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I will not pay for that!

No one can argue that Italian restaurants lead the pack for both upscale, fine, gourmet dining as well as hole-in-the-wall, family run local joints.

My circle of friends like to dine in nice restaurants, but they are not adventurous eaters. So, when it’s a night out at a good restaurant, I can forget the Thai and Vietnamese, it’s always steak or Italian.

Here’s my beef (no pun intended) how can you justify paying between $15 and $20 for a plate of pasta!! I’m not talking exotic ingredients… Spaghetti and meatballs or sausage. What’s worse, is being charged that for pasta alio oilo!! Come one…. It’s a buck’s worth of pasta and some olive oil and garlic. $15?!? So, if I have any input, I’ll go for the nice steak dinner. At least I can understand the high cost of quality beef.

So, what do you refuse to pay for at a restaurant? Not because it’s not good, and not because you can make it at home, but just because the price it too out of line for what you get??

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  1. $25.00 Hamburgers, $10.00 bottles of water, $45.00 cheese trays,$9.00 mini Bahn mi's, $12.00 frozen yogurts,$22.00 "Mixologist" Cocktails. Come on , you know who you are.......

    1. That's nothing! Da Domenica, a small trattoria in Hong Kong charges US75 for a plate of Spaghetti ala vongole! They claim all their ingredients were air freight from Sicily! BTW, lousy service as well!
      Anyways, back to your question. The answer is ' its to do with all the overhead! "

      2 Replies
      1. re: Charles Yu

        $9 for a plate of spaghetti is covering the overhead. $15 is pretentious.

        1. re: janetms383

          It depends on whether the pasta is house made. I had some house made mushroom ravioli at a wonderful Italian spot the other night...it was out of this world!

          I wouldn't pay big bucks for a plate of packaged spaghetti with red sauce on it..even if it had a couple of meatballs.

      2. there was recently a thread about things you won't eat out, and pasta was my first thought -- and that of many others, too.

        my question is, why worry about the price when no one is forcing you to *order* it? i guess enough people are willing to pay so much for pasta, but not me. i'd make an exception for some nice shrimp diablo. ;-). and you don't have to order pasta at italian restos anyway -- they usually have nice seafood dishes, in my experience. i'd just as soon have good seafood as steak, though -- any day.

        to answer your specific question, i'm not gonna pay for tap water at any restaurant.

        4 Replies
        1. re: alkapal

          I don't like to pay for Italian regardless of what I order, but sometimes I just want the spaghetti! (And I don't order it!)
          Thanks for opinning

          1. re: alkapal

            I decide when I am going out with friends ... is about you and food and you and friends. I don't order water, I get a glass of wine or a beer or ice tea. I get something they are known for a simple dish. Don't get exotic, you know it won't be up to your standards anyways. Personally I find it just find, but I am not particular or "picky" when it comes to eating. I am enjoying my friends and the company and that they picked the place and they are comfortable and they are having fun. It's not about food, it's friendship. Just pick something simple and go with the flow.. Allkapal, not just for you I just replied to this. Not meant to anyone directly. It is just my thought. Order something you can eat and just grin and bear it. Me ... nothing bothers me but I prefer good not chain food, but it isn't about me is it. It is enjoying my friends. More important to me than food ever will be.

            1. re: kchurchill5

              most of my friends are in the industry. it would never occur to me to eat someplace that wasn't "up to my standards". it's obviously a sliding scale depending on the nature of the place, but if the food sucked, i'd feel like i really threw money away.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Well, when you deal in marketing and advertising and some business dealings. Most of who I deal with are not up to those standards and we have only 30 minutes or a few more to grab something quick and leave. So I fine restaurant is not within their budget, certainly not mine every day and not something they are used to. So to me it is just fine. They are happy and that is why is important.

          2. In most restaurants -- lobster. There are one or two who specialize in fantastic stuffed lobster that is worth every penny, but for most , no way.

