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Apr 4, 2008 02:37 PM

Posts by people who have not eaten the food

Is it appropriate for someone who has not eaten in a restaurant to carry on a long and heated discussion of whether it's overpriced?

Seems to me that if you haven't eaten at a place, by normal Chowhound etiquette, your posts should be limited to questions and relevant factual information.

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  1. This is one of my big pet peeves about CH, the posters who either recommend, or give opinions on restaurants they have never been to. Unacceptable, and it lessens the value of the site.

    I agree if you have not eaten at a restaurant you should not give your opinion, or recommend it to anyone.

    This is particularly rampant on the Chicago board by certain individuals. I have asked CH to address it but they have not.

    46 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      I think it is acceptable to point someone towards previous reviews or posts about a restaurant hey haven't been to. Especially when a query is left unanswered.

      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        The other point is that I think it's great if people pass on someone else's opinion, as long as they state that fact. Tons of chowhounds don't know this site exists or don't post, and any useful opinion, if properly attributed, is good.

        1. re: limster

          I don't often find second-hand information useful, since it rarely has much detail and you can't put it in the context of the person's other posts, but it's not objectionable.

          The exception is when it's cross-talk from other boards, like Yelp, or from published reviews (which moderators often remove).

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            It's largely contextual, IMO.

            When a lone query sits unanswered any information is valuable, even if it's second hand. OTOH, if there is lots of discussion and debate on a particular topic, second hand opinions are less useful.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Second hand information has been quite useful to me in my experience. Sometimes it's just a nugget of information, like restaurant X serves dish Y. I don't need a huge amount of detail to decide whether to explore a place and that's what I use information sources, including CH, for.

              1. re: limster


                Absolutely, but your example fits into the data bucket versus the opinion bucket. If a poster were to say "restaurant X serves Y and it is great", without having tried it, then that is what is a bit disturbing. So presenting data versus opinions is great, opining without trying should be avoided.

                1. re: jfood

                  Sure, but sometimes the nugget comes in the form of an opinion too, like "person X told me that restaurant Y is very good." The info content is low, but that's the point of chowhounding. The less information there is, the greater the need to try out the place.

                  As Morton the Mousse points out above -- little bits of info like these are not really useful when there's a lot of information about the place already. But when we know very little, it can become a stimulus to do a bit of researching. Afterall that's what chowhounding is about -- discovering new deliciousness, rather using a wealth of knowledge to play safe.

                  1. re: limster

                    Right - I may know nothing about ramen (in fact, I do not) but I could have a friend who adores ramen, seeks it out and whose food opinions I generally trust, who just happens not to post on Chowhound, and I wouldn't hesitate to share her tip about her latest wonderful ramen find, with full disclosure. Not that that help is needed with respect ramen since there are many ramen experts on the board!

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                I agree regarding 2nd hand reviews Robert,

                I dont have much use, or confidence in 2nd hand recommendations. I want opinions from people who have eaten there, not from someone who's 3rd cousin once removed said they ate at a place & liked it or didnt like it(maybe their idea of good food is PF Changs, or Cheesecake Factory... their opinion is highly questionable at that point). I'd rather have a query go unanswered than be filled with questionable info.

                As for posting reviews from other sites, or media sources, I rarely trust, or put much stock in restaurant reviewers in general, and if I did want to see an opinion form one of these sources I think we are all on the internet, and a quick google search will yield these reviews. .

                1. re: swsidejim

                  If MMRuth says someone whose chow-sense she trusts recommends a place, I trust her chowsense enough to consider that second-hand recommendation better than no recommendation. Furthermore, I might even trust it more than a first-hand recommendation from a chowhound whose chowsense I have learned over time not to trust... It's not as if registering a chowhound handle confers upon you any magical chowsense... you can still have terrible taste in food.

                  If you come onto the Midwest board, particularly as an out-of-town visitor--and ask for recommendations, for instance, a "raw food place in Minneapolis" and that post gets no replies, and I come in and say, "I haven't eaten there but I understand Ecopolitan is the only restaurant in town that fits your requirements", I think that's helpful and hope someone would do the same for me.

                  If the restaurant has no website, as many mom and pop places do not, a link to a restaurant review can provide a lot of basic information such as address, phone number, hours, price range and so on. You don't have to take into account the reviewer's opinion or even read it, but, it's just more information to add to your data points, particularly if you don't have any other info.

                  And while, yes indeedy, you might be a Google savant, not all reviews are accessible by Googling. Sometimes, you actually have to go the website of the particular publication --and if you're a visitor to a town, you may not even be familiar with what the publications in town are. Sure, you probably know the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but you may not be aware of beloved and multiple-time-James-Beard-award-winner-for-food-writing-Dara Moskowitz's column in City Pages or that she moved to Minnesota Monthly in January and that she keeps a blog there. Etc. Or that she recently changed her name.

