking if it’s been harvested sustainably.
Overfishing and destructive fishing practices can have a significant impact on marine ecosystems and fish populations. By choosing sustainably harvested fish, you can help support responsible fishing practices and protect the health of our oceans.
When ordering fish, don’t be afraid to ask about the source of the fish. Look for certifications such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), which indicate that the fish was caught or farmed responsibly.
By making informed choices and supporting sustainable seafood options, you can enjoy your fish knowing that it was sourced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Not considering mercury levels

Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be found in varying amounts in fish. While fish is generally a healthy food choice, some species may contain higher levels of mercury, which can be harmful, especially to pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children.
A common mistake when ordering fish is not to consider the mercury content. Certain large predatory fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, tend to accumulate higher levels of mercury in their bodies.
If you fall into one of the high-risk categories above, it’s important to know which fish are safe to eat in terms of mercury content. Choose fish with lower levels of mercury, such as salmon, trout, sardines, and shrimp.
And if you’re unsure about the mercury content of a particular fish, don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant or fishmonger. Being aware of mercury levels can help you make healthier choices when ordering fish.

Not considering the sustainability of side dishes

When you order fish, it’s not just about the fish itself, but also about the side dishes. A common mistake is not considering the sustainability of these side dishes.
For example, if you order fish with a side of shrimp or crab, it’s important to make sure that these seafood options are also sustainably sourced. Shrimp farming in particular can have negative environmental impacts, including habitat destruction and pollution.
Similarly, if your fish comes with vegetables or grains, consider whether they are local or organic. Supporting local and organic agriculture can help reduce the carbon footprint associated with your meal.
By extending your sustainability considerations to the entire meal, you can make a greener choice and support a more sustainable food system.

Not exploring different cooking methods

When it comes to enjoying fish, many people tend to stay in their comfort zone and order it cooked the same way every time. However, this can mean missing out on the variety of flavors and textures that different cooking methods can offer.
A common mistake is not exploring different cooking methods when ordering fish. Whether it’s grilled, steamed, baked, poached, or even raw in the case of sushi or sashimi, each cooking method can bring out unique qualities in the fish.
Don’t be afraid to try something new and experiment with different preparations. You may discover a new favorite way to enjoy fish that you hadn’t considered before.


Ordering fish can be a delightful culinary experience, but it’s important to be aware of the potential mistakes that can take away from that enjoyment. By avoiding these common mistakes, such as ordering fish on a Monday, being wary of the manager’s special, avoiding cheese with fish, considering sustainability and mercury levels, and exploring different cooking methods, you can enhance your fish dining experience.
Remember, making informed choices about how and what fish you order not only enhances your dining experience, but also contributes to the sustainability of our oceans and the overall health of our planet. So the next time you’re in the mood for a delicious seafood meal, keep these tips in mind and enjoy every bite.


Why should I avoid ordering fish on a Monday?

Ordering fish on a Monday can be risky because it’s often leftover from the weekend and may not be as fresh. Many restaurants receive their fish deliveries earlier in the week, so it’s best to choose another day for the freshest options.

Is it safe to try the manager’s special when ordering fish?

While the manager’s special may sound appealing, it can sometimes be a risky choice. Specials can be a way for restaurants to use up ingredients that are about to expire. If you’re unsure about the quality or freshness, it’s best to choose other menu options.

Can I ask for cheese with my fish order?

While personal preferences may vary, it’s generally not recommended to pair cheese with fish. The delicate flavors of fish can be overwhelmed by the strong taste and texture of cheese. It’s best to enjoy the fish on its own to fully appreciate its natural flavors.

Why is it important to check that fish is sustainably harvested?

Verifying that fish are harvested sustainably is critical to the health of our oceans and fish populations. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices can harm marine ecosystems. By choosing sustainably sourced fish, you support responsible fishing practices and help protect the environment.

Should I be concerned about mercury levels when ordering fish?

Yes, it’s important to consider mercury levels, especially if you fall into high-risk categories such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, or young children. Certain fish, such as shark and swordfish, can contain higher levels of mercury. Choose fish with lower levels of mercury, such as salmon, trout, and shrimp.

Why should I consider the sustainability of side dishes when ordering fish?

The sustainability of side dishes is important because it extends the environmental impact of your meal beyond the fish itself. Choosing sustainably sourced sides, such as shrimp or vegetables, helps reduce negative environmental impacts and supports a more sustainable food system.

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