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May 25, 2008 08:53 AM

That place is pricey?

What do CHers think is pricey. Here's the thing. I have friends that say they are going somewhere "pricey" and I laugh. If you don't drink, pretty much only the top notch places are pricey. I'm not a dessert freak, so if I wanted to I could go to anywhere that is considered expensive and if I chose to only drink water, I could have an app and an entree for under $ that pricey? I don't think so. I spend that on my bar tab usually when I go out.

I go to a nice steakhouse with a large group (8-12) every year, we usually have a martini before dinner, and then split a couple of bottles of wine and have a few beers with dinner. We order a few apps and sides with out steaks and we all usually get after dinner drinks and split a few desserts. It comes out to around $130-150 a person. Now I can't afford to do this once a week, but I don't view it as expensive. The last time we went out, I had sauteed shrimp, fried calamari, mussels fra diavolo, and clams oreganato for an appetizer, had two martinis and about 4 glasses of wine, had a salad, and a center cut filet mignon with bleu cheese and frizzled onions, for sides we split creamed spinach, sweet potato fries, and asparagus. Had a glass of port to end the meal and tasted someone's and tasted someone's pecan pie. The bill came to $125 per person w/ tip. To me that is not an expensive night out for what you are getting.

But I do think spending $25-30 for a pasta dish is ridiculous, especially when it's not loaded with 5 varieties of shellfish. To me that is expensive.

My question is do people take into account what they are eating when they say something is pricey? I think if you pay anything for something you could easily replicate at home, you are paying too much. Any thoughts?

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  1. I agree with you, jhopp. There are many reasons to dine out, but ours usually have something to do with a celebration, in which case price is not a primary concern. We don't like to eat out at a spot where we feel that the food in very similar to things we make at home. When we lived in Manhattan, we would spend a lot on a meal and then look at each other and say, "We could have made that." I feel that those are the meals that are too expensive. We want delicious food when we eat out, but we are passionate cooks and we also want to be inspired. I remember a dinner years ago at Lespinasse (Gray Kunz's old restaurant in the St. Regis) where my husband and I kept on looking at each other saying, "What's in that? How'd they do that?" The meal was ferociously expensive, but clearly worth every penny from the point of view of experiencing something unique. When you go to a steak house and have the meal that you described with friends, you are not only paying for the meal, you are paying for entertainment, so that is the value added to the meal, and in my opinion, makes it worth paying more.

    1. The issue of value was brought up by me in a post a few days ago:

      Whatever word or phrase one wants to use to describe this individual perspective, it can truly become a hot button with those that are more "value conscious."

      I have no problem in saving money on eating or dining, but I also have no problem on spending money on it either. As roxlet has already mentioned, if I can make it just as good, then I have to look at what's in front of me, what is around me, look at the dollar signs and make an informal but relatively accurate decision whether what I'mhaving is a good value, pricey, or worth it... whatever - you get it...

      You brought up the example of pasta, which was my most recent experience with some having a gripe with paying good money for pasta:

      If you read through this thread, it's obvious that arguments for both sides are adamant in their opinions, but in my eyes, it exemplifies that everyone has their own perspective on what constitutes, "pricey." I think if you grew up in a family, neighborhood, or situation where pasta came by easily, you're bound to make the assessment that, "it's only pasta." Furthermore, if one hasn't had great pasta and all the sauces, garnishes, the proper plating and serving, a wonderful setting and a first rate atmosphere, then yeah, it's just pasta.

      If one knows what goes into a great dish of pasta, where the restaurant has its own specialist and area to make the pasta itself, diligently sources the ingredients for what goes into the sauces and garnishes, plates and serves it properly in a wonderful setting, then it is another first-rate dining experience that, regardless of what some people may view as peasant fare, should be left to the individual diner as to assess what its value is. Personally, my views are expressed in that thread and I obviously side with those who feel this particular dining experience was not pricey.