                  I just don't understand the objection to people providing the information they have, as long as they disclose with appropriate cautions. Like so much in life, take what is useful to you and leave the rest.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

                    A post on CH has never solely convinced me to try a place, nor has one steered me away from trying something for myself. I use CH, and other sources as a research tool in making an informed decision. I can, and do skip over irrelevant posts, and posters as part of the process of getting information usefull to me, and my decision. I just know I will never give my 2 cents about a place I have never eaten, nor pass along a second hand review. It just does not feel right to me. Different strokes.

                    Taste is subjective, and we all know the old adage about opinions.

                    1. re: swsidejim

                      Indeed we will have to agree to disagree.

                      But, I'm still confused as to why we disagree. You do say that you do use sources other than chowhound as a research tool... So, once again, especially if you're a visitor from out of town, and I provided you a link to an "other source" of information in the absense of any other information, I don't understand why that's not helpful to you. Is an "other source" only useful to you if you find it yourself by Googling? Actually, if I'm new to town, I think it's valuable to know which "other sources" of information the local 'hounds find most reliable. I can tell you if you took a vote of the Twin Cities 'hounds, most of them would rank the chowsense of the gal (formerly) at the free weekly paper over the chowsense of either or both of the restaurant reviewers of either of the daily papers. I think that's helpful to know as a visitor.

                      But, Jim, should you ever come to town, I do promise to only mention to you my first hand experiences at restaurants and nothing else. ;-).


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I can see some of your points. I guess its just personal preference.

                        thanks for your consideration in regards to recommendations regarding any future trip I may make to Minneapolis/St. Paul.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            TDQ-- iirc from another thread, Jim got stuck with lousy downtown chain food last time he visited msp-- so we can't screw up on the recs next time he visits!!! ;)

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              I remember him saying that and feel bad about that (life is too short to eat bad chow, especially when good stuff is available). I also think his visit was a number of years ago, if I recall correctly. Depending on when, exactly, that was, it is quite likely that the Twin Cities food scene has evolved a lot since then. Although, there is still (in my opinion) an over-abundance of bad chain restaurants downtown Mpls that you have to stroll past en route to the great food!

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Which reviewers are most reliable is useful information, but in my experience moderators move such discussions to the Food Media & News board.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            True, but in my experience, posts usually only get moved if they are mostly a discussion of the review or the reviewer. If your post is mostly a discussion of the restaurant and you mention that you're providing a link to a review by one of your favorite local reviewers, it doesn't usually (in my experience) get moved...


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Right, but that's not a discussion of the reviewer.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Exactly - so I'm not sure I understand your initial reply to her.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  The Dairy Queen: "... if you're a visitor from out of town, and I provided you a link to an 'other source' of information in the absense of any other information, I don't understand why that's not helpful to you ..."

                                  Me: "Which reviewers are most reliable is useful information, but in my experience moderators move such discussions to the Food Media & News board."

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Are you saying that the post with the link to a review, which was posted for the purpose of giving the OP information about a restaurant, rather than for the purpose of discussing the review, would be moved? That's not been my experience - unless perhaps the discussion then digressed into discussing the review itself, and not the chow.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      The post I was replying to said "a link to an 'other source' of information in the absense of any other information."

                                      On the SF board, posts that simply point to Yelp topics or newspaper reviews or whatever are in my experience usually removed.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        The post I was replying to said "a link to an 'other source' of information in the absense of any other information."

                                        I believe you're taking my comments out of context.

                                        Yes, what I meant by this--if you read my whole post--is if someone from out of town posted a request and there were no replies to that request, even if I hadn't eaten at that place I might respond with information about a restaurant, and IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY OF INFORMATION about that restaurant (ie., in the absence of any first hand personal experience with it or in the absence of a website for the restaurant) I might ALSO provide a link to a review by a local reviewer that may include helpful details.

                                        I didn't imply that I would simply come into this thread and plop a link to a restaurant review and nothing else... In fact, I gave an example of the type of language I might use below--


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          I took "absence of any other information" to mean nothing but the link.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Nope, that's not what I meant. And, really, doing what you thought I was describing wouldn't even really make sense to in the scenario I was describing. Nevertheless, sorry for the confusion.


                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Right, so, when I "recommend" a restaurant with the caveat that I personally haven't been there, but also provide a link to a review from my "favorite" (or something along those lines) local reviewer, I'm basically saying "in my opinion, the most reliable reviewer." Presumably, my "favorite" local reviewer would be the one who is most reliable.


                          2. re: swsidejim

                            Chowhound posts have occasionally been solely responsible for my trying a place, but in almost every case that's been after I've read enough of the person's posts to know I share their taste about the cuisine in question.

