The Best Pizza in All 50 States


Though cities like New York and Chicago are most renowned for their pizza, every state in the U.S. has their own standout favorite. Whether it is a slice for the road, a piping hot pie, or a creative concoction of rare ingredients, there's a reason pizza is universally loved. Check out our list of must-try pizza in all 50 states.


Location: Gadsden and Albertville, Alabama


Since 1978, Gadsden’s Mater’s Pizza has been serving their "world famous" pasta and pizza. Using fresh, homemade dough and a signature blend of cheeses, Mater's is a family favorite in the town's historic district. They expanded the original location to include the Oyster Bar, and have a game room and TVs throughout the restaurant. A second location in Albertville opened in 2013.


Location: Anchorage, Alaska

If you find your stomach rumbling while you’re driving along Seward Highway in Anchorage, stop in Moose's Tooth for breadsticks, oven-baked sandwiches, salad, and of course, gourmet pizza. Meat lovers will enjoy The Classic, which comes with heaping piles of pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, mozzarella, provolone and marinara sauce. Be sure to also try one of the 40 beers (or two sodas) crafted by their own Broken Tooth Brewing.


Location: Phoenix, Arizona


When you think of great pizza, Arizona may not immediately come to mind, but James Beard-awarded chef Chris Bianco changed that when Food & Wine called his first restaurant "arguably the best pizza in America" in 2009. A former New Yorker who headed west to work with farm-to-table champion Alice Waters, Bianco opened his own shop in 1988 and later expanded Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. His simple and delicious pies, like the Biancoverde, use fresh, homegrown ingredients like fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, and arugula. For $3 more, add some wood roasted mushrooms for a slice of heaven in the desert.


Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

There may be no greater combination than a slice of pizza with an ice cold beer. At Vino’s pub and brewery, you can grab hand-tossed slices combined with a long list of toppings from ham and extra cheese to chopped garlic and fresh meatballs, all served on a hot and crispy New York-style thin crust. Enjoy your slice with a medium-bodied Firehouse Pale Ale, or a house-brewed Razor Bock.


Location: Woodland Hills, California

For three generations, Barone's has been serving piping hot, rectangular pizzas (tagline: "We don't cut corners") to Southern California. Started by a few siblings in 1945 and using their grandparents' recipes from Sicily and Naples, Barone's combines fresh dough, homemade Italian sauce, and a secret cheese blend into their delicious pizzas—which once brought legends like Frank Sinatra and John Wayne to eat regularly. Start off with some fried zucchini or meatball sliders and then dig in to their specialty House Marguerite pizza (available at their Westlake Hills location). They have a list of ingredients to make your own pie, and also offer pizzas that are gluten-free.


Location: Breckenridge, Colorado

If you happen to find yourself in the beautiful mountain town of Breckenridge, follow the locals’ advice and grab some grub at a family-friendly sports bar (and arcade) that has been serving Coloradans since 1989. At Downstairs At Eric’s, start off with some sweet chili wings, potato skins, or fried jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese. Take a chance on the Garbage Pizza, the house favorite which has a little bit of everything.


Location: Various locations, Connecticut

If you are craving the variety of crispy, thin crust pizza referred to as New Haven-style thanks to Frank Pepe's original location, make sure to try the tomato pie at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana. Since 1925, Pepe has been using coal-fired ovens to create a "crisp, charred, chewy crust" on pizza pies. The original tomato pie is made using simple ingredients—just tomatoes, grated Pecorino Romano, garlic, oregano, and olive oil—and is still available on the menu. (With or without anchovies.) Try the white clam pie, which over the years has become the most famous, with its flaky crust covered in olive oil, oregano, garlic, grated cheese and fresh littleneck clams.


Location: Newark, Delaware

On any given night, you’ll find college kids swarming this pizza joint, which is conveniently located on Main Street at the heart of the University of Delaware. It’s not just the location that makes this cheesy oasis so popular: The college staple churns out some of the best pizza in the state. You can find a wide variety of specialty slices behind the counter, but if you want something really special, order a pie of the White Buffy: a white pizza covered in buffalo chicken and slathered in blue cheese dressing.


