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Serious question about what you expect for $100-$200 per person meals. I choke at $30

BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 16, 2011 05:15 AM

Not trying to stir the pot , so to speak, but what exactly do you expect for a meal that costs $100-$200 per person? The reason I ask is that I often see posts with titles like "Is it possible to get a good meal for $150 per person in XX city?" This is very foreign to me, as $150 (or less) is a months worth of groceries, or a weeks fuel tab to get to work and back. I make a decent wage, but I start to balk when a meal gets over $20. It may be because I am a frugal person by nature (that one meal could buy a months groceries), and partly due the fact that I feel that I will be disappointed in what I get for that price I( could have made it myself for less) etc. The most I have spent on a dinner was $75, and that was for two of us.

So my question to you is,, What would you expect for a meal that is in the $100-$200 per person range, and how often do you get a meal like this; daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or only on special occasions? I don't need to know how much you make, or what you do for a living, but I would expect that you would be making $100,000 on up, or possibly retired.

Just curious.

  1. a
    aynrandgirl Jan 9, 2012 10:40 AM

    I'm probably weird, but I just don't like the kind of food you get for these prices. The types and combinations of ingredients just don't agree with me, and I was never into food as art. Way too frou frou I guess.

    1. Chinon00 Dec 31, 2011 11:08 AM

      All this comes down to what you value. My dad would never consider spending that kind of money on a meal. He was on the otherhand an Eagles season ticket holder which costed him thousands a season.
      So back to your question when spending that amount or higher it isn't just about the food it's the service and atmosphere. The food should be amazing but you should also feel pampered, there should be minimal noise, attention to detail of how the food is presented on the plate as well as how it's placed on the table. You should feel like they are there to serve only you.

      1. h
        Harters Dec 8, 2011 10:58 AM

        Most we've ever paid, in 2010, was at the Fat Duck, in Bray, England - then the third best restaurant in the world according to the S. Pellegrino awards.

        Price per head was £180 (€211, $281). Plus, of course, drinks and service charge.

        Not a place to visit regularly but it was worth every penny. We'll spend around half that several times a year.

        1. f
          fourunder Dec 8, 2011 09:52 AM

          Serious question about what you expect for $100-$200 per person meals.
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Not to bring home any leftovers...

          1 Reply
          1. re: fourunder
            rworange Dec 8, 2011 12:28 PM

            You win with the best answer. Made me laugh.

            It might ALMOST be worth it to go to French Laundry again and ask to take come a course and see what happens.

            I see loosening my belt, sitting back and saying "Whew, I'm stuffed. Could you pack the cuisses de grenouille a la grenobloise to go?" (Country Bread Croutons, Cauliflower, Spanish Capers, and Brown Butter Emulsion ... emulsion ... that doesn't sound appetiing)

            Of course, they give you sweets to take home, but I don't think of those as leftovers, more as parting prizes.

          2. BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 21, 2011 08:38 PM

            Just wanted to say thank you again to all of you that have contributed to this thread. Many of you have taken a lot of time to post links, and write very thoughtful, and detailed responses. Through this exchange of opinions, I feel that I have received the answers to the question I was seeking.

            1. limster Nov 19, 2011 05:15 PM

              Preaching to the choir, but worth re-mentioning nevertheless:

              Price (or the chef's CV or ingredient pedigree or what the guidebook/newspaper said or myriad other factors), are not substitutes for experiencing the food, thinking critically about it, and being honest to oneself about whether one enjoyed it or not.

              That means not just thinking about whether the $100 meal was great, but also considering whether can one get equal or more greatness at $50 or $10. Value is important. An extreme but real example: same wine, different mark-up, might mean a difference in $100s or $1000s for the price of the meal (and in the real life example, the place with the lower markup happened to have better cellaring, wine service and stemware).

              And the best way to find the equally great or even greater places that somehow also happen to cost less, is by hunting it out on one's own (or with the help of thousands of savvy chowhounds). These places are often not written in the media, or if they are, often haven't been described at depth or with real insight.

              1. b
                Bkeats Nov 18, 2011 02:19 PM

                Read everything and I think all the responses are great. I just want to add my 2 cents. As many have noted, spending $100 to $200 per person on a meal is a function of location. In some places its impossible to do that and in others its way too easy. That said I think there is a large difference in expectations between the low of $100 and the high of $200 per person. Here in NYC, a $100 bucks pp isn’t necessarily a special dinner. The wife and I probably do that 2-4 times a month. It can easily be done at some of the nicer neighbourhood places just a few blocks away. You order a cocktail at $10 each, salads/apps are anywhere from $10-20, mains are $20-$40, split a dessert at $10, throw in a bottle of wine for $40, add tax and tip and there you are. Expecting nothing extraordinary but a well executed tasty meal with good service. Nothing special, just a pleasant evening out. Once you hit $200 pp, even in NYC the expectations rise. Elegant surroundings, usually a tasting menu at $100 or $125 or so pp, add a nicer bottle of wine for $100 (you can really blow the budget by starting with sparkling or a white then moving to a red with the main). The meal is paced over 3-4 hours starting with several amuses and ending with petite fours. You leave feeling relaxed and pampered. Or at least I expect to.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Bkeats
                  gaffk Nov 18, 2011 04:11 PM

                  I think that's it. I've been trying to formulate a response, but yours says it--it starts with an amuse, ends with a small sweet, takes several hours and leaves you relaxed and feeling pampered.

                  I would also add that, when you get to the $200 range, the food should be a revelation. As in, "I always thought I hated rabbit until I tasted this." And the sommelier should be able to steer a not-so-knowledgeable-about-wine person like me to the perfect pairings.

                  1. re: gaffk
                    EWSflash Nov 18, 2011 07:24 PM

                    "I would also add that, when you get to the $200 range, the food should be a revelation."

                    Yeah, that's how I feel. Any more and I should also feel like... oh never mind.

                    1. re: EWSflash
                      gaffk Nov 19, 2011 04:15 PM

                      I know where you're going ;)

                2. babette feasts Nov 18, 2011 12:38 PM

                  Some good points in here, about how quickly alcohol adds up, and that some people are going to see the experience as worth it and others see it as just another plate of food. And expecting the best ingredients. No matter what you're paying, there is still a 300% mark-up on the cost of the ingredients. Food cost in restaurants typically averages around 30%, and if chefs can get that lower they are happy. If you are paying $10 for a chicken dinner, you are most likely getting the cheapest possibly factory farm antibiotic fed caged all its life chicken. If you are paying $100 for a chicken dinner, it is probably organic and free range, with imported black truffles (around $600 a pound) sliced and tucked under the skin. Some foods are just expensive. There is no cheap foie gras. B grade is a little less than A grade, but I think A runs around $45 a pound, which is why your 2 ounce seared foie gras appetizer is going to run you $17 to $20some. If you see foie gras as cruel or disgusting or pointless and have no desire to eat it, of course the price seems ridiculous. Local grass fed beef costs more than Cargill. If the dessert has Valrhona chocolate which costs $12 a pound wholesale, it's going to be $9 or more. If they use Callebaut, which is perfectly good and half the price, it might be $7. Having a pastry chef at all is an expensive commitment, so some places get frozen mass produced stuff and thaw it out and sell it for whatever makes sense to them. Etc, etc. To a large extent, you get what you pay for. The theater and service and atmosphere go a long way to creating the experience, but the ingredients themselves play a huge part in determining the price.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: babette feasts
                    b
                    betsydiver Dec 31, 2011 09:58 AM

                    I think it's worth it to remember the education and life experiences, training, mentoring, etc. that goes in to a great creative cooking mind, and other technique/skills that take an investment to aquire and perfect. this is also appreiated (or should be) in other professions,as well i.e. musicianship, teaching, on a high level... pastoring, (I know that there are some denominations that do not require an extended education, but I think our social discourse is enhanced when it is at least appreciated; enough of my rant!

                  2. i
                    INDIANRIVERFL Nov 18, 2011 06:27 AM

                    So to get back to the original post, what do I expect and how often.

                    I was fortunate to live in Europe for quite a while and averaged 3 meals a month in your price range. And having to drive to get to them. Brussels, Reims, Metz, Paris. I expected linen, at least silver plate, and crystal. I did not expect them to speak English, but did expect to be treated well. I wore out one tux and went to London for another. My white dinner jacket was for more festive times, such as the casino at Bad Homburg where I was a member.

                    For me it was always an occasion and sometimes a date. I wanted to experience foods I would not make at home, and exotic(to me) methods and ingredients. I also wanted to leave pleasently full. The minceuer trend was a big bust for me.