                            The only exception would be when someone spots an obscure dish or cuisine I've been wanting to try. E.g. if somebody spots a Yunnan or Uighur restaurant, I'm going.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        >I don't often find second-hand information useful, since it rarely has much >detail and you can't put it in the context of the person's other posts, but it's >not objectionable.
                        you mean second hand stuff like this:

                        1. re: psb

                          I think it's helpful to post things like that, in case a poster has missed it. I often link to other CH threads that I think will be helpful to a poster, regardless of whether I've been to the place or not.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            i think a followup to the effect "some people claim it sucks"
                            kinda falls under the Wikipedia "weasely words" type situation.

                            it's not like the person is expected to have done a fair and
                            balanced literature search and concludes the tide of opinion
                            has turned. why not just leave it to more first hand opinions
                            unless the update is "per link X, it has closed".

                          2. re: psb

                            A link to other Chowhound topics containing first-hand reports does not constitute second-hand information.

                            Second-hand information is statements along the lines of "my friend ate there and liked it."

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Not to drag this conversation on, but here is an example of a valuable tip from a 'hound who didn't eat at the place. All he did was notice cheesesteak on the menu at Papas and reported that fact back to the rest of us. Someone else went in to check it out and found that the pizza was fantastic. You never know when even the most modest of tips --such as reporting that you noticed an item on the menu you didn't try and, in fact, even the person who followed the tip didn't try (Danny tried the pizza, not the cheesesteak)--will lead to the big chowhound discovery of the day/week/month/year.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Saying "I haven't been, but X is on the menu and it might be good," is not the same as saying, "I haven't been, but it looks bad." To me, the first is fine, the second isn't.

                                1. re: Glencora

                                  I agree that the post "I saw cheesesteak on the menu" at X is completely factual and, therefore, one Robert wouldn't have an issue with (if I understand his OP correctly)--I'm just saying you never know what random remark about Philly cheesesteak might lead you to find great pizza and other similar marvels of following even the most tenuous of chowtips.

                                  Mostly, though, I thought this discovery was a quiet, small, victory in Chowhounddom that I thought I would share. I wish there were more discoveries like this. :).


                                  1. re: Glencora

                                    I agree with you in theory and yet I don't have the same reaction when someone says "I haven't been, but it looks good."

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      Sorry, I don't quite follow. You don't have the same reaction when someone says, "I haven't been, but it looks good," as you do when someone says -- what?

                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        Sorry- what I meant was, I don't seem to have a problem when people say "I haven't been, but it looks good" (Do you?) But I agree, when someone says "I haven't been, but it looks bad." I don't really like it.

                                        I'm not sure why I feel differently about the two statements; they're really the same. In both cases, the poster is prejudging the place- offering an opinion on what it looks like, which isn't reflective of what the food tastes like. But somehow saying "it looks bad" bothers me more.

                                        1. re: Chris VR

                                          I agree. It's very non productive to, 'negative spin' a place that one hasn't even tried. The positive spin is just more...Optimistic.
                                          I do, however, like it when the poster gives some positive examples, EG: Interesting menu choices, nice decor, friendly staff, overheard positive comments from patrons.. etc.As long as they make clear the source. .

                                          1. re: Tay

                                            Yes, I agree with both of you.

                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    As I said in the opening post, "Seems to me that if you haven't eaten at a place, by normal Chowhound etiquette, your posts should be limited to questions and relevant factual information."

                                    "They have cheesesteak on the menu" is factual information.

                                  3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    R. Lauristron:
                                    Both are pointers. In one case there is a name attached
                                    but the issue is do you trust the referencer. If you dont, even if
                                    CH is pointed to, there is no reason to believe the referencer
                                    has does a reasonable job filterting, i.e. hasnt picked a biased review
                                    rather than one representive of some bias. If you do trust the referencer
                                    nothing wrong with "my friend liked it". today's word is "transitivity".

                                    I have never met Maria Lorraine for exampe, but if she returned
                                    a "my friend liked it" that seems solid to me.

                                    "some pople say ..." with a CH pointer seems "weasely" along the
                                    lines of

                                    good point about the asymmetry

                          3. re: swsidejim

                            I think that as long as the recommender states clearly that s/he has not been to the restaurant, it's ok to give an opinion - "Restaurant A looks promising" or "the menu of Restaurant B looks derivative" - or even a summary of the threads you've read on that restaurant ("Many posters love Restaurant C, but a few report negative experiences"). As long as you state that you haven't been somewhere, readers can make their own decisions about whether or not your rec is reliable. A number of regular posters (including the OP) on the Bay Area board seem to have remarkable memories for previous posts and will often refer to them to answer questions on restaurants they may not necessarily have been to - I definitely appreciate it when they do this, as I may not have read the original post, or I may have read and forgotten it.

                            The only time I've really had a problem with someone posting on a restaurant she hadn't been to was on another regional board where one poster repeatedly warned people away from a restaurant because she objected to the style of food that was served there (avant-garde/molecular), most of the time without mentioning that she had never eaten there. I wouldn't even have minded if she stated that she find that style revolting and would never go there, but her posts actually said something like "Good God, don't go there!" without any further info.

