One of the best parts of "The Real Housewives?" Hearing what the ladies order

"Andy Cohen supposedly loves having everyone order," says Brian Moylan, the author of “The Housewives"

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published January 9, 2024 1:45PM (EST)

Karen Huger, Dorit Kemsley and Carole Radziwill of various The Real Housewives (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Karen Huger, Dorit Kemsley and Carole Radziwill of various The Real Housewives (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

When it comes to the “Real Housewives” universe, I believe that viewers are drawn to the franchise for different reasons: To ogle the often ridiculous levels of luxury, to revel in a little interpersonal conflict, to connect with the ladies on deeper issues, or to simply relax and watch some “Bravolebrities” traipse through their real lives in ways that aren’t unlike soap opera heroes and villains. 

Me? I like all that, but as someone pretty deeply enmeshed in the food realm, I also love one of the series’ more seemingly superfluous conventions: Seeing each of the Housewives order at the seemingly never-ending cavalcade of restaurants and bars featured on the series. 

I'm not alone. Online coverage spotlights restaurants the ladies have attended, and food diaries and other insights into the various, quirky connections between Housewives and food abound. There are even Instagram accounts that track their dining-out habits. 

But as many a Reddit thread demonstrates, my delight isn’t necessarily shared by all viewers. “I always feel like every scene of housewives ordering food and drinks is strangely awkward. It never fails. Never seems organic and normal,” one fan of the show wrote on the platform, while others seem to think these scenes are unnecessary and should instead be cut, using that 20 seconds to extend another scene altogether. 

Brian Moylan, the author of “The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives,” says the ordering scenes are interwoven into the DNA of the series — and it’s something that has real-world effects beyond the small screen. 

“It’s been a part of the Housewives universe since day one,” Moylan said. “Andy Cohen supposedly loves having everyone order and the network used to make sure that the crews got it. I think they think it adds reality to the scene, like they're actually at the restaurant ordering.”

In reality, Moylan said, it’s not always as straightforward as the Housewives walking into a restaurant and consulting the menu. 

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"So, when the ladies go out to a restaurant, either in duos or a big group, production is picking up the tab,” he explained. “Sometimes restaurants will give them a discount or free desserts or something like that, but production is paying  . . . They also send crews in early to set up lights and cameras so that when the ladies arrive they're all set to go, production-wise."

Food is a common theme in the “Housewives” realm at large. Restaurant scenes are often an anchor for some of the series’ more bombastic or substantial scenes, from the Salt Lake City franchise’s recent Bermuda Triangle dinner — an episode that has garnered high praise as one of the best in years, even from Jennifer Lawrence — to the infamous table-flipping courtesy of Teresa Guidice in the inaugural New Jersey season (which I can state, with pride, occurred at an establishment practically down the street from where I live). 

Of course, some food scenes are used for humor or character-building; I think of Lisa Barlow’s well-documented fast-food proclivities or Dorit Kemsley’s ludicrously long drink order (“a Belvedere and soda with three lemons, juiced and 'carcass out,' served in a short glass, please”) which has become something of a running joke on the series. Some other examples are Melissa Gorga's sprinkle cookies, Luann's Eggs a la Française, Karen Huger's aversion to all things chicken — Moylan points out how she calls it a "dirty bird" — or Carole Radziwill's peculiar, particular order for eggs.

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This is actually a welcome departure from some of the mainstays on the series: branzino, sea bass, burrata, rosé, Casamigos tequila and beef of all cuts (most often filet).

Moylan said there are definitely favorite cast orders.

"Part of the art of being a Housewife, for better or for worse, is being skinny,” Moylan said. “So lots of salads, lots of fish, lots of steamed vegetables, lots of dressing on the side. But more than anything, I think we're used to all of their cocktail orders, which tend not to change no matter where they are.”

Since the “Real Housewives” universe has expanded so much — as NPR reported in 2023, there are now 50 total programs from the franchise, including former shows, international installations and spinoffs — it has also left a real-world imprint on the restaurants featured in the series. 

“When doing research for my book, the restaurants where the women film said they often get people coming in just because they've seen it on the show,” Moyland said. “The more iconic a dinner in an establishment is (i.e., the more drama) the more likely fans will come visit.” 

This can also be seen at establishments like, ironically enough, The Quiet Woman, which is featured very often on the Orange County franchise; New Jersey's Rails Steakhouse; SLC's Valter's Osteria; and Housewives-owned establishments like Kandi Burruss' many restaurants in Atlanta.

Moylan himself is not especially enamored of restaurant scenes, though. "It's not my favorite Housewives convention, but I'm so used to it at this point I don't think I even notice." 

I maintain that the restaurant scenes are an important component of this now very well-oiled machine. In a way, the ladies are a specific brand of influencer; their memorable scenes can sometimes subconsciously suggest an order in real life. For instance, my mom is not a big drinker, but once she saw Emily Simpson of the O.C. franchise order a glass of Prosecco when out for dinner with her husband, something clicked — and now that's my mom's go-to drink order whenever she's out to eat.

So don't knock those 30 seconds of footage that show what the ladies order; it just might influence your next night out. 

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

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