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I always feel like I am getting ripped off at restaurants

It is not very often that I feel like I got my money's worth at restaurants...always feel like I gave a lot of money and didn't get that much in return. Am I the only one?

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  1. Are you ordering pasta pomodoro and coffee?

    1 Reply
    1. re: wattacetti

      Strangely one of the top ten dishes ever served to me was a pasta pomodoro in a Italian vineyard. They grew their own tomatoes and basil and made their own pasta. It was cooked on a outdoor veranda by the owners mother and when she combined this deceptively simple dish it was probably the most sublime combination of fresh flavors, oil and salt that I had tasted in a long while and it has stuck with me ever since. I would gladly have paid $25+ for that dish but I do understand your comment.

    2. Keep in mind that a restaurant's food cost is about 29% of your bill. You are paying for service, and someone's rent, away from your home. If you don't want the convenience of restaurants, stay home and save the 71 cents.

      11 Replies
        1. re: Veggo

          As Veggo points out, the rule-of-thumb, worldwide, is that food costs will be about one third of menu price (with another third being staff costs and the remainder the restaurant's gross profit).

          It is always something I have in mind when I see "cheap" restaurant food. Always makes me think what the quality must be like if it's only cost that much to buy.

          That said, value for money, or lack of it, can apply at any point on the range of restaurants from top to bottom. Perhaps oddly, I have never felt really ripped off at a high level, expensive restaurant - say Michelin starred place. But I have, on occasions, experienced poor value for money when I've only been paying a few pounds/euros/dollars.

          1. re: Harters

            I never do "the math," as I am not a restaurant owner, nor an accountant. I go for my "enjoyment level," and if that is high, then I am a happy camper.

            As you state, at the "top," I have had few meals, that did not live up to the bill - though there have been a very few exceptions.

            Now, I seldom will order something, that I can replicate at home - seldom a steakhouse, or "home cooking," but when I do not break from that, will usually be wow'ed by the food. If not, then I do not return.

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              " I seldom will order something thing, that I can replicate at home - seldom a steakhouse, ..."
              ==============================================
              I'm with you there, Bill - my exact sentiments.

              1. re: klyeoh

                Thank you for also pointing out a bad typo, on my part... [Grin]

                Hunt

              2. re: Bill Hunt

                "Now, I seldom will order something, that I can replicate at home"

                I have a similar rule of thumb - we go out to get something I can't or won't make at home.

                1. re: cleobeach

                  I agree with Bill Hunt and cleobeach. But I have loosen up on my SO. While I groan when he orders spaghetti with Mariana at an Italian restaurant, I wouldn't like him telling me what to eat either.

                  1. re: Crockett67

                    Once again, dining out should be enjoyable. I can make a great breakfast at home, I can make great pasta at home but having the option to order something that appeals to you at that very moment is what I enjoy about eating out - regardless of how simple or complicated the preparation.

                    1. re: ferret

                      That IS a good point.

                      Even with the recipe for Seasons' Lemon Ricotta Griddle Cakes, when in San Francisco, I order them for breakfast.

                      Sometimes, one just does not feel like cooking, or they are away.

                      Hunt

                    2. re: Crockett67

                      Good thing we are not married.
                      For eg. I get mad when the Ms. orders the same damn sea bream (denise), which is cooked the same way (broiled), EVERYWHERE in Israel; when a child wants spaghetti with tomato sauce in an excellent fancy French restaurant in Haifa (Hanamal 24).

                      1. re: Crockett67

                        There's a tongue-twister in there somewhere: "Mariana made marinara at a Miami marina while Martin got mad about mama's martinis and marinated more marlin."

              3. If you don't have an enjoyable experience then don't go. You shouldn't have anxiety over an experience that's supposed to decrease stress.

                I don't play accountant when I'm out for a meal. I'm either satisfied by the experience or I'm not. One of my most memorable meals was a fried perch with mac and cheese that I had about 20+years ago at a fairly high-end restaurant. It cost about 3 or 4 times as much as the similar dish at a diner but the ingredients were top-notch, all made from scratch (pasta included) and it reminded me how stellar the combination could be when executed so beautifully. Did I get fair value for my money? I walked away happy and I'm still chasing the dragon, but I've never been able to match that combination since.

                1. While I have occasionally felt a meal wasn't worth the price tag I can't say I ever felt "ripped off".

                  1. The only times I truly feel ripped off tend to center around "small plate" experiences. There are places that charge full entree prices (say, in the 20's) and you need three for a meal.

                    Other than that, it is what it is and I tend to feel pretty good about the transaction.

                    1. Nowadays, if you feel "ripped off" at a restaurant the problem is more "you" than the restaurant.

                      Between, Chowhound, Yelp, Urbanspoon, food bloggers, online menus, and the Internet in general, if you don't know the general parameters (food, portions, price) going in, then the only person you should blame is yourself.

                      27 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I want to do more than hit "recommend." There's so much info out there that I feel *I'm* at fault if I'm let down. Tonight was a perfect example. We're in Seattle and I've read here for a couple of years about a particular place. Sometimes I worry that I've set my expectations too high. Not so. So I guess I'd say do your research, understand that any place or dish can be off but otherwise go for it.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          "Expectations" can be tough, but we face those, and quite often. I want the best, and usually am blessed to experience that.

