Dinner at a friend's house - showing up late

You have a fairly good friend whose home you’ve never visited before. Friend gives you a call and says, “Would you like to come over to my place for dinner? <Insert name of a mutual friend> is coming, and I thought it’d be fun if you joined us.” If you have a significant other, assume the invitation applies to both of you.

You accept, because it sounds like fun. It’s a one-hour trip to get there, so you plan for it. You also decide that, as a good guest, you should take along a bottle (wine, tequila, homebrewed orange cream soda, whatever floats your boat), so you plan a 15-minute side trip to pick that up.

At the last minute, something pops up that delays you (“I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.”). You realize that you’ll be a half-hour late if you buy the bottle, or 15 minutes late if you don’t. What do you do? What DO you do?

I assume it is right now T-45, and I’m on my way out the door for the 60 minute trip? Call to say you’ll be 15 min late, and skip the bottle. They’re probably already making dinner, and delaying putting it on the table by 15 minutes is a lot easier than 30 (for me at least). Being as close to on time as possible is more important than a gift, IMHO.

Of course where I live, I’d have a hard time going anywhere without directly passing at least 3 liquor stores.

Call and show up 15 minutes late. Forget about the bottle and being later than you already are.

Better yet, plan your trip to get there 15 minutes EARLY. If you have a thing about showing up before the appointed time, you can always drive around the block a couple of times.

I would grab a bottle from the two dozen or so in my basement and call to say that we’ll be about 15 minutes late.

Belonging to a wine club where we get 2 or 3 bottles every month for $25 (in addition to our usual purchases) is awesome. We always have extra wine.

Yes, I’ve always got some wine at home, so I’d ring up, grab a bottle, and arrive 15 minutes late.

First of all: Nice reference to The Blues Brothers.
My thought is this; since when are you expected to show up EXACTLY on time? Since when do you eat EXACTLY when you arrive? Showing up 30 minutes late shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

If a friend invited me over and said “Dinner is at 7:00,” and I expected I’d get there exactly at 7:00 then I’d warn him right then to please don’t wait on me to start dinner because “at best I’ll get there at 7:00.”

Bring the bottle; it’s a nice thing to do.

Not showing up exactly on time doesn’t matter that much for a party, but it matters a lot more for a dinner party - when the roast is done, it’s DONE. I’d call and let my host know, so they could adjust cooking and serving times for me - as the head chef and bottle-washer around here, it’s what I would appreciate (and my husband is very good at doing).

I would not call for 15 minutes late, that’s just not late enough to matter.

Pretty much this. My mother drilled into my head that you’re better off being early than late for anything. In fact, if you’re on time=you’re late. True story: my mom and her siblings were getting together for a game of poker at one of their houses at 7pm. At 7pm, one sister was missing so they called her cell phone. Turns out that she was in an accident.

So, growing up with that, I am a bit of a wreck if I’m late for anything and I’d rather inconvenience myself than anyone else by being early. I have a real hard time imagining a scenario that I’m late as I would have left early already or at least had that factored into the plan.

That said, I would call and say I was late and skip the bottle.

Here in Panama, if you actually showed up on time no one would be ready for you. Unless I am visiting fellow gringos, I normally plan to show up about a half hour after the appointed time (and am often the first one there). No one bats an eye if guests show up two hours late.*

I answered “something completely different” in the poll. However, if I were in the US, my answer would most likely be “show up a half hour late without calling,” because most of my friends are pretty laid back and wouldn’t be particularly put out by that degree of lateness. (However, if it happened to be a friend who I knew was a stickler for punctuality, I’d try to call first to let them know I’d be a half hour late.)

*In mixed events, it’s typical to ask whether the hour given is “gringo time” or “Panama time.” One expression for “on the dot” is “a la hora inglesa” (English time). A British expat friend of mine who had been living in Panama for decades once told me that he would come by my place to pick me up for dinner at his house at 7 PM “a la hora inglesa.” When he finally showed up a 8, I knew he had gone completely native.:wink:

For a good friend, I’d call and give them the option. I don’t know what fairly is, so I picked that.
In reality, I’d grab a random bottle of something, call and be there 15 mins late. I always call if I’m not going to be doing exactly as I’m expected.

15 mins late is really nothing, given that a good host will have allowed at least 30 - 45 mins or even longer before the first course is served.

Call and announce the half hour so they can adjust. Chances are they’ll actually welcome the chance to make a start on the kitchen, etc. The worst option is giving them a choice - that’s putting them on the spot and basically makes you look like a cheapskate.

I said call and get the wine but really it would depend on the personality of the friend. I also keep bottles of wine around for the express purpose of having something to bring to a party. More to save money then time, I go to the discount place and stock up on whatever is on sale. (This plan backfires when we drink it ourselves for dinner …)

Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but how are you so certain that it doesn’t matter to your host?

This is a great idea, but “15 minutes early” rapidly disappears if you truly are in an accident or there is a bad one ahead of you on the highway, or if your fuel pump dies or there’s a road repair and you have to detour half an hour out of your way and as long back. You can leave an hour early and it won’t help; sometimes Shit Happens. In which case you call your friend and take the precaution of not always having arrived late every damn time for the past 15 years, so your goodwill is not burned up with the dinner.

If you’re going to a single person’s house, especially one who doesn’t have the sort of kitchen where people can gather to chat while they cook, please don’t be unexpectedly late.

A single person doesn’t have someone to entertain you while they finish preparing the meal - so they have no choice but to have dinner on the table at the appointed time.

Having to keep meat warm is a wretched task. You’ve spent all this time trying to not let it dry out, by perfectly timing the cooking. If you have to let it sit in the oven for any extra time, you’re toast!

This is just a tip, tho. I voted for “be 15 minutes late” and be sure to call to let the host know. I realize that things come up, just the quicker you can arrive, the better.

Exactly? Of course not. I wouldn’t expect you to knock on the door as the seventh chime strikes on the clock. On the flip side, I probably should have specified that this isn’t, “come on over and I’ll order the pizza when you arrive.” They’re cooking you dinner. If I’m going to be more than 5-10 minutes late, I’m on the phone apologizing. A half hour? That can screw up the whole meal.

Do people really run their dinner parties on such a strict schedule? My friends and I certainly don’t. Generally actual dinner doesn’t occur for a good 30-60 minutes after the quoted time anyway. Time is always allotted for hanging out, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, whatever, before dinner is served. Even if they do, provided there are other guests they don’t have to schedule dinner around you. Your hosts and the other guests can eat when dinner is ready and you’ll get there when you get there.

It’s a friend. Put your cards on the table and ask them what they would prefer. Most hosts/hostesses would be glad to have their guests arrive a little late. But a foodie whose creation will be peaking in 15 minutes wants your behind in the car - Now!