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Inexpensive Excellence

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#1 Busboy

  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 4,427 posts
  • Location:Washington, DC

Posted 18 February 2005 - 09:48 AM

(This question occurred to me after spending almost $90 on a good, but not extraordinary wine-less lunch for two at what is thought of in DC as a "mid-priced" Italian place near my office. )

Others who know better than I say that the top end of the U.S. food scene is competitve in terms of cost and quality with any in the world. And we are certainly blessed with a number excellent, inexpensive ethnic restaurants.

But, compared to what I have found in Europe, it seems that we are very short of restaurants that serve very good or excellent food at or just above your price point, say $25-40 for a three course meal, with a drinkable table wine for $15/liter.

First, do you see the same thing? And, second, why do you think that is?

I wonder if Europeans are more comfortable eating inexpensive preparations and so chefs are more skilled at coaxing excellence from them -- a highlight of a 32 euro (tax and tip included) starched tablecloth dinner in Paris was pig's head, for example. Are food and staff costs just lower there? Are Americans paying for a more varied menu -- more overhead, more line cooks --and better decore? Or are we just settling for less?

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Thinking about the government.