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"Ladies Menu": no prices on it -- where do you see it?

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In Paris, at Le Cinq, I had a first-in-a-lifetime experience. eta: this was a few weeks ago i.e. January 2007

While discussing the menu and our choices with my husband, I noticed that he was being weird as I was babbling on about the truffle appetizer. I finally figured out why my menu looked funny -- there were no prices on it. So, I leaned over to whisper to my husband "do you have prices on your menu?" He looked at me like I had two heads "err, yeah, why?" I showed him mine & we both, after a moment of stunned silence, burst out laughing. Anyhow, of course I would get no prices on the one menu that had a E120 appetizer?!

who knew this still happened? are you all seeing this anywhere around you?

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  1. It was a long time ago in Montreal at the Bonaventure Hotel. They had a good restaurant (70's) over looking their winter garden and roof top pool. My menu came with a long stemmed rose and no prices. My DH and I switched before making decisions.

    1. Those are called 'blind menus', and are less common now than they once were. IIRC, the whole idea of blind menus is based on the assumption that the man would be paying and would therefore need to know what the prices were, but the distaff partner need not worry her pretty little head over such mundane issues as menu item costs.

      My mom once made a quiet but firm scene in a restaurant (ca 1970, I think) when she received a blind menu.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ricepad

        Why make a scene? Just switch with the other party.

        I often see servers returning the bill envelope with credit card slip to my husband, even though the card is clearly marked "Denise." We just laugh about it.

        1. re: Covert Ops

          Why? Because it was based on a sexist assumption.

          1. re: Covert Ops

            Because it was the 70's. "We are women hear us roar."

        2. My experience was in the mid 80s at a restaurant on top of a hotel in Providence RI. We were high school kids on a college tour. 4 teenage boys, 2 teenage girls and a 20-something teacher. Only the boys got menus with prices, even though the teacher was the one paying.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Glencora

            Now that's just plain silly. . .

          2. I usually only see those by request these days (to make a guest feel comfortable ordering whatever they like without thinking about prices), although I suppose it was more common in the past.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sidwich

              Yes. My mom cannot enjoy a meal if she thinks it costs too much, so I ask the restaurant if they have a blind menu for her. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Funny that I don't have a problem enjoying the meal if it costs a lot...

            2. I've been to restaurants where they had "blind" menus, but not gender related. I think it makes the diner feel more posh as if they don't have to worry about the prices, kind of like shopping without looking at the tags (one can dream). There was place in Toronto in the location where Beerbistro is now, Zoom, which had these menus. I seem to recall having these menus at Canoe as well.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pescatarian

                Zoom had them??? what occasion brough them out? or brings them out at Canoe - probably client dining there, eh?

              2. Yes, eac time was with lawyers who I work with paying.
                I also remember getting a martini list at Zoom without prices and it was just me and a bunch of other ladies.

                1. Actually i think it's my kids who do not have the prices on the menu. They also seem to order the MOST expensive item. It will be a rude awakening when they start paying.

                  1. Boy, are you YOUNG!!!!

                    That sort of thing was all the vogue in the forties and fifties and even into the sixties. The last time I saw one was at a fancy Chicago hotel dining room in the early seventies. I loved it, it was like holding a dinosaur in my hands.

                    That said, there's a certain charm to it, and I'm kind of glad that the tradition continues. I shall now go and break into a loud rendition of "I Enjoy Being A Girl" while ripping my pink angora sweater set to shreds.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Atlantis

                      LOL, well being 38 hasn't felt young all day, but okay, if you say so.

                      I also thought it was charming in a surreal kind of way. But I could have a sense of humour about it because it was only an artifact of tradition, not a genuine reflect of a woman's ability to pay.

                      Part of the reason my husband & I found it so funny is that the restaurant could not have known that we are a one-income family but the wrong person got the priced menu, if that were the critieria.