                    So now I am in the culinary wasteland of central Florida. I haven't had a meal like that here in 5 years. And I had to go to Tampa to get it. I can spend that much here, but it would pale in quality to any major metropolitan area here in the States. I've tried them. Even the food trucks are mediocre. I save my culinary extravaganzas for when I visit family in Milwaukee. And take a mini vacation on my own.

                    Thank you Chowhound for leading me to Alinea, Hot Dougs, Harry Carey, and the pair of chicken restaurants south of Fort Smith Kansas. Plus a number of others.

                    And DaisyM, even with Alzheimer's, Mom still talks about the fois gras she had at my favorite place in Brussels. 27 years ago.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
                      d
                      DaisyM Nov 18, 2011 09:21 AM

                      Oh, wow isn't that just wonderful that your Mom remembers that meal in Brussels!!!

                    2. ipsedixit Nov 17, 2011 08:44 PM

                      This is the wrong question to ask.

                      It's not what you expect for $100-200 per person for a meal.

                      Rather, it's whether you are comfortable spending $100-200 (or whatever amount) for any meal.

                      If you are not, then your expectations are undoubtedly going to be so skewed such that the meal most likely will never live up to expectations.

                      Eating, esp. eating out, shouldn't be about the money, but about the food.

                      If you have to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the money, or justifying the bill at the end of meal, don't bother and save yourself the angst.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        d
                        DaisyM Nov 18, 2011 05:10 AM

                        I had wanted to go to the Inn at Little Washington for a long time. The opportunity arose and it was a very memorable evening. After we went I came across a blog and the author said that she had saved up to take her father there for his birthday. He was reluctant to allow her to spend so much money, but she insisted. Years later, he was on his death bed and one of the last things he said to her was "do you remember the Inn at Little Washington?"

                        1. re: DaisyM
                          c
                          cleobeach Nov 18, 2011 09:58 AM

                          That makes me teary.

                          I think another element of this discussion could be are you more likely to spend money on experiences or things?

                      2. sockii Nov 17, 2011 03:33 PM

                        It's very, very, very rare I've spent more than $100 per person on a meal. In fact I can think of precisely 2 times in the past that I have, and that was for a chef-prepared meal in his own private kitchen, an all-evening affair that lasted for more than 6 courses and featured truly extraordinary food, unusual ingredients, and preparation techniques I can't imitate at home.

                        I've spent more in the $70-80 range a person in restaurants, but most often when traveling and on vacation and wanting to really indulge in local cooking specialties and ingredients. When I travel to Italy, for instance, with my partner we dine "all out" with multi-course meals and good wine, although we don't have to go to the fanciest restaurants in town. We just want good local fare and will splurge on the specialties to try as much as we can when traveling.

                        Otherwise, we might go out a few times a year near home for such indulgences, but only for special occasions like birthdays or big celebrations. I love to cook at home and generally prefer the comfort of eating at home, enjoying a good bottle of wine I haven't paid a massive mark-up on before I even know if I'll like it or not.

                        1. invinotheresverde Nov 17, 2011 12:01 PM

                          Before we had the little stunner in my avatar, we'd eat lavish ($300+ per couple) meals fairly often (at least once per month). We like great food and we like great booze. Dining out was our main hobby. I expected a friendly and efficient waiter, proper wine service and no glaring fuck ups with the food.

                          Now, on our much rarer nights out, we're much more likely to BYOB it. I've got a deep wine cellar and virtually no other time to drink any of it. Lowering the booze tab easily subtracts $100 each time and usually more. All i expect now is some peace and quiet. ;)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                            c
                            Cachetes Dec 8, 2011 10:36 AM

                            That *is* a little stunner in your avatar! Just wait until the kid begins to appreciate all of the great food you love - it's a whole new way to enjoy eating out.

                          2. a
                            antimony Nov 17, 2011 07:27 AM

                            From where you say you are -- halve the prices of NYC 'hounds before thinking about them. In Boston, a "regular" restaurant that isn't part of a chain with nationally-set prices will run you at least $20 each and often $30 easy unless you pick your items carefully. I'm talking your neighborhood Thai or Mexican or whatever joint. Groceries are pricier as well, though probably not quite a 2x markup.

                            That doesn't make them cheap, but it does make a difference -- your $75/two dinner would probably be $150/two in NYC, and then if both people added a cocktail and a glass of wine, you've hit $200 easily.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: antimony
                              d
                              DaisyM Nov 17, 2011 10:01 AM

                              Eleven Madison Park is in New York. Lunch is $75/person for 4 courses. A 4 course dinner is $125.

                              1. re: antimony
                                s
                                Steve Nov 17, 2011 11:39 AM

                                I just looked up the menu for Lao Sichuan in Brookline. Main dishes are about $12. Khao Sarn has main dishes for $13.25.

                                Or maybe these aren't 'regular' restaurants?

                                1. re: Steve
                                  a
                                  antimony Nov 18, 2011 08:29 AM

                                  I was including tax and tip in my per-person estimates -- perhaps not everyone was. A 12-dollar entree plus half of an 8-dollar app (or whatever) plus tax and tip is at least $20. Often $30. That's exactly what I meant by "regular" restaurants.

                                  When I'm in the midwest, I find similar restaurants have $8-9 entrees, $4-5 apps, etc. So maybe 2x was a little exaggerated -- but 1.5x wouldn't be.

                              2. BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 17, 2011 01:52 AM

                                Thank you all for responding so far. A point was brought up again, and again that I had not figured in to drive the cost up- drinks. I am not a wine drinker , even though I worked with wineries when I had my machine and fab shop years ago. If I do get an adult beverage it would be something like a margarita, or other mixed drink of some sort, as I also haven't found a beer I like either.

                                I also did not realize that these meals last upwards of 3 hours.

                                It sounds like the popular responses are ; special occasion, items too involved to cook at home, lavish service, and something in the way of interaction with the staff. Fair enough.

                                I can totally relate to priorities when spending. I have dropped a couple of grand on items that make some of my friends shake their heads.

                                I love food, and cooking, but other stuff can get priority fast if I feel it is worth it. In all honesty I probably get more enjoyment out of cooking something for friends then I do eating. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat , but when someone raves about something I made for them it makes me feel even better. Especially when I have had two avowed pumpkin pie haters tell me that my pumpkin pie was really good.

                                Being a mechanical type guy I have a Hobart 14" buffalo chopper, auto meat slicer, 12qt mixer, and some other items made by them. Stacks of cookbooks that are helping me learn more about different cuisines, and how to prepare them. I also have a full stock of smaller "home size" gear like a KA stand mixer, etc.. For me , the worst meals are the ones that I eat alone, which is more often than not. The most enjoyable meals are ones spent with my friends sharing a good time. Every year I treat myself to a good dinner , so i may have to look into upping my limit some for next year.

                                I am somewhat stuck with my commute at the moment, but I am working on starting another business to change that. I am also in the process of rebuilding the engine on my 98 Saturn SW2 to get my 40 mpg back. Got great service out of this car so far ; 293,000+ miles with maintenance being a radiator, front brake pads, a battery, and 3 sets of tires since April of 07 when I bought he car with 98K on the clock. Home prices are around 50% of what they were , and I really don't want to live in socially repressed Southern UT. Soooooo, that means driving 206 miles a day to work, and back every day.

                                Thank you again for the sincere responses so far.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR
                                  d
                                  DaisyM Nov 17, 2011 04:29 AM

                                  Biggun, thanks for asking a really great question....and not making those who answered feel defensive. I've never been particuarly materialistic, but as I'm getting older I'm much more interested in having experiences instead of getting another pair of shoes or a new car. Fortunately my husband feels the same way. Our holiday gift to each other will be lunch at Eleven Madison Park. My husband is a huge fan of duck and he won't know till we get there that I've ordered it for him. (You have to order it in advance) The lunch menu is $75. I'm sure the experience of being there will be fantastic, but anticipating it gives me a lot of happiness. Here's a blog on someone's meal there. http://thewanderingeater.com/2011/10/...

                                  1. re: DaisyM
                                    BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 17, 2011 08:28 PM

                                    Well DaisyM, I never meant to rile anyone up with this post, just get some responses to a nagging question that I have had for some time now. For me, the question of -- if a good meal could be had for $100+ per person seemed odd. I probably could afford to spend this on a meal, but I have chosen to spend my money on other things over the years. The term perceived value comes into play.

