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A few nice places that serve bread and butter with the meal - no charge.

  • j

Nell Thorn in La Conner. And Le Pichet in Seattle.

Nell Thorn.
Very cozy place, great food and here's what they have to say about bread and butter which they give out with the meal.

"The purest form of our inspiration is kneaded into our bread. The organic flour already smells of a fresh loaf when you open a sack. This flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment, gathering the wild yeasts and finally baked to yield a moist, crispy-crusted bread."

Diners, we have a choice. Wouldn't you rather eat at a place that has this attitude versus a restaurant that charges $3 for bread and butter with dinner?

Here's another place I love - Le Pichet.
I emailed them regarding their policy and attitude and here's their response. (They never have charged for bread)

"...our goal is to convey to our guests the hospitality and warmth of the traditional French table"

That comment about "hospitality" and "guests" sums it up. My feeling is that restaurants that don't serve bread and butter without charge DO NOT have that warm attitude about their customers. By their policies those places that charge see us and think, "How can we get another 3 bucks out of these suckers?"

The previous posts about bread and butter policy at local restaurants was moved to "Not About Food" evidently because we didn't mention names.
Now we are mentioning names.

What is your feeling about bread and butter at the table?

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  1. I would say that the place in la conner is an exception and that most places that serve bread do it as an after thought, and the bread is not good, and I'd rather they focus time and money budgets on excelling at whatever they do best. If someone else wants bread, they can pay for it.

    That said, I also love that when I want bread, I want good bread with good butter or oil, and I am more than happy to pay $3 or whatever the cost is to do so.

    That said, we got free bread at Tilikum Place Cafe on Friday. That's the only place recently I've noticed it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dagoose

      Yes, exceptional is what I like in a restaurant.
      Interesting that Nell Thorn's bread (in LaConner) was great and their food was great also.
      Too bad they aren't in Seattle.
      They would be stiff competition and raise the bar.

      1. re: dagoose

        Dagoose - OT, I know.... but how was your meal at Tilikum Place? I keep meaning to go there - I have heard good things....

        1. re: gingershelley

          I've eaten there a number of times and it is always extremely good. This most recent time was the least good, but in general it's a great option for casual, central, something to please everyone food.

      2. I have no problem paying for bread and butter. I'd rather have that then it brought to the table, unrequested and then adding to the food waste that is already so prevalent.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lauren

          Know what you mean about waste.
          These places should have a herd of pigs or chickens out back to feed the scraps to.
          Or a farmer coming by.
          I wonder if the health dept would allow?

        2. Le Pichet is French - bread is a cornerstone of a French meal. Of course they don't charge for bread:)

          5 Replies
          1. re: gingershelley

            The original place that started this tirade is a french place, Le Zinc. They served a very nice meal but their bread policy is off the charts rude - especially because it's a French place.

            1. re: JayDK

              How was Le Zinc otherwise? I'm hoping to stop by tomorrow for happy hour...

              1. re: mcmullek

                Very nice.
                Mussels with chanterelles are great.
                The cheese plate was quite small for the price.
                The bread was Grand Central and house made butter. $3.
                I understand HH is half price mussels.
                Please report back.

            2. re: gingershelley

              In France bread is never brought to the table before the meal is served. It is brought with or after the meal has been served. Also, in most restaurants, the quantity of bread is modest -2 diners merits 2 slices of baguette, 4 diners get 4 slices. Bread baskets are not refilled unless requested, and French diners rarely, if ever, ask for more. The bread is not charged for separately, but it is a modest addition to the meal, not something diners fill up with while waiting for their meal.

              1. re: twinsue

                I beg to differ, Twinsue. I had a French BF (from Paris) for several years, and both here in the states, there was a baguette EVERY day - and he could eat most of it himself. I know that is a more 'traditional' consumption pattern, rather than the modern trend - but not unusual.

                When we traveled in France multiple times, we were often served a generous bread basket, and it frequently came before we had ordered. JF would of course eat quite alot. But never had butter with his bread.