Location: Miami, Florida

Nestled in an enclosed glass building, a Historical Landmark building in Miami has been the home of award-winning brick oven pizza since it opened in 2001. Andiamo! offers many specialty pies using fresh and inventive ingredients. The Sunday pie includes meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, pepperoncini, parmesan, and basil. If you are feeling bold, choose Frankie Five's Special, which is topped with chicken, broccoli rabe, roasted potatoes and garlic, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and red pepper flakes.


Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Just steps away from Georgia Tech's campus on Atlanta’s Westside is Antico Pizza, home to some of the best food in Atlanta. The open kitchen and communal seating make for a vibrant atmosphere, but the pizza here is the main attraction. If you enjoy something rich and decadent, try the house specialty—creamy buffalo mozzarella, Cipollini onions, roasted mushrooms, and white truffle oil served well done with a charred crust.


Location: Maui, Hawaii

Even those in paradise crave pizza for dinner sometimes. If you’re spending time on Maui visit Kula Lodge and Restaurant. Ask for seating in the Garden Terrace, where the wood-burning oven resides, and take in a sunset dinner with an open view of Maui’s Western side. Try the No Ka Oi, a crispy pizza with Portuguese sausage, Poblano peppers, sweet onion, and—of course—fresh pineapple.


Location: Ketchum, Idaho

Enoteca Restaurant and Wine Bar in Ketchum has starters like house-cured meats and artisanal cheeses, but the wood-fired pizza is what you come for. They have various specialty pizzas for you to choose from, like the Wine Auction, which features gorgonzola and grapes, or the Strega, with homemade pesto and prosciutto.


Location: Chicago, Illinois

When you think Chicago pizza, a deep dish pan pizza may be what comes to mind. The best pizza in the Windy City, though, is the cheese pizza at Vito & Nick’s. The cash-only South Side pizza spot was established in 1932, and serves the best thin crust, cut in square slices, and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.


Location: Bloomington, Indiana

Mother Bear's has been serving Bloomington’s best pizzas since 1973. At Mother Bear’s choice is the key. Dine in or takeout, choose from 6-, 10-, or 14-inch pies made with a selection of cheeses and sauces, and even select from three types of pie: traditional pan, deep dish, or thin crust. If that is too many decisions to make on an empty stomach, just go for the "Paulie Pine Nuts" Pesto Pie with fresh pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and spinach.


Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City has been enjoying the family-run Pagliai’s Pizza since they first opened in 1957. The pizzeria serves beer as well as soft drinks, and a number of toppings are available on their pies. For the works, order the Palace Special (a cheese pizza with sausage, beef, pepperoni, mushroom, and onion), or select your own toppings like black olives, peppers, and Canadian bacon—or the less traditional sauerkraut or broccoli.


Location: Kansas City, Kansas

Topp’d Pizza is a Kansas newcomer that aims to serve pizza fresh and fast. This fast casual pizza joint serves 9-inch personal pizzas in less than five minutes, without skimping on ingredients. All their meats are grilled on location, and everything from dough to sauce to dressings are house-made. Enjoy a personal or large 13-inch pie with your choice of original, garlic and herb, honey wheat or gluten-free crust and choose from a wide variety of toppings (including vegan options), or try one of many signature pies offering unique flavors like peanut sauce or slow-roasted pulled pork. 


Location: Louisville, Kentucky

BoomBozz now has several locations, but was welcomed with excitement in Louisville in 1998. Since then, they've been named one of the best of Louisville. Of the many gourmet pizzas to choose from, the Tony's Supremo, Fire Roasted Fajita, and Smokehouse Brisket are standouts. Or opt for a classic like their 17-inch New York-style cheese pie.


Location: Bossier City, Louisiana


The best pizza in Louisiana might also be the best culinary invention in the state, too. Cascio’s started out as a father-daughter run grocery and produce stand in 1945. Known for homemade sausages, they make thin crust pizzas three ways: Pies come in either 10- or 16-inch with your choice of classic Margherita, or sausage or pepperoni. But try the Pizzaletta, their own creation inspired by the state's famous muffuletta sandwich. They fill the pizza crust with salami, ham, olive salad, sliced provolone, and top it with another pizza crust that is covered in mozzarella cheese!


Location: Portland, Maine

Portland's Otto Pizza has been using high-quality local ingredients and an out-of-the-box approach for their pizzas since 2009. One of their most popular pies, The Masher, is a pizza with mashed potatoes, scallions, and bacon. If you are vegetarian, try their mushroom and roasted cauliflower pizza, or opt for the four cheese concoction that combines ricotta, fontina, asiago, and mozzarella.


Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Matthew’s is proud of their distinction as being "Baltimore’s first pizzeria," and has been a local institution since opening in 1943. They've racked up 76 awards for their amazing pizza pies in the past 30 or so years, and were included in Business Insider’s Best Pizza in Every State. They use traditional and regional ingredients like Maryland crab to enhance their pizzas and appetizers. Give the 4 Seasons Pie a try—it uses hand-grated mozzarella, artichoke hearts, black olives, anchovies, mushrooms, and prosciuttini.


Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge’s Emma’s Pizza specializes in cracker-thin-crust pizza and has been doing so since the '60s. They offer two dozen different pizza combinations, or you can choose to create your own using one of their 30 toppings and three sauces. Start with the Kendall, named for their Kendall Square location: it combines roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, rosemary sauce, and mozzarella.


Location: Detroit, Michigan

Buddy’s Pizza introduced their square pizzas to Detroit in 1946, and now have 11 locations in the metro area, serving some of the Motor City’s best pies. They've grown a lot in the last 70 years, and now offer gluten-free and multi-grain crust. For a classic though, order their award-winning Sicilian-style pepperoni pizza, where the meat is layered beneath Wisconsin cheese.


Location: Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

A full dining experience can be had at Black Sheep Pizza—they serve up wine, beer, draft root beer, and fresh squeezed lemonade, salads, and of course, plenty of pizza. Their pies come in 12- and 16-inch sizes, or order the Sicilian, which is essentially a Grandma: a square pizza with mozzarella, sauce, and extra virgin olive oil.


Location: Jackson, Mississippi

Pizza Shack has collected dozens of awards since opening in 2005, when three lifelong friends opened the pizza parlor of their dreams. Start off with an antipasta salad or Buffalo wings, and since you're in Mississippi, opt for the Cajun Joe for the main event: spicy marinara and andouille sausage, chicken, peppers, and onions.


Location: Various locations, Missouri

Pi Pizzeria has multiple restaurants across St. Louis (as well as in Cincinnati and D.C.), and it specializes in craft beer, deep dish, and cornmeal crust pizzas. Next time you're in the Lou, start with a Bada Bing salad (which includes walnuts, gorgonzola, and the namesake dried bing cherries), and take a bite out of a slice of Bucktown, which is covered in mozzarella, roasted chicken, artichokes, peppers, green olives, red onion, feta, and sundried tomatoes.


Location: Glasgow, Montana

The pride of Glasgow, Montana may be Eugene’s Pizza a family business that has been feeding locals for over 40 years. Purchased in 1967, the pizzeria was passed to the owner’s children in 1992. Choose one of their popular suggestions like pepperoni, tomato, and garlic or mushroom and black olives, or select your own. If you’re in the mood for something on the sweeter side try the BBQ Chicken pizza. It’s made with spicy chicken, a blend of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, and then topped with a swirl of homemade BBQ sauce. Yum.


Location: Omaha, Nebraska

La Casa Pizzaria has been proudly advertising their "legendary pizza and pasta" dishes for over 60 years. Enjoy beer and wine tastings in the lounge, order some fried ravioli or eggplant parmesan, but don’t forget to try some thin crust Neapolitan pizza. For a taste of an Omaha classic, get the hamburger pizza. With ground beef, onions, seasoning and mozzarella and Romano cheese, this pie is a must.


Location: Reno, Nevada

Start off with fire roasted mortadella, garlic shrimp, and a wedge salad and move on to the aptly named Afterburner pizza at South Creek Pizza Company. This pizza special has Mama’s meatballs, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onions, basil, and is topped with sea salt and SarVecchio parmesan cheese. Hot chopped cherry peppers come on the side.


