Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eating Out vs Eating In

Last Saturday the hubby and I enjoyed a dinner out courtesy of a belated Christmas gift from a relative. We went to a chain steak place and I was floored for a number of reasons. Mostly because the dinner for two--shared appetizer, one soda for hubby, two basic steak dinners, and two desserts plus tip--cost $70 (!). Further, the place was packed--there was nearly an hour wait for a table, the customers were mainly families with kids and they didn't look wealthy, they looked fairly average. My first thought was how do these people AFFORD such dinners? It didn't look like these were celebratory dinners like for a birthday or anniversary, it looked like people were just eating a regular dinner out.
I think I pointed out in an earlier post that we don't eat out very often. When we do eat out, usually when we are out of town, we always tend to choose ethnic, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that give you a big serving of yummy food for really reasonable prices. Eating out this weekend only reinforced the reasons we usually choose to eat in:
  • I don't wait in line to eat. Mostly because I don't like crowds and don't think I will get a great meal if my meal order is one of hundreds. In fact our order took over an hour to get and was marginally cold when it arrived at our table.
  • I don't like chain restaurants. Chain restaurants are so...chain-like. Everything is the same. There is no room for a chef's creativity, no way to even talk to the cooks, and no special "the chef wants you to try this" that often happens in small, out of the way, family run restaurants.
  • I don't like paying $70 for a meal for two people! Unless it is a one time "restaurant experience" like going to the Melting Pot or the Space Needle or the Herb Farm, spending a ton of money on a meal you can make at home for, in this case, maybe $15 total, is ludicrous. If this was my money I was spending I would have been able to buy groceries that would last us nearly two weeks.
  • I don't like the "yuppie restaurant experience." Cute young waitresses that answer "I don't know" and don't bother to find out the answers to your questions. Food that is very generic and not at all amazing (I much prefer a sublime container of dim sum at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Seattle which costs about $3). Food that is way over priced (one appetizer of two smallish crab cakes for $10.95!). More or less mandatory tip even though the service wasn't that great. The loud, rowdy-ish atmosphere.

Overall it was a nice gesture on the part of our relative and the experience wasn't a total wash. The steak leftovers made a wonderful fried rice the next day, we both agreed that the experience was a good one-time event but nothing we want to repeat in the near future, and we are secure in the fact that our choice to limit eating out is both a boon to our finances and our health.

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