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Why are "Westernized" restaurants so much more expensive than ethnic places?

krystle920 Dec 27, 2013 11:27 AM

In general, it seems "Westernized" restaurants are always so much more expensive than ethnic eats. Whether these restaurants serve American/European food or whether they offer a "Western" take on Asian or Latin food, it seems that there is a universal minimum of how much each person has to spend at these types of places. In an ethnic place, it is easy to get out spending less than $20 and feeling full. Nowadays, it's very difficult to get out of a gentrified type restaurant without spending at least $30 a person and that's with choosing items in the menu that are hopefully filling.

The first thing people would say is different would be the atmosphere. It costs money to have some sort of atmosphere. Next thing would be marketing costs. Then that leaves rent which may be more expensive if these restaurants are in prime neighborhoods, but doesn't explain restaurants in less gentrified areas of Broooklyn or Queens. One could argue that food quality may be slightly better too. In terms of wages, these restaurants pay the same minimum too and just have servers count on tips. Considering that in ethnic places, servers don't get as much in tips, it could even be that they need to get paid more wages.

With all these differences, though, it is still hard to justify the significant cost difference. Is it just because people are willing to pay more for these places? Is it because owners of "Westernized" restaurants demand a higher net income for themselves than owners of ethnic places?

I was just thinking too that a factor could be turnover in that places with nicer atmosphere experience a lower turnover. Can this problem be solved then by offering the same prices as ethnic places with the same nice atmosphere but just setting a one-hour time limit for diners?

  1. w
    Wawsanham Dec 30, 2013 04:53 PM

    Hey! Latin American IS Western! Maybe, you should say "Americanized" or "USA-ized." The US is no more "western" than Mexico, Brazil, or Argentina.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Wawsanham
      Veggo Dec 30, 2013 05:06 PM

      Recall when the western world was "Occidental" ? How our lexicon changes!

    2. raytamsgv Dec 30, 2013 01:08 PM

      Restaurants base their prices on the expected customer base. Some Chinese restaurants in my area cater to wealthier ethnic Chinese customers and charge a few thousand dollars for a table of ten people.

      It depends on what the public is willing to pay.

      1 Reply
      1. re: raytamsgv
        krystle920 Dec 30, 2013 02:35 PM

        It's a shame there's not more of these types of Chinese restaurants in the US. It would really elevate the perception of the cuisine. Not the white table cloth, single serving, Western-format style, but the family style, chandelier, plush carpeting type restaurant that serves super fresh seafood, sharks fin soup, etc.

      2. t
        takadi Dec 29, 2013 12:52 PM

        These days the price all depends on what the hipsters dote on next

        1. tcamp Dec 28, 2013 04:27 PM

          Generally speaking, in a service industry labor costs are the biggest budget component. So, that. To a lesser extent, facility costs and ingredients.

          2 Replies
          1. re: tcamp
            p
            Puffin3 Dec 29, 2013 05:11 AM

            I know a Dutch couple who started a local bakery about six years ago.
            It's a very good/popular bakery. The man is classically trained and has been baking for forty years.
            A couple of months ago the local grocery store opened in it's new location with a large in-house bakery staffed by a professional baker.
            Our friends bakery's business went down thirty percent immediately. Last month business was down 40%.
            Our baker knew the competition was coming two years ago and he has been trying to sell the bakery since.
            Last month a Chinese couple offered to buy the bakery for $220.000! Slightly more than our baker had been asking. He excepted of course. He was paid a large down payment.
            Turns out that in order to become Canadian citizens there is a minimum amount one must invest to open/buy a business. That amount is, I believe, $300,000. So the $220,000 and a couple of vehicles and you're a Canadian businessman. That means you can sponsor your entire family/extended family to work for you and as long as you keep the business doors open for two years whatever happens after that doesn't affect anyone's citizenship application/s.
            As to the $300,000 many a family in China can collectively get that together no problem. It's a yearly golf club membership fee in some places.
            So when a seemingly successful business folds there may be more to it than meets the eye.
            Not to mention the resulting virtual life-time of tax write-offs.

            1. re: Puffin3
              tcamp Dec 30, 2013 01:06 PM

              Business Class! Last time I looked into it, you needed to invest $400K cdn plus have "business experience" and additional $300K cdn net worth in order to get permanent residency. Buying a bakery is a reasonable way to do that for the Chinese family you cite. The brother of a friend of mine did something quite similar to relocate from Taiwan to Vancouver.

          2. k
            kagemusha49 Dec 28, 2013 11:51 AM

            Is the typical Western diner more expensive than an ethnic hole in the wall? That should be your standard for comparison.

