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David Ross

Bottled Water at Restaurants

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For years when I dined in a fine restaurant I eschewed the very thought of forking over any amount of money for what I considered to be a frivolous expense--a bottle of water. I suppose my naivete was based on the thought that all water that comes out of a tap in any city is decent enough to be served in a restaurant, (I mean, we drink it at home don't we?), so why pay for the bottled stuff?

I became very familiar with what I called the "Las Vegas Bottled Water Ruse" during my frequent trips to Nevada. During my first trips to Las Vegas, I readily accepted the waiter's offer of a bottle of water. Even more tempting was the consideration that I was given a choice between "still" or carbonated water. (I've come to question this silly definition of water that is "still." As opposed to water that is "sloshy?"). I quickly became aware of the Las Vegas Ruse when I actually read the bill that came at the end of one dinner and realized that I had been charged $15.00 for a bottle of water. Delivered to the table. Poured into a glass. No ice. Placed on a coaster on the table. $15.00. I went a number of years before I would again even consider ordering a bottle of water at a restaurant. Leave the ruse to be played on the other unsuspecting diners I thought.

My defense was to boldly tell the waiter that I would rather have a nice glass of "Clark County" water on ice with a slice of lemon. That'll show them I thought. But my poor judgement quickly caught up with me. The water that is drawn from the tap in Clark County, Nevada, is horrific--fully of minerals yet flat tasting. Awful. And a thin little slice of lemon won't help it. It was at that point that I realized I shouldn't ruin a $150 meal on the taste of bad tap water. If I was spending that much money to enjoy a meal, why destroy the experience and the food with water that tasted like a copper pot.

Now I gladly welcome a bottle of water ("still" is still my preference), the moment I'm seated in one of the fine-dining venues in Las Vegas. Yes, the markup is still ridiculous. A bottle of Fiji water selling for $5 bucks in the grocery store is upwards of $15 or more--but it's worth it in Las Vegas.

Now when I'm dining in Portland, Oregon, I won't even consider a bottle of water. I grew up drinking the wonderfully clear, crisp water that runs down to Portland off the resevoir up on the flanks of Mount Hood. So I'm informed enough about Portland that I won't order a bottle of water in a restaurant in the Rose City.

So what do you think about bottled water service at restaurants? Do you think that a glass of bad tap water can ruin the flavors of the food? Do you order bottled water in a city where you know the tap water is poor, yet you'll stick with the city's best water if you're familiar with the source?

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I have become very leery of water that is not bottled in some restaurants. I much prefer to order tap water but in some places it is VILE! I would definitely NOT be willing to fork out $15 for a bottle of water but then I don't usually frequent restaurants that would dare charge this! Most resaurants I frequent would charge $2 - $3 for a bottle of water and usually I find a beer is a better bargain. :biggrin:


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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I had been charged $15.00 for a bottle of water. Delivered to the table. Poured into a glass. No ice. Placed on a coaster on the table. $15.00.

Ice is not served with bottled water because the ice is made with tap water, and who wants their $15 bottled water diluted with tap?

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I really appreciate it when a restaurant offers filtered water at no additional charge. There are also some restaurants here and there that pour bottled water at no additional charge.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've never liked tap water. We grew up less than a mile from a huge landfill on Long Island, and I'm convinced that the dump poisoned the ground water - my mom has MS, and all three of her children have severe allergy and immune related issues.

I so appreciate restaurants who serve filtered water - the cleaning process makes tap water completely palatable to me. And often, getting seltzer with lime from the tap gun is also palatable (gets rid of the chlorine smell and taste somehow). But yes - I will buy the bottle if I must, to avoid most tap water.

We're going to Portland soon - perhaps based on your comment, I'll give the tap water a try.


"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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When offered a choice, I'll usually request domestic. I consider a question about water to be in the same category as "do you want change?"

As Steven sort of indicated, a restaurant has a responsibility to do what it takes to have decent water. The same tap water they bring to the table is used for food prep and perhaps, if the installer didn't provide a filter, for ice, coffee/tea and post mix soda.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

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Out in Las Vegas, I typically will not order bottled water in a restaurant. I will take just the tap. Never have experienced a waiter showing any sign if displeasure over my choice. Of course, there have been times when I have had bottled water in restaurants out there. Usually, they are with larger groups at a chefs table or something like that. As has been mentioned, sometimes a meal like that includes bottled water. They keep opening more bottles and pouring. And it never shows up on the bill.