            1. $12.00 for 3 "sliders", $5.00 for coffee or tea, $8.00 baked potatoes!!, "artisanal" cocktails for $12-14.00. Yikes!! I'm making fresh pasta tonite w/ King Arthur flour (a splurge) semolina and a little whole wheat + 3 eggs; cost- $3.00 or less. Alfredo sauce w/ cream, nutmeg and reggiano (another splurge...) Cost- $3.00 or less. Roasted asparagus as a side for $1.29 a pound on sale. Dinner for $8.00 (not including the vodka and wine, of course!!) I like to feel like I've gotten a little bang for my buck in terms of value. Sheesh, I used to co-own a restaurant; I know how much a potato costs-including the "labor " that goes into baking them, but, c'mon, $8.00 to $10.00 for a BAKED potato @ a steakhouse!! That is absurd!! (Even if it comes w/ all the trimmin's...) adam

              4 Replies
              1. re: adamshoe

                Thanks Adam, you've made a good point and I think it's what's got my outrage. At a steakhouse, I don't mind the $34 for a dry aged bone in prime rib eye and generally can't eat a potato along with it. But, if my date wanted a potato, charge him $2.50 instead of the outrages $8!! Same with a good Italian restaurant, if my friends want to pay $30 for fuite de mare and I just want pasta with oil and garlic with a side of broccoli, why stick it to me? Is it merely to justify their "status"?

                1. re: janetms383

                  when I moved to the US about 4 years ago, I noticed how expensive pasta was in restaurants here. I have seen pasta with tomato sauce and other sauces costing more than the chicken dishes. I really can't understand why. I was out last week and they wanted $17 for an eggplant parm and the chicken parm was $15.

                  I am from the UK and have never seen pasta dishes in the same price range or more than meat.

                  One of the things that bugs me is the upscale restaurants and steak houses charging $8 for sides like creamed spinach, brocolli and potato dishes. Seems crazy to me but I guess if they can get away with it....

                  1. re: janetms383

                    I remember reading somewhere how pastas were priced in restaurants. Usually they're considerably cheaper than the other items on the menu. Say, pasta is $12, fish is $26, and steak is $32- $40. A lot of customers scan the menu, look at the price and say 'hey $12 is a good price.. I'm going to get the pasta.' The restaurant makes a lot of $$ because the person is ordering something with a high markup. But I guess if it's an upscale place it wouldn't look "right" to have pasta or a baked potato for a few dollars when the entrees are super-expensive.

                    1. re: janetms383

                      the "status" comment is just confusing and you're missing the whole point of how restaurants make money.

                      the margin on that dry-aged rib eye is tiny, with the food cost likely approaching 40%. if all the dishes were priced that way, the place would be out of business in a month. certain items have a lower food cost, like pasta and baked potatoes, and that's where places make money and can afford to not charge even more for higher-cost items.

                      nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing to order an $8 baked potato. if you don't feel something is a good value, it's your money to spend as you choose.

                      please stop feeling like restaurants are trying to rip you off. if that's really how you feel, stay home and cook.

                  2. I would have to say many of today's seafood restaurants are out of line with the pricing of entrees...especially when it's simply grilled like whole fish or 5-6 ounce portion fillets. When the whole fish is served family style, it's not so much of a problem....but when you go to an upscale Greek restaurant and they do not tell you the size of the fish, but that it's 24.95 per pound.......when the bill arrives you find out the fish was 2.5 pounds....well, you do the math.

                    1. Side Orders of Vegetables. I'm not paying $6.00 And Up...and UP! for Green Beans, Spinach, or Broccoli, no matter how well it would go with my meal, or how well the restaurant prepares them.

                      And I'm really tired of seeing zucchini + whatever as "the vegetable du jour" -- especially when it's du jour et du jour et du jour...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mcsheridan

                        If I was getting local, farm-fresh veggies that were cooked right..I'd pay $6.00 for a side!

                        1. re: mcsheridan

                          I don't really mind the vegetables, if they are good. I get annoyed when I go to a place that has about 8 starch sides for $6 each and as you have reported- one pathetic vegetable du jour as the ONLY veggie choice. Half the time it seems like it is like a frozen creamed spinach. Seriously?

