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Dining in the USA

Official Travel Information

The United States takes great pride in its diversity of cuisines, including those specific to the region and fusions of several regions and cultures.

For more information about the enticing U.S. culinary landscape, click here. To learn more about specific regional offerings, click here.

Tap Water

Tap water is available free of charge at most USA restaurants and public places. Protected by federal law, water in the United States is safe to drink. Americans enjoy one of the safest water supplies in the world.

Dietary Restrictions

Restaurants in the USA are typically very accommodating of special diets and custom meals for religious and other reasons. You may request vegetarian, vegan, gluten- or dairy-free foods, but often these items are marked on the menu. Diners with food allergies or dietary restrictions should request special care with the preparation of their meals. It is important to notify the restaurant of any food allergies.

Meal Times & Etiquette

The U.S. food scene is as diverse as its establishments. From 24-hour diners to five-star restaurants, there are options to suit everyone's wants and needs. Here are some tips to help you navigate U.S. dining customs and options.

Meal Times

In the U.S., dining times often revolve around work schedules and social or professional commitments. As such, dining times vary, whether you are eating in a restaurant or private dinner at home. Here are typical dining times in the U.S.:

  • Breakfast: 7 to 10 a.m.
  • Brunch: A combination of breakfast and lunch typically served on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Lunch: 11:30 to 1:30 p.m.
  • Happy Hour: Many bars and restaurants offer reduced prices on drinks and appetizers from 5 to 6 p.m. for professionals who gather after work
  • Dinner: 5:30 to 8 p.m.

For more information on food culture in the U.S., visit our food basics page.

Dining Etiquette

While some restaurants offer a casual setting and expect diners to wear casual attire, more upscale ones may require formal attire. Check with the restaurant in advance if you are unsure of its dress code.

Some restaurants may require reservations. You can make reservations by phone, in person or sometimes via a restaurant’s website or websites like OpenTable and Yelp. 

Tipping

Tipping is a common practice throughout the United States, especially at restaurants. Tipping practices vary throughout the United States, but always remember that many service employees rely on tips for much of their income and appreciate being acknowledged for their hard work.

Here are few tipping suggestions:

  • Dining: About 15-20 percent for a sit-down meal; 10 percent for a buffet.
  • Gratuity: Some restaurants may add a gratuity or service charge automatically with parties of six or more (this is usually noted on the menu or on your check).
  • Bartenders: $1 per drink or 15-20 percent of tab.
  • Parking Valet: $3-$5 when picking up car.

For further information, please see this article on tipping.