            3. I don't have a problem with charging for bread and butter so long as the bread and butter is at least very good. The cost of bread and butter (or tortilla chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants) is otherwise a pretty big overhead cost for the restaurant, which I assume is otherwise folded into the cost of other menu items. I love Cafe Juanita's bread/cracker basket (no charge)--several types of housemade breads and crackers. Divine!

              1. Hi, JayDK:

                IMO, Ray's' free rolls makes the place worth coming back to.


                1 Reply
                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Yeah, and how about the rolls at Ezells?

                2. Stumbling Goat is nice--it's good baguette, an olive tapenade and a tomato tapenade.The best/worst is the places like Per Se and Canlis where they come around with multiple kinds, mulitple times, and you can't help but fill up on them. I say worst because then I fill up on it rather than my meal.

                  So many people avoid wheat and gluten now I don't blame restaurants for not automatically handing it out. You could say, well, then why don't they just ask people if they want it, but you can't give out free bread to some people without the gluten free crowd expecting something free too.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: christy319

                    "You could say, well, then why don't they just ask people if they want it, but you can't give out free bread to some people without the gluten free crowd expecting something free too."

                    Such an expectation, IMHO, whould not be reasonable. Just because some restaurants choose to market toward this unfortunate trend diet does not oblige a general accomodation. Should every resto be expected to hand out "high meat" to the "Caveman" converts, or komplimentary kombucha to the fermented food faddists?

                  2. When you say in your header that there's 'no charge' for bread with your meal you realize that the restaurant isn't getting something (bread from a bakery for instance, or ingredients and their own labor costs) for free and are then passing the savings on to you, right? They give you a product and you pay for it one way or the other. When you went to Le Pichet (which is absolutely fantastic!) you gave them money when you paid the check to cover the cost of the bread they bought to serve the entire restaurant that night. Your steak was a buck more, or your salad was $.50 more. The bottom line is the same, and ten years ago there was no bread charge. Now? You might be charged for bread for two reasons: either the bread is something great and/or is served with something interesting, or the restaurant is taking advantage of the trend and are overcharging you to make a better profit.

                    The idea you're advocating, and I'm completely on your side about this, is that it's important for some people to be treated to something special when they go out to a restaurant. It is. That's the heart of the hospitality industry. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Vilifying restaurants that serve good bread and charge you for it is misleading, because you've been charged for it all along.

                    "So many people avoid wheat and gluten now I don't blame restaurants for not automatically handing it out."

                    'So many people' is actually about .5%. So sick of hearing about this.

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: chasseattle

                      A lot of people don't eat bread due to low-carb diets, not just because of gluten issues.

                      Also, a lot of people avoid gluten as a trend... not because they need to for dietary reasons

                      1. re: chasseattle

                        Guilty! "Vilifying" restaurants because they don't get how to be gracious.
                        When I go out to dinner, I want to be made welcome. It's a seduction of sorts. I'd like to think they care about my experience. The price (for me) is secondary. When they do stupid things like charge for bread, it ruins the mood.
                        Back to Le Zinc. The food was very nice - but the experience was tarnished and although I may go back, in the end there are other bistros that give that experience I like.

                        Now having said all that - this is a tirade I know. It's really not a big deal. It's sad to see that the traditional ways of making the diner feel welcome are falling down that slippery slope.

                        And as long as there are restaurants that get what I'm talking about, and there are plenty, I'll patronize those and stay away from the ones that don't "get it."

                        1. re: chasseattle

                          Exactly right. The real questions are: do you want to know how much you are paying for bread or would you rather not know? Do you want to pay for bread that other people eat or do you only want to pay for the bread that is consumed at your table? Is magical thinking essential to your dining experience?

                          1. re: chasseattle

                            Hi, Chas: "...you pay for it one way or the other."

                            Well, on one level that is obviously true. The OP is also paying for the toilet paper and floor degreaser, electricity, and B&O tax. Etc., etc.