Really, though, I like the places that provide filtered water, no charge. They can bring it to the table in a nice glass carafe or bottle or something like this. In Las Vegas, some places do this. You get "bottled water" without it having come out of a cardboard box, shipped in via truck, and maybe even on a big ship, too.

Outside of the restaurants? I'll drink bottled. The cocktail waitresses will bring me a "free" bottle when I am at the craps table or when I am playing slots. I'll buy bottles of it in the hotel gift shops, too. Frequently first thing in the morning and almost always just before I head to my room for the night.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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The restaurants we frequent have a pitcher of filtered water on each table. It's a nice friendly touch. We appreciate it.

Terry


Eating an artichoke is like getting to know someone really well.

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I never pay for bottled water now. I used too, but only if the restaurant had my favourite in stock, Badoit.

A shortage of Badoit occured and fewer places stopped stocking it and we just reverted to taking tap water instead, with no noticable difference, except on the wallet.

Now I would never contemplate paying for water, which I think that any restaurant has a duty to provide gratis.

Even the once snooty waiters don't bat an eyelid now, when I ask for tap, and we do eat out quite a bit.

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I, too, am leery of tap water in restaurants, having witnessed the following in one of Seattle's most highly regarded restaurants: Server goes around filling glasses, sets water pitcher on counter next to two bus trays of dirty dishes, has conversation with another server, picks pitcher up and goes just behind curtain separating kitchen from FOH, but still visible to me, sets pitcher on overturned milk crate, disappears, comes back, and plunges entire pitcher, including handle, and his hand up to the wrist, into giant bucket of water to refill. I would love to know just how common this setup is.

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Even the once snooty waiters don't bat an eyelid now, when I ask for tap, and we do eat out quite a bit.

There was a bit of a 'movement' over here rebelling against the cost of bottled water in restaurants a few years back, encouraging people to ask for tap water to make it a bit more socially acceptable.

It worked, I will never pay for bottled water anymore and I believe any stigma that was associated with asking for tap has gone.

That said I never drink tap water at home as its flouridated where I live (south east england). Even though you can't taste it you can often smell a vague bleach-ey smell, which is enough to put me off, nevermind the health implications.

fifteen bucks...blimey!

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Water, like bread is an emotive subject. Give people a huge bill, with a large wine spend and the first thing they will pick up on is how much the water was and he fact you charged them for bread.

I'm surprised more restaurants don't pick up on this and actively advertise the fact that they are happy to serve tap watered, filtered if necessary. They can hide the cost elsewhere if necessary, or just put a realistic cost of replacing filters on the bill - but be up front about it. They could also play up the environmental aspects - I know a number of places in the UK are doing this.


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Here's the thing...most servers, when they recite the night's specials, will say how much they cost. Or we, as customers, ask how much a particular special is - I usually do.

Maybe what needs to be done is when the waiter/waitress comes over at the start, and asks what type of water you'd like to drink, ask what they're pouring and how much the bottled waters are. Perhaps they'll get the message as they have to tell you the price and you defer to the tap. I think I'm going to do this from now on.


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Well, there's bottled water, and there's ripping-the-customers-off bottled water. I was at a restaurant in Belgium a few months ago which sported some of the worst pricing practices I've ever seen, but what was truly excessive was the water. I'm happy to pay for water, but this place had no "normal" bottled water, only eye-wateringly expensive water. Let's say 10 Euros and going upwards. And they refused to serve tap water.

I think that the reason for this evil was to maximise the amount they could bleed the customers for - basically trying to make the same markup on water as they do on wine (in an average restaurant - this one quadrupled the store prices for wine).

I will never go back there again, and I have been telling everyone I know to avoid that rip-off place. I don't even remember the food, I just remember how much I was ripped off.

