Friday, February 05, 2010

The Nine Dollar Cup of Soup or Why I Like Buffets

We were invited out to dinner by relatives who have quite a bit more spending income than we have. The dinner was on them and the restaurant was their choice. Needless to say, they did not choose a buffet. The restaurant that they chose is a small restaurant on Long Island in New York that consists of a bar and a small dining room - nothing fancy with a tavern atmosphere and they fashion themselves as a "steak house", though there is a little more on the menu besides two or three types of steak. When there were such a thing as neighborhood restaurants, one could safely described this as that. This being Long Island, the prices are extremely high. The menu is ala carte. An entree includes a potato and very small serving of vegetable. This is not a restaurant that one would know by name and is not a restaurant that is noted as a fine restaurant.

When I am out like this I always wait for my hosts to order and when looking over the menu and deciding I pick two entrees at different price levels. I always order the one that is lower than what my hosts are ordering. I never want to be seen as taking advantage and I believe it is polite to order conservatively while still having something enjoyable. Both of my hosts ordered salads. A basic salad was $11.00. Two slices of tomato and two slices of onion were also $11.00. Salad was not included with the entrees. As I was not going to sit there as they ate their salads before the entrees were brought to the table, I ordered a cup of soup. Th ecup of soup - a so-so cup of bisque cost $9.00. I toyed with the thought to order the bowl - which was $11.00, but felt that the nine dollars was enough of a waste - and certainly, this was the most expensive cup of soup that I have ever had. I only wish that it was the best cup of soup that I have ever had. Entrees were in the $28 to $40 range, though one person in our party had a vegetable platter which consisted of a few pieces of broccoli, some carrots, and a piece or two of squash - and this was priced at $16.00. Yah!

Ridiculous, but I am sure that there are some out there reading that will say that this is what you have to pay for a meal out. Really? I rarely pay anything near this amount and I eat out quite well. And this is why I like buffets. Even the most expensive of the buffets that we have encountered - even the all you can eat lobster buffets or the fancy five star hotel buffets - are proportionally not as expensive as this small (and typical) neighborhood restaurant. And when you are finished with your meal you have gotten something worth the money that you paid. This is what I mean when I talk about value for your dollar in my articles - and I will say regardless of the price level when value is delivered. Certainly, at this particular restaurant with its high prices, the food was no better than any I have had a most of the buffets that I have recommended. The steak was not as good as some that I have had a Ryans, Wild, Wild West Casino Buffet in Atlantic City, New Jersey, or some other buffets that I have been to. No better attention was paid to how it was cooked - and the quality of the beef was not as good as it was not really tender, as one might expect in a restaurant that claims steak as its specialty.

Yet, my hosts return here often. I have tried to bring them to buffets - some very nice ones, but because it is a buffet their attitude is that it cannot be good. This is an attitude that I often encounter about buffet dining. It cannot be good if it is served in quantity. It cannot be good if it is priced reasonably. But many of you know and agree with me that this simply is not true. Had I left this restaurant feeling that the steak was the best steak that I have ever had and that the nine dollar cup of soup surpassed all other soups that I have eaten, I would not be as amazed by the prices charged because if you are serving something THAT good then perhaps (and just perhaps) you can charge a ridiculous amount for it, but I would still find them lacking in value. And yet I know there are restaurants out there that go even further than this one and charge these prices and serve portions that are barely visible on the plate.

I will stick with buffets when one is available. Now, of course, I don't only eat at buffets, but when I am at a menu restaurant I look for similar value - and around here that is not so easy to find.

1 comment:

dave1973 said...

This is why I avoid restaurants that charge that much for an entree, salad, or soup. The Wheel in Hammond Indiana charges around $1.50 for a cup of soup dine-in, and 50¢ more if carryout (Lemon Rice Soup is the most popular soup there everyday). I don't know about a salad. I know a salad doesn't cost that much there. Entrees are anywhere $7.00 - $15.00 on average. Portion sizes are reasonable for the price too.

To me, any place that charges more than $20 for an entree charge for service. That's fine for some people, but I refuse to patronize restaurants that charge that much, as I have found places like that don't always have reasonable portion sizes, and from my experience, waiters/waitresses pushing too hard to get people to order expensive entrees & appetizers. Even if the service is bad, some places mandate the 15-25% gratuity. That has to be earned, not demanded. Hope you don't mind me including a link to a story that some readers need to see. This made national news back in November when a couple was arrested for not paying the tip included on the bill:

I would only hope no one ever encounters that.