                            But on a deeper level, complimentary bread is the Angel's Share. To me, it is a gesture of hospitality, civility and conviviality. When it arrives unbidden and gratis, it bespeaks of grace. It says: "We will feed you" even if a poor patron orders only the smallest, least expensive menu item on offer.

                            I choose not to believe Le Pichet's management sat around reverse-engineering its menu prices upward in order to cover its "bread overhead".

                            We are sympatico on the gluten-free trend...


                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              That sums it up nicely. Very well put.

                              And kudos for actually using "conviviality" "unbidden" and "bespeaks" in the same paragraph!

                              1. re: JayDK

                                And Kaleo also worked in the phrase "angel's share" which cannot go unadmired by bourbongal. Almost swayed me from my staunch old lady opinions on free bread. Almost.

                              2. re: kaleokahu

                                "The OP is also paying for the toilet paper and floor degreaser, electricity, and B&O tax. Etc., etc."

                                True, but every patron benefits from the presence of those overhead costs, and not every patron benefits from the possibly unwanted bread. I have become a convert to the notion that it is better for the establishment to offer bread at a modest charge instead of structuring the cost into everyone's check and seeing the bread going to waste at an increasing number of tables (see Lauren's comment).

                                On Saturday evening my spouse and I stopped into Cafe Presse (Le Pichet's sister operation) for a quick drink. I ordered a cocktail, my spouse ordered a "demi pichet" of a white Rhone, and we ordered an appetizer to share. Our extremely dour waitress appeared only after taking care of a table with persons who had arrived well after we did. After finally appearing and taking our order, she returned after several minutes to ask me what cocktail I had ordered...she had forgotten. She brought my spouse the wrong wine (so wrong it was red instead of white). She failed to put in the order for my cocktail until we were nearly ready to depart, and she was completely unapologetic when it was delivered ultra-late. Although Cafe Presse gave us complimentary bread, that did not make the experience one of "hospitality, civility and conviviality." Quality service and a kitchen that is on point overshadows all else to create that impression.

                                And, if a restaurant really wants to impress patrons with a "gift" element, an amuse bouche is much more impressive to me than a little basket of bread (since it involves some actual imagination and execution in the kitchen).

                                1. re: Gizmo56

                                  Hi, Gizmo: "[e]very patron benefits from the presence of those overhead costs, and not every patron benefits from the possibly unwanted bread."

                                  I disagree. By this logic, I do not benefit from the toilet paper when I don't use it, just as you claim not to benefit from unwanted bread. My opinion is that we *all* benefit when the establishment is graceful in this way (or others, e.g., like offering a deep and wide cellar of wines, vegetarian alternatives, free parking, etc.).

                                  The strict microeconomic analysis with emphasis on "I don't use it, why should I pay for it?" misses the point, in my estimation. Why shouldn't all highways be toll roads, all ferry systems self-sufficient? That way lies a very low madness, I think.

                                  Sorry you had a bad experience at Presse; I would have been upset, too. But I stand by my point that the gesture of at least offering complimentary bread and butter bespeaks of hospitality, civility and conviviality. Obviously, free bread is not a necessary and sufficient cause for happiness when a resto blows it in other ways--as you unfortunately learned.


                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    "I do not benefit from the toilet paper when I don't use it" I maintain that you do benefit by knowing that there is a properly outfitted restroom available, should the need arise.

                                    I really don't have particularly strong feelings one way or another about complimentary bread. I don't suffer from the low madness for user fees that you describe. When restaurants first started to charge for bread, I was opposed, but now so many people avoid bread that it has begun to make sense to me, and (citing my experience at Presse), I think there are far more important elements in restaurant hospitality.

                                    Obviously, the comments here indicate a spectrum of opinion, so it is clearly more important to some patrons than to others.