                            Anyway, in the case of the thread that spawned this thread, I think the problem was mostly that the poster's comments set off a heated, off-topic discussion about whether or not it's ethical to charge a lot of money for vegetarian food, and it probably should have been split off to Not About Food early on.

                            1. re: daveena

                              Pointers to relevant Chowhound topics or Places entries are useful whether or not the poster has eaten at the place, absolutely.

                              Re the post that sparked this topic, the moderators removed some of the the off-topic posts regarding pricing in general.

                              To me, the problem is that the SF board is for sharing tips on delicious food. Lengthy posts about why you choose not to eat somewhere are as off-topic as it gets. To quote Miss Manners, "Nobody wants to hear about what you won't eat."

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                *To quote Miss Manners, "Nobody wants to hear about what you won't eat."*

                                If only someone could explain this to some of Miami's "professional" restaurant reviewers ->

                                "Rabbit stifado, with feta cheese, walnuts, and pearl onions, is the most distinctive menu item, but with apologies to those curious about this dish: I don't eat bunny."

                                "The sweet tooth of youth has left me altogether, so I seldom eat dessert unless required."

                          4. One of the key questions seemed to be whether this is a "restaurant" site or a "food" site. I personally think its the latter and so am more interested in whether the food someplace (restaurant, grocery store, market stall, gas station...) is good or bad with the rest of the ancillary thing (atmosphere, service, price, etc) noted along the way.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: ccbweb

                              I too regard CH has a food site not a restaurant site. In addition to folks who recommend or pan places without ever having eaten there, I'll also admit to a certain annoyance with reports that claim a terrible service experience and never mention the food. Those kind of reports belong on Yelp. It's a lot easier to replace a server than to get a good chef.

                              1. re: Paul H

                                I agree; I'd much rather know whether the burrito or burger or foie gras was good enough to ignore the other stuff and go eat it.

                              2. re: ccbweb

                                To quote the Manifesto:

                                "... Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice. ... while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can't be fooled by flash."

                                And the FAQ:

                                "Chowhounds go way out of their way to find good food at any price. ... they also know certain pleasures come at a price--foie gras ain't cheap, and Ch√Ęteau Margaux is one terrific drink. No pleasure is gladly missed."

                              3. I agree.

                                There's an important distinction between reporting objective information about price, and using the subjective word "overpriced." Overpriced implies poor value. Value is a function of food quality, portion size, and price. If you haven't tasted the food, you can't judge food quality, so you can't judge value. If you can't judge value, you have no grounds for using the word overpriced.

                                In case anyone is curious about the thread that sparked this post:


                                26 Replies
                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  I do generally agree with your point, but sometimes one can come up with expectations based on how much things cost and how much comparable labour and ingredients cost or how much similar restaurants charges for something. And if things don't match that expectation they call it overpriced. It's a different method of calculation.

                                  To give an extreme example, if Ubuntu charged $100,000 for a regular appetizer sized bowl of celery soup, no luxury ingredients involved, is that overpriced? Would you have to taste it to decide?

                                  As a more general comment to this thread, I think everyone who reads the thread realizes where the opinion of overpriced is coming from and the basis for that. The calculation used in the thread for whether something is overpriced is not one that I use, and I certainly wouldn't pay as much attention to such an opinion in my decision making process, but I don't see why someone can't state that opinion if we know where they are coming from.

                                  It's an opinion, and we can all decide for ourselves whether to agree with it or not. In fact, we'd have to decide for ourselves even if the opinion was made after the food was tasted.

                                  1. re: limster

                                    I appreciate your example, limster - I think we could all easily say that $100K for an appetizer would be overpriced. However, the questions with Ubuntu, and other restaurants for that matter is: does the restaurant charge a reasonable amount of money for the given product and, in turn, is this in line with market value? The market would not support $100K for an appetizer or, for that matter, an entire meal. The prices at Ubuntu are certainly in line in comparison to restaurants in the same caliber as it pertains to quality of the ingredients, portioning, labor costs, services, etc. In fact, I'd be willing to argue that it is more affordable than most restaurants in the same class (whether they serve meat or not).

                                    In general, I say, If you don't agree with the restaurants philosophies, fine - don't eat there. But certainly don't claim that you have any insight regarding the chow-related aspects of the place... because, well, you don't.

                                    1. re: limster

                                      "Overpriced" is a value judgment. If you haven't tasted the food, you don't have an informed opinion about whether the price is justified by the quality.

                                      To give a real-world example, probably most people would never try DB Bistro Moderne's $28 hamburger because they think that's an insane price. Someone who hasn't tasted it complaining about the price is as off-topic as a vegetarian complaining that it contains meat. Neither post will help anyone find delicious food.

                                      Chowhound's for sharing tips on delicious chow, not for broadcasting your personal choices about what not to eat.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Well said RL. Jfood has enjoyed a $20+ hamburger that he would say was a great value (full meal, very satisfying and the customer enjoyed), while he has also eaten $8 burgers that gross.

