Oh, Sugar, Sugar: What Do You Want Your Server to Call You?

As a restaurant critic who works to remain anonymous, I generally don't care what restaurant servers call me, so long as they don't call me Hanna.

But the range of pet names I've heard over the last few weeks in some very fancy restaurants got me thinking about how servers should refer to their customers. I've been called "miss", "sweetie", "babe", "love" and "dear," all in eateries where the cheapest entrée ran about four times the minimum hourly wage.

Interestingly, I was asked up front for my name in at least three of the restaurants, which were housed in hotels and presumably needed it to cross-reference their guest registers. But few of the servers at Pyramid, Fearing's and The Mansion bothered to use my carefully crafted pseudonym, instead resorting to the same diminutives other servers found so handy.

I always thought the standard restaurant term of address was "ma'am," but perhaps that's a misconception chiseled into belief by 10 years spent in the South. "Ma'am", I understand, is an affront to the vanity of some diners, who believe sirs and ma'ams have gray hair and walkers.

I sympathize with servers who've been snapped at by ladies who don't believe they're of "ma'am" age. Still, I'm not sure the word should automatically be supplanted with the "honey" and "sugar" I've been served. Those terms are warm and friendly and appropriate for restaurants of a certain price point, but the cost of fine dining should cover a sense of ceremony and specialness. If I wanted to be called "dear," I could have dined at a friend's house.

To be fair, I suspect I may be the target of more pet names because I look pretty young; I wonder what sort of experiences other Dallas diners have had. How do servers refer to you? What name do you think servers should append to their "very good"'s and "thank you"'s?

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