Q On a trip to the wine country, our friends chose expensive entrées and wine at dinner while my wife and I ordered more modestly. When the bill came, they paid only half. Is it rude to suggest a fairer split?
A In an ideal world, those with pricier palates would simply offer to pay more. In reality, diners who order light—vegetarians, nondrinkers, supermodels—often end up bankrolling someone else's banquet. If we're talking about a couple of appetizers or an extra round of drinks, I'd say zip it and split it. A certain amount of smiling and shrugging keeps friendships running smoothly. But if the difference in dinners is dramatic—and chronic—the extra bucks need to stop here. The easiest solution: Grab the check as it hits the table, scan the sums, and announce, "I think we're in for $55" —code for "Hey, guys, let's itemize." If your companions still don't take the hint? Make sure the waiter has cleared the steak knives, then speak up. Unless you're OK with double dates at McDonald's, this is the only way to deal with a couple whose eyes are bigger than your wallet.
This article was first published in January 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.