                          It just depends on the restaurant, the night, and my tastes.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            I think you hit the nail on the head. Case in point, Cafe Fresco in Harrisburg. We had been wanting to try it and had never gotten around to it. I was expecting it to be poorly executed and the prices are fine dining prices for the area. I was pleasantly surprised and although we spent more than we had wanted most of our bill was alcohol of which we typically don't drink much.

                            However my fiancé had very high expectations and was disappointed in the experience for the price. He said he would prefer not to return. I'm hoping I can change his mind because I would rather not miss out on some of these items which are unique to the area (upscale Asian inspired modern American serving both small plates and entrees).

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          Well said, ipsedixit. With the amount of information available at the push of a button these days, one is *always* able to make an informed decision. Gone are the days when we walk into a "new" (to ourselves) restaurant not knowing what to expect.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            I would agree with that most of the time in larger towns but we are in smaller towns often and have to resort to asking around and looking for a full parking lot. Often people will recommend a chain. Sometimes it is even the best choice.
                            We try to leave feedback as much as possible when we find something good.

                            1. re: wekick

                              Once, a "full parking lot," might have been a good barometer, but I have not seen such, in decades. Some of the worst food, and service, have been at locations, with full parking lots. I feel that a majority of folk, just do not know good food - they want quantity, and could care less about quality.

                              In Metaire, LA, one "famous" restaurant always had tons of patrons, but their food was mediocre, at best - but the portions were very large, and especially the French Fries, and Hush Puppies - the rest? Not so good, but many just wanted a ton of food, to take home and feed the entire neighborhood for a week. So be it.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Re your first paragraph, Bill, that's a good point. We have a favorite Chinese restaurant in Reno, right up there with the best that SF can offer. The parking lot is full but it's for the regional chain, Black Bear Diner, which honestly has good breakfast, can't speak to the rest of the menu. But I want to flag people down and say "hey, come over here" :)

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  When a restaurant has a great menu, regardless of the theme, I say - Dine there, and enjoy.

                                  Been a bit, since we were in Reno, so am not familiar with the dining scene there now. Still, if it's good, then I would support them constantly.

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    We've been pretty blown away the last couple of years with how the dining options in Reno have SO improved. If you'd told me ten years ago,....

                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Just as there are extremely popular, always-full restaurants which serve mediocre food (and I've come across more of these than I'd have liked), there are also restaurants which served great food but remained strangely empty, e.g.
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/26030

                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                    Quality of food more often than not has little bearing on how popular a restaurant is, or will be.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Sad but true, which is why many talented owner-chefs go bust, whilst PR-savvy restaurateurs and those who know how to create hype do well even when dishing out mediocre fare.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I don't believe it's "more often than not."

                                      2. re: klyeoh

                                        Yes, that can happen too.

                                        In the Deep South, it is not all that often about the quality about the food, but the portions. Personally, I do not dine for "leftovers," and am not feeding my neighborhood many meals. I dine for myself (and that my wife), and care only about the enjoyment level, and usually hope that the portions are small enough, so as to NOT leave anything, after we dine.

                                        Hunt

                                        1. re: klyeoh

                                          This is the definition of dining in our area. Top locations are mediocre at best. Chains are super packed as well. Some fine dining has made a name for themselves and are also busy.

                                          1. re: melpy

                                            Interesting to see that our boonie town seems to have a better restaurant scene than Harrisburg :-)

                                            Of course, this is a development that only took place in the last two decades or so....

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Harrisburg is a bankrupt disaster.

                                        2. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Yes but this is a small town. If you have a choice, there are two places, one with a full lot and one a few cars. You gotta go on something.
                                          One of my favorite places ever was found this way. A "buffet" with pan fried chicken, veggies from the garden and everything from scratch. All ridiculously cheap. The buttermilk pie was perfection- perfect crust, fresh and an unusual type.

                                          1. re: wekick

                                            If I only had two choices, then I would go with the good one.

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              You have to guess if you can't read anything on line. I suppose everybody has their way of doing that. What is yours?

                                              1. re: wekick

                                                Given two choices only, then I would eschew the reviews, and go for the better of the two - I would not care what others thought, but only what I thought.

                                                Hunt

                                                  1. re: wekick

                                                    With two restaurants, I would dine at each, then choose the best. Unlike NYC, where there are thousands, you have but two choices - reviews or not. Go for the good one.

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Interesting method. We generally only have room to eat one meal at a time and are then moving on down the road. Because we travel a lot on business, we also usually have time constraints as well and can't spend time eating two meals. Each to his own though.

                                                      1. re: wekick

                                                        If one has a time constraint (something that I know well), then I would check out CH, or similar, and if that does not work, just flip a coin. With only two restaurants, the odds are 50-50.

                                                        Hunt

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Great points.

                                        It all depends on what an individual diner wants, and expects.

                                        Hunt

                                      2. i feel that way about 1/2 of 1% of the time (i.e. 50 basis points).

                                        the other 99.5% of the time i feel like i'm getting a fine deal.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          Nice comparison, as the muni bond market tanks in multiples of basis points. I'll take my BLT and go to the house!