            11 Replies
            1. re: kagemusha49
              bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 01:27 PM

              I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut. A typical diner lunch of sandwich, coffee, tax and tip is easily $12-15. I can get a nice 3 course luncheon at the Chinese sit down restaurant for $10 including tea, tax and tip, or a buffet for $9 all inclusive. Mexican or Turkish will run $9.
              NotthatI'd eat it, but a McD combination of sandwich, fries and drink runs about $8-9 with tax and no service.

              1. re: bagelman01
                Veggo Dec 28, 2013 01:40 PM

                And when you stray to New Haven County, the original tomato pie you like at Pepe's is only $6.75. (small size)

                1. re: Veggo
                  bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 02:01 PM

                  As soon as I travel 10 miles east into New Haven County, prices drop. That diner meal will be $1-2 less, gasoline is 20 cents less per gallon and even McD is $1 less per combination.

                  and of course property taxes would be much lower, instead of $15,000 per year on my house it would be 11,000

                2. re: bagelman01
                  k
                  kagemusha49 Dec 28, 2013 01:59 PM

                  I always thought Orem's diner was reasonably priced and very good

                3. re: kagemusha49
                  mucho gordo Dec 28, 2013 02:34 PM

                  I would be very careful about eating at some of the holes in the wall. Some ethnic cultures have very different views on sanitation and what is appropriate. There was a Thai place I used to go to that was family run. The young woman did everything including letting her toddler loose where the food was and letting her father/grandfather sleep on the bare floor behind the steam table.

                  1. re: mucho gordo
                    h
                    Harters Dec 28, 2013 03:45 PM

                    Where I am in the world, that would be a violation of public health regulations. If I knew that was happening at a place, I'd be phoning the inspectors.

                    1. re: Harters
                      mucho gordo Dec 28, 2013 04:11 PM

                      It is here, too. She was closed down shortly thereafter. I have to say that the food was good tho I often wonder just what ingredients were used.

                      1. re: mucho gordo
                        h
                        Harters Dec 29, 2013 02:25 AM

                        I tend to judge the hygiene aspects of a restaurant by its toilet areas. I reckon that if they can't keep a public area like that clean, then heaven knows what's going on in the parts you don't see.

                        1. re: Harters
                          mucho gordo Dec 29, 2013 11:35 AM

                          I don't usually get that far. Now, with the health dep't posting a letter grade, I'll know before I go in just how clean the place is.

                    2. re: mucho gordo
                      krystle920 Dec 29, 2013 07:33 PM

                      I've always eaten at ethnic places and fortunately, haven't really encountered dirty food. I think it's a matter of getting used to. Same reason why a lot of Americans get sick when they eat food in Asia or South America.

                      1. re: krystle920
                        mucho gordo Dec 30, 2013 02:15 PM

                        I haven't encountered dirty food either, just unsanitary conditions. Ordinairily I prefer the hole-in-the-wall because the food is cheaper and more authentic. Most Americanized Mexican places don't serve the various meats that I crave.

                  2. f
                    foodieX2 Dec 28, 2013 11:16 AM

                    I can only speak to my small pocket of the world but I find that when comparing "hole in the wall" westernized places vs "hole in the wall" ethnic places there is not a huge difference in prices.

                    I can spend a comparable amount of $$ for a basic lunch in a diner-burger, tuna sandwich, chicken caesar wrap as I can getting bowl of pho or bun or sharing an app/entree at a szchuen place.

                    I spend comparable amounts on brunch in small breakfast places/diners as I do on dim sum.

                    Even when I take it up a notch and go to "better" places for lunch-ethnic or westernized the prices stay comparable.

                    However no matter the place I can easily spend a lot more in one or the other if I choose the more expensive items. You can't compare ordering Lobster Eggs Bennie with chicken fried rice. Or order-in-advance Pekin Duck to a tuna melt.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: foodieX2
                      SaraAshley Dec 28, 2013 11:50 AM

                      My experience where I live is the same as yours.

                      1. re: foodieX2
                        krystle920 Dec 29, 2013 07:32 PM

                        I feel like you can't really compare getting a tuna sandwich or chicken wrap with what you get at an ethnic place. At a Chinese takeout, for $5-6, you get a full beef with broccoli serving complete with white or fried rice. It's hot food that may be eaten for both lunch or dinner. I feel like paying $5 for a cold tuna sandwich isn't really the same. It's really more of a lunch thing and you probably still need to get a side of chips for $2. Not as filling in the end too.

                        1. re: krystle920
                          f
                          foodieX2 Dec 30, 2013 08:38 AM

                          I disagree. The places I am talking about the sandwiches comes with a small side (potato salad, coleslaw, fries or side salad as well as a pickle). You can also get a half sandwich and cup of soup.