                                    I love food, BUT I choose to dine more conservatively. On the other hand I dropped $295 on the A-120 mixer, $360 on the meat slicer, $100 on the buffalo chopper, and more on other kitchen gear. My friends have asked how often I use them, and I respond that I don't use them every day, but when I do, I appreciate having them. It may be my rationalization that these items will give years of service, yet a dinner is but a few hours of enjoyment. Perceived value again. Same reason I don't buy flowers, and give plants instead. One lasts a short time, while the other can last much longer-as long as they have a green thumb = ) Yes, I have been called a cheapskate at times, but then I have had money available when my friends did not.

                                    I can also understand that the majority of the high end diners probably make way more than I do, and are better off financially than I am at this time. I am currently on a tighter budget than I was a few years ago with the house purchase, job relocation, etc. but I usually still find ways to get what I want.

                                    Thank you for participating in this thread, and have a wonderful lunch at Eleven Madison Park.

                                    1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR
                                      PhilD Nov 19, 2011 01:23 AM

                                      BGD - I have had quite a number of very expensive meals and don't regret any of them including the $500pp one in Singapore. I have abviously had lots of less expensive ones and th hit rate falls, and in the cheap category it gets very hit an miss.

                                      So what makes a meal worth second mortgage territory? Obviously as others have said the service, ingredients, ambiance and wine. But the important bit is the bit no home chef can recreate and that is the technique and genius. Top chefs that deliver top meals are artists who do things that can astound you in terms of taste and texture. They are virtuoso performances with enormous attention to detail. That's the magic a top meal provides and these things are not cheap because they take a lot of time and skill, thus the whole kitchen staff need to be good not just the one ith their name on the door. Often these restaurants average one chef per diner, plus all the FOH and general kitchen staff. Even on restaurant wages that is a lot of manpower to cover on your check.

                                      If you are truly into food then it is really worth saving for the experience. It will change your perception of what food can be, and it may really stimulate your imagination. Be warned though your expensive kitchen gadgets are mere cheap playthings compared to getting a Pacoject - now that is serious hardware..!

                                      And to add balance I like all types of food at all price points - lunch today was $10 for two at my local Vietnamese and it was perfect.

                                  2. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR
                                    rworange Nov 17, 2011 02:47 PM

                                    Yeah, booze will require a second mortgage for dinner ... if there was still such a thing as a second mortgage.

                                    Here's the menu for a sort of average upscale restaurant in SF ... Zuni ... it is a favorite of mine but there have been some things that ticked me off like the salad with pink apples for about $10 where there were exactly two slices of apple so thin you could see through it. Then there was the famous post a few years ago about the $8 peach dessert ... that was it ... a peach on a plate ... it rolled around. Turned out to be a few bucks less than that ... but still

                                    Zuni wine by the glass ($7.50 - $16 / cocktails $10.75 - $12.50)
                                    http://www.zunicafe.com/pdfs/zuni_winebytheglass.pdf

                                    Zuni wine by the bottle ($30 - $220)
                                    http://www.zunicafe.com/pdfs/zuni_wine_list.pdf

                                    Shelfish menu ... oysters, clams and such (.90 - $3.75 each oyster, etc)
                                    http://www.zunicafe.com/pdfs/zuni_oyster_menu.pdf

                                    Zuni dinner menu
                                    Appetizers ($6 - $16.50)
                                    Aperitifs ($7.25 - $8.75)
                                    Beer ($5 - $11)
                                    Other beverages ($1.25 - $5.50)
                                    Entrees ($27.50 - $48 ... good lord they are eating Oprah... wait ... that's Opah)
                                    http://www.zunicafe.com/pdfs/zuni_dinner_menu.pdf

                                    Dessert menu
                                    Dessert ($5.50 - $9.75)
                                    Dessert wine ($6.75 - $22.50)
                                    Digestives and liquor ($6 - $32)
                                    http://www.zunicafe.com/pdfs/zuni_des...

                                    Add to that taxes and tip.

                                    I like Zuni alot. However, if I'm going there for a meal it is likely I'd stick to a glass of wine, some oysters, entree and maybe, dessert ... but not often) My after dinner $$ gotcha is sometimes sauterne.

                                    It is my go to place for first time visitors out of town in which case maybe a cocktail, some oysters, an appetizer, the $48 roast chicken (serves 2-3), dessert, wine at least with the entree, maybe wine with the appetizers, and could maybe be an after dinner drink.

                                    So when people ask that question, it isn't food that is the issue. Even at Zuni with tax and tip that would run well under $100 pp.

                                    Oh yeah ... I know zilch about wine, so a restaurant of this caliber has better well know how to pair wine with food. Also, that $11.50 mojito better be using everything fresh squeezed and top grade alchohol ... hmmm ... I'm still settling back into SF prices ... $11.50 for a mojito ... yikes.

                                    BTW, Zuni is a much debated restaurant in SF. The nay crowd want complex dishes at that price point and not the simple prep here.

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 17, 2011 08:35 PM

                                      Thank you for taking the time to post this, it helps to see what the individual prices at a restaurant like this are.

                                      As to the $11.50 mojito. I have been a bit shocked at drink prices at the various Strip nightclubs. $12 for basically a shot of Bailey's was an eye opener. For a few dollars more I could have bought a bottle at Lee's Liquor. That is another thread entirely - prices of drinks when out on the town.

                                      1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR
                                        huiray Nov 18, 2011 09:57 AM

                                        To add on to rworange's point - as an additional example, one dinner at Naha [before they got their Michelin Star] in Chicago that I had comprised their foie gras app, with a double portion of foie gras (i was hankering for it) - 20+ x2 = 40++; a soup, another app (10-15 range) (I think; a salad, IIRC)(I was hungry) a selection from their lounge menu (short ribs lollipops - too fatty, too salty), an entree (30+ range); [complementary sherbet palate cleanser]; I asked the bartender [I sat at the bar] to complement my dishes with wine, his choice; no dessert, IIRC; coffee, tax, tip ... >$200 for one. So - stuff can add up, especially if you have more than just one glass of wine [although even here I don't recall the wine pairings being that much], and it doesn't even have to be at Eleven Madison Park.

                                        Then - there's the issue of paying for the ingredients/food itself (scarcity, exquisiteness, labor involved, etc) apart from the surroundings. Here's one thread you and rworange (and others, perhaps) might find interesting:
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/519768
                                        Note that there is little discussion about "service, white linens, obsequious waiters, decor", etc etc let alone any wine or alcohol [barely discussed].

                                        For that matter, any dish with truffles (the mushroom) or caviar (actual stuff) whether in the East or the West will raise your cost point appreciably. Etc etc.

                                  3. f
                                    FoodPopulist Nov 16, 2011 10:55 PM

                                    I have heard stories of Asian businessmen going to restaurants where they do not use their hands but are instead fed by their attractive female server, whose services they then engage for, ahem, after-dinner entertainment. Were I the sort who was interested in that form of entertainment, that's what I would expect from a $200 meal.

                                    Well, that or an endangered species tasting menu.

                                    1. t
                                      tastesgoodwhatisit Nov 16, 2011 09:23 PM

                                      I think it does help to think about it in terms of budget. If you're on a tight budget and $20 for a dinner out is a treat, then tripling that for a huge splurge is $60. If $60 a person is your baseline for a normal weekend dinner out, tripling that gets you a $180 splurge, which is inconceivable for the $20 a dinner person.

                                      Adding courses and alcohol also drives even a modestly priced meal up considerably too. $20 including tax and tip might get you a main course at a reasonable restaurant. If you go to that same restaurant, and add an appetizer and a dessert and a couple of alcoholic drinks, you can easily be pushing $50.

                                      Geography matters, too. I grew up in a town of about 70,000 people, and we didn't have $200 a meal restaurants in the first place. A place like New York has them by the dozens.

                                      In the $200 range I would expect excellent service, staff that is knowledgeable about the food and drinks, multiple courses paired with alcohol, and food of a type and quality I could not make myself, spread out over several hours.

                                      Mind you, I don't know this from personal experience. I think the most I've spent on a meal out is about $70 including tax, tip, and alcohol, and that's a fairly rare occurrence - maybe once a year. Currently I live in an area where eating out is quite cheap, but salaries tend to be lower, and would consider $30 a fancy meal out, and about $15 a standard, including a local beer.