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            Since my financial investments are seldom predicated on the cost of food to a restaurant, and then their charges, I do not look as closely, as I probably should - how is gold doing on that day?

                                            Hunt

                                        2. Either you are choosing the wrong restaurant (i would feel ripped off at olive garden no matter what my bill was) or not understanding the whole experience of restaurant dining- you are paying for much more than just the food as previously mentioned.
                                          Perhaps focusing on small local hole in the wall places, or unique ethnic eats would be more your style.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                            Ditto feeling ripped off at the OG!

                                            Doesn't matter the price point, I can feel ripped off if something doesn't match up.

                                          2. Around here I don't feel ripped off because we don't really go out to eat unless it is a sandwich for lunch. The established restaurants are red-sauce joints that I can replicate. The new ones are attempts at I have no idea other than really high prices. We avoid all of them and venture out to a restaurant or diner occasionally for breakfast for a roast beef club for lunch. NOTHING around here is worth much money at all.

                                            We went to Vegas for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the meals that we had. The price was higher than normal for this area but we had a lot of delicious food as a result. I hated almost everything about Vegas except the food. I want to go back for some more of the food! We were happy to spend every penny for what we ate.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Njchicaa

                                              Ah, LV. I will ONLY go, if I get to pick a restaurant for two nights. If wife has working dinners, then I stay home.

                                              OTOH, we have had some marvelous meals there, and one chef (Michelin starred) has produced one of the top-five greatest meals, though it did cost a bit. That has risen to the upper-list for me, and many others fall, by the wayside, based on those meals. Some others - very good, but not rising to the challenge, or the price.

                                              It just depends.

                                              Hunt

                                            2. I don't usually feel ripped off by food in restaurants. If there is something I'm really in the mood for, sometimes its cheaper to go out to eat to get it instead of buying all the ingredients to make it at home.

                                              However, I hate ordering cocktails at restaurants. I could buy the whole bottle for what I pay for two drinks, and they only pour like an ounce of liquor in them.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Atomic76

                                                I agree with cocktails/wine. At this point, if I'm going to go to restaurant for a great meal, I'd rather do moderate alcohol consumption - and if I want to do a meal around wine or drinks, I'd just rather do that at home. I recently hosted a bachelorette dinner for a friend at my place - we got all of the food take away, but then made our own cocktails, bought bottles of wine, and it was dramatically cheaper and just made more sense for the occasion.

                                                The only other time I feel ripped off, is if I'm out with friends, we decide to split a few dishes between us, and someone insists on a dish that I feel "isn't worth it" at a restaurant. I think everyone's list of what those dishes are is different, but there are also a whole lot of dishes I just never want to bother making at home and am thrilled to eat out.

                                              2. The only part about dining out that makes me feel like I got ripped off is for wine. The markup on wine is substantial, and I don't feel that it's justified most of the time. Then again, I'm not a oenophile by any stretch, so it may be that I do not place enough importance on the wine component of the overall restaurant experience to appreciate the added value.

                                                There are times after a meal out that I think, "Eh, I could have done better at home," but that's not the same as feeling ripped off.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                  There's always been something about eating a meal with strangers on all sides that un-nerves me.
                                                  Call me strange.
                                                  Laying down a lot of money for food I can make for a fraction of the price and paying a 'premium' for a glass or two of average wine also un-nerves me.
                                                  I don't get it.
                                                  Pretending that the wait staff aren't just a few college kids who have to get dressed up in 'monkey suits' and nod and smile and 'cow-tow for my tip un-nerves me.
                                                  The idea that a stranger may have sneezed on my food sends shivers.
                                                  There are some excellent small 'Ma and Pa' Italian/French/Greek/Asian/Mexican/etc restaurants where excellent food and genuinely warm/caring service is always on offer. IMO stick to them and forget the 'chains'.

                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                    When dining out, we usually go with the "Chef's Tasting Menu," and then ask for the "Sommelier's Pairings" to match. When done well, that is great.

                                                    As I have maybe 9K bottles of wine, I have a lot back home, BUT if the sommelier can take me on a "journey," then I do not try and do the math. It is all about my enjoyment.

                                                    Hunt

                                                  2. Just when I order alcohol and/or dessert.

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                      I don't feel cheated when I order wine out. The markup is generally 2.5 to 3x and they have plenty of costs associated with that bottle. Last night I paid $8 for a relatively modest serving of dessert but it was amazing. I totally got what I paid for. At the same meal, we had five dishes (small plates size) for about $50. A couple of them I couldn't have made either for skill or ingredients. A couple more I could have made but so what? It was a special evening out. And if *I* had made all those things I'd have been frazzled instead of delightfully taking each bite :)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        I like wine and I do truly believe that wine makes many a meal better. However, when I eat out, I am unlikely to use that as an opportunity to try more expensive wines that I might otherwise be interested in trying. I am also more likely on average to drink less than at a meal at home.

                                                        Most restaurant meals I seek out involve skill or ingredients I lack. However, for all wine in my price range - there's no restaurant able to obtain a bottle that I can't get at a wine shop. For trying more expensive/interesting wine - I'd rather do that at a meal at home than paying the mark up.

                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                          That sounds good, mostly, for me. OTOH, I want wines that I do not own, and might not have thought to pair with the dishes. A good sommelier should be able to do that for me.