                          But if you want to be a stickler in these same hole in the wall type places you can also eat a "hot meal" by getting a tuna or patty melt, a burger, shepards pie, open faced turkey, pot roast, beef stew, mac n cheese, meatloaf. All the prices are comparable and any can be eaten for lunch or dinner.

                      2. paulj Dec 28, 2013 10:34 AM

                        I've read books about Chinese, Mexican and Italian restaurants (and how those cuisines spread around the world). All talk about customer expectations keeping prices down.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: paulj
                          LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 11:43 AM

                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE3UnC...

                          1. re: LotusRapper
                            paulj Dec 28, 2013 12:13 PM

                            Pearls Dining Room in Masset, BC is the epitome (in my experience) of a small town Chinese restaurant, especially in Canada. This is on the Queen Charlotte Islands, a 6hr ferry ride from Prince Rupert. 1000 people in the town, 10,000 on the islands.

                            This review describes it well:
                            "Zero ambience and food that is not awful. But since you have to eat somewhere in Masset, you could do worse than this place."
                            http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g941437-d972585-Reviews-Pearl_s_Dining_Room-Masset_Haida_Gwaii_Queen_Charlotte_Islands_British_Columbia.html

                            Museum exhibit in Edmonton on the Chinese Cafe culture of western Canada
                            http://www.royalalbertamuseum.ca/even...

                        2. LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 09:22 AM

                          I often ponder this too. But these are my theories:

                          A simple answer is that non-Asian cuisine, in a broad sense, are generally served individually, whereas Asian cuisine tend to be (but not always) served communal style. So economies of scale in terms of ingredients, preparation and serving size plays into the cost equation too.

                          BUT, ingredients, restaurant overhead (rent, staff wages, etc etc) greatly influence price.

                          There's also expectations (from the consumers) too. And which can cause a vicious cycle ...... *if* consumers expect to pay higher prices for certain cuisines, then those cuisines (and restaurants) can also take advantage by charging higher prices.

                          Also, competition (or lack thereof) in a neighborhood or city can affect pricing.

                          Again, there is no single variable that attributes the pricing differential between various cuisines.

                          1. h
                            Harters Dec 28, 2013 06:57 AM

                            Where I am, I wouldnt necessarily say that Westernised places are more expensive. There's some very sharp pricing around, particularly with two or three course set menus.

                            There will be many factors affecting pricing - lower overheads in that the cuisines may not be heavily dependent on the expensive cuts of meat, for example. Premises costs may be lower - "ethnic" restaurants are often in the cheaper parts of town. Owners may be less greedy for a high rate of profit.

                            And, it has to be said, a few owners will be ready to use illegal labour from their "home" country and, presumably, therefore not paying minimum wage or other employment costs. Couple of years back, a well known ethnic place in the metro area was raided by immigration officials who found that half the kitchen staff were "illegals".

                            31 Replies
                            1. re: Harters
                              bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 07:47 AM

                              Harters.........
                              I live in southern Connecticut. Most of the large Chinese Buffet restaurants are staffed with young female servers from China who owe 10 years labor in exchange for their transportation and entry into the USA. They generally receive no wages, are fed by the establishment and housed in establishment owned/leased quarters.
                              I have a Chinese daughter (almost 17) who has gotten friendly with some of these servers and has heard thier stories. Last year I was able to represent the servers at one particular restaurant in a labor and immigration action against the owners. The servers didn't mind the 10 year deal, but the owners refused to pay the servers any gratuities that had been paid by credit/debit card. The servers are dependent upon that money to pay for non-work clothing, health and beauty items, cell phone bills and sending home to the families in China.
                              As long as there is underemployment in China and restrictive immigration policy in western countries, this illegal immigration/indentured servitude scheme will continue.

                              1. re: bagelman01
                                Veggo Dec 28, 2013 08:06 AM

                                It's shocking that INS would grant work visas if it has knowledge of how wretched working conditions and pay are likely to be. In the recent case of the Indian woman who was arrested for violating her representations of working conditions, hours, and cheating on the pay for her housekeeper is an interesting one. She is claiming diplomatic immunity; we'll see how that one plays out.

                                1. re: Veggo
                                  bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 08:09 AM

                                  What work Visas? Most entry into the USA is done illegally. Often, one set of legit papers are used by as many as 50 workers in a year's time. Others are just smuggled in.

                                  1. re: bagelman01
                                    Veggo Dec 28, 2013 08:15 AM

                                    I understand how many latinos enter the US illegally, I'm curious how Chinese could be smuggled in.

