When does a restaurant cross the line from being expensive to absolutely taking the piss

Recognizing that I am the product of $0.24 McDonalds hamburgers growing up, $4-5 seems a reasonable price for a burger. Maybe $8 for something spiffy. $15 is a lot for burger. It’s going to need something pretty attractive to be good value for money.

I do remember a restaurant in Washington DC called Mr. Smiths that had a $200 burger - came with a bottle of really nice champagne. When I met the manager he said that in his many years they had sold one.

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Here in NYC, $15 would be a cheap burger in a sit down place. We have them $25+ now. I blame it on Boulud. That foie grass and short rib stuffed burger was worth the price but most of what you see these days is just not.

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My mom is as frugal as they come and certainly has no interest in gourmet foods. Any time I’m spending more than $10 on a dish she reminds of the times when an order of small fries at McDonald was 10 cents, and hamburgers were a quarter.

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You’re all youngsters–I can remember when McDonald’s burgers were 15 cents.

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Yes there is some tradition of stagiaires and apprenticeships but I’ve seen a few signs of moving away from that. Now the local cooking school expects you to pay the apprentice, and I’ve heard of cooks demanding to be paid for their pre-employment ‘working interview’ stage shift.

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While Michelin frequently claims that they rate on food quality and preparation, it is obvious that they pay at least as much currency for atmosphere, flowers, staff livery, etc, etc. Very early on in our travels I was warned that there was more hype and pretense in 1stars than in 2 or 3stars, who are more secure. I have found this to be true. Some if not most of our really disastrous meals have been at 1 star where the house was insecure, self-conscious and often riding on an archaic menu that had first brought them to Michelin attention.
I often put my tongue in a cavity by recalling a country 1 star we booked as a last minute replacement. The place was forbidding and stiff. We were attended by the FOH. My main course was if not inedible, at lease not worth eating. Venison 3 ways. I lamented that that deer died in vane. Our woman approached the table to see if everything was alright. I thanked her and told her it was just a very large plate. She told me to sit back, eat slowly and finish my meal. I bit my tongue to keep from telling her that my life was too short to accomplish that.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold