Spring Mill Inn
- Jim Tarantino
This post may be more about pricing of BYOBs more than any one particular restaurant. I fully understand that restaurants are a business and BYOBs do not enjoy wine mark-ups in spite of their corkage fees. I admit this may be my own dining naiveté, but have any of you noticed a ratcheting up of line items on menus in some restaurants to compensate for some of this? Example. Four of us went into the Spring Mill Café on Saturday after an early movie. Its country store French Bistro with a fair amount of charm. Menu is traditional French with some North African touches on individual dishes. Ill start by saying that the food is good. We ordered first courses. We shared a pate sampler (listed for 2), which consisted of 3-4 tablespoons each of Pork Rilletes and Chicken liver pate, along with two slices of Country pate. The above was served with grainy mustard, cornichons, and more bread than the plate needed. Price $22.50. Along with that we ordered two salads, one with pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola, and the other with apple and chevre. They were portioned on side salad plates. They were $9.50 each. My main course was a scallop nicoise course, which amounted to 4 scallops about the size of half dollars, with potatoes, haricots, and few olives. It came with a light broth. The dish was lukewarm. It was also $26.00. The other dishes were coming in along the same lines. We ordered the cheese course for dessert. It amounted to a sampling of 4 cheeses with 3 small slices of each and lots of bread. $18.50. Coffee sat on the burner too long and they graciously made a fresh batch when we nudged them. We spent more time trying to apply surgery to share portions on a lot of this. I would not have had a problem With the pate plate at $16.00, the main course at $16.00 to $18.00 for the size of the scallops, or $20-$22 or the cheese plate between $12.00 to $14.00. The bill with tax, tip etc cane to $110.00 per couple. Neither of us is shy about dropping that and more in a restaurant on the side with or without our own wines. I liked the restaurant and at one point I could see going back I the winter for cassoulet. But weve been to too many other BYOBs and other restaurants that are a fair value for what they do. Then again it could be just this particular restaurant.
I tend to agree. It's one of the reasons why we stopped going to Azafran as much. Two or three years ago, all specials were in the $14-$18 range and we went there at least once a month. Now that they are in the $22-$26 range (with commensurate price increases for the appetizers), it has turned from a great neighborhood place to a "special occasion" place.
I don't know if it has to do with making up for lost liquor sales as much as striving for more complex dishes with greater ingredients. Though I haven't been to Spring Mill Inn, I suspect that Django and Pif (and other new upscale BYOs) have forced and/or permitted other places to increase their prices.
Plus, a weaker economy means less people dining out, especially on weekdays. This requires a higher profit margin.
Good point. I think its a cocktail of a number of issues. The economy may be shearing off restaurant frequency by their clientele. People may be making dining decisions towards BYOBs as a consideration. I think most of us can remember being on the other side of a healthy wine tab with a 4 or more people. There was a time that BYOBs were storefront inexpensive restaurants without a liquor license ala early Restaurant Renaissance style. Sure theres exceptions like Hamiltons Grill in Lambertville, Stefanos in Huntington Valley or Carmines in Havertown. But here I know what Im buying into. Perhaps the BYOB pricing is partially food costs and overhead, and taking advantage of the perceived savings of bringing your own. Maybe this is becoming the norm in some spots. Fine, but Id like to see it coming.