                                    1. re: Veggo
                                      h
                                      Harters Dec 28, 2013 08:19 AM

                                      I presume the same way folk are smuggled in to the UK - hidden in the back of lorries or shipping containers. Border control staff cannot fully search every vehicle trying to cross a frontier.
                                      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04...

                                      1. re: Veggo
                                        bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 08:22 AM

                                        google the story of the Golden Venture which beached off Long Island, NY in 1993 carrying hundreds of illegal Chinese immigrants.

                                        Many of these current workers are flown from China to the Carribbean and then transported by ship to American waters. Others are flown to Canada and make entry thru the many unguarded crossings into the US.

                                        The owner of one restaurant approached my daughter and offered her 10K for her US passport. He'd resell it ion China for about 50K. Daughter let loose with words I didn't think she knew.

                                        1. re: bagelman01
                                          Veggo Dec 28, 2013 08:49 AM

                                          There must be a lot of false promises if the black market price of an invalid passport for a suck job is $50K.

                                          1. re: bagelman01
                                            m
                                            masha Dec 30, 2013 09:33 AM

                                            This story from yesterday's NYT amplifies on the huge sums that Chinese workers pay to smugglers to gain entry to this country and their living conditions once they get here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/30/nyr...

                                            1. re: masha
                                              Veggo Dec 30, 2013 09:51 AM

                                              Ouch. There is a noticeable Chinese population in northern Belize around Corozal, with good and friendly living conditions. I hope more of these misbegotten can wend their way there without the smugglers' fees.

                                              1. re: masha
                                                bagelman01 Dec 30, 2013 12:10 PM

                                                I read that this morning, but hadn't posted yet.

                                            2. re: Veggo
                                              The Professor Dec 28, 2013 12:38 PM

                                              I don't know how it's done, but all I can say is that I worked in a mid-to upscale restaurant in central NJ in the mid '70s when I got out of college (didn't work in the kitchen, I manned the grand piano that sat in the middle of the dining room).

                                              Except for the head chef, everyone in the kitchen was Asian. They worked hard and put out great food. I asked once about these guys and was told by someone in middle management that they were brought in by the owner (a non-Asian), they all lived together in a house in East Brunswick, and were paid in cash at something near or below minimum wage. They'd work for the restaurant for a year or two and, in the words of the person I spoke to, then went back to China as rich men (by their 1975 standards, I guess).

                                            3. re: bagelman01
                                              MamasCooking Dec 29, 2013 09:33 PM

                                              So did you represent smuggled in illegal immigrants or were they Chinese individuals who entered the country legally?

                                              1. re: MamasCooking
                                                bagelman01 Dec 30, 2013 06:29 AM

                                                The 3 women I represented were minors who were sold into this servitude by their families in China. They were brought here illegally (against their will). I managed to get both a monetary settlement and voluntary deportation (instead of jail). Two of the restaurant owners have pending federal criminal prosecutions.
                                                I don't practice criminal law but took this because of my daughter's interest (and fear that if we hadn't adopted her it could have happened to her).

                                                1. re: bagelman01
                                                  MamasCooking Dec 30, 2013 01:47 PM

                                                  Good for you for going after those inhumane restaurant owners. Greed is the worst. I hope they ( people who did that) get slapped hard.

                                            4. re: Veggo
                                              h
                                              Harters Dec 28, 2013 08:13 AM

                                              I'm also surprised by bagelman's story which, if I've read it correctly, indicates that the 10 year service thing is legal in America. Here, in the UK, I think it would contravene our "slavery" laws. We have had a number of recent cases, not involving the catering industry, where arrests have been made under people trafficking and forced labour legislation.
                                              http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-...

                                              1. re: Harters
                                                bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 08:16 AM

                                                Harters...it is NOT legal, just common practice

                                                1. re: bagelman01
                                                  h
                                                  Harters Dec 28, 2013 08:20 AM

                                                  My apologies - said with a sigh of relief.

                                                  1. re: Harters
                                                    p
                                                    Puffin3 Dec 28, 2013 09:28 AM

                                                    There is a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant in Victoria which has had the same ladies serving off the carts since the late sixties. When I first started going there in 1968 the women, about eight of them, where young girls newly arrived from China.
                                                    Last week in that restaurant I recognized at least five of them.
                                                    Thoughts come to mind like 'indentured slaves'.
                                                    About a year ago I was somewhere in Victoria and saw one of those 'indentured slaves' drive a big black new Mercedes
                                                    into the parking stall beside me. It made me wonder.
                                                    As to the thread topic has anyone ever seen a small town Chinese restaurant go out of business?
                                                    Not to be 'racist' in anyway but positively if that makes sense someone once made the point that a Chinese businessman can make millions buying up used tooth brushes and re-purposing them.
                                                    I think it comes down to having an extreme frugality and hard/dedicated work ethic. Literally ever penny counts. I don't think some 'Western' restaurant owners share that same ethic.

