We tend to assume that when we go to a restaurant, everything will be spotless and sanitary. And for the most part, it is; no restaurant wants to make its customers sick. But some spots are more or less impossible to fully clean, and they're the dirtiest places in every restaurant.
We've asked several leading chefs and food personalities what the first thing they look for is when they walk into a restaurant, and just about all of them tell us cleanliness. If they're cutting corners in their front-of-house — with a dirty floor and cobwebs in the windows, for example — then they're most likely cutting even more corners in the kitchen.
And even if the dining room looks clean, the best way to tell for sure if care is given to upkeep is to head to the restroom. Odds are that this is the only restroom in the restaurant, so if there's no soap in the soap dispenser then the kitchen staff aren't washing their hands. A good rule of thumb? If places that are accessible to customers are dirty, then places that aren't — namely, the kitchen — are even dirtier.
It's good to keep in mind that when you sit down at a table in a restaurant, you're one of hundreds or thousands of people who've eaten a meal in that exact spot. The glassware, plates, and silverware are run through the dishwasher, obviously, but all the other stuff you might come in contact with — the table, chairs and menus — are rarely thoroughly scrubbed.
So if you want to limit exposure to bacteria and other germs in a restaurant, we recommend that you wash your hands before you eat anything, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy, or just try not to think about it too much.
Check out the slideshow above to learn the 11 dirtiest things in every restaurant.