                                  2. re: Gizmo56

                                    Café Presse is one of my regular go-to's, and their service is usually much better than that. You might drop an email to Jim Drohman, the owner, and let him know. You might get a gift cert. or some such. He is a very caring, involved owner, and I certainly think he would want to know your experience.

                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                      I have been to Le Pichet many times, but this was only my second visit to Presse. The service during my first visit was fine, the service I have had at Le Pichet has always been warm and professional, and so I was willing to consider this experience as a fluke. But I just might send an email.

                                      1. re: Gizmo56

                                        Update: If there is an email address (or webform) anywhere on the Cafe Presse or Le Pichet websites, I don't see it.

                                          1. re: gingershelley

                                            Thanks gingershelley, I just left a comment, and hopefully it may catch his attention.

                                            1. re: Gizmo56

                                              Sure; Gizmo - Glad you got in touch.

                                              I just think it's always better to take service/food issues to the establishment, rather than complaining on line - the est. should have a chance to correct things, esp. if their reputation is usually good. It stinks to have it 'brought down' little by little by an employee who is not following standards.

                                              1. re: gingershelley

                                                Jim replied very quickly and gave me an email address to make direct contact, so I've sent him the details (my account above was actually the "Reader's Digest" version of the whole comedy of errors).

                                                Case closed, as far as I'm concerned. Thanks again for all of your advice.

                                                1. re: Gizmo56

                                                  Oh, so glad Gizmo - not suprised you heard personally from Jim. That man is a real restauranteur; understands hospitality and the 'whole picture' is what makes guests return... you can't have good food without good service, or vise versa!

                                                  Good result!

                                  3. re: kaleokahu

                                    I agree with everything you said except: "I choose not to believe Le Pichet's management sat around reverse-engineering its menu prices upward in order to cover its 'bread overhead'."

                                    I can almost guarantee that it shows up as a line item in either overhead or food expenses when they're calculating the margin they need to charge on food in order to break even. Restaurants that don't engage in that kind of detail oriented accounting and business planning just don't last as long as, or do as well as, Le Pichet has.

                                    1. re: Booklegger451

                                      Hi, Booklegger:

                                      I'm not saying Le Pichet isn't counting the "bean" of bread along with all the other beans in the bag of profitability. What I *am* saying is that, contrary to another's statement upthread, I don't think LP is marking up my steak by a dollar or my salad by 50 cents just to pay for bread. My guess is that they just consider it a fixed item of overhead and deal with it in setting their prices (which in their case are actually very low).


                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        "I don't think LP is marking up my steak by a dollar or my salad by 50 cents just to pay for bread. My guess is that they just consider it a fixed item of overhead and deal with it in setting their prices"

                                        I think what you're suggesting here is that Le Pichet (clearly one of the best restaurants in our city) isn't serving bread and then purposely charging it's customers the normal markup for the cost of a menu item, roughly 3.5 times the cost of the raw ingredients, in their bill. They aren't. What they are doing is incorporating that cost into their "overhead" and dealing with it when "setting their prices". Those prices are set to reap profit, not for a break even scenario. They are absolutely marking your steak up by a dollar, and your salad by fifty cents, to pay for the bread service. Do they make a profit on bread? Hard to say. Do they make a profit on the available toilet paper they buy and stock the bathrooms with? Nope, because they don't charge for it explicitly. Do they make a profit on the whole chickens they buy for $6, roast perfectly, and charge you $36 for? Yep. An obscene profit, but one which makes up for rent, lights, heat, the unprofitable steak on the menu, that TP... And bread! But only because it's on the menu...

                                        My only point here is that it's great to go to a restaurant and be treated well, but that it's important to realize that your experience, good or bad, should be well informed.

                                        1. re: chasseattle

                                          Ironically, Le Pichet and Presse serve the kind of food that I for one really enjoy having bread with (pate, terrine, soup, etc.) while not sperately charging for it. I am not so inclined to want (much less pay for) bread at say, La Medusa, when looking forward to a nice plate of pasta, risotto or other starch. I know others may feel differently and enjoy starch-on-starch at least in some meals or contexts.