Location: Nashua, New Hampshire

Farm to table is the draw at Nashua, New Hampshire’s PigTale. They use ingredients sourced locally whenever possible to create the small plates, salads, pizza, and delicious craft cocktails they serve. Their namesake pizza is a creative crispy pie loaded up with bacon, smoked pork, sausage, pickled onion and fontina cheese. For pescetarians, try the shrimp scampi pie which has Gulf shrimp, garlic, baby heirloom tomatoes, and fresh basil.


Location: Jersey City, New Jersey

Razza is an upscale pizza joint in the heart of Jersey City, intent on serving you food with the utmost care. The bread—and the butter even—is homemade and all the ingredients they use are hand selected. Try the Project Hazelnut that combines fresh mozzarella, locally grown hazelnuts (care of Rutgers University), ricotta and local honey.


Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico

Back Road has remained a local favorite in Santa Fe since it opened in 1997. Everything you eat—from the pizza dough, roasted meats, and sauces to dressings—are freshly made in house each day. You can order a basic cheese pizza, one with your favorite topping, or choose from 11 Primo toppings they offer like Kalamata olives or Chevre. They also offer piping hot calzones, classic subs, and appetizers, depending on how hungry you feel.


Location: New York, New York

New York is a pizza town, so choosing the best is hard. New Yorkers are diehard about who makes the best pie and can argue the merits of Totonno’s, Di Fara’s, or Patsy’s with passion. But, if you want a classic New York slice you should have it with a classic New York experience, so grab a cheese or pepperoni from Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich village. Fold it and eat it while walking down the street. You might drip a little grease down your chin, and you’ll definitely burn your tongue, but the combination of perfectly melted cheese and crispy bottom crust is the very best.


Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Pure Pizza’s philosophy is to provide healthier pizza by using fresh high-quality ingredients, to stay committed to the environment, and to provide fair wages to their employees. All in all, a positive atmosphere and mission. Stop in and have a She-Rex which is mozzarella, mushroom, onion, pepper, and topped with greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette.


Location: Fargo, North Dakota

Truck Pizza was a mobile wood-fired oven that served pizza every summer at events and festivals and, finally, opened a brick and mortar restaurant, Blackbird Woodfire, in 2014. They serve tapas, salads, and a bunch of specialty pies like the Sausage Apple that is made with house-made sausage, Granny Smith apple, Béchamel cream sauce, fresh sage, parmesan cheese, and micro greens.


Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Bar Cento is full-fledged Italian eatery with house made pasta dishes and house specials and sides, but their pizza was rated the best in Ohio by both Zagat and Food Network. The Sunnyside has pancetta (made in house) and provolone, and is topped with a fried egg and black pepper so it works for brunch or dinner.


Location: Multiple Locations, Oklahoma

Tulsa’s Andolini’s Pizza was established in 2005, and has since expanded to another two locations across Oklahoma, as well as in the form of a food truck doling out slices around Tulsa. If you feel like keeping it simple, go for the Marzano pesto pie. Pistachio pesto, mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes are cooked together to gooey perfection.


Location: Portland, Oregon

At Apizza Scholls picking up pies can take over an hour on busy nights. Luckily, they have an arcade with DigDug, Ms. Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong to play while you wait. Once you are seated there are tons of pizzas to choose from, and all of them are 18 inches of amazing. The Diablo Blanca has tomato pesto, mozzarella, ricotta, herbs, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh jalapeño.


Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

At 4:00pm most afternoons, lines start forming in anticipation of Philadelphia’s Pizzeria Beddia’s 5:30 p.m. opening. This place is cash only, has no seating, and rotates pies seasonally, but once 40 pies have gone out—they’re out. You can try the chewy, crispy cheese pie, or go with a special like a recent pie with asparagus, fresh cream, oyster mushroom, and ramps.


Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Independently owned and operated by the same family for over 40 years, Frank and John’s is where you go for authentic Italian pie in East Greenwich. This is a no frills pizza joint that offers casual dining and top notch Italian food.


Location: Florence, South Carolina

Though they have many great items to choose from on their menu, Rebel Pie is all about pizza. They have white pies, pesto pies, build your own pies, and even dessert pies. You can’t go wrong here, no matter what you order, but take a chance on their rotating Rebel Pie of the month for a unique creation!


Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Fiero Pizza has a number of specialty pies for you to choose from if you don’t feel like building your own pizza. I’d go with the Fresh Farmer. It has a spicy tomato sauce base and mozzarella, hot sausage, spinach, egg, parmesan cheese, and roasted pepper chili oil. Sounds like you’ll need to wash it down with a cold drink.


Location: Nashville, Tennessee

With a name like Pizza Perfect, you better nail a plain cheese pizza. Though they have many creative pies (like the Dante’s Chicken Pie) you may be just as happy with a pitcher and a large thick Sicilian cheese pie, thick and gooey and baked fresh to order.


Location: Houston, Texas

For over 40 years the Rosa family has been making hand-tossed pizzas, pasta dishes, and desserts for Houston’s residents. Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional or deep dish Sicilian pie, you won’t leave hungry after visiting Antonio’s Flying Pizza.


Location: Provo, Utah

They call it Boston Italian style pizza here, and it is crazy good. Their specialty pies include the Italian Stallion and Eye of the Tiger, but if you really want to try something special, order the Queen Margotte which is topped with alfredo sauce, fresh tomato, chopped spinach, dry basil, parmesan cheese and Nicolitalia’s secret spice.


Location: Shelburne, Vermont

Folino's is BYOB, but luckily they are housed in the same building as Fiddlehead Brewing Company, so you can pop next door and grab a few beers before heading over for a Margherita pie, Folino’s specialty. The Green Mountain setting and delicious New Haven-style pie provides a beautiful evening.


Location: Arlington, Virginia

Pupatella’s website proudly announces itself "Best Pizza in Virginia." The fried arancini (rice balls) and fresh mozzarella, as well as their pizzas, are authentic Neopolitan cuisine. They offer red (sausage and onion with smoked mozzarella) or white (creamy burrata with cherry tomato, pine nuts and basil) pizzas, and will make you feel like you’re in Naples.


Location: Seattle, Washington

Serious Pie bakes their pizza in a 600-degree, stone-encased, wood-fired oven, so we get why they're so serious about their pizza. They have three locations across Seattle and also boast artisan cheeses from around the world.


Location: Charleston, West Virginia

Lola’s offers brunch, lunch, and dinner and a wide array of sandwiches, salads, and, of course, pizzas. Their simple and tasty pies are available for dine-in or carryout and cooked to bubbly perfection in a stone hearth. Some intriguing options include bacon and white cheddar, spinach and feta, and spicy shrimp and sausage.


Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Pizza Brutta uses freshly made Fior di latte, tomato sauce, and dough for their Neopolitan style pizzas. They have over 20 combinations to choose from as well as salads and sandwiches (lunch only). Plus, they partner with organic suppliers, and you won't find fresher Wisconsin cheese anywhere else.


Location: Laramie, Wyoming

This American bistro is a warm and inviting restaurant in Laramie. In addition to full dinners and appetizers, they make brick oven-fired pizzas in classic combinations like tomato and mozzarella, spicy meatball, or the decadent Lobster supreme.

This story was updated in November 2016.

The $13,000 Epiphany That Made Orville Redenbacher a National Popcorn King

Happy National Popcorn Day! While you’re no doubt celebrating with a bowl of freshly popped, liberally buttered popcorn, here’s something else to digest: Orville Redenbacher originally called his product Red-Bow.

In 1951, Redenbacher and his partner, a fellow Purdue grad named Charlie Bowman, purchased the George F. Chester and Son seed corn plant in Boone Township, Indiana. Though Redenbacher’s background was in agronomy and plant genetics, he had dabbled in popcorn, and was friendly with the Chester family.

Eventually, Carl Hartman was brought in to experiment. In 1969, when the trio had developed a seed they felt really confident in, they went to market. They dubbed the product “Red-Bow,” a nod to “Redenbacher” and “Bowman.”

The product was a hit regionally, but by 1970, Bowman and Redenbacher were ready for a national audience and hired a Chicago advertising agency to advise them on branding strategy. At their first meeting, Redenbacher talked about popcorn for three hours. “Come back next week and we’ll have something for you,” he was told afterward.