                                                          Hunt

                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                            I believe this is where our differences in what we can pay at a meal comes out :)

                                                            One day I can definitely see the point of being able to work with a sommelier for a great pairing - but at this point in life that's not in the cards for me.

                                                            1. re: cresyd

                                                              I do consider myself fortunate, in that respect. I am always in the "market" for new pairings, new wines, new regions, new varietals, heck, everything. That is one big reason that I love a good "Sommelier's Pairing." The other biggie is that they *should* know the kitchen, and the dishes, plus their wine cellar.

                                                              I know many folk, who will ONLY drink wines that they know and have enjoyed before. I only use that as a "fall-back," when I am hosting, and there is no "wine pairing" available. Then, I WILL go with something, with which I am familiar with. Still, that is not where I usually find myself.

                                                              As I am from the US, and as we do not get a lot of the wines of Australia, Tasmania or New Zealand, when I found myself in Sydney, usually doing a Chef's Tasting, I turned our sommeliers lose, and only asked that they pair with "local wines." All but one was highly enthusiastic, and all of those, stated that they had never been instructed to do that. We enjoyed, they enjoyed, and I got to drink a lot of wines, that I will never see "State-side." Again, I want to "go on a wine trip," whenever I dine out.

                                                              Hunt

                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                That is a case where I definitely see a wonderful appeal.

                                                                I'm at a stage in life where I'd call myself a "scattershot wine enthusiast". There's a wine store I like that has one of those "buy 3 for X", so it's a great way for me to try new bottles. But it's definitely not a focused way of learning. Great enthusiasm, less knowledge - but something to perhaps look forward to later in life.

                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                  When eating out abroad, we find it is always a good idea to ask for the local Wine ( or Beer for that matter). It is usually a good fit when one is eating the local dish.

                                                                  1. re: RUK

                                                                    Recently, we were in Sydney, Australia. While doing "fine-dinging" each night, we turned our sommeliers loose - as we WERE in Australia, we wanted Australian, New Zealand, or Tasmanian wines, in their pairings. All but one were intrigued by that prospect, and accommodated us 100%. One, however, told us that he would not change his pairings, regardless. That was the lowest point in our culinary trip - poor food, poor wine selections, and a big, big price. Others, well they loved the challenge, and altered their normal pairings to match. They were on the same page, as we were, and went overboard, with the wines - all somewhat local. That is how I would have it!

                                                                    Hunt

                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                            I agree completely. I do not bother to calculate the wholesale price vs the B-T-G, prices. Same as when I am in the UK - I do not do the math for the exchange rate - I let AMEX do that for me, a month later. I want total enjoyment, and then will pay the rate, later on.

                                                            Now, I DO want food that I will likely not get at home - same for the wines, though I have many great ones. I want something delicious, and new.

                                                            Hunt

                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              Agreed, Bill. Comparison of the exchange rate is generally a pointless, and possibly soul-destroying, exercise.

                                                              You're not going to order that seabass because it's so many dollars/euros/pounds more than it is in pounds/dollars/euros at home?

                                                              Of course, you factor in costs when travelling. We're just about to embark on three weeks touring in America. I've done some research for possible restaurants at towns where we're staying. So, yes, I know that like-for-like it's going to be more expensive than dining in the UK but we've factored that into costing the holiday. Having decided on a restaurant, I'm not then going to be constrained by thinking "wow, that bass is $X, when I'd usually only pay £Y, so I won't order it."

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                Harters,

                                                                I am with you completely. I do not want to spend my evenings with a calculator, so I just go with the flow. In a recent trip to Sydney, someone commented that I could have bought some higher-priced wines, due to the exchange rates - well, I think they were closer, than that person realized, but I got what I wanted.

                                                                As you know, I host several "board dinners" in London each year. Those might be for 12 patrons, or up to 30. Then, as the meals and wine come out of my wife's expense account, I will fret a bit more, trying to get the best I can, for a total amount, that she can afford. For us, I just go with what I see, that I want, and let it get sorted out next month. I know that travel can be expensive, so build in a bit of "exchange rate wiggle room."

                                                                While in the US, and since the £ is stronger, I hope that you get to try some US wines, that do not show up in the UK, or are so drastically priced, that one would not order them.

                                                                Enjoy, and travel safely,

                                                                Hunt

                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                  Thanks, Bill.

                                                                  I no longer drink alcohol but my wife enjoys a glass of wine or three with dinner. It makes it difficult for her in many places as the "interesting" wines are not usually available by the glass or half bottle. If we are, say, eating a tasting menu she will usually get the sommelier's advice for those three glasses to last her through the meal.

                                                                  There's a restaurant near home which has a good selection of interesting, mainly Italian, wines. Their policy is that they will open any bottle on the list and serve a single glass at, I think, one fifth of the bottle price, which seems a very good deal.

                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                    What we need to do is gather together in London (or near-by), and then your wife can join us, and have some special wines. I can make that happen.

                                                                    For us, wine is right at 50-50 with the food, and wine service is equal to the food service.

                                                                    Still, wine IS part of every meal, after breakfast, and we take it very seriously.

