New York’s quietest restaurants are New York’s most expensive restaurants, I write in my Bloomberg News column today. Alas, that doesn’t help us 47% percenters who can’t quite afford Le Bernardin once a month. So I also publish a list of less pricey venues, like Empellon Cocina, where the noise levels are still quite tolerable.
This week I review Battersby in my Bloomberg News column, a good if uneven American restaurant in Carroll Gardens. It accepts cash, Visa, Mastercard. But Battersby does not take American Express, the preferred and sometimes exclusive currency of corporate dinners and client lunches everywhere.
It’s become somewhat of a right of passage for young, Kings County spots to refuse American Express, known for its higher-than-average transaction fees. So here’s a list of other Brooklyn restaurants (along with two Manhattan spots) that take credit cards but refuse Amex:
Thing is, most of these restaurants can get away with not taking Amex because they’re pretty affordable and casual. I mean, you wouldn’t exactly take your boss to Dassara, a noodle joint on Smith Street, which quite frankly speaks more poorly of your boss than it does of Dassara, where you can slurp down great lamb ramen, but that’s the way the world works, son.
Here at The Price Hike, I mostly cover the cost of dining out. But every now and then, I’ll bring a little more context into explaining why (or whether) things cost more (or less) than they used to. This context might come, like it does today, from the good people at Bloomberg News, who employ me full time. Cheers. `Ryan
So writes New York Times food critic Pete Wells in his largely skeptical take on tasting menu-only restaurants, an odd, albeit interesting world where meals last over three hours, where bread courses are dictatorially delayed until mid-meal, and where dining rooms are filled by “big game hunters,” eager to spend a thousand dollars per couple for the privilege of feasting at a trophy establishment. Instagrams of the now-closed El Bulli must be the ultimate taxidermy, non?
Smart eaters will read the NYT piece in its entirety because it’s a fine lament on an expensive & idiosyncratic slice of modern gastronomy.
But what I focus on here at The Price Hike are prices, and it’s Mr. Wells’ statement about this “epidemic” of expensive tasting menus that piques my interest, as well as another one of his musings: “I can’t feel good about watching great restaurants that were already serving an elite audience taking themselves further out of reach.”
The NYT critic raises good questions. As much as I love American Omakase spots like Alinea, Blanca and Brooklyn Fare, committing the necessary financial resources toward a pricey tasting (or dealing with the subsequent gastro-intestinal distress) isn’t exactly my regular brand of bourbon.
Alaskan King Crab, roughly $21/lb-$35/lb wholesale, is a luxury item, and rightly so, as “foraging” for the delicacy boasts an even higher fatality rate than commercial fishing as a whole — already a dangerous profession. So let the record state that I didn’t necessarily balk when I learned Brooklyn Crab (the subject of my Bloomberg News review this week), was charging $48 for 1.5 lbs of the stuff.
I mean, you can just ask for a half-order, right?
Here’s the thing. When Mother Nature created King Crab, she had the good sense of dividing the meat among six legs, so it could be ordered in smaller portions by financially prudent consumers. Mother Nature knew from the get go that we didn’t necessarily want to spend $48 King Crab.
She also knew a pound and a half of King Crab is maybe too much even for two guests. Sometimes you just want a taste. Unfortunately, Brooklyn Crab doesn’t allow half-orders; the cheapest King Crab variant is as part of a $40 Northwest steam pot.
Mother Nature wanted King Crab to be accessible to everyone. Brooklyn Crab is making it inaccessible.
On the heels of a Bloomberg News report documenting the rising price of USDA PRIME beef, we’re launching The State of Steak, a regular feature that helps you keep track of your meat (!!!).
For our first edition, we’re listing the prices of strips and sirlions in NYC.
Briefly: Your strip or sirloin is probably going to cost you $40-$60 bucks, especially after tax and tip. Sure, it might be more scientific to calculate the cost-per-ounce. But since most of these restaurants don’t allow you to purchase steak by the ounce, we don’t see much use in such mathematical undertakings.
Here’s the way we see it, if you go to a restaurant, and if you want a strip, you’ll only have a few options. And here they are. Many of these steaks are labeled “PRIME’ on the menus. We’ll let you decide whether that’s the case. Oh, allow us to apologize in advance for any “editorializing” you might encounter below.
Given the absurd size of American steaks, many any of these “single-serving” portions could easily feed two. We generally prefer the “composed” steak entrees at the higher-end venues on this list, where the beef comes in smaller portions (last updated 08/29/2012 — added 21 Club).
We at The Price Hike have always paid special attention to beef prices at Minetta Tavern, the Harvard University of Keith McNally’s Manhattan restaurant empire. Here’s why: Minetta, along with Peter Luger, is one of two Michelin-starred steakhouses in New York; we think The Dutch merits inclusion in that group as well.
And while Luger has long been viewed as a standard-bearer for porterhouses, a cut lots of us don’t eat much anymore, Minetta, to many, is the cotes de boeuf cleanup hitter (the strip steak isn’t too shabby either). Of course, with great demand (and insanely high food costs) comes great pricing power. Minetta Tavern’s cote de boeuf is $140, a 56% hike from the restaurant’s 2009 price of $90; Minetta’s $58 strip steak, in turn, is 61% higher than its $36 price tag from three years ago.
Minetta co-chef Lee Hanson was nice enough to chat with us as part of our Bloomberg News article on how midwest droughts could effect the price of USDA PRIME BEEF. Here, we present more extensive highlights from our email interview from the chef. Think of this as the DVD extended cut:
Are you ordering less prime beef than previously because of high prices or supply constraints? No, we are not ordering less prime, customers still want it. What happens next year, who knows? If prices go crazy and people shy away from beef we’ll have to roll out the Cauliflower steaks…We have not felt a shortage yet because today’s issues are next year’ price increases. Next year will probably be a [expletive omitted that rhymes with hit]show though.
You’ve steadily increased your restaurant’s steak prices since opening in April 2009. (And of course virtually every New York steakhouse has raised their prices as well because of rising beef costs). How have your clients reacted to those price increases? Our customers seem to have adjusted to the price increases over the years. Like you said, it’s not just us raising them. We are not raising prices for the hell of it or to rip people off. Like any business when we get a price increase, we have to pass that on to the customer. Actually we will swallow a few increases before we make the change on the menu.
Do you have any plans on increasing the price of your $140 cote de boeuf, $58 strip and $46 filet in the coming weeks or months? No plans on raising anything until we get raised. We are not in the speculating business.
To the best of my knowledge, you haven’t increased the price of your Black Label burger since opening in 2009. Any plans on changing that price? The price we pay on the black label has not gone up so it has remained the same. Which shows that we increase things when we have to. Considering the black label is our biggest seller we could easily tack on another dollar or two (Lee Hanson).