                        2. It's my money. I don't have to justify a thing. If I want it and can afford it I will pay it happily. I don't overthink it and frankly, don't care. For me, dining out is about as many non-food variable as food variables.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                            Exactly. I don't eat at any restaurant where I can't comfortably afford to order whatever I want. This makes the price irrelevant, and leaves me to just focus on what I feel like eating at the moment - sometimes it's a rack of Colorado lamb and sometimes it's pasta.

                          2. A large number of people go into these "high dollar" joints just to be seen, food and cost is secondary.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                              In our case, it's not about being seen (though we do run into friends often and are treated well at our regular places especially) but it's about having a wonderful evening, relaxing and enjoying life. Dining out is where we choose to spend a good portion of our disposable income.

                            2. I'm with you on the pasta. Also, here in NYC, many places charge $12 and over for guacamole. One restaurant even touted its "guacamole bar." Yes, I know it can be a terrific show with the person making it in front of you and all, but please, let's get real.

                              1. I won't order a standard (as opposed to hand-made) pasta dish in a restaurant no matter how much I might be jonseing for it for exactly the reasons mentioned. There are always varying margins on different menu items. The cheaper ingredient dishes have higher margins than the filet mignon/lobster type dishes so that overall the restaurant makes a more or less even margin. This pricing practice makes sense overall but it usually does become egregious when it comes to pasta.

                                I'll pay high for something I can't make myself or something that the restaurant does so much better than I can, but pasta out of a box sauced with decent oil, garlic, and good quality Parm is just a quick I'm-home-late-from-work-Dinner?-what's-that? type of dish. Not worth $15 to me. Maybe to someone else, but not me.

                                1. I will NEVER pay any amount of money for a Kobe beef hamburger. It is a waste of a fine meat not intended for grinding.

                                  1. Salad, is my 'beef'! for me it is a matter of value-added. I can sort of see the sauce-making of a pasta dish. I can even defend the chopping of zucchini,seasoning and sauteeing.

                                    But how can you justify charging $9.50 for a grab at the bag of pre-mixed salad greens (even if they are organic and local) and a squirt of dressing that took 30 seconds to 'compose' ("balsamic: meet olive oil")?

                                    There is no prep and the cost of ingredients is under $1.00.

                                    Fume, fume...

                                    1. This past fall, we were getting lobster in NJ for $4.99 to $5.99 a pound at retail. At dinner one night, thinking there might be a bargain to be had on the "Market Price" lobsters on the menu, I, unchracteristically, asked our server, "How much would a 2 1/2 pound lobster be?"

                                      "I'll check." she answered, and returned with a price of $75.

                                      I ate scallops.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        wow I had that same experience here with Dungeness Crabs. The new fad is Vietnamese Crawfish Houses when you sit at picnic tables and get pounds and pounds of crawfish. Well I don't like crawfish and on the menu there was Dungeness - Market Price. In Little Saigon, Dungeness was going for $2.99 a pound. I did figure there'd be a mark up, but my chin nearly hit the table when they told me a whole Dungeness would be about $35!!!!!

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          That's the exact one I was thinking about. When *I* can buy them retail for about $5-$6/lb. in the summer, you know the restaurants are getting them for less. How does a restaurant justify their prices for a boiled lobster?? I mean, geez, you dump it in a pot of boiling water - no pre-cooking prep, no post-cooking prep (unless they split it). Not exactly labor intensive. I suppose somebody must be paying it or they wouldn't do it, but I refuse.

                                          1. re: Scirocco

                                            That's the exact one I was thinking about. When *I* can buy them retail for about $5-$6/lb. in the summer, you know the restaurants are getting them for less.

                                            Actually, wholesale prices to restaurants will rarely dip below $4.50/lb. outside of New England anytime during the year. When supermarkets have their $5.00/lb. sales, it's due to promotions and a loss leader types of sales. This past year due to market conditions.....the lobster market was very low due to the fact there was a surplus of lobsters not being sold.....thus the reason for the cheap prices at retail.

                                            Typical mark-up for restaurants is 400% or more....sometimes it's not about costs and extensions, but the fact you are taking up space in a seat and there is a price to pay for that time in that seat.

