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Tips On Tables


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#1 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 02:42 PM

Another very old and fascinating restaurant guide, actually earlier than Fougner's Dining Out in New York and following hard on the heels of the repeal of the Volstead Act.

The things which really strike me:

  • Closing times. The author usually gives one, and 3am seems typical whatever the type of place or location.
  • Value. There are swanky joints, but restaurant after restaurant is commended as inexpensive. Imagine trying to recommend good value in NYC today.
  • Homogeneity of cuisine. Lots of classic French and Italian, some German and Central/Eastern European, a few American (chops, oysters) with the same dishes mentioned over and over again. No premium on novelty.

I also learned that what is now York Avenue was considered an continuation of Avenue A, and thus labeled on the map. I also learned, in reading about the restaurants and clubs of Harlem, that political correctness had not yet been invented.

#2 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 02:46 PM

I wonder if a moderator could make the title "Tips On Tables"?

I was checking on the author -- Robert W. Dana -- and found a website dedicated to it. Amazing. Whoa, that's a later writer: 1950s.

The book I'm looking at was by George Ross (Tips on Tables: Being a Guide to Dining and Wining in New York at 365 Restaurants Suitable to Every Mood and Every Purse).

#3 Adrian

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 02:57 PM

[*]Value. There are swanky joints, but restaurant after restaurant is commended as inexpensive. Imagine trying to recommend good value in NYC today.


Really? Relative to other major cities, dining in NYC is still a good value.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#4 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:16 PM

Really? I must avoid these other major cities.

Challenge: Where would you recommend in today's NYC as good value of its kind?

(In other words, yes, there are good cheap "ethnic" restaurants, but they're the price you'd expect to pay.)

I could only think of one place.

#5 Lippy

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:24 PM

Really? I must avoid these other major cities.

Challenge: Where would you recommend in today's NYC as good value of its kind?

(In other words, yes, there are good cheap "ethnic" restaurants, but they're the price you'd expect to pay.)

I could only think of one place.

Well?

#6 Adrian

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:25 PM

Really? I must avoid these other major cities.

Challenge: Where would you recommend in today's NYC as good value of its kind?

(In other words, yes, there are good cheap "ethnic" restaurants, but they're the price you'd expect to pay.)

I could only think of one place.


How do we define value? If it's some measure of quality to price, even somewhere like Jean Georges qualifies. It's substantially better than "the best restaurant in town" in Toronto, Montreal, DC (maybe Komi is comparable?), and Boston. Lunch especially. Sure, a place like McCrady's is a better value, but it's in Charleston and the economics there are totally different from where I'm talking about. Ssam is still a good value - its competitors in other cities are either as or more expensive and not nearly as good. Lots of neighbourhood places as well. Cafe Katja jumps to mind, though maybe prices have gone up. Even a mediocre place like Flea Market is better at its price than other French brasseries elsewhere. Degustation and some of the other $50 a head tasting joints are in there as well. Is Frej and good value? Even Luger's insofar as the steak there is priced the same as steak at other places in other towns and is much better. Chances are, we're both defining "value" slightly different and largely agree here.

ETA: Montreal is a much better value proposition than NYC. Toronto, Boston, and DC are not.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#7 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:34 PM

In this context, I'm thinking of it as something a guide might reasonably make a point of indicating. In the book I'm reading, the author finds many occasions to observe that the food is inexpensive given its quality and/or quantity.

I find it hard to imagine a sensible NYC restaurant guide doing that today.

The one place which does spring to mind is Aldea, which I think is remarkable value for what it is. I am sure that's not to the only one. Degustation, perhaps?

#8 Adrian

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:39 PM

In this context, I'm thinking of it as something a guide might reasonably make a point of indicating. In the book I'm reading, the author finds many occasions to observe that the food is inexpensive given its quality and/or quantity.

I find it hard to imagine a sensible NYC restaurant guide doing that today.

The one place which does spring to mind is Aldea, which I think is remarkable value for what it is. I am sure that's not to the only one. Degustation, perhaps?


By that measure, of the places I listed, JG lunch, Cafe Katja, and Degustation for sure. I'm sure I can come up with more. Annisa would be a top five restaurant in Toronto or Boston and is priced below all of them. A number of ethnic places as well.

Isn't the Bib Gourmand a value measure?

ETA: though I'm sure Orik will point out that this just means that northeastern North American cities are a remarkably poor value.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#9 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:50 PM

I neither agree nor disagree about Annisa in comparison with its Toronto and Boston peers, but I think inter-city comparisons exceed my original point. It would be odd to find an NYC guide telling you about the copious and delicious inexpensive table d'hote at Annisa. In fact, I regard it as a rather expensive restaurant, especially a la carte.

Some of your other examples are fair.

#10 Orik

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:52 PM

I was just about to point that out. Being the best of the worst doesn't make you good. Posted Image

NYC Chinese places (even the good onese) often offer suspiciously good value. Luger's for sure (you might say it's not special anymore, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than MT and steak that's a little bit better costs me about the same as when I eat it there... let's say it could cost me half as much if I tried hard, but still not terrible)


The terrible value proposition of most mid-range places (for as long as I've been here) and more recently of most high-end places is exactly the reason why all of those unreal restaurants are emerging. $100+ for an ounce of beef at Per Se, $28 for some poor fillet of farmed garbage fish, of $45 for the full menu at Frej (which, admittedly, isn't that much food)

I never said that

#11 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:52 PM

I'm not saying there are only two or three places where one might comment on the value. What struck me was that there were very many in the guide I'm reading.

#12 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:54 PM

I think reading about all those "full course" dinners for $1 and cocktails for 40 cents turned my head.

#13 Adrian

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:56 PM

I'm not saying there are only two or three places where one might comment on the value. What struck me was that there were very many in the guide I'm reading.


Right. Maybe a closer look at the Bib Gourmands would help things out. It claims to be a value list like the one in the guide that you're showing us, so guides still do that (and we can't say if the ones in Tips On Tables were actually good value - you're not that old! Unless one of the quants wants to do real wages).

Annisa shows the relativity of the value measure.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#14 Orik

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:57 PM

I think reading about all those "full course" dinners for $1 and cocktails for 40 cents turned my head.


I think when I looked at some old menus it seemed like anything before WW2 was incredibly cheap in today's terms.
I never said that

#15 Wilfrid

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 04:06 PM

...we can't say if the ones in Tips On Tables were actually good value...

Annisa shows the relativity of the value measure.


I don't think that really needs to be shown.

We don't know if the food was as good as the guide says, but one can see the price differentials.