                                      ...Out of curiosity, I did some calculations off of the Olive Garden web site, which is not exactly fine dining. Picking from the mid-price of the menu, and taking an appetizer, a garden salad, a main dish and desert, with half a bottle of mid-range wine and a cup of coffee, the pre-tax-and-tip total for one person was around $70. I suspect there's enough food volume there to feed a small African country, but from that you can see that if you start adding in the extras, it won't take too much to get to $200 for a meal, even at a not very fancy restaurant.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                        JReichert Dec 8, 2011 09:49 AM

                                        "I think it does help to think about it in terms of budget. If you're on a tight budget and $20 for a dinner out is a treat, then tripling that for a huge splurge is $60. If $60 a person is your baseline for a normal weekend dinner out, tripling that gets you a $180 splurge, which is inconceivable for the $20 a dinner person."

                                        Absolutely. Hubby and technically classify as poverty, so you can imagine how much that dictated our restaurant spending. We don't dine out anymore so we can control the quality of our food (no microwaves, margarine, dyes, sugars, etc. etc.)

                                        The most we ever spent on a meal was around $85 per person for our wedding night dinner in 2004. We went to Mackinac Island to get married, just the 2 of us, the priest, and a married couple we grabbed off the street to be our witnesses (the wife cried throughout our ceremony, I was touched!) We went to the Grand Hotel for dinner and it was absolutely magical. I'd never been somewhere so fancy - all the servers in coat tails, partridge for an appetizer, and the bread server had a gold crumb scraper.

                                        If you've never been to the Grand, I highly suggest you go. I think we'll go back for our 10th anniversary, we'll just start our dinner fund now. : )

                                      2. rworange Nov 16, 2011 09:13 PM

                                        I would rather spend $100 for a good meal than $20 to eat at a chain like Applebee's or Outbaack or ... pick your choice. The latter is a waste of money, calories and my life.

                                        I expect ingredients that aren't from Sysco. I expect a meal by a chef who cares about what is coming out of the kitchen not a corporate line cook. I don't need it to be amazing, but I do expect it to taste very good.

                                        I don't need razzle, dazzle cutting edge cuisine. I'm there to eat, not attend a culinary performance. II spend $100 happily at Chez Panisse where the prep is simple and straight forward, but the ingredients star.

                                        I don't want to eat at some upscale chain by star chefs such as Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, Bradley Ogden, Hubert Keller or even Thomas Keller.

                                        I don't need the dancing service ballet of French Laundry, but I expect pleasant service. I expect my server to be knowledgable about the menu. The food had better be pretty darn exceptional otherwise if there is inept service.

                                        I expect a comfortable restaurant appropriate to the price. In SF, I'm not a fan of Gary Danko because to me it so so dark and dreary. The guy likes black. I don't need to be dazzled by breathtaking decor since I can't eat decor and most of those places are trying to distract you from the food.

                                        It depends, as mentioned, where you live. In SF, entrees in upscale restaurants average $20. However, even then, I rarely spend more than $70 for a dinner with a drink.

                                        I just came back from a year in Guatemala where a 9 course tasting menu with wine and tip whas $45. At the best French restaurant in town, which could stand up to SF's best, the tab was usually under $20 with a drink.

                                        When people start talking over $100 per person, they usually mean it is going to include cocktails or wine and that is where the expense is.

                                        There are so many variables. How important is food to you? How big a family do you have?

                                        I was single most of my life, so even when I wasn't making $$$$ I enjoyed nice restaurans. Now I have a husband and three stepchildren so even the inexpensive restaurants make me gag when the check comes.

                                        I find a good percentage of upscale restaurants are not satisfying experiences. They are technically perfect but the food often lacks soul.

                                        The most I ever paid was $350 for lunch at French Laundry. It was a special event so to speak, with some of the money allocated for something else. I was glad I went to see what all the fuss was about, but I never felt the need to return.

                                        In Paris I once spent a few hundred dollars for a top starred Michelan restaurant. It was so perfect I can still taste some of those dishes today.

                                        I usually limit wine to a glass, so while I spend more than $20 more than once a month, but I'd say that the over $100 category doesn't happen more than 2 or three times a year and for a tasting menu. Over $200 ... twice in my life ... Paris and French Laundry.

                                        To paraphrase an old saying, if you have to think about the price, don't go.

                                        I find there is a 50/50 chance at that price point there is some disappointment. Some places just don't live up to expectations.

                                        A few years ago I went thru a period when I just got sick of upscale restaurants. It was the same menu tweaked. Everyone was serving huckleberries or skate or whatever the trend of the moment was.

                                        There is usually more honesty and flavor at the bottom of the restaurant pool. That $45 tasting menu in Antigua was great ... but been there did that. Should I ever go back, it wouldn't be the first place I'd go. The place I'd return to first was the place I ate the most ... a barely three table joint that served Middle Eastern/Dutch food and the tab never ran over $6 with ice cold beer.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: rworange
                                          s
                                          sandylc Nov 16, 2011 09:25 PM

                                          That was beautiful!

                                          1. re: sandylc
                                            BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 17, 2011 01:08 AM

                                            Thank you for the lengthy, and thought out response. I live outside of Las Vegas now, and grew up halfway between SF, and Sac CA. I am a single guy who has always liked to cook, and enjoys trying all types of food. I rarely get any alcoholic drinks when I dine out, and never got a taste for wine -- funny since I did a lot of work for small wineries in the Napa, Sonoma areas. Liquor is a different story ; ) I didn't realize that the drink part added that much to the price of the high end meal.

                                        2. JB BANNISTER Nov 16, 2011 07:07 PM

                                          BTW I am a fan of HOT DOUGS in Chicago. Total cost of a meal $9.50.

                                          1. JB BANNISTER Nov 16, 2011 07:05 PM

                                            When buying a high priced meal DON'T expect the best meal you have ever had but expect food you would never expect to fix yourself. Guy Savoy had a rack of veal I once paid $300+ a person to attend. Was it the best ever? NO, but I had oysters that I could not get in the US, more truffles than I ever imagined etc. At ALINEA it was $500 a person and was awesome but a once every 10 year meal. You don't have to eat like that often but it is nice to do on occasion as it will expand your knowledge of food.

                                            1. iluvcookies Nov 16, 2011 06:06 PM

                                              For me, a $100 per person dinner is a special occasion meal, maybe 2-3x per year (birthday, anniversary, vacation).
                                              I would expect the meal to be presented beautifully and present a flavor that is extremely exicting to my tastebuds.
                                              I would also expect to leave the restaurant full :)

                                              The rest of the year, DH and I got to holes-in-the-wall with great food (Chinatown, Mexican etc about $10/person), diners with great food ($18-25/person), Jewish Delis (like Katz's, $15-20/person if we split a sandwich and get a few sides and soda) and the occasional chain resto (usually Cheesecake Factory because that is my 5 year old nephew's favorite. Give him a break, he's only 5. He'll learn LOL)

                                              1. s
                                                sueatmo Nov 16, 2011 05:43 PM

                                                We don't dine that expensively very often, but when we do we want good service, knowledgeable wait staff and very good food. I want things that I don't cook at home, stuff that involves technique and/or unusual ingredients. Sometimes a good view is involved, or an unusual location. At that price--$100+--I have not been disappointed. At a lower price point, say $30-$50, I have. It isn't that you could produce the dinner for less, because of course often you could, at least in theory. But in a very nice place the courses come out in sequence, you get a chance to appreciate the food without having to get up and go fetch it, and there is often a bangup dessert to try at the end of the meal. Try eating at a very nice place for the next occasion in your life, and see if you don't enjoy it.

                                                1. q
                                                  Querencia Nov 16, 2011 05:23 PM

                                                  Have just read through this entire thread and was interested in the correlation of "meal was memorable" and "spent a fortune for it". Slob that I am, I think the most delicious and memorable substance that ever passed my lips was a spicy brown bean soup in a little greasy spoon dive in Amsterdam about forty years ago. Or maybe the perfect slice of quiche I bought at a bakery in the departure terminal of the Zurich airport maybe ten years ago---I ate it with a glass of delicious apfelsaft from a machine. I'm pretty sure that none of it cost $200. I stand with the original poster.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Querencia
                                                    r
                                                    ratgirlagogo Nov 16, 2011 06:19 PM

                                                    I still have dreams about a meal of fresh shrimp pan-fried in corn oil, salt, and pepper that I had in (unglamorous) Guaymas, Mexico about thirty years ago. When I say these shrimp were fresh, I mean that the fishermen carried them into the bar in a bucket still wearing their fishing boots and work clothes and handed them to the cook/owner who greeted them with a big laugh and some cold Tecates in cans. She could not have been friendlier or more welcoming despite my pathetic attempts to speak Spanish to her and served up two massive platefuls of shrimp with two cold beers for my boyfriend and me. We were charged about a dollar apiece.