                                    2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      Morton, I followed that thread with fascination!

                                      Listen, I definitely feel that I have to taste the food to judge value. There is a lot of really wonderful food I am happy to pay top dollar because I value the quality of the food. But just because I feel this way doesn't mean I'm right and there is no other way.

                                      For some people, no matter how wonderful the food is, if it is above a certain price point, it is overpriced. My dear mother adores crab, but when I offered to buy her some beautiful live crab in Korea, and she found out it was going to cost us $25 per crab or $100 for 4 crabs, she absolutely refused to let me buy it for her. Her words: "It won't taste good if I know we paid that much". And I knew this was true. She hadn't tasted the crab, but the price galled her so much that I knew she wouldn't enjoy the experience. So I didn't buy it, even though I knew she would probably love it, and I really wanted to buy it for her.

                                      Some people can't bring themselves to pay that much for food (my mother grew up during the Korean War, and has become quite frugal likely due to that experience). Similarly, some people might not be able to pay that much for a bottle of wine, a designer suit, a fancy car, a painting by a master, no matter how wonderful the quality is. So it is possible that the poster in that other thread felt the same way about the food at Ubuntu: no matter how wonderful the food was, perhaps it would be impossible to get over the price of the food, whether it is due to personal politics, or frugality, or whatever reason he/she might have to find the food overpriced. So although I personally want to taste the food before I decide if I think it is over-priced, I could see how someone might find the food "over-priced" without ever tasting it. It is just a different point of view, a different way of looking at it. I don't necessarily agree with this different point of view, but I appreciate the poster's honesty. At least she told us she didn't taste the food, so we had enough information to decide if we agreed with her point of view or not. I prefer that to someone who makes judgements without revealing that they didn't taste the food.

                                      And it tells me something about the restaurant if someone walks out without eating because they felt it was going to be overpriced. It warns me, hey, better not take my mother! She will be horrified by the prices! Trust me, that is useful information! it'll save me a very painful evening...

                                      As Limster states, "It's an opinion, and we can all decide for ourselves whether to agree with it or not." I like full disclosure. I also like varied opinions. Discussion is good. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and that's ok. I don't agree with that poster's point of view, but I'm glad I heard it, and I'm glad she was courageous enough to state it, even with all the flack she got.

                                      1. re: moh

                                        sorry if i'm butting in here (wasn't part of the orig discussion), but i think this is an interesting issue. the issue of price comes up a lot in restaurants and food establishments that take an ethical position with regards to their sourcing. there is a relatively large contingent of folks who were early supporters of sustainable ag/natural foods/organics/environmental social movements who are now, to many people's surprise, increasingly disconnected with the current trends toward a widespread acceptance of these concepts. these folks have a background of-- sorry for the generalization-- "the old hippy way"--everyone growing food on a commune, on a subsistence level, and then the food is sold or traded to a co-op or natural foods cafe, where everyone who prepares it lives in another 20-person communal house or free squat and works for min wage (this is min wage in the 60s). as wonderful as i'm sure it all was, many of these systems ultimately failed because they couldn't support the people long term.

                                        now there's a food movement based on fair trade and local small farms. many restaurants and chefs are basing their menus on local or sustainably grown foods. the farmers and workers are paid a fair price for their labor and products. the restaurant workers are also non-volunteer, paid workers who often deserve and receive benefits such as health coverage and vacation days. the food that is on the plates at these establishments is priced, as everywhere, based on the costs of (fair trade) ingredients and (fair wage) labor. the dishes end up costing probably comparably to those in restaurants that source conventionally, but much more, in short, than a plate of food in a natural foods cafe in the 60's cost. despite social changes, many customers still insist that sustainable cuisine *should* also be cheap--very cheap.

                                        restaurateurs and chefs today are at a loss about this situation, after all, they're running for-profit establishments, paying fair market prices for food, and they have 2008 operating costs-- why should they be held to the same standards of a nonprofit hippy cafe in 1965? it's really weird when someone wearing berkies and organic bamboo clothing treats you like you're a scam artist for trying to sell them a "beyond organic" grassfed beef burger for $6, calls you a sellout, and then hops in their beemer and drives to wal-mart for cheap food. i talk about this issue a lot with other chefs in my area, and nobody knows what needs to happen to get more support from these folks-- we need every customer we can get, but a lot of people are writing them off.

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          Soupkitten, this is a very important issue, and I understand your frustration with the situation. I believe attitudes are slowly changing for the better as people become more informed about the food industry, and more people appreciate the cost and importance of sustainable cuisine. I am concerned that in these uncertain financial times, it is going to become harder to support sustainable cuisine.

                                          Part of the problem is that people are used to seeing really cheap food. Wouldn't it be nice if more of the government subsidies for cheap food production went to more of the sustainable food producers? I am hoping that this will happen as more people start to demand local, sustainable food, and more food producers respond to that demand. It's starting, it's just slow...

