HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Charge for still water and no bread [moved from Boston]

Should I be annoyed that Trade charged for still water and had no bread to wipe my plate clean? I asked for bread and I was told I could purchase flat bread. I passed on that politely. Then to my surprise I was charged for still water in a non commercial bottle.at a cost of 5$. I do not mind paying for still or with gas which are commercially sold, bot this was a reusable bottle filled with MWRA water. Shame on Jody for charging for water and bread. You I was at an extremely fine restaurant the evening before that did not charge for those items and in fact they gave ame a small taste of fortified Barolo with out me asking. I love Rialto , Jody 's other restaurant but I think the James Beard ward has gone to her head. Just asking if I am off base. Told the waiter and filled out a satisfaction card. Left my name

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We recently had a huge shock eating at restaurants in Vienna...they charge you a ~5 Euro pp "table" charge for the linens, bread, silverware, etc! While I"m sure most purveyors here also work that charge into my meal, I'd rather have it done that way rather than charge a flat fee for just sitting down.

    5 Replies
      1. re: Science Chick

        I've seen table charges before, I think in Osaka.

        1. re: Science Chick

          But you generally don't tip, then, correct? At least, not the 15-20% expected in the U.S. I haven't been to Vienna, but in Italy, you pay the "coperto" when you sit down, but the tip is minimal..

          1. re: Science Chick

            The cost of bread, linens etc is bulit into the entree price. I do agree, it's better to incorporate those charges into the menu pricing rather than having separate charges, it may also effect how one tips.

            1. re: Science Chick

              Restaurants in France and Italy serve plain bread because it's used to sop up the sauces and dressings that are typical of those cuisines. A morsel of bread is used almost as much as a a fork. With those dishes there is really no need for fancy breads or butter or dipping oil. Bread and still water are included in the modest cover charge, but one is not required to leave a tip. Isn't there also a service charge?

            2. Obviously ALL restaurants charge for water, and yes, for the right to sit at their tables and chairs and so forth. Most just don't see any need to make that explicit.

              But $5 for a tap water seems so ridiculous and out-of-the-ordinary that I'm questioning whether or not I'm getting the full story here. Can anyone else who has eaten at Trade confirm that they charge you $5 for tap water? I'm skeptical that this is true.

              1. I generally just indicate tap water is fine, versus still, to avoid any possible misconception that I am willing to pay for water. The restaurant could have had its own filter system or something of the sort, but personally, I trust MWRA water just fine. I would be very annoyed if you had to pay for any water at the table, even tap, though.

                I think today more and more bread is never guaranteed - depends on the taste of the restaurant. And a lot of bread gets wasted if they automatically give it out. Finally, why fill up a patron with zero margin bread versus having them order an appetizer.

                Scampo charges for bread, but its because they make all of it in house and have a tasty variety. I haven't been to Trade, but they several flatbreads on the menu which seem more pizza-ish than plain bread.

                But if I want bread with my meal, I know where to go.. at the Olive Garden, if I wanted to, I can eat an infinite amount of breadsticks.. now that's a deal.. infinite!
                .. .

                15 Replies
                1. re: grant.cook

                  Wait, aren't tap and still the same thing here? "Still" is opposed to "sparkling," not opposed to or different from "tap." OP seems to indicate that this was tap.

                  1. re: FinnFPM

                    Not necessarily.. they could have 5 gallon jugs of Poland Spring in the back that they use to fill their water containers. I ask for "tap" just to be clear that I don't want to pay for water. If you ask for "still," to me that opens the door for the restaurant to possibly charge you..

                    1. re: grant.cook

                      Hmm. You're probably right. OP does say that it was MWRA, but that could certainly be a false assumption. I do think there's reason to suspect the accuracy of a person who signs up for a message board solely to post a confusing, poorly-worded rant about feeling ripped off.

                      1. re: grant.cook

                        Fifty years ago I was reading an Archie Comic book. Archie takes Veronica out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. To stretch his funds, when asked by the waiter what he'd like to drink, Achie replied, I'll have a glass of water. The waiter replied "would you like the $1 glass or the $3 glass?'
                        Archie turns red in the face and sinks under the table.

                        Back then, The comic cost 12 cents, and a steak dinner was $4.95 in white linen restaurants.

                      2. re: FinnFPM

                        IMO "still" and "sparkling" can apply to bottled water.

                        Tap is tap. If it's not in a commercial bottle it's tap in my book.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          And as many who buy water forget, most commercially bottled water is tap water too.