                                                    So, we had fabulously freshly sourced ingredients perfectly cooked with extremely attentive service. For about a dollar. But I don't think I could have this experience again for any price, quite frankly. And if I had it on good authority that I could reproduce it for $100 a person - well, I'd have to save up for it, I don't think I'd really believe it - but boy would I be tempted to do it.

                                                    1. re: Querencia
                                                      e
                                                      escondido123 Nov 16, 2011 06:44 PM

                                                      I don't think anyone is saying you can't have a memorable meal for little money. The original poster asked what people expected if they spent that amount of money and people answered that question. I see no reason to belittle people who answered the question that was posted since none of them said they'd never had a memorable meal for less than $100. Oh, and if you have to buy a ticket and fly to where you have your memorable $1 meal, well then I'd say you have it add in the price of the ticket.

                                                      1. re: escondido123
                                                        r
                                                        ratgirlagogo Nov 18, 2011 06:46 PM

                                                        If this was directed at me, I'm sorry if I was unclear. I am far from belittling anyone for spending money on doing something they enjoy, and of course it is one of the fundamental Chowhound principles that good chow comes in many places, high, low, and in-between. As far as buying a plane ticket for the $1 meal - honey, I'd need more than a plane or bus ticket to re-experience that meal. I'd need a time machine. That was kind of my point. Of course I understand that what you get, in theory, from a really good high-end restaurant is a memorable meal that does not depend on serendipity. You pay the money because they are going to make damn sure you always have a memorable meal. I just wish I knew of a place that could reproduce that one (paging Dr. Who!).

                                                        1. re: ratgirlagogo
                                                          e
                                                          escondido123 Nov 18, 2011 08:51 PM

                                                          Everyone has those memorable moments, at least I hope they do, but the OP asked what people expected from a high end meal. There are sometimes correlations between money spent and experience received but I think we have all had experiences that cost close to nothing that are more than memorable in our minds. Unfortunately, until they create that time machine, I don't think they can be bought....though I understand there are certain drugs that do a pretty good job.

                                                    2. Miss Needle Nov 16, 2011 11:04 AM

                                                      Most of my meals are not in the $100-200 range. But every now and then I'll splurge because I enjoy it. But I also like my meals that are more in the $10-$20 range as well (which in my city is considered cheap eats/budget). I'm OK with the occasional splurge -- you may not, which is fine. Everybody's got their priorities. My dad will balk at spending $6 for a meal at a restaurant but has no problem spending over $3000 on a water filter. And I'd probably move before spending $150 weekly on commuting costs.

                                                      I think regionality plays a role. I'm lucky to live in a city where there are a lot of great restaurants. There's no way I can make some of the food as it would call for me giving up my job so I have time to source hard-to-find ingredients, spending 10 hours in a kitchen with the prep work, working on my kitchen skills, air-drying ducks in a backyard that I don't have, etc. I've cooked a few things from restaurant cookbooks like the French Laundry cookbook. But it never came out as well as the restaurant's version and I ended up being frustrated and achy from standing in the kitchen for hours and hours. And the cost savings was actually not that significant after I had to purchase the zillions of ingredients that needed to go into that three drops of reduced sauce. I realized it wasn't worth it, and that I'd rather go out for those types of meals.

                                                      But I get what you're trying to say. When I visit my mother-in-law (who lives in a very small town), I've had some pretty bad meals at some local restaurants where I now understand the allure of an Olive Garden.

                                                      17 Replies
                                                      1. re: Miss Needle
                                                        k
                                                        Klunco Nov 17, 2011 07:38 AM

                                                        I couldn't have said it better myself! For my birthday I always make a extended, coursed dinner for friends and I usually do more involved recipes. This year I spent five straight hours making a salad from the Alinea cookbook. Was it worth the time, expense, and work? Not really. If it had been one course at Alinea that I just ate without thinking about the work involved, it would have been spectacular. At very high price-points there is an incredible amount of work going into each plate, plus the cost of labor/ingredients. Now that having dozens of elements on a plate is popular and duos, trios, etc. of proteins, there is a lot of work to be done for each plate. Didn't El Bulli never make a profit?

                                                        I love to cook. I love the variety, and between my personal and professional cooking experience, I can cook many things well. But, like I always say to friends who are interested in learning to make a certain dish or sauce or product, "you can make almost anything at home," the question is, is the time/expense/labor worth it to you? And if you can't get raw buffalo milk, will you still be satisfied with your final product? That's where cooking is a balancing act. Homemade bread, to me, is worth making. I love great bread, it's always better hot and fresh, and what I make is better than 99% of the bakeries in town (and I'd have to drive far for that 1%), but there are lots of other things I've made once or twice that I've realized just aren't worth it. But homemade Xiao Long Bao, while I could learn to make, I have no interest in making because I can go pay $5 for 8 delicious, handmade ones in Chinatown and they taste even better because I wasn't on my feet for a couple hours trying to perfect my stock, homemade skins, and pork mixture and carefully steaming them. For someone else, it may be the inverse.

                                                        At this point in my life, the only meals I go out for anymore are dirt cheap, hole in the wall ethnic places that are under $10 a person (and I'm fortunate to live in a city where I can do this), or extremely high end places when I travel. When you add in a full meal (perhaps a split app, dessert, wine, possibly a coffee) even a modest place can get expensive, and the experience isn't worth it to me. I'd rather twice a year go to a place that is $200 a person, be completely wowed and have it be a special form of entertainment (like others would go to a sporting event or a concert). Value is in the eye of the beholder but I feel like it's been rare I haven't walked out of a very high end meal thinking that was worth every cent (although it happened once), whereas everything in the middle seems to me to be a ripoff (with occasional exceptions) and not worth its value.

                                                        1. re: Klunco
                                                          e
                                                          escondido123 Nov 17, 2011 09:32 AM

                                                          Your comment on a meal being a "special form of entertainment" is exactly how I feel about it. When I hear what people pay to go to a basketball game or concert, I am amazed. I rarely eat out just to fill my stomach, but will happily spend hours at a restaurant enjoying foods I can't/don't cook at home.

                                                          1. re: Klunco
                                                            babette feasts Nov 17, 2011 07:32 PM

                                                            Re: your last paragraph...I feel that way more and more. I'm totally willing to spend the money for an amazing meal (have been to el Bulli and French Laundry, hope to go to Alinea next year), but there are so many good but not amazing places where I end up thinking it was OK and fun but not really worth the $60 to $80 per person. Or that price and not even that great due to flaws in execution or service. I end up happier with pizza, tacos, or pho. Or sushi, but that's not cheap :)

                                                            1. re: babette feasts
                                                              EWSflash Nov 18, 2011 02:30 PM

                                                              Yes, I'm a rube, I admit, but if I went to el bulli or French Laundry, roughly how much would it cost two of us? I honestly have no idea. I know el bulli is closed now, BTW

                                                              1. re: EWSflash
                                                                pamf Nov 18, 2011 03:54 PM

                                                                There was this recent thread about Per Se, where the poster had a $1700 meal and wasn't happy.

                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8123...

                                                                1. re: pamf
                                                                  rworange Nov 18, 2011 07:07 PM

                                                                  Well, the unhappiness had more to do with service such as upselling the wine ... which I find inexcusable ... someone is spending over $1000, don't make them feel cheap.

                                                                  But the food wowed them.

                                                                  You know, IMO, the thing about these joints is I think people are afraid not to kneel in reverence. If you spend that much money and aren't bowled over you feel like a chump.

                                                                  I am not a FL/Per Se type of person. I don't like to study and deelpy ponder each bite. The Per Se thread writes of the salmon cornettes.

                                                                  "I’d somehow forgotten that there’s cream cheese at the bottom of the cone. This is everything I want a Philadelphia roll to be but never is. The best part is the oniony cone, thicker and crunchier than you’d expect."

                                                                  Well, those have been served since FL opened as well as Per Se. My thought was ... hmmm, just like Bugles stuffed with salmon and cream cheese.

                                                                  Yes, I can be declasse about food. Which is why I wrote a report that didn't genuflect. And that report is so true when I said the only thing I'd remember 10 years later ... and it almost is ... was the rabbit ... ok, I remember the bugles too.

                                                                  But it wasn't taste that got me ... as I wrote "The rack of rabbit was the smallest set of bones I’ve ever seen. Either this was baby rabbit, some exotic micro rabbit, or unborn rabbit. One would think that a mouse would have larger bones (uh, oh). As you can see, I obsessed with the look and content of the dish. The flavors did not jump, so to speak, out at me. "

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2482...

                                                                  it is not that I don't like that type of food at other restaurants, but I was not going to be intimidated by price or reputation but write what I really felt. And I never have been back or felt the need to.