                                                                    Hunt

                                                        2. Curious, in what particular area(s) do you feel that you don't get much in return? Portions?, Liquor? etc.

                                                          1. I frequently feel I could've made it better at home; I just keep reminding myself how much I hate cleaning the kitchen after cooking and I feel a tiny bit better. I very much long for restaurant food that makes me think "How'd they DO that?" (in a GOOD way, for a change)!

                                                            In Nashville, where I live, the restaurants generally have crappy food and even worse service.

                                                            Also I hate when they triple the liquor-store pricing on wine, especially mid-priced bottles (say, $90 for a $30 selection). Seems unfair, somehow.

                                                            So yes, I fell your pain. I just keep trying, though... =)

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: aT0Mic

                                                              "In Nashville, where I live, the restaurants generally have crappy food and even worse service. "

                                                              Great. Or not.

                                                              Nashville is first place we're visiting on our 3.5 week holiday to the States. :-)

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                Well now that I set the expectations low for you, I hope that all your dining experiences will pleasantly surprise you!
                                                                I suggest Tripadvisor and Urbanspoon for restaurant research.
                                                                If I may recommend a couple places:
                                                                Monell's in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. Served "family style" - you're seated with strangers, and the serving dishes are passed around. Excellent southern food. (disclaimer - I know the owner, but only from working charity events with him)
                                                                Ken's Japanese - Best, inexpensive (nearly cheap) sushi in town!
                                                                Good luck, I didn't mean to scare you!
                                                                -Tom

                                                                1. re: aT0Mic

                                                                  No worries, Tom.

                                                                  'Tis always part of the fun of travelling. And thanks for the reccs. We only have a couple of nights - Opry one night, honky tonks the other - but will see what we can do (Monell's had already cropped up in research)

                                                                  John

                                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                                    Since you are going to honky tonks, may I suggest (somewhat off topic) that you visit "The Station Inn". They usually feature bluegrass music, which along with jazz is America's invention. And I hear that the BBQ spot just outside on the sidewalk isn't anything to sneeze at either!

                                                              2. re: aT0Mic

                                                                Totally agree. I'm surprised how many people didn't relate to the OP on some level. I don't know if I feel "ripped off" but I certainly feel like I could have made it better at home - for less money - with better wine.

                                                                So I don't go out to eat all that much anymore, I'm typically disappointed. (Even with all the Yelp/Chow/Etc/Etc reviews - which are only helpful really 50% of the time at best).

                                                                1. re: thimes

                                                                  Partly a function of where you regularly dine and how adventurous you are. I liek to try all sorts of ethnic cuisines which I could never hope to replicate without access to specialized ingredients, possibly equipment and TIME. The last thing I think of at an Indian or Asian restaurant is "how much did they spend on these ingredients?" I'm confident the answer in many cases is "not much" but as I posted above that isn't even on my radar.

                                                                  As for other meals, I can eat breakfast out every day if I could afford to and I KNOW the ingredient cost is minimal, but I like a comfortable morning out chatting with whoever is with me and not cooking, serving, cleaning.

                                                                  And when it comes to finer dining there are meals that I might hope to replicate but wouldn't really consider it and the ingredients are sourced from purveyors that I don't necessarily have access to.

                                                                  Finally, I've eaten at Alinea, where dinner for 2 was approximately 1 month's rent at my first apartment. Eye-poppingly expensive. And I doubt there was much profit made on the meal (it required a small army to prepare and serve it).

                                                                  1. re: ferret

                                                                    Very true on the cost/value ratio of ethnic cuisines! Back when we were first discovering Indian I tried making Chicken Korma. Had to buy 20 special ingredients (ground my own fenugreek) and it was a real learning experience! Not something I'd make again! (although it came out pretty good)

                                                                    Another big lesson was the sushi party we held for about 15 friends. Bought the special ingredients and it cost probably $200, back in 1990 dollars... not bad compared to buying all that sushi at a restaurant, but a lot of work... learned not to stress too much over sushi (and Indian) prices, at least!

                                                                    Ooh, Alinea! I read a funny blog post about them; sounded like quite the show!

                                                                    1. re: ferret

                                                                      These posts always make me remind myself that being a "foodie" doesn't always mean enjoying to cook.

                                                                    2. re: thimes

                                                                      Now, I do agree with the "better at home," but that is why I chose my restaurants with care. I want items that I CANNOT do better at home, and want wines, that I do not own cases of.

                                                                      Depends on what one likes, and wants.

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                    3. re: aT0Mic

                                                                      Well, when it comes to items that I can do better, like a fine Filet Mignon, then I agree with you. That is one reason that we do not do many "steakhouses." I can get some fantastic beef, and prepare it beautifully. My wife can do most sides, better than all, but the best, and then, I have many hundreds of great wines (some that have leather-bound books written about them), so for those meals, I would rather prefer to do it, myself.

                                                                      Hunt

                                                                    4. Go to a Chinese Buffet, I can promise you for $19.99 you will have hard time feeling ripped off!

                                                                      32 Replies
                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                        I dunno. Since steam table Chinese is pretty much always a disaster, I can feel a bit ripped off at any price.

                                                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                          Same here - any "buffet" is likely to pale, compared to what we can do at home - even with the chopping, slicing and prep. It is also not just ethnic, but most buffets.