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              I didn't mean about outside of New England (although I should've specified). I understand that shipping can play an expensive role in any food hitting my plate. My point was that as food goes, it's not expensive in its raw form and the cooking prep is virtually nil for a boiled lobster (and I should also clarify, that I am referring only to boiled lobster, not other preparations).

                                              I am well aware of mark-ups and I have no problem paying some $$ for a great meal. I cook a lot and can appreciate the time and effort that goes into good food presented well (and the fact that I may be occupying real estate for an hour or two). It just seems in the case of a boiled lobster, it's marked up much more than normal and IMO, they seem to prey on tourists who don't know any better. Just my two cents' and that is the one thing "I won't pay for" per this thread's title. :)

                                              1. re: Scirocco

                                                Living in Northern New Jersey, one the great deals for lobster is in the Ironbound section of Newark, which houses many Spanish and Portuguese seafood restaurants. There you can purchase jumbo lobsters for about $8-850 per pound steamed or broiled, served with a salad, rice, vegetables and fried potato slices. A large one is perfect for sharing and the relative cost is very inexpensive considering.

                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                  Exactly! That's why I like to get my lobster dinners at the local lobster pounds or at home. Still a great lobster, but at a great price! :)

                                        2. In my area there is a plethora of Mexican food restaurants including many inexpensive small places. However, lately there seems to be a trend to do "upscale" Tex-Mex or call it authentic and charge quite a bit more. In some cases there are dishes that i am willing to pay more for if they are good such as some Mexican seafood dishes etc. but things like enchiladas, no way. I mean come one cheese enchiladas are not an expensive dish by any means. I don't mind someone covering their costs but don't take me for a ride.

                                          Of course jokingly I have always asked when ordering burgers why is it more if I add cheese but it is not less if I omit the onions and pickles?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: swamp

                                            re: burgers.....oh what timing. Just last night I met a friend for dinner and paid $11 for a turkey & baconless "club wrap" because there were no vegetarian sandwiches on the menu, and mainly because it had chipotle mayonaise, so I figured the lettuce, tomato, and cheese would at least have a little flavor. Lo and behold it shows up with no chipotle mayo, and what tasted suspiciously like coleslaw dressing or cheap-o miracle whip knock off, aka sweet. When I asked the waitress about it, she returned some time later with a small bowl of what I can only guess was the aformentioned sweet dressing with vinegary, bottled hot wing sauce mixed in. Chipotle my arse.

                                            Needless to say, the price was still the same. Which I expected, but was more so disgruntled over the lack of both real mayo and chipotle.

                                            1. re: swamp

                                              co-sign..i feel the same way about mexica food..i dont see how it can be upscale..yes..you could use better quality meat, ingredients, etc...but in the end..after all spices are added...to me, it tastes almost exactly the same as something "regular" priced...

                                              i also share the same opinion about chinese food...PF Changs has to be one of the biggest rip-offs in my opinion...sure they use a diff cut of meat for the dish, but once all the sauces are added (mongolian, sweet and sour, etc), it tastes almost exactly the same as a local spot in chinatown...

                                            2. I don't see the problem with paying $15-20 for a plate of pasta, if the pasta, sauce and whatever else is there is high quality and tasty, but then, I don't make homemade pasta or long simmered sauce. I agree with other posters about salads, though. It's really irritating when a starter "house salad" of some bagged greens and a vinegarette is $8+. There are a few steakhouses around here (with good steaks) that include a starter salad, veg and a starch with the steak rather than charging everything ala carte. That can be a really good value over the ala carte places where you'll pay $30 for the salad and sides in addition to the cost of the steak...

                                              1. Wow, pasta is really taking a beating here. Jfood actually enjoys ONLY paying the $15-20 for pasta when he just wants to enjoy his friends over a reasonable meal. The extra $10-15 for salmon or chicken is not worth the extra $10-15 since he is there to relax with friends.

                                                Unless friends order the bottled water jfood only orders tap, since he does not drink soda or adult drinks. And he is not sure whether on this thread or another when the server called it "sink water". Jfood would excuse himself from the table and tell the MOD to change the server, totally unfunny and uncalled for.