                                                                  1. re: rworange
                                                                    EWSflash Nov 18, 2011 07:21 PM

                                                                    That's what I think has kept me from that kind of dining experience. What if I'm not completely blown away? I'm gonna be pissed off if I don't end up being as goofily blissful as Tony Bourdain was at French Laundry. I know he was plastered, but he was blissfully happy, whatever the reason. A micro-rabbit would give me pause, also. They couldn't afford regular sized ones for a $1k meal? For shame.

                                                                    1. re: EWSflash
                                                                      rworange Nov 19, 2011 07:47 AM

                                                                      >>> That's what I think has kept me from that kind of dining experience. What if I'm not completely blown away? I'm gonna be pissed off if I don't end up being as goofily blissful as Tony Bourdain was at French Laundry

                                                                      You have to look at the money you spend at these joints, like gambling in Vegas, mentally you have to think that you are throwing it away, but if you win it is a real rush.

                                                                      I don't think Bourdin being plastered really had anything to do with it. I think he was genuinely blissful.

                                                                      The dinner I went to was with Chowhounds, every single one of them are people whose taste I respect. They can heap the same praise on a taco as the FL. They all loved the lunch.

                                                                      The fun with me for that dinner was seeing what they got out of it and discussing the food. It wasn't snobby either. They genuinely enjoyed everthing and I loved listening to them to find out why.

                                                                      I liken it to truffles. I'm one of those people who can't taste truffles. It is like they aren't in a dish. So I couldn't pick up the same nuances that they did.

                                                                      I appreciate the craft and quality of what was going on in the kitchen. For me, it didn't translate to memorable flavor.

                                                                      PHILD further down in this thread has an excellent post about what makes these meals worth it.

                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8180...

                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                        s
                                                                        sisterfunkhaus Nov 19, 2011 09:35 AM

                                                                        I've been to incredibly high end places, but somehow, I get as much pleasure out of going to the amazing real taqueria at a gas station in town, or a local chef owned wood fired pizza place--I literally cherish each morsel of food I get from both of these places. I practically moan in pleasure because the food is done so perfectly that you can't get better anywhere. I could talk about the house made olive tapenade at the pizza place all day. We have several other local and inexpensive places we eat at that we feel the same way about.

                                                                        I don't think you have to spend a lot of money to get incredible tastes and well crafted food with nuances, etc...Do I love high end food that I can't get at other places? Sure, absolutely (I'm eating at one of these places in a couple of weeks.) But the stuff from the local cheap places is food I can't get anywhere else either. So, it's hard to say that they are some how inferior in a culinary sense. For me, high end food is about the experience. I love being able to eat a meal and spend 3 hours at a place with really attentive service and a spectacular atmosphere. But, I can discuss the nuances any well made food, cheap or expensive for extended periods of time.

                                                                        1. re: sisterfunkhaus
                                                                          rworange Nov 19, 2011 11:07 AM

                                                                          >>> I don't think you have to spend a lot of money to get incredible tastes and well crafted food with nuances, etc ... But the stuff from the local cheap places is food I can't get anywhere else either. So, it's hard to say that they are some how inferior in a culinary sense

                                                                          I agree with you and that is not what I was saying. I was saying that for some people it is more than the experience, it is the food.

                                                                          Here's two items from the current French Laundry menu

                                                                          SALAD OF BLACK MISSION FIGS
                                                                          Fennel Bulb, Piedmont Hazelnuts, Arugula
                                                                          and 100-Year Aged Balsamic Vinegar

                                                                          “S’MORES”
                                                                          Moulard Duck “Foie Gras en Terrine,” Graham Cracker, “Marshmallow,” Chestnuts, Oxalis and Sour Cherry-Cocoa Nib Purée

                                                                          Now some people will really pick up on that 100 year old vinegar and appreciate the nuance just as some people appreciate fine wine more than others.

                                                                          And that s'more dish not only takes a high degree of craft to put together, some people will appreciate each individual ingredient as well as the whole.

                                                                          On the other end of the spectrum some can't see the glory or magic in an amaing dish by an little recognized restaurnt in a strip mall. For them it is all experience and ingredients.

                                                                          You might enjoy this link

                                                                          Incredible Cookies from Lousy Ingredients and Pedestrian Recipe
                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/817542

                                                                    2. re: rworange
                                                                      s
                                                                      Steve Nov 19, 2011 04:47 AM

                                                                      "You know, IMO, the thing about these joints is I think people are afraid not to kneel in reverence."

                                                                      Jackie Mason has this joke about travel writing:

                                                                      "Nobody ever says, eh, I had to be a shmuck to go there."

                                                                    3. re: pamf
                                                                      EWSflash Nov 18, 2011 07:15 PM

                                                                      Haven't read it yet, but you have to wonder what they were looking for, or was the price a real sticking point?

                                                                      1. re: EWSflash
                                                                        rworange Nov 18, 2011 07:23 PM

                                                                        >>>Haven't read it yet, but you have to wonder what they were looking for, or was the price a real sticking point?

                                                                        It was a second vist, they ordered an extened tasting menu and didn't feel they got that much more or were appropirately treated at that price point.. Actually they got gyped out of the take home treats as well. The table next to them were from Europe and got more attention ... and that table sounded pretty obnoxious because when they took photos they didn't say "cheese" or "whiskey" they chimed "boobies"

                                                                        Seriously, at that price I would want those boobies next to me.

                                                                    4. re: EWSflash
                                                                      rworange Nov 18, 2011 06:43 PM

                                                                      With no wine it is $270 each. Tip is included. Here's the menu
                                                                      http://www.tkrg.org/upload/fl_menu.pdf

                                                                      It is an extra $100 for the extended tasting menu.

                                                                      El Bulli according to wiki was 250 eurros. THe restuarant lost money. It had 42 chefs.
                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ElBulli

                                                                      This blog writes "The tasting menu is 165€. Add wine, water, and coffee, and you're looking at roughly 220€ per guest -- a reasonable price compared to other three-star restaurants."

                                                                      http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2006/08/dinner_at_el_bulli.php

                                                                      This guy splurged on wine and the costs was 700 euros which he says was about $1000.
                                                                      http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2009/08...

                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                        EWSflash Nov 18, 2011 07:22 PM

                                                                        I appreciate the replies, it was about what I figured. :-)

                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                          e
                                                                          escondido123 Nov 18, 2011 08:45 PM

                                                                          If I read it properly, please tell me I didn't, the reviewer of the dinner described herself and her partner as to paraphrase "a budget conscious duo working to pay off their student loans." Or was it another duo who responded with their experience at the restaurant. I found the review--and the idea of her and everyone else in the restaurant snapping pics to post somewhere appalling--hard to get through once and would rather avoid doing it twice.

                                                                          1. re: escondido123
                                                                            rworange Nov 18, 2011 09:19 PM

                                                                            While they weren't in the 1%, they both had a taste for tasting menus ... "We spent a full $800 more than we have at places like Daniel, EMP, and Momofuku Ko. It was our second visit, and my birthday, and we actually felt like we weren’t treated as well as well this time despite letting them know this time before we even came in that we were going to spend $200 more per person on the extended tasting.

                                                                            And the extended tasting, by the way? It came out to about six extra courses, making each course more than $30 each. For two bites of short rib, two slivers of fish, and one fewer dessert than we had the time when it wasn’t my birthday. While I think Per Se’s regular tasting is well-priced at $295 per person including service, the extended tasting seems to be just for the expense account guy who doesn’t really care what he gets in return for a month’s rent."

                                                                2. e
                                                                  escondido123 Nov 16, 2011 08:52 AM

                                                                  If I'm going to spend a lot of money on a diner, it needs to be an event, not just a meal. Sure you can have a good inexpensive meal, but it won't be a memorable experience where you spend hours enjoying a beautiful setting, exceptional service and dishes you wouldn't/couldn't make at home. For me, it's also an occasion to dress up, have a martini and nice wine and spend a wonderful evening with my husband. It is truly not all about the food, though that plays an important role.

                                                                  1. p
                                                                    pine time Nov 16, 2011 08:19 AM

                                                                    The most we ever paid (in the U.S.) was about $350 for 2, but that included 1 1/2 bottles of wine and port afterwards. The food, while quite good, wasn't amazing, but the chef came out (it was our anniversary) and brought a couple of surprise tastes. What was memorable was the service--attentive but not intrusive, pianist asked for our music choice for the celebration ( we had only said something when making reservations), sommelier was stellar, etc, etc. Worth every penny, although I don't recall at all what I ate. Would do it again in a heartbeat. We now return there maybe twice a year (albeit with a less full wallet).