                                                                          Hunt

                                                                        2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                          It's only $8.95 here so I would definitely feel ripped off @ $19.99..

                                                                          1. re: miss_belle

                                                                            Really? Where is here, if you don't mind me asking.

                                                                            I've got to say, my kids drag me to them every now and then, due to the high volume items don't sit and languish so the steam table doesn't negatively affect them. They also have all you can eat peel and eat shrimp (I love them) -AND- fresh made/rolled sushi. At least in my area which is Monmouth Cty. NJ

                                                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                              I think there are two levels of Chinese buffet. The Todai kind with the shrimp and crab and sushi and there's the kind with the orange chicken, beef & broccoli and fried rice.

                                                                              The first is around $20! The second around $10. :-)

                                                                              1. re: Violatp

                                                                                The only one's around me I guess are the level two Chinese buffet. They have the unlimited snow crabs, dungeness crab, and loads of shrimp dishes. I believe they also have prime rib along with many american dishes. I'm honestly amazed when I do go at the variety. It's a bargain in my eyes.

                                                                                The pricing is either $18.95 or $19.95 flat, unlimited.

                                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                  I've seen more of the level 2 ones in California. In Chicago, there are lots of the level 1 kind.

                                                                                2. re: Violatp

                                                                                  I've honestly never understood a CHINESE buffet that serves shrimp and crab and sushi. We live part time in Reno and there are places that do that but why?

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    To get patrons in the door. At least that is my opinion.

                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                      Ah, yes, the old quantity vs. quality thingie.

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Yeah. I more often chide a restaurant on overly-large portions, than portions that are too small. Of course, there have been a very few instances, where I would have liked to have Course 4 be a tad larger, but only because it was so very good.

                                                                                        Others, however, want to feed a dozen people, from their restaurant meal, and that is not me (us).

                                                                                        Give me quality, give me innovation, and take me on a culinary "journey," and I am a happy camper.

                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                          I think there are two kinds of people - those who view eating out as a means to an end, and those who view eating out as an ends onto itself.

                                                                                          It seems you and I, Bill, are in the latter group. We tend to consider the experience and culinary journey of dining out the very reason to eat out.

                                                                                          Others, who are in the former group, consider eating out as simply an intermediate step to getting enough "stuff" into the body to fuel it for daily (and non-daily) activities.

                                                                                          It seems this former group is more prone to feeling "ripped off". One can only imagine why.

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            As I grew up in the shadow of New Orleans, I realized that I might be different than, many of the "masses."

                                                                                            When we moved to Denver, very long ago, I realized that I WAS different. Most people ate to live, while I lived to eat.

                                                                                            Many decades later, I have not changed that attitude.

                                                                                            While I have had some poor meals, and those are painful, where I expected so much more, the majority have been good, to outstanding. That is part of what my life is about - great food.

                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                              Ya know, Bill, I think we get back what we give out. I expect food to be good and mostly it is.

                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                I agree with you. That has almost worked 100%, but when it has not, then I move on, mark THAT place off the list, and do not recommend it to others.

                                                                                                Friends just spent a week in Paris. They are both great "foodies," and asked for my recs.. I gave those, gladly, but pointed out that one "Michelin 3-star restaurant," did not live up to the billings, or to the charges. I gave them a few others, down to below Michelin stars. I got an e-mail, as they headed to Italy, and they were very pleased with those recs., and thanked me for them. As for that other one (also a member of a respected hotel/restaurant group), they did not dine there. Now, maybe I hit them on their "night from hell," but they showed us nothing to recommend them, and at any level. Too many great restaurants, and none of us collects "stars."

                                                                                                I always try to have a clear mind, though still with expectations, and let the restaurant either wow me, or not. While I grade toughly, I also feel that I grade fairly. It is, as always, about our enjoyment, and most come through - some better than others.

                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              I think there is a third group - those that love to cook and expect more from restaurants than most can deliver in terms of quality, comfort and experience.

                                                                                              1. re: thimes

                                                                                                Nah :) I LOVE to cook and cook a lot but don't have that attitude at all. A couple of times I feared that I'd built a place up too much in my mind but not so. Maybe the fact that I cook a lot gives them more room to be less than perfect - cause I am :)

                                                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                  You're welcome to dine with me anytime.

                                                                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  Oh, I don't know. I would be in the second group but my finances don't really allow for it. It's why I hate when I end up (not by my own choice) somewhere where I pay $10 a bite for food, have 7 bites total, am still hungry at the end, and am out $100 after tax & tip!

                                                                                                  I try and find a balance.

                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                            A Chinese buffet serving sushi isn't that different from an American buffet serving pizza.

                                                                                            1. re: calumin

                                                                                              Do they? Except for cruise ships I can't remember the last time I ate at any buffet. Not for snob reasons, it's just more food than I want and therefore not a good deal generally.

                                                                                              1. re: calumin

                                                                                                How about the fact the Chinese buffet I am referring to has pizza too!! No lie/joke!

                                                                                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                    Did they also offer Breakfast Burritos too?

                                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                      Lets see prime rib, pizza, snow crab, dungeoness crab, sushi, shrimp cocktail, oysters and clams on the half shell, fried shrimp, stuffed shrimp, crawfish, pork roast, chicken cordon blue, rotisserie chicken AND probably another 40+ items they offer, nope no breakfast burrito Mr. Hunt.