                      3. re: grant.cook

                        For decades, American restaurants have provided bread at no charge. And all along, it has been common for European restaurants to charge a small fee for such things (but, as the earlier poster noted, the expectation is that the diner will tip less). It is a bit odd to make it sound like it is an unusual expectation to have "complimentary" bread at a finer restaurant. This isn't a question of going to the Olive Garden if you want such things. If the OP has given us all the details, it is a question of why a restaurant has suddenly decided to charge for something that it is unusual to charge for at American restaurants. I think that is a totally reasonable question.

                        1. re: hckybg

                          Yes, often they did.. and I don't think its unusual to expect it based on prior experience, but its becoming more usual for restaurants not to automatically provide you a basket of bland food-service rolls with your dinner, or to actually put some craft into preparation of their breads and charge for them.

                          The OP was annoyed that he didn't have a gravy-sopper and commented on the service attitude of the owner after winning her "ward" I think that's harsh for a practice that not unusual these days.

                          The only true requirement for a restaurant is that Mexican places must give me chips and salsa..

                          1. re: grant.cook

                            Some better Mexican places have stopped the free chips and salsa thing too.

                            1. re: DagingKuda

                              No free chips and salsa at La Verdad.

                            2. re: grant.cook

                              "its becoming more usual for restaurants not to automatically provide you a basket of bland food-service rolls with your dinner",

                              I don't recall getting bread like this in ...well, I can't recall.

                              " or to actually put some craft into preparation of their breads"

                              Yeah, this is what they do.

                              "and charge for them"

                              No, no, not where I eat.

                              1. re: FrankJBN

                                List 'em off then.. I am not saying no restaurants ever give away good bread - L'impasto in Cambridge does that very thing, and it gets baked into the price somewhere else. But that a restaurant is under less and less pressure to put a complimentary basket of bread in front of you as part pf service, especially if it means adding baking to its kitchen activities.

                                And it makes less and less sense economically and for a diner- "here's some food you might or might not eat, and if you don't, we chuck in a garbage can, and if you do eat it, will fill you up before the actual food we care about shows up.."

                                Do you ever eat Indian btw? That free bread concept never made it anywhere near the tandoor..

                                1. re: grant.cook

                                  Bondir has a very nice bread basket but do not charge for it. I guess I could see a place putting bread on the menu and charging if you order it--makes total sense. I'd be very miffed if a place put bread on the table and charged for it, or the same for water. But as others have pointed out, this post does seem a bit fishy so maybe we are all wasting our time on it.

                          2. Were I in the restaurant business I would charge a small amount for bread. It seems a shame to see so much get thrown out. The few places I have been that do this generally have very good bread.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: kengk

                              I believe both Catalyst and West Bridge have taken to providing bread free of charge, but only upon request. That to me seems like a good middle ground of eliminating waste while still providing the customer with a product that many expect to not have to pay for

                              1. re: mkfisher

                                I like places that ask if you want bread. In the olden days they'd just bring it. Now if you know you don't intend to eat a roll (though I'm often tempted) you can just pass on bread service altogether. And avoid throwing out all of that bread as it goes untouched.

                              2. re: kengk

                                Depends on the location, here in Florida with so many elderly retired people the free bread can make or break a place, they expect the bread to be free and fresh.

                                1. re: redfish62

                                  Perhaps.. the article I posted here speaking on this trend was from Tampa Bay.

                              3. I had brunch at Russell House a few weeks back and was pleased and surprised to be offered complimentary still OR fizzy water. Nice touch. If I restaurant asked me to pay for tap water I would refuse. Especially $5. That's robbery.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: katzzz

                                  Some restaurants have installed those systems that filter and gas their water on site. They usually give the still or sparkling water for free. Nice touch.

                                2. I never understood the sentiment that water (or bread) should be free when you eat out. I rarely order soft drinks or alcoholic beverages because I try to stay hydrated with water but I think water should be charged at the same price as a soft drink.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: olyolyy

                                    No restaurant with any class charges for tap water. All restaurants build labor costs into their pricing. It is common in Europe to pay a table charge, but wait staff are professionals and paid reasonably and tipping is minimal (rounding the bill up to the the next couple of euros is common but nothing like the 20% typical here). Many good restaurants pride themselves on their bread and butter or olive oil and I'm sure those costs are counted in pricing entrees, which is a pleasanter approach than charging for what seems standard generosity (the provision of bread and water). I would not return to a restaurant that charged me for tap water.