                                                                    1. f
                                                                      ferret Nov 16, 2011 07:16 AM

                                                                      It's a matter of what you enjoy. Some people think nothing of spending $100-$200 for concert seating or theater while others are puzzled by it. The restaurants that deserve (not "charge", because I've had my share of pricey meals that weren't worth it) $100 or more per person are usually guided by someone's unique vision and give you a new perspective on the food you're eating, be it in the combination of ingredients, the preparation or some indescribable factor that makes you recall the experience years later.
                                                                      I had a dinner at a long-closed restaurant in Chicago nearly 20 years ago that I laughingly describe as mac and cheese with fish sticks (it was also probably $25, in 1980's dollars). It was, however, a well crafted dish with really excellent ingredients that were - except for the fish, obviously - made fresh that day and executed perfectly. I think about it a lot and have been "chasing the dragon" ever since.

                                                                      It's really about what matters to you. We eat out several times a week and probably one of those meals - on the weekend - gets to the $50-$100 per person range. We live in Chicago, where great restaurants are on nearly every block (and we're heading back to Alinea soon, where $200 per person is the starting point).

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: ferret
                                                                        d
                                                                        DaisyM Nov 16, 2011 08:16 AM

                                                                        Many high end restaurants are open for lunch. It is a way to have a great dining experience at a more affordable price.

                                                                        1. re: DaisyM
                                                                          p
                                                                          PotatoPuff Nov 16, 2011 06:33 PM

                                                                          or restaurant week in nyc!

                                                                      2. Monica Nov 16, 2011 07:05 AM

                                                                        i don't know how it is possible to spend $20 for dinner at a restaurant. I'd like to know how you do it and I am serious!

                                                                        19 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Monica
                                                                          s
                                                                          Steve Nov 16, 2011 08:15 AM

                                                                          Order a plate of food form a modest restaurant that costs $15 or less. That and tax and tip will get you dinner for $20 or less.

                                                                          Go to a place that has counter service and you save the tip money.

                                                                          Go to a fancy restaurant and find the 'menu weakness'. The appetizer that is large enough to pass as a entree. This is getting harder to do, but I can still do it.

                                                                          Ok, so here is my favorite low cost example: a ginger salad and a bowl of rice from my favorite Burmese restaurant can leave me full and set me back about $5 for the food. The ginger salad is one of the best things you can eat on the planet, rich and intense. That plus tax and tip doesn't add up to much. I have enjoyed that meal much more than most very expensive ones, so it is a tough hurdle to get past.

                                                                          1. re: Steve
                                                                            Monica Nov 17, 2011 10:38 AM

                                                                            So no appetizer, no drinks, no dessert too? that sounds really depressing.
                                                                            Plus, where i am, it's really hard to find decent entree that's less than $20.
                                                                            even my local chinese restaurants are charging at least $16-$18 for an entree...

                                                                            1. re: Monica
                                                                              s
                                                                              Steve Nov 17, 2011 11:24 AM

                                                                              What is an appetizer anyway? If you are two people, split two dishes. One is your appetizer and the other your main course.

                                                                              At my local Bolivian fave, a saltena is $2.50 and I can get a steak a la pobre for about $12. There, I've splurged on an appetizer. The last time I went there with my two teenagers, we split two saltenas (5), two main courses (25) and a pitcher of mocochincho (8). With tax and tip that came out to less than $50 for three people.

                                                                              I don't say I eat that cheaply every time I go out to eat. But I do it often. Nothing depressing about it. That's already plenty of great food, and nobody would call me dainty to look at me.

                                                                              1. re: Monica
                                                                                m
                                                                                MiriamWoodstock Nov 17, 2011 11:25 AM

                                                                                To each his own. Here in NYC, there are tons of restaurants with inexpensive but delicious options. I personally find that an appetizer and a main, or a main and dessert, is more than I need in one meal. I don't feel deprived without them, I just feel too full with them.

                                                                                But, my experience in NYC is that so many people rely on restaurants for everyday meals that they don't necessarily want so many courses on a regular night out. The multi-course meal is for more special occasions when one is willing to loosen the belt a little. If someone doesn't eat out as much, I could understand why you'd want a little bit more indulgent an experience when you go out.

                                                                                1. re: MiriamWoodstock
                                                                                  Monica Nov 17, 2011 11:45 AM

                                                                                  We usually eat at home so yeah, if we do go out to eat, i want it to be a memorable one. but yeah, when i go out, i want it all, appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks.

                                                                                  and nobody is sharing my dessert and coffee.=p

                                                                                  i guess me and my friends' eating habits are different than you and other people here. I used to live in NYC and I don't remeber paying $20 for dinner..probably because we always ordered some kind of appetizers and drinks on top of entrees and oh, desserts.

                                                                                  1. re: Monica
                                                                                    m
                                                                                    MiriamWoodstock Nov 17, 2011 11:46 AM

                                                                                    EsPECially no sharing dessert :)

                                                                                2. re: Monica
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  sisterfunkhaus Nov 19, 2011 09:15 AM

                                                                                  Once we eat our main course, we don't have room for all of that stuff. We often even have entree leftovers to take home without getting any of that other stuff. It's not at all depressing. We will sometimes get an appetizer if the place has something we love, or a dessert if it is something spectacular (we stay away from sweets for the most part.) I might have a glass of wine or something on occasion (not a big drinker.) I can't imagine being able to go out and eat and appetizer, entree, dessert, and drinks, without completely gorging myself to the point of utter discomfort. When you talk about not being able to go out for less than $20, that is more because you like to order multiple courses. Many of us order what we can eat and do fine on that amount. There is no need to to talk about it being miserable or in trying to make others feel bad because they don't order one of everything. Many of us roll our eyes at people who feel the need to order all of that food, order the most expensive thing on the menu, etc..., but we don't come on here and make rude comments about it.

                                                                                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus
                                                                                    EWSflash Nov 19, 2011 01:15 PM

                                                                                    +1, sister

                                                                                    1. re: sisterfunkhaus
                                                                                      l
                                                                                      LeoLioness Dec 8, 2011 03:58 PM

                                                                                      At many places, the portion sizes are designed so that a customer can comfortably eat a first course, main, dessert and drink. It's not gorging. Large portions that necessitate a doggie bag isn't what fine dining is about.

                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness
                                                                                        huiray Dec 8, 2011 04:07 PM

                                                                                        I suspect sisterfunkhaus does not eat at such places. From her post it would seem probable that she eats at places where one does get large quantities of food for whatever type of course one orders and for very modest prices.

                                                                                        Perhaps she also has a slight figure, or a very small appetite whereas Monica might have a very healthy appetite? I've had exchanges with food bloggers before where they complain about the size of entrees in some mid-to-high level restaurants whereas I would be left starving if I ate only those entrees that the blogger could not finish. Well, guess what, the blogger was indeed of small stature with a very small appetite - while I am of a larger frame with a larger appetite - and even the blogger would admit that her husband ate more than she did while under her monitoring eyes.

                                                                                        1. re: huiray
                                                                                          m
                                                                                          mira_r Dec 8, 2011 04:25 PM

                                                                                          Possibly...but some people just have small appetites. I eat at fine dining restaurants often, and still can't finish 3 courses half the time. Of course, I'm then hungry 2 hours later - my eating pattern tends to be eat a little at a time but eat all the time. So when I've been to super-high end places with hours-long tasting menus (Alinea, for example), I'm OK because there's 4 hours to pace myself. At other places with standard 3 course option menus and 2 hour meals, I order a starter and a main but sometimes can't finish the main, and only get dessert if there's something amazing on the menu.

                                                                                          So a "typical" date night at a decently nice place would be maybe be $75-$100/person fo(2 $7-15 starters, 2 $25-45 entrees, possibly one dessert, maybe $30-$50 in wine between us, then 20% tip). For that, I'd expect attentive service, well-prepared, interesting food, and a good atmosphere. Once you get to $200/person, my standards go way up and it has to be a very memorable experience with food that is amazing, and superior service. UNLESS that day I decided to splurge on expensive wine at a place where I'd usually spend more like $75/person, in which case it's my choice for ordering a higher cost wine, and I wouldn't expect more from the restaurant.

                                                                                  2. re: Steve
                                                                                    The Chowhound Team Dec 8, 2011 04:50 PM

                                                                                    We've split off a discussion about how to make this ginger salad at home to the Home Cooking board, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8221... .