                                                                                                      I have never been there for lunch though so there is hope!

                                                                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                        Dang, no "breakfast burritos."

                                                                                                        Sorry,

                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                    2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                      Sounds like every Chinese buffet in PA. Can't fin any good Chinese food where we live.

                                                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    I've seen places in California that advertised themselves as "all you can eat" sushi places that were run by Chinese-speaking people. The sushi was usually pretty mediocre, but the one that used to be near me did some interesting Chinese dishes.

                                                                                                    And jello. Always at least two flavors of jello.

                                                                                                    1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                      See, I just don't want mediocre. Especially sushi. But as I've said before, neither of us want to eat a huge amount so quantity over quality doesn't work for us. Just us of course.

                                                                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                                  My parents live in Monmouth County, NJ, but I live in upstate NY and we have tried chinese buffets in many other places as well.
                                                                                                  I can attest to the surprisingly high quality of food at the places in Monmouth County compared to elsewhere. We love the buffets there (particularly the seafood selections), but in any other area we've been the buffets have been pretty darn lousy.

                                                                                                  1. re: fisher

                                                                                                    Thank you for the testament! I don't go out of my way to eat there, as previously stated, my kids enjoy them so if they request it then off we go. For the quality, which is very good combined with the variety and the all you can eat aspect of a buffet, there is certainly a value to be had. That was my only point based on my local experiences.

                                                                                                    Funny that my kids grew to like them because as children we were VERY selective where we would or more accurate where we wouldn't bring them out to eat.

                                                                                                    The Chinese buffet while good food and selection is very low on an overall dining experience, so we felt comfortable bringing an unpredictable child there to eat. There were only a handful of places we felt comfortable taking them too, so way back in the day, we probably went there once or twice a month. I guess that's how both my children now 18 & 15 developed their fondness for them.

                                                                                            2. Nope. That's why I don't eat out very often!!

                                                                                              1. Very rarely.

                                                                                                Eating out is a luxury and a pleasure, so when I go, it's about more than money.

                                                                                                I'm interested in your answer to the question that treb/others posed; in what areas or for what foods are you not getting the acceptable ROI?

                                                                                                1. Well, I have been on both sides. Having worked in restaurants, I now wonder how they can possibly make a profit at those prices. And of course many don't, since most restaurants are out of business within a few years. OTOH I can see your subjective point: If all you care about is feeding yourself, restaurants may be providing a lot of stuff you don't want and are unwilling to pay for.

                                                                                                  1. After reading this, I can think of one time I'd feel ripped off.

                                                                                                    http://shopping.yahoo.com/news/your-l...

                                                                                                    1. Where do you live? Are you choosing only expensive restaurants? What specifically do you think is not good value? The quality of the food? The quantity of the food? The service? You wrote a very general, very vague statement about all restaurants you go to in some town or city. Are you eating only in corporate chains such as Bennigan's? Try being more specific.

                                                                                                      I know that where I live, there are hundreds of good, cheap ethnic restaurants. It is super-easy to get a great meal for very little money, but service is not what you would expect in a high-end restaurant. Conversely, there are high-end restaurants that are exquisite and well-worth the expense and others that are dreadful (yes I WILL say it again: Morton's). And lots of places in between.

                                                                                                      1. It's not just about the cost of the ingredients. You are also paying for the labor it took to order, prep and cook those items. You are paying for the person who took the order, brought you the food and processed your payment. you are paying for the busboy who cleared your dirty dishes and refilled your water. You are paying for the back of the house dishwasher to wash those dishes. You are paying for the ambiance and the "luxury" of being waited on.

                                                                                                        At home, you are buying the ingredients, prepping them, and cooking. How much would you say your time is worth per hour? If it took you 30 minutes to go buy the chicken and vegetables to make a seared chicken breast with sautéed vegetables and pan sauce, you would probably spent 10 minutes to chop them up and prep them, and another 30 minutes to cook and plate them. You just spent 1.16 hours getting your food ready for eating. If you think your time is worth $20 per hour, you just spent $23.20 making your meal. That's not including the extra time to clear the table and wash the dishes, pots and pans. That $8 worth of ingredients just cost you $25 in time and groceries.

                                                                                                        I'm not sure what kind of places you eat at, but it's all subjective. You might think an expensive restaurants costs $20/plate. I may think it costs $80/plate. You might feel a fast food meal is a good bang for your buck because you can get a burger, fries and a drink for $5. I may think it's a rip-off, because it's all processed foods and high in fat and calories.

                                                                                                        You have to see what your priorities are and then decide where you want to spend your money, and when.

                                                                                                        1. I've had some cheap food that was great and some that was over priced. The same with expensive food.

                                                                                                          We have places that charge 3-4x markup on a bottle of wine. There are also places that just double it. There are some that just stock wine you've never heard of so you have no idea of the mark up.
                                                                                                          We are fortunate where we live that we have pretty good food at many places at a reasonable price. We also have some that are higher priced and well worth it.
                                                                                                          Worst value-$100 prefix with
                                                                                                          barely enough soup to cover the bottom of a soup bowl, 1 oz meat, shaving of a vegetable and tiny dessert. Haha. We had to get a hamburger on the way home.