The following week, he turned to the agency and was told that “Orville Redenbacher’s” was the perfect name for the fledgling popcorn brand. “Golly, no,” he said. “Redenbacher is such a ... funny name.” That was the point, they told him, and they must have made a convincing case for it, because Orville Redenbacher is the brand we know today—and the man himself is still a well-known spokesman more than 20 years after his death.

Still, Redenbacher wasn’t sure that the $13,000 fee the agency had charged was money well spent. “I drove back to Indiana wryly thinking we had paid $13,000 for someone to come up with the same name my mother had come up with when I was born,” Redenbacher later wrote.

Hungry for more Redenbacher? Take a look at the inventor at work in the vintage commercial below.

11 Secrets of Restaurant Servers

If you enjoy eating at restaurants, it's worth getting to know the waitstaff. Servers are the face of the establishments where they work, and often the last people to handle your food before it reaches your table.

"People think it’s an easy job, and it’s really not," Alexis, a server who’s worked in the business for 30 years, tells Mental Floss. She says, jokingly, "You want a professional handling your food, because we have your life in our hands."

Even if they don't spit on your plate (which thankfully they almost never will), a waiter can shape your dining experience. We spoke with some seasoned professionals about how they deal with rude customers, what they wish more customers would do, and other secrets of the job.

1. Server pay varies greatly.

The minimum wage changes from state to state, but for tipped workers like servers, the difference in pay can be even more drastic depending on where you work. In over a dozen states, if a worker typically makes a certain amount per month in tips (often $20-$30), their employers are only required to pay them a minimum of $2.13 an hour. That’s how much Jeff, a video producer who’s held various jobs in the restaurant industry, made when serving tables in New Jersey. “Usually, if I had a full paycheck of serving I could just put a little bit of gas into the tank,” he tells Mental Floss.

Waiters and waitresses in many states rely almost entirely on tips to make a living—but that’s not the case everywhere. California, Oregon, and Washington each pay tipped employees minimum hourly wages over $10. Jon, who currently works at a casual fine dining restaurant in Portland, Oregon, gets $12 an hour from his employer. Including tips, he typically earns $230 a day before taxes, and brings home about $34,000 a year on a 25-hour work week.

2. They split up tips among the restaurant staff.

Here’s another reason to be generous with your tips: Whatever extra money you leave on the table may be going to more than one person. If you ordered a drink from the bar, or if there was anyone other than your server bringing your food and clearing it from the table, that tip will likely be split up. At one restaurant job, Jeff says he paid food expeditors (workers who run food from the kitchen to tables) 10 percent of whatever tips he earned.

3. Waiters and waitresses know how to handle rude customers.

In addition to taking orders and serving food, servers are often forced to de-escalate conflicts. For many people waiting tables, this means acting sweet and professional no matter how angry customers get. Jon’s strategy is to “treat them like a child, smile, tell them everything they want to hear and remind yourself that it’ll be over soon.” Similarly, Mike (not his real name), a server at a farm-to-table restaurant in Texas, likes to “kill them with kindness." He tells Mental Floss he tries to “be the bigger man and [not] return sour attitudes back to people who don’t treat me with respect. If nothing else I can hold my head high knowing I did my job to the best of my ability and didn’t let their negativity affect my day with other, more pleasant patrons.”

Alexis, who currently waits tables at a family-owned restaurant in California, goes beyond faking a smile and makes a point to practice empathy when serving rude guests. “There’s a hospital near my restaurant, and people come there for comfort food with hospital visitor stickers on their clothes all the time. And I know then that they’re going through something traumatic usually. So when people are acting badly, I put imaginary hospital stickers on their clothes and try to remove my ego.”

4. Your waiter (probably) won’t spit in your food.

While most servers have had to deal with a customer who treats them poorly, they rarely retaliate. On the old urban legend of servers spitting in their customer’s food, Alexis says, “Never seen anybody mess with anybody’s food out of spite or malicious intent. I’ve never seen it happen and I’ve never actually done it. I don’t need to get back at people like that.”