                                    1. re: teezeetoo

                                      Then don't plan on eating in any restaurant in Copenhagen.

                                    2. re: olyolyy

                                      I can see in California where the expectations re water shift. But here in the municipalities served by the Quabbin Reservoir (the Mass. Water Resource Authority, but some of us might refer to it as "The Mayor's Best", as it were...) high quality tap water is not a scarce item; we have abundant fresh water naturally and usage is way down from a generation ago, et cet. In Boston, for a fine dining establishment to charge for tap water is for a restaurant to sign its death warrant; it's really beyond the pale. Trade is getting a bad rep for gilding its lily; that may attract people in, say, the Hamptons, but not as much here.

                                    3. I guess when you are playing 10 to 14 $ for a small plate and the standard in the high restaurants is bread and water. Especially the night before I was in an equally regarded restaurant when they asked me if I wanted still or sparkling . I was not charged for still since it was in a pitcher. I guess I will ask if the still is on a bottle next time. With respect to bread I fully understand the issue with waste and have no problems asking for it but not to have it as an option is unusual . Hey I do go to restaurants for the bread but is nice to have it absorb the extras.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Exhossvmd

                                        Yes--I would expect to see the bottle. In fact, most places will say explicity "Tap, still, or sparkling" and if people order "still", they expect to see the Panna bottle (or whatever) come out.

                                      2. The new refillable bottles and water filtration/carbonation systems are becoming more common. I think the companies that sell the systems have been marketing hard in this area, touting the eco-friendly nature of thier product versus traditional bottled water.

                                        To be fair, there are costs to restaurants who use this product. There is installation, equipment to buy/rent. The restaurants that use them will likely have stopped offering the Pellegrino or Voss or whatever they used to offer and there would certainly be some revenue lost there from making the switch.

                                        But either way, I have seen this product offered at no cost and I have seen it offered at a cost in different places.

                                        When offered still or sparkling water, I recomend ordering "ice water" or "tap water, no ice" or even "Boston water is fine by me".... This way it is clear that you are not anticipating any charge for your water.

                                        I for one, would rather spend my money on food...

                                        1. The departed Locke Ober had a "bread charge" of 50 cents or a $1/pp. I never questioned it or aked for no bread...just seemed like a holdover from another time.

                                          OTOH..Trattoria Paninno in the NE charges for water (free bread, I think). I find it enough of a turnoff that I no longer eat there. Don't think this policy extends to other properties under the same mgmt.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: 9lives

                                            The no tap water policy at Il Paninno is ridiculous.

                                          2. You know, I can see the bread thing. But charging for water like that is just cheap and tacky. And, honestly, shows a lack of hospitality, I think. Here, welcome to our restaurant! Thank you for joining us this evening! Here is the list of things we'll be charging you for that you don't expect! Bah.

                                            1. They should offer branded still water or sparkling water as an understood charge, or house tap water for free. If they can't stand by their tap water, do you really want to eat the food they prepare with that tap water?

                                              1. I remember an old debate here, some notion that some MA law required restaurants to serve tap water free of charge. Never heard an authoritative answer either way. Were I a betting man, I'd guess no such law exists.

                                                I always thought Il Panino's practice of refusing to serve tap water, seling bottled only, was a little scummy, but there are many North End restaurants that employ worse clip-joint tactics, like charging for items not ordered, and pricing specials that aren't especially special at three times the price of entrees and not announcing the prices. (I make it a habit to always ask specials prices.)

                                                I rarely order bottled water, and don't recall ever being charged for Quabbin water at Trade, but I haven't been back in a while. I do appreciate places like Russell House Tavern that offer local still or sparkling filtered water by default, free of charge.


                                                1. My drink of choice 100% of the time is ice water with lemon. I have never once been charged for this although I would be willing to pay a charge ( not $5!!). I do know restaurants will charge if you want bottled water so maybe that's where the confusion lies.
                                                  Also..nothing in a restaurant is free. The cost of everything is built into the food cost and thus the cost of your meal. I rarely eat the bread in any restaurant ...with the exception of the Chateau. I suppose if I really liked the bread I wouldn't care about paying a little more for it.

                                                  1. I find the waste associated with bottled water abhorant. I order tap or iced on principal. I will pay for house filtered water. In this area they charge 1-2$ pp which I believe is reasonable especially when they refuse to serve other bottle water at 9$ etc. per bottle. I drink an obscene amount of water and feel like I have to curb my thirst when the head of a party orders bottled for the table.