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            Soupkitten, thank you for this post. I'd written something similar to add to that contentious "Controversial Opinion" thread on the Midwest board, but the thread was mercifully locked by the time I'd finished writing it.

                                            Pricing is a very touchy subject and while I am a cheapskate, I'm a bit crunchy too so I save my dollars to spend them where I will get a good value and feel good when I spurge. To that end I've saved up to visit Heidi's because I know that's what I'll get.

                                            At the same time, I'm sorry to say I will continue to grouse about being charged $2 less for a plate of pasta than is charged for a steak. I may not understand the ins and outs of how menu pricing occurs, or the care and prep that goes into that plate of pasta in a restaurant, but I can count.

                                            With that said, in large part it's the vicarious thrill of reading people's experiences at restaurants I can't afford that brings me to Chowhound. I guess that sounds weird, but I do keep a running list of places to save up for. In a few months I'll hopefully be better off and will be able to contribute more to the recommendations.

                                            To bring this back on point, I discount posts from people who haven't visited the establishment in question. .However, as TDQ posted, I appreciate being pointed in a direction if nobody chimes in.

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              You aren't butting in - this was posted on Site Talk to get input of the whole community.

                                              I live in Berkeley, so I totally get what you're talking about. I think it's largely a generational thing. Younger members of the eco-set understand that environmentalism can be capitalist. You and your chef friends should focus your energies on converting college grads who are looking for jobs at renewable energy start-ups. Let the aging hippiecrits continue buying their granola at Safeway.

                                              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                sorry, it may be cultural, but I don't think it is generational. I hate granola, I am probably old enough to be your mother, Morton, and I am perfectly willing to spend good money on sustainable food.

                                                Indeed, I had lunch at Ubuntu, which started all this discussion, today, and enjoyed it very much , though I am not sure I would call it revelatory. It wasn't cheap, but I didn't think it was overpriced, either, given the quality and quantity of what we had to eat. (So hey, now I can say I tried it! :-))

                                                Anyway, people who make assumptions (which is what one is doing if one passes judgement on a place they haven't eaten at, or for that matter, if they assume that, just because they know older people who don't want to pay for sustainable food, that it it is somehow related to their generation. People who have political agendas of one sort or the other come in all ages in my experience.

                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                  My comment wasn't aimed at a whole generation, it concerned younger "hippies" vs older "hippies" - specifically, the characteristics soupkitten referred to tend to be prevalent in the older hippie community (though certainly not universal).

                                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                    I don't think they are even prevalent -- just vocal and visible. Most of those "older hippies" grew up and became nice liberal (or sometimes even conservative) capitalists. Alice Waters seems to have made a nice living, as have all of her foodie cohorts, including Ruth Reichel, who certainly subscribed to that ethos at that time in her life.

                                                  2. re: susancinsf

                                                    please don't think i was trying to throw out an ageist generalization--i was referring to a particular type of customer who seems very inflexible in their thinking. i agree with you that it doesn't have to do with age, indeed, some wonderful customers are old enough to have experienced tough times during the depression. they now choose go out of their way to support sustainable foods, because they see it as a return to a better way of eating/living. indeed, the most supportive of our customers are a group of older, grandmotherly ladies, who are otherwise extremely conservative in their views. the type of person i referred to in my post above is someone who has gone on to make considerable sums of money but expects those who grow, transport, prepare & serve food to them to work for low wage/free in order to keep their own food prices cheap.

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      Hi soupkitten, I didn't think you were using ageist response was to Morton, who did clearly express a generalization in terms of age and generational differences. (and since I just became a grandmother for the first time, I felt that his generalization deserved a 'grandmotherly' stern response... :-) )

                                              2. re: moh

                                                I see your point, but in my mind there is a distinction between "expensive" and "overpriced." $40/pound grade A foie gras is expensive but not overpriced. A $4 can of refried beans is overpriced but not expensive. Some people can't enjoy expensive food, but that doesn't make said food overpriced.

                                                Judging the value of restaurant food is particularly tricky, because part of the price reflects the skills of the chef. A more skilled chef should be able to command a high price for his or her time and energy than a less skill chef. You can't judge the skill of the chef unless you eat the food, so you can't make subjective statements about value if you don't eat the food.

                                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                  "$40/pound grade A foie gras is expensive but not overpriced. A $4 can of refried beans is overpriced but not expensive. Some people can't enjoy expensive food, but that doesn't make said food overpriced."

                                                  Hey, we're talking semantics here, but what the hey!

                                                  I would argue that value is essentially relative. The statement that fois gras is expensive but not overpriced presumes that there is an absolute value of Grade A fois gras that can be absolutely determined, and that everyone should agree it is worth $X per pound, therefore it is not overpriced. I think one could find many people who would consider Grade A fois gras to be "overpriced" liver ( not me by the way, I love the stuff!). You and I may agree that $40/pound is an acceptable price for fois gras, but others may not agree. It is more accurate to say "$40 is an acceptable price in my mind". Similarly, I would agree with a statement such as "Some people can't enjoy expensive food, but that doesn't make said food overpriced to me. But I guess it's overpriced for them". I am not willing to overlook the point of view of those who are unable to get past the cost of a meal, even if I don't agree with them. They have a right to self-expression just like I do.