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Funny…..recently went on a food-bender in DC where the old “still or sparkling” upsell was in full effect. I wonder if at this point restaurants just ASSUME that everyone understands that it’s code for “not free tap water”? I’ve only experienced this in higher-end restaurants, and when I’m paying for a meal at places like Citronelle or Eve, the extra eight or ten dollars for water doesn’t really make it onto my radar. Trying to remember, but I’m pretty sure the restaurants like Bluestem here in KC ask in a manner that lets you know there is an option for different bottled waters by lumping them in with the offer for wine and cocktails…so it’s a bit clearer. If my regular haunts suddenly started throwing sneaky “still or sparkling” into their repertoire, I would probably take issue with it.

As someone who no longer drinks alcohol, I go WILD with the bottled water…I’ve been known to start with sparkling and then order some still, or vice versa….COMPLETELY disregarding the cost. I’m the Evel Kneivel of H2O. “As a child I would drink from a hose outdoors, and look at me now! Spending enough on this bottle of water to literally buy ANOTHER hose if I felt like it!”. All kidding aside, I have a weird (possibly thread-worthy) inferiority complex when it comes to only drinking water or soft drinks in higher-tier restaurants. I pad the bill if they offer the “fancy water” or if they happen to have great house-made colas, ginger ales, various mocktails, etc., and I bump my tip up quite a bit. My neurosis is a different topic for a different thread, but as far as bottled water being worth the cost- as long as there is some degree of consistency between the price of the food and the water, I have no issue going along with “still or sparkling” charges. When it’s obviously part of a larger system of sneaky or pushy upsells like I’ve experienced at, for example, McCormick and Schmick, then it just pisses me off and I don’t go back.

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By the way, it's difficult to fully enjoy any nuanced-based cuisine when your pallet is numbed

by a liquid that is anywhere close to freezing point. This includes white wine, of course.

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Shouldn't be common - that'll get the attention of the inspector right quick.

Care to share the where?

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I, too, am leery of tap water in restaurants, having witnessed the following in one of Seattle's most highly regarded restaurants: Server goes around filling glasses, sets water pitcher on counter next to two bus trays of dirty dishes, has conversation with another server, picks pitcher up and goes just behind curtain separating kitchen from FOH, but still visible to me, sets pitcher on overturned milk crate, disappears, comes back, and plunges entire pitcher, including handle, and his hand up to the wrist, into giant bucket of water to refill. I would love to know just how common this setup is.

That was a reply to this post - oops!

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The water that is drawn from the tap in Clark County, Nevada, is horrific--fully of minerals yet flat tasting. Awful. And a thin little slice of lemon won't help it. It was at that point that I realized I shouldn't ruin a $150 meal on the taste of bad tap water.

Because of my job, I know quite a bit about Clark County tap water.

Suffice to say, I have a whole house Reverse Osmosis system. That way I don't even have to brush my teeth with the stuff. RO gets rid of pesky contaminates, like URANIUM and RADIUM.

On the following link, Nevada has three of the 10 worst municipal water supplies in America.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41354370/ns/business-going_green/

And that isn't the worst of it -- water in Vegas comes from Lake Mead. Effluent is treated and returned to Lake Mead. But water treatment isn't getting everything, Lake Mead is contaminated with pharmaceuticals -- ingested by the population and passed into the supply through urine and feces. And recycled back into Lake Mead -- over and over and over again. Remember, none of this stuff evaporates. It concentrates.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16397-top-11-compounds-in-us-drinking-water.html

I've read similar stories about radioactive and pharmaceutical contaminates in the Las Vegas Review Journal. But slogging through a few pages searching for "water contaminate" didn't yield anything relevant.

Basically -- pay for the bottled water. I'm also OK with carbonated water off the soda dispenser because it's filtered -- and that will get rid of the heavy elements.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Thanks to ScoopW, I now know why the Vegas water is so awful. As a person who usually wakes very early, I usually carry along an immersion heater so I can make tea when I wake without disturbing everyone else. Nearly gagged on that nasty soup. I now carry water everywhere I go.

Our county seat runs a close second on noxious water. It is so bad that I can't even order tea, coffee, or soda because I can still taste it and a wedge of lemon does nothing to improve it.. I don't feel that I should be obliged to pay extra for a decent glass of water and the owners don't like it when you bring your own. Do I have to pay corkage for my own water out of my own well? (Steamed) :angry:

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