                                                    1. re: Puffin3
                                                      h
                                                      Harters Dec 28, 2013 09:35 AM

                                                      "has anyone ever seen a small town Chinese restaurant go out of business?"

                                                      Yep. There was one in the village for years. You'd drive past and see no-one in there (except the staff). Beats me how it managed to keep going for so long. Finally closed about two years and became a take-away.

                                                      1. re: Puffin3
                                                        LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 09:40 AM

                                                        I think your valid points address more broadly (emphasis on broad) the spend/save differences between cultures. And of course those patterns will trickle down to restaurant food costs, or prices of merchandise between an "ethnic" store and a "western" store. I'm being very very careful not to generalize, but being of Chinese heritage myself, I totally see what you're trying to say and can vouch that they hold true in many ways. But there are always exceptions, aren't there ?

                                                        And as a Chinese person who grew up (but not born) in the western culture (so technically I'm generation zero), I see differences in the generations who are born here and how they view material wealth and money.

                                                        1. re: Puffin3
                                                          LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 10:01 AM

                                                          Maybe she got a big lump sum of headtax rebate ......

                                                          1. re: Puffin3
                                                            bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 01:21 PM

                                                            I've seen many a small town Chinese restaurant go out of business. BUT, the equipment is usually owneed/financed by the food suppliers and they manage to have a new family running the place within ten days.

                                                            Currently most of the Chinese takeout joints are staffed by Fujianese in this area, coming from Formosa, viosas are much easier to get than if they came from mainland Communist China.

                                                            1. re: bagelman01
                                                              greygarious Dec 28, 2013 05:29 PM

                                                              I had no idea about the equipment leasing - very interesting!
                                                              That helps explain the spots near me, north of Boston, that change hands every year or two. I'm far beyond knowing their current names. I've always wondered why new owners would think a copycat version of a place that just went under would succeed when the previous people failed. The ethnicities never change - I realize now that's because the equipment doesn't change. Wonder if the suppliers are also the lease-holders on the property. New operators get a small business loan, then bail at the end of the grace period?

                                                              1. re: greygarious
                                                                paulj Dec 28, 2013 06:31 PM

                                                                Jenifer 8 Lee writes about Chinese restaurant classifieds (in Chinese), a large loose leaf owners/operators manual, shuttle buses from NYC to far flung corners of the country, etc.

                                                                http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2...

                                                                Immigrant Advantage is a book that describes various forms of networking and mutual help that various immigrant communities have setup.

                                                                1. re: paulj
                                                                  hill food Dec 29, 2013 03:12 AM

                                                                  the shuttle buses, yes, I always wondered about the $8 Chinatown bus runs up and down the East Coast until I read about it. a simple and cheap way of moving staff as needed.

                                                                  1. re: hill food
                                                                    C. Hamster Dec 30, 2013 07:56 AM

                                                                    Those busses carried more college students and young people than staff on the routes between NYC and Boston. But most have been shut down for safety reasons.

                                                          2. re: Harters
                                                            bagelman01 Dec 28, 2013 01:18 PM

                                                            apology not necessary...................
                                                            No slavery legal here since the Civil War ended in 1865

                                                    2. re: bagelman01
                                                      krystle920 Dec 28, 2013 10:00 AM

                                                      That is interesting. I wonder though if the workers would prefer to get paid the $2 or so minimum instead and just rely on tips which I assume isn't much for a Chinese buffet. Considering they already get free housing and food with this arrangement, I wonder if they can afford to live on their own without this arrangement. Sure, they can always find another job or work several jobs but since they're new to the country, it seems that it would be very difficult. All I'm saying is that when you add the value of the food and housing, maybe it's just the same or better than getting $2 and a few tips every now and then while still having to provide your own food and housing. No safety net of social services too since they don't have papers.

                                                    3. re: Harters
                                                      t
                                                      tardigrade Dec 28, 2013 09:05 AM

                                                      There's also legal cheap or nearly free labor: yourself, your spouse, your children after a certain age, your parents...Some small, family-owned restaurants get by by putting everyone to work for long hours, taking little or no time off.

                                                      1. re: Harters
                                                        paulj Dec 28, 2013 10:30 AM

                                                        http://fortunecookiechronicles.com/
                                                        explores both the immigration of restaurant workers, and trials of owning (or just operating) a small town Chinese restaurant.

