This article in the New York Times Dining Section is causing a bit of fuss. Frank Bruni writes about finding nice meals for two at restaurants in Manhattan that come in under $100 (excluding drinks). Part of the challenge is to have a traditional three course meal, and have enough for a 20% tip.
The basic jist of the comments (so far there are over 200) is that this is an awful lot of money to spend on an ordinary dinner for two. I don't disagree; $100 is a lot of money to spend on one meal. One woman writes:
"I read the header for this and was astonished-- your favorite restaurants at a good price-- good price being $100 or so???? Do we really need this kind of thing while people are losing jobs, homes, retirement, life savings and kids are looking at a future with college unaffordable? Perhaps I live in a strange world, but I would not dream of spending $100 on a meal in a restaurant. "
— Stephanie Gilmore, Blacksburg, Virginia
Almost all of the comments are from people living outside of New York City. And I feel like dining in New York is a different experience than it is anywhere else in the country.
Is it more expensive? Yes! But is the food better? Yes!
This isn't to say that every restaurant in NYC is the best you've ever been to (far from it). But in New York, you have access to more than 20,000 restaurants. That choice, that accessability, that variety -- it's part of what you're paying for each and every time you go out.
For us, on this blog, I consider a bill under $50 before tip to be a cheap date spot. I consider any bill higher than that to be a celebration stop. I know that those are high figures for some people, and believe me, it doesn't exactly feel cheap to us, either. But restaurants are important to us, and while we couldn't do it every day, we're willing to pay the price when we do go out.
Peter and I were talking about this article last night at dinner, and he said he wished Bruni spent more time searching for hole in the wall spots that serve a great meal for a low price, or that Bruni went to truly fantastic, very expensive restaurants and worked the menu to keep the cost down. I think both of those are great ideas, but that may be because they also happen to be the exact approaches we take when dining out!