Over the years, I have formulated a theory about dining out that I'd like to share with you now.
In fact, I've tested this theory all over this country and in other parts of the world.
I've tested it in fancy five-star restaurants and chain eateries, in city bistros and country inns and crab joints up and down the Chesapeake Bay.
If you follow my theory, you'll never be sorry.
But if you don't, well, you'll regret it big-time.
Then you'll think of me and slap your forehead and say: "Boy, I should have listened to that fat guy in the newspaper."
But by then it'll be too late.
The damage will already have been done, my friend.
And you'll be the poorer for the experience.
OK, are you ready for the theory?
Here it is: Never wait more than a half-hour for a table at a restaurant.
If you have to wait any longer, the meal won't be worth it.
Trust me on this.
Oh, you may end up with a perfectly OK meal.
But it won't be worth the 45 minutes or hour or however long you spent cooling your heels on that hard bench in the lobby with all the other suckers waiting for a table.
Believe me, there is no grilled salmon dish on earth worth that kind of aggravation.
So if you walk into a restaurant and the perky twentysomething working the door chirps: "There's a 50-minute wait," your response should be swift and unequivocal.
"No thanks, sister," you should say.
Then you should turn on your heel and leave, and find yourself a restaurant where there's no waiting.
By the way, this theory of mine applies whether you have a reservation or not.
Because sometimes, even if you have a reservation, you may be told that the restaurant is "extremely busy" and "things are running a little behind."
You may even be asked to wait in the bar until your table is ready.
Again, if it's going to be more than a half-hour, don't do it.
It's just a ploy to distract you.
They just don't want you standing there and bugging them every 10 minutes about your table.
Besides, waiting in the bar too long is always a bad move.
Because now you have a couple of drinks on an empty stomach, and before you know it, you're half-lit.
Who cares about food at this point?
In fact, at this point, you'd probably rather have another drink.
Then 45 minutes later, when they finally tell you your table is ready, your reaction will be: "Table? What table?"
And no matter what you order, it won't taste as good as it would if you weren't half-soused.
Here's another thing about the Don't-Wait-Longer-Than-A-Half-Hour Theory I should warn you about.
Occasionally, when you try to put this theory into practice and leave the restaurant, the person you're dining with will say: "Oh, c'mon, have a little patience. They said 45 minutes, but it probably won't take that long."
Whatever you do, don't fall for this.
This is a scenario ripe for disaster.
In the first place, your dining companion is being wildly optimistic. Or just plain naive.
Because if you were told there was a 45-minute wait for a table, the truth is that the wait will probably be closer to 55 minutes.
Or even an hour or more.
Let's face it, there are about 18,000 things that can go wrong in a restaurant on any given night, any one of which can grind service to a halt and delay your being seated.
So if they can't seat you in 30 minutes, don't let some goody-two-shoes, patient-type person talk you out of leaving.
No, your best bet is to make a run for it.
Otherwise, no matter what the meal, the two of you will end up disappointed.
And if the person you're with doesn't believe that, have her call me.
I'll set her straight.
Hey, I've done the research.
I've got a million stories to back me up, too.
To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.