                                                Other items he has trouble ordering are salmon and chicken, probably guessed from above. And his peppermint tea after dinner should not exceed $4.

                                                1. I agree, but everyone has different taste in food. Some people might feel that paying $ for something you can easily whip up at home is justified, and since they happen to be your friends (which means when it comes to eating out, you eat what they eat) it's kind of frustrating. Could you try coaxing them to try a new place? Unfortunately, it might just be something you're gonna have to put up with. =/

                                                  Everyone's made a good point. A lot of things are overpriced, and consumers pay for them anwyay.

                                                  I just hope that restaurant serves one hell of a pasta bowl.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: mels88

                                                    Things are way over priced which is probably why I hate going out. I go out usually when invited by friends. Otherwise I won't go. Another thing I can't stand is food delivered. Are people nuts. Every now and then I may get chinese if desperate and running late and if I am working on something at home and honestly don't have time, but that is very rare. My neighbor gets pizza every couple of days, I can't imagine the cost. My ex and his wife eat out 4-5 times a week. I went out with them once, we celebrated my sons birthday. Just at carabbas, a few beers and 4 dinners, 1 desert and some 100 dollars later out the door ... for basically pasta. Now it was good, no complaints but I just don't understand it. Now there is a pretty descent Thai restaurant and I on an occasion will get a friend to go there and we always do take out. It is not something I make at home often so it is worth it. And sushi. I do go to my sushi place once a month and that is my treat.

                                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                                      I always thought food was overpriced until I worked in a great kitchen and saw everything that went into making the food!

                                                  2. Pasta is one, not my favorite thing anyway, but man is it expensive. We have a few Italian restaurants here locally, the times I have eaten it, I just think its terrible.
                                                    Pizza is the other. I mean the gourmet one pan pizza that goes for about $20 plus dollars becuase its cooked in a woodburning oven. Please.

                                                    I don't eat these but, I was really surprised at how few and how tiny chicken wings are. They charge about a buck for each piece, not even the entire wing.

                                                    I didn't realize that cocktails are so expensive either, I used to order wine with dinner, and had to stop about a year ago because I kept getting really sick even with one glass.
                                                    So instead I ordered a top shelf margarita, I love a good margarita. BUT YIKES! Forget ordering those too. I bought a new bottle of Grande Marnier tonight, I'll just make my own.

                                                    1. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but it's all relative. I had a $1,600 dinner for two at Guy Savoy and would have gladly paid double; it was that good. I've also had a $4.00 burger and felt ripped-off. I'll go back to Guy Savoy next time I can, but I'll never go back to the burger place. It's all about quality, preparation, atmosphere and service. Get all the variables right, and it's hard to put a price on it.

                                                      And, let's face it, restaurants are in the business to make a buck. At home, you're not.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ejs1492

                                                        Great comment! Can't agree more...Eating out is not just the cost of the food, it is also about the ambience, the services.....besides, one does not have to go and do the shopping, prepare for the food and wash the dishes(or at least put them in the dish washer!) There are dining experiences that worth much more than the price tags....

                                                      2. I'm not in the restaurant trade, but common sense tells me that there must be a base cost per plate of providing premises, lighting, heating, staff etc. If that is, say, $10 then $3 worth of pasta ingredients gets a $13 price tag and a $10 steak becomes $20. Just guessing really. Others will know more I expect.

                                                        1. I'd be willing to bet that most people don't even think about it but one of the highest profit items at any restaurant is a fountain soda. It's generally a markup of 40 to 50 times cost.

                                                          1. With the advent of the Web I can now "vote with my feet" without ever stepping inside the door. Not only chains, but many local restaurants now have their menus on line and I can screen them out ahead of time. So, I don't care if Red Robin has the best burgers in the world, I'll be darned if I will ever pay $8 and up for a burger...even if fries are included. It's still only a chain burger.

                                                            IMO, many restaurant prices are over inflated. Why is coffee about $1.50 a cup at the local diner, but $4.95 at the steak house? it surely isn't 3x better, and the atmosphere isn't 3x better, either. (In fact, the 2 places mentioned use exactly the same coffee.)