5. Servers do more than wait tables.

Most customers just see one aspect of a server's jobs. When they’re not refilling your drinks and bringing you condiments, they're doing side work—either before the restaurant opens, after the last guest leaves, or in between waiting tables. “It could be rolling silverware, filling sauces, cutting lemons, rotating salad bars, stuff like that,” Jeff says. “It’s not just serving and you leave; there’s usually something else behind the scenes that the server has to do.”

Alexis says that in addition to hosting and serving, she has to prep to-go orders, bus tables, and wash dishes. "We’re expected to be working every moment,” she says.

6. Waiters have some wild stories.

Though parts of the job are tedious, servers are bound to see interesting things. Alexis recalls a husband and wife who were regulars at the restaurant where she worked in the 1990s; the man was later arrested for murder. “I found out when a newspaper reporter started asking me questions about them,” she says. “I’m quoted on the front page of the LA Times as saying ‘A waitress in a local coffee shop said they were a nightmare!’”

Other stories are lighter. “When I worked at Red Robin there was a lady that came in every morning and would ask to sit in the same booth," Jon says. "She carried a bag [of] stuffed animals (mostly dragons) and situated them around the booth, always in the same spots, she’d talk to them throughout her dining experience.”

7. Waiters hate it when you don't know what you want.

The simplest way to get on your server’s good side is to know exactly what you want when you tell them you're ready to order. That means not wasting their time stalling as you speed-read the menu. If you haven't decided on a dish, let your server know and trust that they'll return to your table in a few minutes. “Don’t tell your server you’re ready to order if you’re not ready to order,” Alexis says. “I’m like ‘Come on, I know you’re not ready. I’m going someplace else and I’ll be back.’”

It also means not asking your server to make several trips to your table in the span of a few minutes. Mike says that customers asking for items one at a time is one of his biggest pet peeves. “[Customers will say] ‘I need salt. I need hot sauce. I need another [...] drink.’ I was away from the table for 30 seconds each time. Those requests could easily be fulfilled in one trip to the kitchen.”

8. Waiters hate when you ask to move tables.

Next time you get seated in a restaurant, think twice before asking your server to switch tables. Restaurants divide their floor plan into sections, and each server is responsible for a different group of tables. The hosts in charge of seating rotate these sections to distribute guests evenly to servers; by asking to move, you may be depriving one server of an hour’s worth of tips while creating extra work for a server who’s already swamped. According Jon, the worst time to complain about where you were seated is when a restaurant is busy: “Sometimes this isn’t a problem if we’re slow, but if it’s a Friday/Saturday chances are you were put there for a reason.”

9. Servers work when everyone else gets the day off.

Servers have to be prepared to work a different schedule every week, work late into the night, and work on weekends. This can make maintaining a normal social life challenging. “My schedule can be troublesome, my girlfriend/friends have the opposite schedule as me so I’m never able to make it out on weekends or holidays,” Jon says.

And on the days many 9-to-5 workers go out to celebrate, servers have to wait on them. “Where I currently work I have worked Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Years Day, and I will have to work on Mardi Gras (in the South),” Mike says. “I was leaving for work as my family arrived at my house for Christmas. I missed a New Years party in my house. If I hadn’t requested if off as soon as I began working there I’m almost certain I’d have to work 15 [hours] on my birthday.”

10. Your server might give you a free drink if you order it at the right time.

Asking your server for a free stuff likely won’t get you anywhere, but there is one thing you can do to possibly have a drink taken off your bill. If you wait until after your meal is served to order something cheap like a soft drink, Alexis says there’s a chance you won’t get charged for it all. “Not alcoholic drinks, but I’m talking about a cup of coffee or a soda or something like that, especially if you’re already paying for other beverages,” she says. “The server might get too busy or might not be inclined to go back to the POS [point of sale] system and add them on to your bill. It’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes.”

11. Waiters want you to learn their names.

There’s a reason most servers introduce themselves before taking your order: They’d much rather you use their real names than a demeaning nickname. “Don’t call me sweetheart! I’m wearing a damn name tag,” Alexis says. “Sometimes I respond well, and other times no.”

And if your server doesn’t introduce themselves and isn’t wearing a name tag, Jon says it doesn’t hurt to ask. “Ask what the servers name is and refer them by name when you’re talking to them.” He says it’s “refreshing when a guest does this.”