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polite/creative ways to get out of going to bad restaurants with friends

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I am tired of going out with friends to have great company and horrible food!

Most of my friends don't care all that much about food; when we go out in a group, I'm not always the one to pick them restaurant, or if I do pick one, they complain that it's too expensive (even though when you count the bottles bad wine that they drink at the bad restaurants we go to, $/head is usually double a 3-course at the quality bistrots I choose).

The worst of this is that I live in a city where you could be dropped out of an airplane and land in front of a great starred restaurant or a wonderful neighborhood bistrot, and somehow people still manage to find the rare unpalatable place.

Yes, going out with friends is more about spending time than eating food, but life is just too short to eat bad food AND pay for it. If a meal lasts 4 hours and the bill for me+DH is $150, that's $37.50/hour; in which case I might as well pay the friends for their time--seems like money better spent. A cheaper ticket to a Cirque du Soleil show costs only about that much!

So I made a new end-of-year resolution: I shall no longer passively say yes to dinners at restaurants that I am 90% sure will be bad, and instead, to suggest other ways of hanging out, such as picnicking (once it is no longer snowing and raining at the same time), hosting dinner parties, and doing non-food activities. But what about birthdays? I'd rather spend the money in their gift than in the food that I'll hate!

Is anyone else faced with the same issue? Do your friends drag you to bad restaurants? How do you deal with this and not be distant or impolite?

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  1. "I don't like that restaurant, how about...........?" works for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: beevod

      something like that would work, esp if you can appeal to them on some level-- there is a great margarita special, they would love the desserts. . . maybe you don't end up going where you *really* want to go, but you compromise and hopefully your friends have some fun outside of their box and you don't feel cheated in the end. maybe some of the new restaurants can become part of a rotation. i'd rec starting slow, and on the cheap-food side of things, and then after a few successes start talking up your bistro of choice.

    2. State facts. At the end of the next dinner, talk about the cost per person/couple. Mention how that is just about the same it would cost at whatever place you want(ed) to go.

      ...OK, so the price at 'your' place is without wine. So- 'let's go there next time and just not order wine'. I really want to try (insert specialty) there.

      If they still balk, you know the answer.

      If you've been someplace before and did not like it, say so.

      For birthdays, if the restaurant is the choice of the birthday boy/girl, then you have to go...and order only appetizers or soup and salad for yourselves-there are no rules as to what is a meal. Not everything is bad at all places. But do remind them when it is your choice that you didn't balk at their choice. State facts.

      1. I hope I don't!!
        But I can relate. When Mr. and I went to MN a few years back, our first family dinner was at a really red-sauce Italian restaurant. Not good at all. But Uncle Larry's the EC there, so it was a given.
        Good company, though.

        1. "We can't make it to dinner, but we'd love to meet everyone for a drink after" works very well for me.

          1. I tend to refresh their memories of past 'bad' experiences and suggest they, not me, come up with another choice. I agree, I can't stand wasting money on a meh place. I also don't like when a choice is made because 'they' have a coupon.

            1. I'd say there are better options- perhaps suggest that people rotate who can choose the place within a certain price range? How often do you see the friends? If you you don't get to see them that often, isn't it better just to suck it up once a quarter than to end up denting the friendship because you don't like the places selected? I know in my group of friends, sometimes restaurants are the best choice since we all live so spread out and need something in the middle. For birthdays, you should absolutely suck it up. You can always eat something beforehand to save money.