                                                  "You can't judge the skill of the chef unless you eat the food, so you can't make subjective statements about value if you don't eat the food."

                                                  I would agree that you can't judge the skill of a chef unless you eat the food. But who says you can't make a subjective statement about value if you don't eat the food? A steak does not have much value for a vegetarian, they're not going to eat the steak, but it is still valid for the vegetarian to SAY the steak has no value for them.

                                                  Hmmm. All this discussion makes me hungry! Would love a piece of fois gras right now :)

                                                  1. re: moh

                                                    Sure, it's valid for a vegetarian to say that a steak has no value for them, but the question is whether such statements are on-topic in Chowhound discussions. Consider this:

                                                    Poster 1: Where can I find best dry-aged ribeye steak in San Francisco?

                                                    Poster 2: My favorite is El Raigon.

                                                    Poster 3: I'm a vegetarian.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      This happens a lot on the Chain board as well as the General board.
                                                      Poster asks: How is the new burrito at Taco Bell? Reply 1....It's good but I prefer the Burrito Supreme because it has sour cream. Reply 2...Why are you asking about Taco Bell? They suck.

                                                      General board: What's the best salsa from a grocery? Replies start pouring in immediately for the poster to make their own salsa.

                                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                        In my experience, if you report "why are you asking?" as inappropriate, the moderators will remove it, and if you report "just make your own" as off-topic, the moderators will remove it or move it to Home Cooking.

                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Robert, perhaps my example wasn't ideal! But I think this is on-topic:

                                                        Poster 1: I really love Restaurant X.

                                                        Poster 2: Yes, I love Restaurant X too. Great fois gras.

                                                        Poster 3: I'm a vegetarian, and I can't eat at Restaurant X because everything is made with beef stock. Not a good value for me.

                                                        Poster 4: I'm not a vegetarian, but Restaurant X has no value for me because the price point is way too high. I won't eat there.

                                                        For me, Posters 3 and 4 still have a valid point that is on-topic. They haven't eaten the food, but it tells me something about the restaurant. It tells me: Don't take my vegetarian friends, and don't take my frugal mom. This is useful information.

                                                        I would agree that if the discussion becomes more theoretical or more political, then it is time to move it to another board. But I have noticed that the moderators seem to do that already.

                                                        1. re: moh

                                                          but how would you be able to guage the comment by Poster number 4? how do they know the price point is too high if they haven't eaten there? doesn't it depend upon the quality of the ingredients, ambiance and level of service, regardless of whether or not meat is served?

                                                          I believe one of the comments that generated this thread was one to the effect (from someone who hadn't eaten at the restaurant in question) that $9 (or whatever) was too much to pay for cauliflower....but that assumes that there aren't aspects of that cauliflower that make it worthy of that price! Now, if one hates cualiflower, sure, one wouldn't eat there..but then the comment would be something like:

                                                          Poster Number 5 (me): "The specialty of that restaurant is bananas. I HATE bananas. and $10 is too much to pay for bananas".

                                                          sorry, not helpful, unless you plan to have me to dinner soon and want a reminder that I will enjoy the meal as long you dont put bananas on the menu... :-)

                                                          I was thinking about this as I ate my lunch today: it was a grilled cheese sandwich, made with lovely butter, lovely bread, delicious cherry tomatoes, and some fantastic cheese I picked up in Napa at Oxbow Market yesterday, and which happened to cost about $9 for enough for two grilled cheese sandwiches, (ie my lunch) retail.

                                                          So, Poster 4 might say that $11.00 or so in retail costs (meaning more in a restaurant) is waayyy too much to pay for a grilled cheese sandwich.

                                                          Is it? Well, I can obviously make a grilled cheese sandwich that costs a whole lot less. But believe me, these sandwiches I just ate were definitely delicious and definitely worth the price!

                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                            "but how would you be able to guage the comment by Poster number 4? how do they know the price point is too high if they haven't eaten there? doesn't it depend upon the quality of the ingredients, ambiance and level of service, regardless of whether or not meat is served?"

                                                            I am not arguing that the food may be worth the price to some. I am merely pointing out that there are people out there who will refuse to pay $9 for cauliflower, even if they love cauliflower. Most of us know someone like this. And it is helpful to know NOT to bring that person to THIS restaurant.

                                                            Moh: Mom, I'm bringing you to Ubuntu. You love cauliflower. You'll love this place. It's getting rave reviews on Chowhound. My treat.


                                                            Moh's Mom: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? $9 for cauliflower?
                                                            And this small a plate? What am I, a super model???

