How To Eat Out In Lagos

Like many things in Lagos, eating out can sometimes feel like an extreme sport and you should probably take all the help you can get with navigating the food scene in my home city.

But eating is also personal, so feel free to ignore everything you’re about to read and return to your plain home-cooked noodles.

  1. Look up the menu beforehand.

Helps you budget and reduces the time you’ll spend deciding if you should have ribeye or ribs (unless you’re just incurably indecisive).

  1. Dress for the spot.

Supposedly fine dining? Leave the designer sweatpants and slides to the internet fraudsters. Casual place? Keep it casual but still not sweatpants and slides.

Duck garnished with dim lighting at The Wine Lab, 2022
  1. Burgers and tough pieces of meat are dangerous when you’re dressed in white.

Common sense explains this, experience will reinforce the message.

  1. Don’t crack bones on a first date.

The nutrients in bone marrow are not worth the poor taste of your unnecessary actions, but please be yourself by all means.

A life-saving fried chicken burger from Kewa’s Kitchen posed at the office, 2021
  1. Go outside for photos.

And if you won’t, this is the rule of thumb:

  • One drink entitles you to a selfie.
  • Order a main if you’re going to ask the waiter to take your picture.
  • If you want to take over half of the restaurant for a photo session, self-respect dictates that you should have reserved a four-seater table at the very least.

You can’t window-shop at a restaurant, so don’t be that overdressed person who doesn’t act the part.

  1. Your voice is louder than you think.

You’re living your best life, we understand, but that’s not enough reason to interrupt someone else’s peace. A restaurant is a communal setting, laugh responsibly.

Oxtail, crispy beans, plantain squash and the rice that followed me from home at Ilé Eros, 2021
  1. If you’re going to tip, go all the way.

Not “Keep the change,” tip at least 2,000 naira. Sorry if you only ordered fries.

  1. Still on tipping, don’t do it with your bill.

From experience (at Cilantro Lagos) and the testimonies of several food workers, some restaurants (or their managers) don’t give waiters tips paid with the bill. Circumvent this wickedness by giving cash directly or asking the waiter for their account number (and make sure you get a debit alert for the transfer before you leave).

Grilled prawns, mashed potatoes and questionable dinnerware at Gusto, 2022
  1. Don’t make a scene.

It’s perfectly reasonable to send back a meal to be heated up or to ask for some more alcohol in a cocktail, but nothing is perfect and there’s a line of pettiness somewhere – try not to cross it by being ridiculous with your demands. Also, don’t argue loudly with your date. It’s just cringe.

  1. Don’t monopolise the table at peak time.

A broad definition of ‘peak time’ is whenever a restaurant appears to be busy. At this time, it’s only decent not to stay seated for more than 45 minutes after you’ve finished your meal. If your conversation is that good, it’ll survive elsewhere. Besides, you probably didn’t spend enough to keep the restaurant from going under. Please, leave before you’re asked to.

Blessed sushi (what else?) and consistency at Izanagi, 2022
  1. There might be extra costs.

A service charge, a new line item called ‘takeaway pack’, whatever. They’re not unusual. Try not to look surprised and definitely don’t try to haggle. You’re already out, just take it in stride.

  1. Be grateful.

Thank the waiter. If someone opens the door for you, thank them. You’re not royalty (or are you, your highness?), so show some appreciation when you’re treated like you are.

All photos were taken by me.