                                                                                  3. re: Monica
                                                                                    s
                                                                                    sandylc Nov 16, 2011 08:08 PM

                                                                                    The hole-in-the-wall or the bar with the grass-fed burgers, or the authentic taco joint, etc....?

                                                                                    1. re: sandylc
                                                                                      EWSflash Nov 18, 2011 02:24 PM

                                                                                      When we were on Maui we found that the food was really really pricey and pretty bad, too. I can live with one or the other but not both together. Not knowing anybody there to guide us to a restaurant that they honestly thought was great, as opposed to somebody shilling for a friend's crappy restaurant, we discovered mahi mahi was inexpensive and delicious and extremely fresh there. So we had mahi mahi tacos, grilled mahi mahi sandwiches, fried mahi mahi, it all was heavenly and I never got tired of it. Never felt deprived of anything, other than a good sushi bar, which I know were there but we never saw one. Dessert, fooey. The pineapples were perfect, even in March.

                                                                                    2. re: Monica
                                                                                      BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 17, 2011 12:49 AM

                                                                                      For me it is dine off the Strip in Las Vegas, or in the boonies like Mesquite on the way home from work. Last Friday I tried a Chinese place that I have driven past many times. Dinner, tea, and tip came to $20 . In Las Vegas there are tons of places to get a dinner at that price that are not hole in the walls. Hole in the walls are even less $. I am not a wine drinker, so that keeps my dinner price down. Mexican fare is usually the least expensive, and they are all over the place. Last steak I had in a restaurant was for my birthday last year, and that dinner was around $25 $30 IIRC, and it was a good meal.

                                                                                      1. re: Monica
                                                                                        m
                                                                                        MiriamWoodstock Nov 17, 2011 10:11 AM

                                                                                        We do it all the time. $10 entree + $6 drink. $15 entree. Add tax and tip, and you're all set. You won't get the luxe atmosphere and tablecloth for $20, perhaps, but you can eat tasty food.

                                                                                        1. re: Monica
                                                                                          s
                                                                                          sisterfunkhaus Nov 19, 2011 09:06 AM

                                                                                          Huh? We do it all of the time. My husband and I can go to a fabulous, artisan, locally owned pizza place with a fabulous atmosphere and get appetizers and share a good sized pizza for $30 between the two of us. We don't drink for the most part, maybe that is why?? Even sushi costs about $50 for the three of us when we take our daughter to one of the better sushi places in town. I get soup, occasionally some tempura vegetable, and we share a variety of sushi.

                                                                                          1. re: Monica
                                                                                            JReichert Dec 8, 2011 09:22 AM

                                                                                            I don't understand. My husband and I used to dine at Cracker Barrel, Papa Vino's, etc. for between $20-25 for the both of us. We still got a filling, tasty meal, enjoyed each other's company, and didn't spend a week's worh of gas money to do so. We only ate like that at MOST once a month.

                                                                                            1. re: Monica
                                                                                              Perilagu Khan Dec 8, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                                              Probably 40% of my restaurant dinners fall into this price range. They're good, too, although obviously nothing like The Sink, or whatever that place in Paris is. ;)

                                                                                            2. l
                                                                                              LeoLioness Nov 16, 2011 06:45 AM

                                                                                              It absolutely depends on the place and the kind of night I'm having. Mid-price food and a ton of cocktails/wine? I expect a solid, a la carte meal, interesting wine list, craft cocktails. A higher-end tasting menu and a more modest amount of wine? Then I expect more esoteric ingedients/technique. It also depends where I am. I live in a fairly expensive city. Certain neighborhoods have a higher overhead cost built into the price of the meal. I accept that by dining in these neighborhoods, it's often going to cost me more for the same type/quality of meal I may get in a lower-rent neighborhood. Generally, the average entree cost in the places I frequent are about $25.

                                                                                              Spending $100 on a meal for myself (including booze) is something I do fairly regularly, maybe a few times a month. Spending closer to $200 on a meal is a more special occasion for me, maybe 2-3 times a year. We also like to go out for cocktails and can easily rack up a $100 bar tab for two.

                                                                                              (I choked at your $150 per week fuel tab....my subway/bus pass is $59 per month and I take the occasional cab/Zipcar...everyone has their own places they drop some cash.)

                                                                                              1. w
                                                                                                wadejay26 Nov 16, 2011 06:44 AM

                                                                                                Only spend $$$$ for vacation meals or special occasions such as birthday. I expect and usually receive a meal that I will remember for years. It's all about the memories. I have eaten way more than my share of $20-$30 meals and very rarely remember them at all.
                                                                                                On a different note, if you are spending $150 a month on food and $600 a month on fuel to get to work, I think you should move closer to work. Just my opinion.

                                                                                                1. c
                                                                                                  cleobeach Nov 16, 2011 06:34 AM

                                                                                                  What would I expect? Food that I won't or can't cook at home. Staff that will give me good ideas on wine (again, I like something that I wouldn't have at home.) A lovely environment and great service.

                                                                                                  How often do we do it? Less than in prior years. The better my cooking skills become, the less we go out for big to-dos.

                                                                                                  A couple of years back, a very good client of my husband's company owned a restaurant where meals, with mid-list priced wine, ran $100-$150 per person and could easily go above $200 with higher priced wine and additional cocktails.

                                                                                                  Because of the business connection, we visited once every other month or so. The food and overall experiences were truly outstanding. A visit was an all night event. The wine steward liked to take us down in the cellar to show and discuss wine selections for our meal. He knew we weren't $200 a bottle wine drinkers ($50 was more our speed) but he loved wine so much, he seemed to relish the challenge of selecting something perfect for us. The restaurant changed hands and as is so often the case, the new owner changed it for the worse (and quickly went bankrupt) We have wonderful memories of those meals.

                                                                                                  On vacation it isn't unusual for us to spend $200 on dinner for three people because it is vacation, my time to take a break for my second full-time job of meal planning, shopping and cooking. It is also a time for us to eat and drink much more than we usually do, which drives up the price. I do a lot of research about the restaurants and we pick ones that specialize in local dishes.

                                                                                                  We do a $125-$150 lunch two or three times a year at one of our favorite places. It is relaxation and entertainment for us. I cringe at $30 to go to the movies but have no problem spending that + on a great lunch.

                                                                                                  1. goodhealthgourmet Nov 16, 2011 06:32 AM

                                                                                                    you also have to factor in location/region. $20 won't go nearly as far toward a high-end meal in cities like NYC, SF or Chicago as it might in other places.

                                                                                                    1. babette feasts Nov 16, 2011 06:28 AM

                                                                                                      Different strokes....150 a week on fuel for commuting? You must have a hell of a commute, I spend about 120 a month. So we all budget differently and have our priorities.

                                                                                                      What do I expect? Multiple courses, at least 5. Technical perfection with a high degree of creativity. Surprises and delights. Beautiful, complex dishes and impeccable service. Dishes that make me wonder how they did it or that introduce me to a new ingredient or combination. These days I might hope to have a very high end meal once a year. For me there are restaurants worth saving for and traveling to. They are not for everyone.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: babette feasts
                                                                                                        s
                                                                                                        sandylc Nov 16, 2011 08:02 PM

                                                                                                        Exactly. Plus, dishes that make me love foods that I normally wouldn't choose.

                                                                                                        1. re: babette feasts
                                                                                                          BIGGUNDOCTOR Nov 17, 2011 12:27 AM

                                                                                                          Yes, I do have a Hell of a commute, 206 miles round trip every day. Don't like it, but I have to follow the paycheck. When I get my Saturn back on the road it will be about $240-$300 a month for fuel. The wagon finally said it needed a rest at 293,000+ miles, so it is time to rebuild the engine, and get back to 40 mpg instead of what I am getting now.

                                                                                                        2. d
                                                                                                          DaisyM Nov 16, 2011 06:18 AM

                                                                                                          We dined at Le Cinq in Paris and I'd say it was about $200 a person. I was initially hesitant to spend so much, but my husband insisted we have the experience. And I can say without a doubt that experience was so amazing that we still talk about it years later. The food was so incredible that at one point I thought I was going to cry. The waitstaff pampered us like nothing we had ever experienced. They even had a bouquet of white flowers just because it was our anniversary. The meal lasted for about 3 hours and the chef kept sending out surprise courses. It was worth every penny for an experience that we'll remember the rest of our lives.

                                                                                                          I'd say it would be worth not going out to dinner for a year, to experience dining at Le Cinq.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: DaisyM
                                                                                                            g
                                                                                                            greenduck Nov 16, 2011 07:28 PM

                                                                                                            Wow.

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