                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                          LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 10:55 AM

                                                          I have this book, a recommended read:

                                                          http://books.google.ca/books/about/Sweet_and_Sour.html?id=Ev9IR3mhwewC

                                                          And attended Dr. Jung's talk when he was here in town 3 years ago:

                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE3UnC...

                                                      2. b
                                                        BuildingMyBento Dec 28, 2013 04:31 AM

                                                        How good are your bargaining skills?

                                                        Mine must have been on vacation too, because at the same restaurant in Addis Ababa I ordered the same meal on three different days and paid three different prices.

                                                        The moral of this story is, I'd rather pay more for good hygiene.

                                                        Jonathan
                                                        http://buildingmybento.com
                                                        http://collaterallettuce.com

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: BuildingMyBento
                                                          krystle920 Dec 28, 2013 09:55 AM

                                                          Lol, I wonder if I can bargain at a Chinese takeout.

                                                          1. re: krystle920
                                                            LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 10:04 AM

                                                            Be a man !!

                                                            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ1af...

                                                        2. p
                                                          plf515 Dec 27, 2013 03:47 PM

                                                          One of the most expensive restaurants in NYC (if not the MOST expensive) is Masa. Purely Japanese. How come Thai and Chinese (e.g.) qualify as ethnic and Japanese doesn't?

                                                          Also, while many restaurants pay very little, some ethnic places (especially smaller ones) may be run by a family and pay no wages at all (share the profit).

                                                          14 Replies
                                                          1. re: plf515
                                                            ipsedixit Dec 27, 2013 06:29 PM

                                                            Gosh, just imagine if Masa was "Westernized" ...

                                                            1. re: plf515
                                                              f
                                                              foodwhisperer Dec 27, 2013 06:54 PM

                                                              Yep. I ate Asian food tonite was $50 pp. Ate Japanese last night was $150pp. Yes there are inexpensive Asian or Ethnic places, and part of reason is just what Sneakeater said, low wages, also low rents. But there are also inexpensive "western" places, Papaya King, 1000's of pizza places ( oh i guess that's ethnic),,Stage, B&H Dairy ( perhaps ethnic in a way), Veselka, Cornerstone, BBQ, and there are inexpensive Indian restaurants on 6th St., Inexpensive Chinese in Chinatown, but also expensive "ethnic' like 15 East, Kyo Ya, Hakkasan, Jungsik, etc

                                                              1. re: plf515
                                                                krystle920 Dec 28, 2013 09:53 AM

                                                                That is an interesting insight. Japanese restaurants are almost always expensive, especially when it's run by Japanese people. Even when it is run by Chinese people, these restaurants are still more expensive than Chinese restaurants.

                                                                It doesn't make sense but there seems to be an agreed upon price for things. I.e.

                                                                Chinese takeout - ~$5 lunch specials, $5-8 dinner

                                                                Indian places - $10 lunch buffet, $15-20 dinner entrees

                                                                Thai places - $10 lunch special, $10-15 dinner entrees

                                                                Chinese owned sushi places - $10-15 lunch special, $15-20 dinner

                                                                I agree it's really based on what people are used to and what they are willing to pay for. There is no reason we can't have ubiquitous Indian takeouts serving $5 meals especially when their food can just sit and stay just as good in huge containers, vs. Chinese food that really need to be cooked for each order.

                                                                1. re: krystle920
                                                                  ipsedixit Dec 28, 2013 11:04 AM

                                                                  That is an interesting insight. Japanese restaurants are almost always expensive, especially when it's run by Japanese people. Even when it is run by Chinese people, these restaurants are still more expensive than Chinese restaurants.
                                                                  _____________

                                                                  Go Go Curry?

                                                                  Cheaper than most NYC Chinese take-out joints.

                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                    paulj Dec 28, 2013 12:00 PM

                                                                    Do teriyaki fast food places count as Japanese? Or are they 'Westernized'?
                                                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/din...

                                                                    1. re: paulj
                                                                      mucho gordo Dec 28, 2013 02:04 PM

                                                                      I would consider them 'westernized'.

                                                                      1. re: paulj
                                                                        Chemicalkinetics Dec 28, 2013 04:16 PM

                                                                        In my opinion, most of them are not Japanese for sure. Why? Because many of these places actually do not use traditional teriyaki sauce.

                                                                        As the article has stated " In Japan, teriyaki is a mix of soy sauce, sake and the rice wine mirin, which imparts a subtle sweetness. In Seattle, subtlety gets short shrift. Cooks sweeten with white sugar and pineapple juice. They thicken with cornstarch and peanut butter. Ginger and garlic go into the mix, because of the Korean ancestry of many cooks."