                                                            Moh: But mom, so good, taste it, it's really delicious... They cook the sauce for hours and use so many special spices....

                                                            Moh's Mom: I might as well eat my dollar bill... HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING??? We go to my house, I make you good cauliflower. And cheap too. And we can eat Kimchi.... No kimchi? Hmphh. What kind of a restaurant is this?

                                                            Now, had I read Poster #4's comment (" I'm not a vegetarian, but Restaurant X has no value for me because the price point is way too high. I won't eat there.") on the board before I made reservations, I wouldn't have taken mom. See? Useful information. I'll go with someone like you instead, and we'll have a great time!

                                                            (BTW, above scenario is hypothetical. I haven't taken Moh's Mom to Ubuntu. But "I might as well eat my dollar bill" is a direct quote.)

                                                            1. re: moh

                                                              In the explained example you give, the relevant information, and in my opinion, the ONLY relevant information, is the average cost of the dish. Someone who would make the comment that $9 is always too much for cauliflower would have a similar price point limit for ANY dish. So, I agree that posting information about prices is fine and helpful.

                                                              But as your post actually well illustrates, saying something isn't a good value is strictly a value judgement and thus not particularly useful other than as a restatement of the price. I have eaten the cauliflower at Ubuntu, and I don't think the dish is about cauliflower: rather, it is about technique, which can be expensive!

                                                              The key here is that the post that generated this discussion did NOT say that the restuarant in question was expensive,and thus not of interest to the poster. What the poster specifically said was that she chose another restaurant in the same price range, ie just as expensive, because she thought that the restuarant in question was OVERPRICED, ie a poor value. I still don't see how the heck she knows that if she hasn't been there. She spent just as much money elsewhere, how does she know she got a better bang for her buck?

                                                              1. re: moh

                                                                Ha ha ha. I just read this and totally understand where you're coming from. People have different ideas of what is acceptable to them. My family used to go to this Vietnamese restaurant for their $5 a plate lunch special. My dad would always say how you could feed an entire family with the cost of one meal. And how it's so much healthier to eat at home. Then he would go into this diatribe about how you couldn't pay him to eat unhealthy food. So even there was a magical wonderful place where you can purchase foie gras for a penny, he would think it's too expensive.

                                                  2. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                    The use of the word overpriced means bad value to jfood. There are overpriced fast food hamburgers and overpriced hand massaged steaks. Then the word expensive comes into play. FL is expensive, Blue Hill is expensive, some may call them fair valued others may call them outrageous. M&M jfood have discussed at length going to Blue Hill, probably a $300 event since they do not drink. Then they look at the menu and strugglw with whether they would appreciate it. Likewise, even though the jfoods are a coast away, jfood reads as many FL reviews as he finds and loves the photos. This might be more fun but not quite sure just yet. He decides would he want two dinners at his favorite spots or one there. So farthe former but that may change.

                                                    But if given a free pass or a winning Mega-Millions ticket see how fast jfood calls both of these places for a reservation.

                                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                      Since I hadn't (at the time) eaten there, I didn't jump into the thread until posters started making comments that implied that the food was overpriced simply because it was vegetarian. I don't have to taste the food to have an opinion about whether vegetarian food should inherently be cheaper than food that includes meat. At no point did I say that the restaurant being discussed was or wasn't overpriced, just that there are a lot of factors in the price of food beyond the cost of the raw ingredients.

                                                      As other people have implied, there's also a difference between saying "that restaurant is overpriced" and "that restaurant (or hamburger, or whatever) costs more than I want to pay for that experience." To some extent, whether something is "overpriced" is factual -- if the price of the item is appropriate to the cost of producing it, it's not "overpriced" although it may be more than you choose to pay. If a $8 hamburger costs $2 to produce and a $28 hambruger costs $14 to produce, which one is overpriced: the one that's priced at 200 percent of cost or the one that's priced at 400 percent of cost?

                                                      As for commenting on places I haven't eaten at, I try not to do that. One exception is if I see a post that has no responses and is sinking to the bottom of the board. Then I might respond (a) so that at least the OP got some response, and (b) so it gets bumped up the board and more people who do have first-hand experience will see it and have a chance to respond. And of course I never say I ate there myself, only that such-and-such has a good reputation (or a bad one) or something else that I do have first-hand knowledge of (that place isn't close to your hotel/neighborhood, parking is bad in that neighborhood, it's hard to get to by public transit, be aware that's a sketchy neighborhood or conversely, that's fun neighborhood, etc.). For that matter, I try not to comment on places where I haven't eaten in several years.

                                                    2. Seems to me like there can be some value here. I wouldn't pretend to eat at a place I haven't visited, but if someone requested an obscure dish and I thought some restaurant served it, I might say "Try __________," though I'd indicate I had not visited.

                                                      The thread that spurred this seemed more like a nasty ad hominem attack based on the poster's politics than having anything to do with the restaurant; I wouldn't want to use that atypical rant as a template for this question.

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