Do guys still eat like "guys" ? Heavy on the juicy protein, with piles of starch? Or has the male palate gone metrosexual? Do real men now eat quiche, or do they still polish off 42-ounce porterhouse steaks and rinse the residue with liters of robust red wine? Does a guy’s idea of a good meal still mean reducing heaps of ribs to bony rubble and polishing off haystacks of fries? According to some local experts, what’s changed isn’t necessarily what guys eat; it’s how they eat.
These experts indicate that there isn’t a big difference between what a woman orders and what a man does when the two are out to dinner together. Abe & Louie’s general manager Gerry Lynch says he doesn’t seethe stereotype of men eating more steak and women ordering fish — especially on weekends, when couples tend to come in together. If there’s any trend to report, Lynch says, it’s that both men and women get a seafood appetizer and eat steak for dinner. But, he admits, "the guys go in for the bigger cuts."
Guys today even willingly eat French food, despite its rep for being fancy, expensive, and served in minute portions. "Guys used to think that eating at a French restaurant meant that you get six slivers of a veal medallion for 90 bucks and have to eat a ton of bread to feel full," says Sel de la Terre chef/owner Geoff Gardner. "They know that’s not true any-more. Men don’t want to leave hungry, but neither do they want heaps and heaps of food today. " And Gardner is adamant about one thing: men really do eat quiche. "We do a killer quiche with leeks, goat cheese, and mushrooms on our brunch and lunch menu, and men are all over it."
But when guys eat in groups, the thin veneer of civilization slips off them like juice from a rare rib-eye. As it turns out, guys eat very differently when women aren’t around.
Finding 1: Guys pig out.
Josh Cook, chef at the new Soul Fire Barbecue in Allston, says that when guys come in as a group, "they are looking to be macho, to try to out-manly each other by how much they can pack away. Guys are very pig-out centric. Girls consider finishing what’s on their plate as pigging out .For guys, the total quantity consumed is key." The manliest dish on Soul Fire’s menu is "Feeds Four Souls" : it’s a whole hickory-roasted chicken, a rack of spareribs, a pound of boneless barbecue, two pints of side dishes, four pieces of cornbread, a pint of pickles, and a basket of rolls — for $42. "Guys swoon over it, and if they realize that they missed it on the menu, they feel bad and promise to order it the next time they come in," Cook says.
"Gay or straight, men need to be watched when they eat out," adds Tremont 647 chef/owner Andy Husbands. "Guys are sort of like dogs. You put a bag of food in front of them and they just keep eating. I’m like that, too; if there isn’t somebody on my case, I just keep eating until it’s gone." Another guy finding? Says Cook: "Guys order far more food than they need, but will never take it home in a doggy bag because their next stop is a bar, and carry-out bags are wussy."
Finding 2: Guys want it straight up.
"Guys hate words like broth, foam, and steam," says Grill 23 executive chef Jay Murray. "Guys want food that is touched by fire." Murray notes that men aren’t persuaded by long, lyrical menu explanations, and they don’t want to know what farm the tomatoes came from." They are happy if they have two basic flavors on a plate: meat and potato. They don’t need a lot of variety and fancy side dishes. When guys come in here with out women — whether as a business thing or a social thing — they revert to the frat-type behavior. There seems to be a mindset that if you don’t order the guy food, you’ll be the butt of the jokes ... so they won’t get our composed dishes, or fish. They’ll come in and get the porterhouse or the18-ounce rib-eye and a side of truffled mashed potatoes. And they always get dessert. But somehow sashimi fits into the guy-food category ... so go figure." Murray also says that the Atkins-diet trend is over; in recent months, his potato order has jumped back up. "But on a weekend, when the guys come in as a couple, their entire behavior shifts. They order less food overall and get the composed dishes instead of a steak and potato — maybe even a salad. Date-night dining is a whole different animal."