                                                                                                          1. While it's rare that I feel like I am being ripped off I do find that I tend to get disgusted at prices for breakfast items and very rarely eat breakfast out. Ironically if I am in the mood for breakfast for dinner I don't mind paying the price - weird I know.

                                                                                                            Secondly I find that I tend to feel more ripped off at the lower price places that serve shitty food. I would much rather pay $10 for a average hamburger than $5 for a sawdust burger that is burnt on a stale bun with weepy lettuce, processed cheese slices and a dollop of dressing that isn't even spread over the bun.

                                                                                                            1. That will likely depend on the exact restaurants.

                                                                                                              I feel that way sometimes, but never return.

                                                                                                              OTOH, I have had marvelous meals at many, if not most - depends on the restaurant, and then on your personal palate.

                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                              1. I don't feel ripped off.I just order the wrong thing.

                                                                                                                1. As long as the meal is good and the portion I received is big enough to fill me up, I am happy! :)

                                                                                                                  1. mostly because of quality of preparation (or lack thereof). even the best ingredients cant stand up to a hack cook.
                                                                                                                    im sure there are many places around that are exceptions...

                                                                                                                    1. I have been enjoying this thread for the past few days, but must conclude that I believe this is a "glass half empty" or "glass half full" question. Of course you can cook at home, but the experience is so different that it really cannot be compared equally. Still, the comments have all been very good and interesting.

                                                                                                                      1. Wow. 127 replies and we still don't know WHY observor feels the way he/she does.

                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                                                                          Sometimes, that is just the way that it happens.

                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                          1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                                                                            "always feel like I gave a lot of money and didn't get that much in return"

                                                                                                                            I don't know what more to say: I give a lot of money and the portions are usually small and/or they cut corners to save money ie. watering down the hummus, or giving more noodles and vegetables instead of meat, etc.. I always feel like they are trying to give the minimum possible and charge as much as they can. I always feel like I can make something similar at home at a fraction of the cost.

                                                                                                                            1. re: observor

                                                                                                                              There is a very easy solution to this. Stay home and make food you enjoy in portions that you prefer. Invite friends over if you want to have the social aspect of dining out.

                                                                                                                              They other solution is do some research first and find better places to dine. Any place that "waters down it hummus" (really??) doesn't sound like place that anyone would give even a passing review.

                                                                                                                              1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                The cuisines that first spring to mind that have noodles and vegetables and meat are Asian and Italian. In non-Chinese-American restaurants and in non-Italian-American places, the meat is usually considered almost a condiment. Not really but you get the picture. There will always be less meat and that's how it's intended to be, not being cheap. Perhaps you'd be happier with cuisines and restaurants that are heavy on meat or heavy on everything. Just a thought.

                                                                                                                                1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                  Sounds like you are eating in cheap and/or lousy places. Although as to portion size - remember, it is quality, not quantity. Most restaurants have enormous portions (as evidenced by the American waistlines! when we have guests from overseas, they are always astonished by the amount of food that is put in front of them in a restaurant). I've never heard of watering down hummus - perhaps you just like a thicker style? There are various styles and some are thicker than others. And I agree with C. Oliver - it sounds like you may be eating at restaurants that serve the kind of cuisine where the animal protein is a minimal part of the dish, to the point of seeming more like a condiment.

                                                                                                                                  Go to an Outback Steakhouse. You won't have this problem.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                                                                                      No, I went to the Oceannaire Seafood Room in Boston, which charges $30+ an entree and the portion sizes were minuscule. Then I went to Grill 23 in Boston, had a regular sized steak, side of creamed spinach, and a beer and it came to $75 dollars. That's just ridiculous. I went to a Chinese restaurant (Bamboo in Westford, MA) and the dish of shrimp and vegetables had a huge mound of noodles buried underneath it, ostensibly so the dish would look bigger than it is. It was a pasty mound that seemed to have cornstarch added to it so it would clump together.

                                                                                                                                      I think it should be quality *and* quantity. What's the point of going to an expensive restaurant, dumping a bunch of cash on the table, and leaving hungry? That's the stupidest thing I can think of.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: observor

                                                                                                                                        I've been to Oceannaire in DC numerous times and portion sizes have always been ample and then some. I can't speak to your other experiences. Perhaps you have a larger appetite or stomach than most? However, as to the Chinese restaurant, as others have told you, the animal proteins are almost like a condiment and are always the smallest part of the dish.

                                                                                                                                        I looked at the menu for Grill23. It is obviously an expensive place. $13 for a simple green salad is high. You can order a la carte and chose your protein by size. The spinach is $11 and let's say the beer was $5. So of your $75 (you imply it was before tax and tip) you had $59 worth of steak, which means you had the 10 oz Kobe. Now 10 oz is not a small amount of steak and it was Kobe, but if you wanted a larger amount of protein, you could have done the 24 oz (!) Porterhouse for $55, the 18 oz ribeye for $49, and so on.

                                                                                                                                2. Where do you live?
                                                                                                                                  How do you pick your places?

                                                                                                                                  I sort of live in Toronto. When I was younger and not married , I would take a new girlfriend to Nick and Leslie's Hungarian Goulash Party Tavern - need I say more-?

                                                                                                                                  t