                                                                        I would call these Terkiyaki places as "Americanized:"

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                          LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 04:25 PM

                                                                          Yup !

                                                                          http://ballardrp.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/tonysteriyaki.jpg

                                                                          http://www.phinneywood.com/images/restaurants/manna-teriyaki.jpg

                                                                          http://corruptcamel.com/blog/wp-conte...

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                            paulj Dec 28, 2013 04:34 PM

                                                                            More or less 'Americanized' than the 'ethnic' places that the OP is talking about (Italian-American, Chinese-American, Mexican-American)? If the owner/cooks are Somali, Korean, Mexican or Vietnamese, is it American or ethnic?

                                                                            1. re: paulj
                                                                              Chemicalkinetics Dec 28, 2013 05:18 PM

                                                                              <If the owner/cooks are Somali, Korean, Mexican or Vietnamese, is it American or ethnic?>

                                                                              In all honesty, this is a very tough question to answer because there are a lot of gray areas. However, I won't solely judge the "Americanization" based on the owners or the chefs. Sometime it has to do with the audience -- the intended customers. For example, I consider California Sushi roll despite that it was invented and introduced by Japanese chef(s).

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                                w
                                                                                Wawsanham Dec 30, 2013 04:59 PM

                                                                                What if the California rolls are exported to other countries and become the "go-to" sushi. Are they Japanese, American, or "Western"?

                                                                                1. re: Wawsanham
                                                                                  Chemicalkinetics Dec 30, 2013 05:09 PM

                                                                                  The what-if question can be a bit vague, so I rather not get into it. At this point, I can say that I do consider California roll as an Americanized sushi (I know people who won't even call it sushi).

                                                                                  The what-if questions depend too much on the specifics. If California roll is to reintroduced to Japan, would they not change it? What kind of changes will be applied? Will Americans still eat the modified California rolls? Will the Japanese eat it? There are ways too many questions for these hypothetical situations.

                                                                                  For example, ramen. Ramen is known to have introduced from China to Japan. Many Japanese still proudly advertize its Chinese root, but no Chinese would consider it as a Chinese food anymore because it has been changed from its original form. It is certainly a Japanese food at this point in time.

                                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                                              MamasCooking Dec 29, 2013 09:56 PM

                                                                              I have had teriyaki sauce that tastes like and has a texture like syrup.

                                                                      2. re: plf515
                                                                        r
                                                                        ratgirlagogo Dec 29, 2013 11:33 AM

                                                                        Once upon a time there WERE a lot a cheap Japanese restaurants in the US, esp. on the West Coast. Their owners were interred and their businesses seized by the govt. in WWII - and many were sold to other restauranteurs. (Many of these were Chinese-American and thus, the originally Japanese fortune cookie became a Chinese-American thing - detailed in Jennifer 8 Lee's book mentioned in this thread.)
                                                                        Once upon a time little cheap French bistros were as common in eastern US cities as pizzerias are today. You could get a chop and two sides for around fifty cents, plus a free glass of wine. The wine was a big part of the draw, and thus Prohibition drove most of them out of business. German beer gardens featuring plenty of cheap food and drink were another Prohibition casualty. This I learned from reading Herbert Asbury's book on Prohibition, The Great Experiment (out of print for reasons that escape me). He has a whole long section reminiscing about eating and drinking in NYC before Prohibition.

                                                                      3. s
                                                                        Sneakeater Dec 27, 2013 02:56 PM

                                                                        Also, because building out and maintaining stylish dining rooms costs money.

                                                                        1. s
                                                                          Sneakeater Dec 27, 2013 02:54 PM

                                                                          Because their FOH and kitchen staffs expect to be paid living wages.

                                                                          1. b
                                                                            barberinibee Dec 27, 2013 11:50 AM

                                                                            Not sure what you mean by "Westernized". Do you mean food from countries dominated historically by Roman Catholic/Protestant Christianity? A great many Chinese, Japanese and Indian restaurants in Manhattan are what I would call Westernized -- or better yet, Americanized. Ditto Greek and Turkish. Go to those countries and you will be surprised the people there aren't eating "Turkish" food.

                                                                            Many "ethnic" places in the Tri-State area barely pay their immigrant labor at all. They give them housing and food and not much more. It's like indentured servitude. Even if they get salaries they get no benefits. A lot of help is undocumented. Those "savings" get passed on to you!

