On a recent Saturday night, my boys and I decided to head out for burgers. An independent restaurateur whom I admire opened a new burger restaurant, and I’d been looking forward to trying it.

The boys were excited when they walked in and saw vintage stand-up video game machines. To tell the truth, so was I. (Ms. Pac-Man? Frogger? Just the sight of them makes this child of the '80s happy.)

We sat down and ordered milkshakes and burgers. I was about to hand the kids some money to play games and head off myself in search of a Centipede machine when “Crack!” the noise from a puck being hit at an air hockey table startled all three of us. It was ear-splitting. Over and over, the sound made us jump every few seconds. I started to add up the amount I would be spending to dine in such an uncomfortable atmosphere. I asked the boys if they really wanted to eat there. They didn’t. The noise was just too much. I also had visions of the puck flying off the gaming table and landing in one of our milkshakes.

I flagged down our waitress and asked her to please cancel our order. I explained that the noise from the nearby air hockey table was so unpleasant we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our meal. I was kind about it, told her I was sorry, but we would be leaving. She didn’t seem surprised. I got the impression we weren’t the first people to leave because of the noise.

It’s not the first time I’ve left a restaurant, but it’s the first time I’ve placed my order and then canceled it. There have been times when nothing on the menu would appeal to my dining partner or me, so we’d leave. As a former waitress, I always make sure to throw a couple of dollars on the table as a courtesy.

I have no qualms with what I did, but some friends have said they wouldn’t have done it. They would have endured the experience and then never gone back. There are times when I understand that I have to endure a meal. I’ve been to plenty of media dinners where the best thing I can say about the evening is that I’ve endured it. But, a night out with my boys where the bill will come to at least $40? Forget it. I’m not going to simply endure a meal. I’m going to enjoy it.

We left, went to another burger-focused restaurant, and got to enjoy our meal, each other, and our conversation.

Have you ever canceled your food order and left a restaurant? What made you do it?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Walking out on a restaurant after ordering: Is it okay?
My family recently canceled our order and left a restaurant because of the noise. Would you do the same?