      I live in LA where I'm about a 40-minute drive away from some of the best Chinese food that one will find outside of China (and many Chinese have proclaimed it to be as good or even better). In the San Gabriel Valley, I can dine like a king in a very nice setting, service will be quite good, the ingredients and preparation would be impossible for me to duplicate, and the final tab could run on the high side of $50 when ordering live seafood like lobster or crab, on top of an already huge list of other dishes ordered for a group of say, six. For someone who knows the various Chinese cuisines but lives in say, Fargo, South Dakota, he or she might be more than willing to pay twice, three times, maybe even more, for the same experience, as Fargo is probably as far removed from Chinese cuisine as LA is from snow in the winter. Now if I'm visiting Fargo and offered this chance at great Chinese cuisine at a price that far exceeds what I am accustomed to paying in the San Gabriel Valley, I'd snicker comments similar to what had been expressed on the above thread that I sourced.

      Price, value, or whatever one calls it, is very subjective. Sometimes one can easily justify it objectively, but all in all, it's a very individual proposition.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bulavinaka

        as a minor quibble, Fargo is in North Dakota.

        1. re: smarsh

          Thanks for the correction... I still forget whether Charlotte is in North or South Carolina as well... just checked Wikipedia - it's North... and I will forget this and Fargo by tomorrow... :)

      2. I know this doesn't apply to everyone, but by my budget, anything that costs more than $15 for an entrée is pricey. Keep in mind that I don't eat meat (or seafood), which are usually the expensive bits.

        2 Replies
        1. re: piccola

          Yeah - over $15 for an entree is kind of pricey for me too. This is directly related to my income at the moment - my partner went back to university about 4 years ago (one more year to go!) and since then, eating out has been a lot more rare than when we were both working full time. I can't say that this has hampered our eating style, though. We tend to eat at a lot of small mom and pop ethnic joints that have great inexpensive food ($9 at the MOST expensive for entrees...) and when we want to splurge on lobster, we buy it from the store and steam it ourselves! If we want steak, I'd rather source out some good meat and grill it over charcoal at home than pay a premium for a fancy steakhouse to do it for me. We go out for those $100-150 dinners maybe once a year these days, and I usually try to pick a place where I'll never be able to duplicate the food!

          I still love reading about the nicer restaurants though, and often get ideas for sourcing my own food from restaurant reviews.

          1. re: piccola

            I do eat meat, and that's still "pricey" for me, too. Because I'm not very well off - I make what would be considered a good salary anywhere but in a few really expensive cities, like Boston, the one I happen to live in. My boyfriend makes much less. We get by fine, but we can't afford even $20 entrees more than a couple times a year. Honestly, since I enjoy the process of cooking so much, I would generally rather splurge on ingredients, which allows my money to go a lot further. I've only been to a few very high-end restaurants in my life; I would say about half of those were worth the rare indulgence, while the other half were simply overpriced.

          2. It's such a complicated question!

            To some people, a meal is *never* worth more than $XX. It's just the way they think about food: if you can fill your belly for less, then more than that is "pricey" (a word I despise -- sounds like babytalk to me). And you're right -- some of those people would think nothing of dropping $50 on cocktails, and then complain that the food is too expensive.

            To most people, whether something is "pricey" is a complex set of variables having to do with the quality of the food, the value of the food (the "I could make that" factor people mentioned), the overall quality of the experience, and most of all, what you're accustomed to spending. Someone from NY is going to have a very different idea of what's "pricey" from someone from a place where restaurant costs aren't as high. Conversely, in the Bay Area the quality of the "mid-range" restaurants is very high, and when I travel I find myself paying the same amount of money for much more pedestrian food, which makes them relatively a poorer value.

            1. "My question is do people take into account what they are eating when they say something is pricey? I think if you pay anything for something you could easily replicate at home, you are paying too much. Any thoughts?"

              I'm somewhat spoiled because I love to cook. Therefore, when I eat out, I get kinda p.o.'d when I have to pay a lot for some ordinary run of the mill stuff. If I can easily replicate it at home, it doesn't bug me too much, if the price is reasonable. I have worked in a few restaurants in my day, and I know what is reasonable. For that reason, I kinda tend to stay away from the high end restaurants (100+ per person not including booze or tip.) They are rarely worth it. I usually lean towards ethnic dives that churn out unbelievable food that a lot of people would steer clear of. I'm more about paying for incredible food than nice tablecloths and good food. I have no issue with paying 100+ per person, but it is a rarity that I have found that it's worth it. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, because I do like a few places in my town that charge that much, but they are few and far between.