                                                                            Also, a great deal of "ethnic" cooking does not involve serving you a hunk of meat or line caught fish in the middle of the plate surrounded by a sparse arrangement of non-meat foodstuffs. Vegetables predominate in "ethnic" dishes and you only have bits of cheap cuts of meat and frozen seafoods. (One of the reasons you feel full is that vegetables are more filling.) "Ethnic" food also is spicier and more aromatic and is unfamiliar to local tastebuds, so you can get away with using less than optimal ingredients (and still hook American customers with added sugar and fat). "Ethnic" chefs also have their own lines of supply for ingredients and spices from home in volume at cheap prices. They are not going to the farmer's market in Union Square and selecting handfuls of "curated" produce at a small fortune per ounce.

                                                                            Finally, a lot of storefront "ethnic places" do not occupy prime real estate, another reason menu prices are low. They may also have ways of hiding receipts and profits in order to dodge taxes. Most customers paying for a $20 meal pay in cash, not by credit card. More "savings" for you!

                                                                            By the way, there are zillions of places in Manhattan serving American food at highly affordable prices. (And increasingly places serving "ethnic" food at astronomical prices). Who knows how many Manhattan Chowhounders every week eat at places with menus you would find anywhere in America at $20 per head? But the majority of the chatter here is about $200 per head meals (with menus you can also find in every major city in America).

                                                                            In any market for anything, prices are ultimately set by what people will pay for it. If the point of your post is to question whether the offensively high prices charged by many Manhattan restaurants is "justified" by anything at all -- good for you! A lot of prices for inferior food are inflated just to trick people into thinking "this must be good or it wouldn't cost so much!" And just like private school tuitions are often set to make sure the school stays "exclusive" and those deemed to be socially inferior are priced out, Manhattan restaurants do it too, even when they are serving crap. (Chefs want to send their kids to private school too!) The point of cheap immigrant food is to stay cheap to keep pulling in its main customers. The point of absurdly expensive food is pretty much the same, looking through the other end of the telescope.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: barberinibee
                                                                              krystle920 Dec 28, 2013 10:11 AM

                                                                              By Westernized, I meant either typical restaurants that serve American/New-American/Continental type food or even restaurants that serve Asian food but are owned by Western people. Examples that come to mind are Khe Yo, Uncle Boons, Red Farm in NYC. Places where you probably find the exact or similar dish at an ethnic place for $10-15, while their restaurants serve it for $25.

                                                                              In terms of wages, don't most places (even fancy ones) pay their servers the $2 or so minimum then have them rely on tips? That doesn't like much compared to what authentic ethnic places pay. Even if it's $0, that's only a $2 difference.

                                                                              In terms of ingredients, I agree there are many awesome restaurants out there that are sourcing from farmer's markets or nearby farms. But then again, I would bet a lot of them still source from convenient Sysco.

                                                                              At the end of the day, I agree it's really what people are willing to pay. As long as there is a class of people willing to spend $30-40 a head per meal on a regular basis, owners looking to earn more would always try to aim for this slice of the pie vs the high volume immigrant market. I certainly know enough people willing to pay this mark up instead of eating at a white-lights place even if the food is exactly the same or even better. Just makes me sad.

                                                                              1. re: krystle920
                                                                                LotusRapper Dec 28, 2013 10:17 AM

                                                                                "At the end of the day, I agree it's really what people are willing to pay. As long as there is a class of people willing to spend $30-40 a head per meal on a regular basis, owners looking to earn more would always try to aim for this slice of the pie vs the high volume immigrant market. "

                                                                                And to further that point, where I am (Vancouver) is one of the eating havens in N. America, esp. for Asian foods. Over the past 5 years or so there's been about a half dozen or so new Chinese/Asian restaurants endeavored to take their offerings "upscale" (petit portions, artful plating, fancy dish names, higher prices) even though the basic ingredients and prep techniques were still largely "traditional". AFAIK none of those restos have remained in business after about 2-3 years.

                                                                              2. re: barberinibee
                                                                                w
                                                                                Wawsanham Dec 30, 2013 04:57 PM

                                                                                I think that a lot of what you say is true. But, I differ on your spiciness comment. "American" tastes overall are quite a bit spicier than a lot of the countries supplying the US with immigrants--Latin America comes to mind, a long with much of the Mediterranean. Perhaps some parts of East Asia and Mexico have spicier tastes.

                                                                              3. c oliver Dec 27, 2013 11:36 AM

                                                                                I would say that in many Asian cuisines anyway the meat isn't a huge part of the dish so the cost is lower.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                                                  krystle920 Dec 28, 2013 09:54 AM

                                                                                  True, but given the overall portion size of Asian food, I would argue that the overall meat content is pretty much the same as a Westernized meal. It's just broken into many smaller pieces or chunks.

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