                                          I come down on Kaleo's side of the general question. I agree that offering bread without any explicit charge is a traditional gesture of warmth and good will that remains a very tangible yet easily attainable element of good service. Many aspects of Continental fine dining have been gradually shed in the general evolution (perhaps accelerated by the recent economic recession) away from high-end and toward "small plates", "bistro," "grill" and "gastropub." The abandonment of serving bread with compliments chafes many of us much more so than the loss of formal server attire, warmed flatware, amuse bouche, etc., because it takes from us something edible, simple, fortifying and, yes, relatively cheap and easy for the resto to provide, at least from the perspective of the diner.

                                          That said, I don't doubt bread is a cost that is accounted for in my ultimate tab, whether I eat it or not. The business practice of factoring in the cost of bread as part of overhead is probably as traditional a practice as is the practice of serving bread "gratis." I would prefer to maintain both traditions rather than having a handful of bread slices and tablespoon of butter sold for $3, especially since one cannot know whether the bill one receives will reflect bread costs irrespective of whether it is itemized and sold or not.

                                          Finally, the city should tax any restaurant $3 for each pool of balsamic vinegar/vinagrette they put out with bread service. ;)

                                2. This thread brings to mind a classic SNL sketch featuring a one-line cameo by Barbra Streisand:

                                  "All this tawk about butter's making me hungry . . . "

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: LemonyRoux

                                    SNL! You should check out the post about Falafal Saalam and their SCHWINGS!

                                  2. Jak's Grill - locations in West Seattle, Issy, and Laurelhurst. It's addicting!

                                    1. I had dinner at Betty last night and thought about this thread. They brought out a lovely plate of bread and olive oil. And there it sat, never touched. We finally asked them to take it away. I doubt they served it to another table and the thought of the waste bothered me. Perhaps a happy medium would be to ask people if they would like complementary bread?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Lauren

                                        And then there is Coho - they ask if you would like bread (which use to be complementary) but they don't mention that they now charge for it. You find that out when you get the check.

                                        1. re: FoodDee

                                          That would be the worst of both worlds...

                                          1. re: FoodDee

                                            That is the worst! Servers should be clear there is a charge...

                                            Easily done' would you like our complimentary bread service", or conversley' would you care for bread? We have a modest charge of $___ for this", and all can proceed according to the wishes of each table.

                                          2. re: Lauren

                                            Second this way of going! bring the bread if they want it, don't if they don't, and don't charge for it when they do:)! Everyone is happy.

                                          3. Agree...there is something nice about offering bread before a meal. Crescent Dragonwaggon's restaurant in Dairy Hollow, Arkansas served a bread basket with three special kinds of bread....always thought this was so wonderful. Her cookbooks provided many of the recipes she used.

                                            1. Update from out of town on this issue.
                                              In Tucson and asked my fam who are in the restaurant business if they know of any restaurants that charge for bread.
                                              They couldn't think of any.
                                              Also asked my bro from Dallas.
                                              He can't recall any either.
                                              Certainly Seattle isn't the only place with this odd practice.

                                              Update from Salty's in Seattle.
                                              Not only do they have a big goblet of oyster crackers on the table, they bring a very nice selection of focaccia and "artisan" crackers to the table with a little tub of butter sprinkled with black salt. No charge.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: JayDK

                                                Fellow Tucsonan here, and I can't think of a place in Tucson that charges for bread, either. Lots of places that just don't serve it, and several more that pull it out of a plastic bag, but no one who charges.

                                              2. tavolata and list both also serve bread+seasoned diping oil no charge, you just have to ask.

                                                i think it's tacky when a sit-down place charges you extra for bread and butter.

                                                1. I'll throw out that John Howie over in Bellevue has a very nice complimentary bread basket with gougeres, pretzel bread and housemade cracker. All very nice.

                                                  1. I love, love, love Nell Thorn in La Conner. Terrific food and gracious service. It doesn't get better than that.