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What makes a restaurant worth a large price tag??Food, service atmosphere - is there another ingredient?

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I started this on the Boston board and it was correctly suggested I move it. I agree, in general, that good food, good service and good atmosphere are important, but sometimes you can have all three and still leave feeling like you spent too much money. What is the secret ingredient (pardon the pun). ??

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  1. Ironically, it's Value. Even though a high price tag is involved, there has to be a balance of food, service and atmosphere that equals Value. (Which, in my opinion, explains why high end steak houses can charge $8.00 for a side order of broccoli and still keep a straight face.) If diners leave with that uneasy feeling they didn't achieve the magic combination, they won't be back. I believe this also explains why so many trendy restaurants come and go while local, high end "institutions" thrive year after year.

    1. I think it has a lot to do with *how you feel about yourself* while you are in the restaurant, more than how you feel about the restaurant! The great ones know how to make it all about *you*.
      Is it ego ego ego ?

        1. Good question but I'm having a hard time giving a good answer. My best answer is that if you felt like you paid too much when you walked out the door, then the restaurant is over priced. I've walked out of places for $50 for two and felt ripped off. Our favorite Italian places costs around $150 for two and I leave feeling like I just got a good deal. I think a lot of it for me is value. If I pay $50 for an entree but it's excellent, has fresh top quality ingredients that I know are expensive, then I feel it's a good value. If I pay $15 for three tacos of just OK quality, then I feel ripped off.

          At the Italian restaurant, included in the price is a great salae, past with vodka sauce, bread with three different spreads, and very friendly service that makes you feel like part of the family. The chef/owner is in the kitchen every night, he stops by to briefly talk with guests, and he buys top quality ingredients.

          I think there's a point where something is a good value based on what you're given, and a point where you can tell you're being gouged.

          1. I think the X factor often has nothing at all to do with the resataurant establishment, it has to do with your mood, your dinning companions, things like that.

            If you go to Per Se knowing that your signifant other/mother/child is having a very serious surgery the next day, the experince might not be as plesant no matter how good the food/service is and, therefor, not worth the pricetag.

            However, if you are re-uniting with a long lost friend over a bowl of Ramen at Rai Rai Ken, it may be the most priceless dining experience of your life.

            1. For me it has to do with my level of expectation going in. I can be perfectly happy with a burger if it's a good one and if that's what I was in the mood for, and my enjoyment has nothing to do with said burger's price tag. But last year I shelled out fifty bucks for an asparagus, duck egg and white truffle app at Babbo and quite frankly the truffles were sub-par and I felt ripped off. So when i was there again two weeks ago and saw a homemade papparedelle with white truffles for a hundred bucks, I balked. (Fool me once, shame on you etc.)
              But my server assured me that this was an especially good year for both Alba and Piemontese truffles, so I took the plunge and was very glad that I did. So in this case I felt I had been overcharged at a price point of fifty dollars but had received a bargain at twice the price. In both cases I was expecting excellent quality ( no matter what the price ) but only in one case, the latter, did the food live up to those expectations.

              1. Actually anymore, I feel that we are not getting what we pay for.
                And this is generated more so to the newer restaurants.
                My one big complaint is that the menu does not convey what the meal is and we have been hugely surprised when served. By the time the meal is delivered who wants to make a fuss. It's usually late and the place is crowded and we hate asking to speak to the manager. That's just wrong. Some of the restaurants I've been to lately, are so busy building fluff into the descriptions that they completely miss the mark and mislead the consumer.