                    2. Not that I am aware of. Famous case in LA where Gloria Allred, I believe, sued L'Orangerie on behalf of a woman who was given a 'blind' or no prices menu. Not sure how it ended up, but it made lots of news, and changed the way things were done out here. I also believe after than, if the tradition continued at all, there may have been a sentence stating that a menu with prices was available upon request. Put Gloria Allred on the scene.

                      1. well, I'm certainly older than 38, but I've only seen this once myself, and that was also in Paris, about three years ago, at Le Bristol. Was there with my twin sister and her husband, and the guys got the prices. They were buying (this was our 50th Birthday dinner... ) but I still found it incredibly disorienting, and asked to switch menus with hubby, who was just as happy not having a preview of exactly how much his offer to 'take you anywhere you want for your 50th birthday' was going to cost him... :-)

                        IIRC, the restaurant knew it was our birthday, so I am not positive it was gender related (though I suspect it was). It could have just been that they knew Janet and I were the honorees...

                        1. I got one of these on my honeymoon in Sorrento, Italy three years ago. I'd never heard of such a thing, and knowing we were in a very posh restaurant, I put the menu down, got up and told my husband urgently we had to leave -- I didn't want to order a whole dinner without knowing any prices, and I assumed his menu was identical to mine. I also assumed that if they didn't put prices on the menu, well they must be astronomical.

                          After we were out the door, I found out his menu did indeed have prices and he filled me in on the "ladies menu" custom. Sigh. Too bad -- the menu looked delicious, but we were too embarassed to go back after our rapid exit.

                          Oh and the irony? Like orangewasabi, my "ladies" income was the ONLY income, since my husband was a student.

                          1. I think the BC Club in Boston at 100 Federal still has them. At least they did the last time I was a guest.....

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: eLizard

                              i was a guest the other night at the harvard faculty club and i got a ladies' menu. i remembered this thread and chuckled.

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                That's ironic considering they just hired their first female president. I hope they didn't just automatically hand them out to the women!

                            2. I've only ever had this happen in Paris. All of the "blind menus" I have seen in the States were blind to everyone, not just the ladies.

                              1. We recently took the MIL to Cut in Los Angeles and requested one beforehand so that she could enjoy the meal instead of obsessing that her first car cost less than dinner.

                                1. Blind menus are common in upscale Korean restaurants, but it's not a gender divide -- in Korean tradition, going Dutch does not happen -- one person does the hosting. You show your gratitude by hosting at a later time. In this case, blind menus are fairly common -- and there's usually a bit of a discussion at the beginning of dinner where the guests attempt to pay for the meal (and are refused) in order to give face to the host.

                                  If you just walk into a restaurant, you're unlikely to be given blind menus, but if you reserve in advance, the reservation-taker will probably ask who will get the "host menu". You can gain a lot of face by saying there will be no host menu, thus trusting the restaurant to behave honourably.

                                  1. In this century, I've only seen this in Paris.

                                    1. There are restaurants in London and on the continent that still use blind menus. I love it as well, for the same reason that another CH noted - when I have guests, particularly my mother dining with me, I want them to enjoy the meal, not worry about how much it will cost and order minimally. If I have to be concerned with budget, I would elect to dine elsewhere. As it was - the last time I dined at Le Gavrouche in London, no one but I had to know that my 4-year old niece ordered a $40 appetizer and a $90 entree. She enjoyed it all, particularly the 'Chateau de Moo' in a Riedel stem. I think my family enjoyed the experience because the element of cost was omitted.

                                      1. I think anyone I host ought to be mature enough to believe me when I say "now you order anything you want." The restaurant, ideally, ought not to infantilize my guest by denying them the means of deciding how expensive a dish to order, whatever factors the guest chooses to consider while choosing.

                                        Moreover, I'd like my guest to be able to use price as one more guide in choosing: I find, in many cases, that the most enjoyable and best-executed dishes fall in the mid-range of prices, while the highest prices are sometimes overly-fancy but "more show than quality."

