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Jul 24, 2011 09:54 AM

Mediocrity in Seattle?

After living in the Dallas, Texas area for 20 years, moving back to the NW was anticipated as a taste treat for this foodie! I had missed clam chowder and crab! Texas can't hold a candle to the fresh seafood offerings from the local grocery stores of the NW!. My grill has been fired up almost daily for steaks, salmon and halibut. In Texas, we always enjoyed eating out at least twice a week. But my wallet and my pallet don't enjoy it here!
Why do the restaurants believe their products need to be large overpriced portions rather than offering quality food at fair prices?

Breakfast menu items are 50% more expensive than similar places in Dallas. Bacon and eggs for $10.95? Why? Other than serving a mountain of hash browns, there is no justifiable reason for the prices charged at most eating establishments. The bacon was not thick sliced pepper cured or even center cut!I just spent $30 for breakfast in Mukilteo at a popular local chain. Corned beef hash & eggs for her and 2 eggs and bacon with 1 slice of toast for me. Add 2 coffees @ $2.50 each and the bill was $30! The service was good and I tipped 20% but the food was nothing extraordinary!
The hash brown potatoes were not special, no peppers or onions, just a large portion. The very average toast came from a loaf baked in huge ovens at a national commercial bakery. I also find the same poor value at Mexican food restaurants in the NW area. Why do entrees of chicken, rice and refried beans start at $12.95?

Is it me or do other foodies feel that many restaurants keep upping the prices and portions of just average or mediocre food? What happened to a good sausage gravy and homemade breads? My experiences the last year living here is that dining out prices are so high with so little value, I have little desire to leave my own kitchen or grill!

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  1. Breakfast/brunch is almost always overpriced and mediocre, best avoided unless you are really that hungover, doing it for social reasons that make it worthwhile, or going for pho.

    Just about nobody bakes their own bread.

    As for Mexican restaurants, there must just be a different economy here. Is WA minimum wage higher? Do tipped employees not get full minimum wage in TX as they do here? Certainly beans and rice and chicken should be cheap enough, but maybe there are specialty ingredients or spices that are more expensive 2000 miles from the border vs 200?

    2 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      Why are breakfast/brunch almost always overpriced and mediocre? Seasoning and quality ingredients can differentiate a restaurant and develop a loyal customer base. I have not found many restaurants that were good enough to return a second time. My discretionary income is too hard to come by to support mediocre establishments. It doesn't have to be that way. The diners in the NE are a great example of good eats and wages in New Jersey or New York would be on par to Seattle.
      You make a valid point about wages. Food Servers make an hourly wage of $2.75 in Texas and rely on their good service to generate tips.
      Breakfasts items such as eggs and potatoes and Mexican food ingredients are very low cost compared to other meals. I am not experiencing any seasonings here at all so that expense doesn't exist. I believe that large portions of mediocre food does not give any establishment a foundation to build on.

      1. re: Jpaul

        The majority of your rant concerns a single chain restaurant in Mukilteo (in the Snohomish County suburbs, not Seattle at all), so first, I don't think it's accurate or fair to accuse "Seattle restaurants" of mediocrity and poor value. I think Seattle is actually a great middle class restaurant town--we have so many high quality places, but our prices aren't nearly what they are in San Francisco, NYC, DC, Boston, etc. And I'm sure you can figure out why prices are higher in these kinds of cities, than in others. I travel quite a bit for work, mostly along the west coast, and don't find breakfast prices here any different than the rest of the coast.

        I notice your second post talks exclusively about diners. If this thread is really just a rant about diner breakfasts, rather than "Seattle restaurants" you might be better served by clarifying your post or starting a new thread.

        I don't think it's hard to figure out why Mexican food might be better and cheaper in TX. Cost of living, competition, larger Mexican population, what the market will bear, etc etc.

    2. Your post does sound like you are relying on chain restaurants - so the price differences may account for cost of living. Mediocrity as well - I mean, chain restaurants.

      Try getting out of you comfort zone and visit a taco truck - a ton of food, lots of flavor, and under $10. Sometimes, way under. Breakfast - try a local place. I have a few in Seattle proper that may cost close to $10 plus beverage, tax and tip, but I take half my food home! And even though these are large portions, the food is good enough to finish later.

      3 Replies
      1. re: tsquare

        Quite the contrary! I abhor large chains and appreciate independents for their local contribution. The local chain I referred to is limited to the Snohomish county area with only 4 or 5 restaurants all under one owner. Another experience was with a Lynnwood restaurant that specializes in serving only breakfast and lunch. I expect potatoes to be fresh, not frozen or dehydrated and steamed. These are certainly not at a level that relies on trucking in their products from one national vendor to be consistent. The comments are generated from my experience with the local restaurants of all types including Asian cuisine since arriving in the area 16 months ago. I have found few that merit a second visit for breakfast or lunch. The downtown Seattle area does have better food but there is no reason quality food isn't available outside the city! I have found some good dinners and expect to pay more as those entrees typically involve fish or beef, not eggs and potatoes. I have enjoyed the food trucks in Portland and Seattle but I am commenting today about restaurants not trucks. There are Very few to recommend including some highly touted on Yelp. I enjoy good quality food not volumes that require me to enjoy 2-3 meals! Fried eggs and potatoes do not reheat well.

        1. re: Jpaul

          Your examples of all of the bad brunches in "Seattle" comes down to two restaurants? Really? And those two are in the outer suburbs? While your have every right to your irritation, your statement is absolutely false. Look around, try crusing Yelp or talking to your friends and finding out about the good brunches around. Or, just trundle around the Pike Place Market one day, and drop into one of any number of excellent, hand-made brunches.

          Pike Place Market
          1501 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101

          1. re: Jpaul

            Which restaurants are you referring to? I'm guessing Patty's Eggnest and Local Yolk?

        2. I have to disagree. I've been plenty of small places for breakfast that don't charge $10 for bacon and eggs. Same thing with Mexican places.

          Our favorite local sausage gravy and bisquits is silver fork in Columbia city/South Seattle---house made bisquits with big bowl of gravy. 2 bisquits for $2.95...hmmmmmm come to think of it, I think its been toooo logn since we've been there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jenn

            Mmmm. Silver Fork. Not only do they do the biscuits and gravy (and country fried steak) very well, but they have, for my money, the best grits in town.

            The OP should also come on down to Columbia City for a plate of french toast at Geraldines Counter.

            Silver Fork
            3800 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118

          2. I don't go out for breakfast, so can't speak to that. We moved from D.C. recently and find that the restaurants here are consistently better and MUCH cheaper at all points along the spectrum. The default nice-dinner-out entree is about $18 here, $28 in D.C.

            1. I am going to have to at least partially agree with Jpaul...although I don't think the food in Seattle is anything like mediocre, it is very expensive (I'll hold off on saying overpriced...) and if someone is coming from Texas - as I did - I would agree, the price increase seems to be especially pronounced on two food items that are very, very cheap in Texas, Mexican food and breakfast. Actually, I'll add a third, Vietnamese food -- in Houston, no way you'd every pay $3-4 for a bahn mi or $7-8 for a bowl of Pho.

              But, you have to expect it -- it's simply a much more expensive place to live and to run a business. Our prices are comparable to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Chicago, and cheaper than NY or DC, and the quality is mostly pretty good.

              2 Replies
              1. re: pusherman

                If you omit high end dining I would say, in general, food is (much?) less expensive in Los Angeles than it is in Seattle.

                1. re: tykapfh

                  And LA is a thousand miles closer to the central valley, too.