                                        1. It's not only on the continent :) - I distinctly recall sometime in the last year getting a "blind" menu while my fiance got the price one... unfortunately I can only narrow it down to SF or Boston... it was definitely a swanky place, but I think I was treating! so I definitely priced my meal from his menu before ordering.

                                          1. hmm. i've never seen this blind menu thing. must've chowed at all the wrong paris cafes, and additionally be too young-- but i think it is beautiful at small, excellent restaurants when there is no printed menu, but the server comes to the table and recites the entire menu of the day (without prices), with a brief description of each dish, and each diner just picks what sounds wonderful to them. the focus is just on the food because everyone has the same "blind" menu.

                                            1. I've had them in Venice (the one in Italy!), Florence, Paris and in the UK. Overseas, I have been the woman in parties of two, although I was being treated on each of those occasions rather than in a Dutch situation. Only once did this make me feel awkward as the guy treating me was earning less and wouldn't let me pay for anything that wasn't the mortgage or a bill. (Sorry - rant). In the UK my sister and I were treating my father (and mother) and that was very clear to the establishment so they both got the menus without prices.
                                              In general I think it's a nice thing - if you are treating someone for price not to lead their choice of food. If you are splitting the bill or if it bothers you tell the staff or swap menus you can gain further information but once it's been given you can't take it back. I'm very glad dad didn't see the prices, he'd have had a heart attack - and it's nice for him to recommend the occasion on the basis that le Manoir is delightful with wonderful food - and it's free!

                                              1. I am always given one of these menus at Le Pavillon in Marrakech, and it drives me crazy -- I like knowing the prices so that I get the most bang for my buck! I end up looking over my boyfriend's shoulder to get the prices.

                                                1. I have seen such menus twice in Washington DC. Once back in 1993 at (IIRC) the Lion D'or, now closed, and once only a couple of years ago at Palena. My impression was that at the Lion D'or they automatically gave "blind" menus to the women in the party. At Palena though, a woman who frequents the restaurant a lot was hosting, and I think she requested them for the rest of the party. While I don't like restaurants assuming they know who will pay for dinner and who should know the real prices, I think having it an option for guests if the host requests it is nice. There are occasions I think they would be useful, particularly with parents who may have notions about how much things should cost that were set in stone 20 years ago, and whose notions about the possibility of their children having more money than they do are only slightly more up to date.

                                                  1. I got one on our honeymoon in Bora Bora at an amazing French restaurant. So I guess it's an alive and well practice for les francais. Although a staunch feminist and usually primed to go off under such circumstances, I didn't mind. You see, CHEF HIMSELF took our order. Guess I am more chowish than feminazi.

                                                    Also- that whole trip there was always someone attending to pull out my chair. I love this practice, can't we bring it back?

                                                    1. I used to belong to a women's club in Boston that had such menus for guests in their dining room. Members (all women) got the one with the prices.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: phoebek

                                                        phoebek, methinks you were a member of The Chilton Club? I am very much a man and that is the only place on earth where I have been given a menu without prices, and it happened in Boston.
                                                        cheers
                                                        P.S. I recall that I had the squab.

                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                          Actually, it was the Women's City Club. I used to love taking male colleagues there for lunch just to observe their reaction to the "guest menu."

                                                      2. i had the EXACT experience orangewasabi. it was about 10 yrs ago in paris (don't remember the restaurant) and with the same truffle appetizer. i had no clue what was going on but to this day my husband (he wasn't at the time) still won't tell me how much they were. it is still a joke to this day.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: winebarb

                                                          The only time you should have a blind menu is if you are a guest of a group dinner and abviously your host doesn't want you to know the price he/she is paying for your dinner.
                                                          I remember years ago it was a normal thing to give the ladies a priceless menu, also it wasn't unusual for the gentleman to order for the lady, It still happens sometimes. Some ladies like it some do not.. Some ladies order for the husbund... dear lord im confussed !!!!