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The Platt Thread


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#151 taion

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 07:44 PM

How is that predictive of places starting with interesting menus, then shifting to serve the LCD as time goes on? Or do places not even try that any more?

 

It's not like replacement-level Italian places are sufficiently attractive as investments to make up for this, no?


I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#152 taion

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 07:45 PM

How does increased startup cost explain the observation that restaurants are more boring than they used to be?


I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#153 Orik

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 09:01 PM

I don't think they even bother with interesting items, except maybe for Sneak's imaginary Mexican goat. 

 

Replacement level places run by known operators enjoy huge advantages - for example they get invited to hotel and office developments where they usually (1) pay percentage rent with 6 month or a full year break for construction and (2) are guaranteed they won't suddenly run into architectural or mechanical surprises except if the development as a whole has issues. 


sandwiches that are large and filling and do not contain tuna or prawns

#154 Wilfrid

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 06:28 PM

This is kind of sad, but I have some time at home between business trips, and thought about New York restaurants, and actually framed it in my own mind as: "Where can I have a disappointing dinner at a high price?"  I mean, that's how it came to me.  Very dispiriting.  I used to be enthusiastic.



#155 Suzanne F

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 03:07 PM

(BTW, since nobody had the guts to say they got it:  Paul Lynde in Bye Bye Birdie.)

I missed it, but I was eleven when I saw the show and who can remember that far back? Sneak, were you even in kindergarten then?

 

But because I'm old, I completely miss the Ed Sheeran references. All I think of is Ed Sherin. And maybe Ned Sherrin.


I don't actually know what a handbasket is -- but whatever they are, singer-songwriters are in the first ones going to hell. -- Sneakeater, 29 March 2018 - 12:06 AM

 

notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table


#156 Suzanne F

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 03:59 PM

I have not read through this whole thread--I stopped around page 6--so maybe someone already said this (although I doubt anyone is as contrarian as I tend to be):

 

Consider these restaurants as, essentially, meant for their neighborhoods--locals, not destinations. A neighborhood restaurant that provides competent food with decent service does not have to be cutting-edge or innovative; it just has to satisfy the need for a meal without fuss. People are annoyed by such cookie-cutter, middle-of-the-road restaurants because they think they must try every new place that opens, wherever it is. So when they travel from one end of the city to another to try the latest opening and find it's just like something they've been to elsewhere, they blame the restaurant rather than their expectation that every place must be unique. Why the desperate need for peregrination, only to be disappointed? I'm a proponent of staying close to home. If I had an equivalent to, say, D&H nearby, I would not schlep to Brooklyn. When I read the menus of new places and see how much they parallel others, I decide they are not worth the trip.

 

Someone like Platt, who by the nature of his work must try new restaurants all over (well, in a spread-out if small number of acceptable neighborhoods), will of course run into this much-of-a-muchness. An occupational hazard, that I don't think is worth complaining about; it goes with the territory.

 

That said, there are probably neighborhoods that are saturated with too many too-similar restaurants. So why not just pick the one you prefer and ignore the others? Or try the new ones, decide if they are different enough, and add them to the rotation only if they are?

 

And to answer Adrian's "No one complains about good trattorias in Rome or izakayas and ramen places in Tokyo or bistros in Paris or Montreal or various cantinas in Mexico City.": Possibly true, but the timing and length of the experiences are different. When most of us visit those restaurants, it is as short-term visitors to the city,* not as full-time residents. So the compacted (in time) dining experience is one of looking for "the best" examples of the local food in multiple parts of the city, food of types we are unsatisfied with in our home territory. This requires a compare-and-contrast of places offering similar food. (That was my recent experience in Lima: in four days, we ate at three very good restaurants that all served somewhat gussied-up takes on traditional Peruvian food. Were we unhappy with that similarity? Not at all; the food was completely new to us, and we were happy to detect the subtle differences among the three versions.)

 

 

*Except for Orik, who seems to live everywhere.


I don't actually know what a handbasket is -- but whatever they are, singer-songwriters are in the first ones going to hell. -- Sneakeater, 29 March 2018 - 12:06 AM

 

notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table


#157 Sneakeater

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 09:19 PM

The problem is the prices.  These are neighborhood places, serving "replacement/filler" food -- but you have to pay $100+ to eat in them.  (AND they're being touted not as places for filler meals, but as the hot new places in New York.)

 

The way I see what's happened is this.  Fifteen or 20 years ago, we started seeing this new kind of restaurant.  It wasn't fancy or anything, and it wasn't centrally located.  But the food was imaginative and ingredient quality was excellent (for here, anyway).  They charged more than typical neighborhood places did, but less than the better mainstream restaurants (what were then NYT three-stars).  It was worth paying more for these places, we thought, because they were serving better and more imaginative food than we were used to in neighborhood spots.

 

What we're seeing now is a whole bunch of places opening up that look like the kind of places I described above, but serve food that isn't really distinguishable from what true neighborhood places (the old kind) have served.  The kind of thing you pay for only because you don't feel like cooking yourself.  Yet, they charge the same higher prices as were charged by the more ambitious "elevated" mid-range places.  Which themselves are disappearing or dumbing down.

 

Steve would say that those "elevated" mid-range places were an anomaly in New York, and we shouldn't be surprised to see them go.  Maybe we shouldn't.  But we should be resistant to paying these higher prices for the kind of food you can still get cheaper elsewhere.  And those of us who liked the "elevated" mid-range places can still mourn their passing, even if they were an anomaly.


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#158 Sneakeater

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 09:23 PM

To be clear, the restaurants we're complaining about aren't the New York equivalent of the places in Lima serving gussied-up Peruvian food.  They're the superseding replacements of the New York equivalents of the places in Lima serving gussied-up Peruvian food.   It's as if the gussied-up places all disappeared, and were replaced by new places that charged just as much, but weren't gussied-up at all; they just served fairly good but in no way special renditions of the same food you get everywhere else for much less.


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#159 taion

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 11:02 PM

Do you think their median check totals are really >100$ pp? Or are we just all habitual over-eaters (and alcoholics)?


I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#160 Sneakeater

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 11:34 PM

How could I answer that?


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#161 Sneakeater

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Posted 18 March 2018 - 11:35 PM

I will say this:  I tried to get away with just ordering an antipasto and a pasta at Faro the other night, and the bartender -- who didn't know me and my eating habits -- told me it wouldn't be enough.  And he was right.


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#162 Steve R.

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Posted 19 March 2018 - 01:10 PM

The problem is the prices... The way I see what's happened is this.  Fifteen or 20 years ago, we started seeing this new kind of restaurant.  It wasn't fancy or anything, and it wasn't centrally located.  But the food was imaginative and ingredient quality was excellent (for here, anyway).  They charged more than typical neighborhood places did, but less than the better mainstream restaurants (what were then NYT three-stars)... Steve would say that those "elevated" mid-range places were an anomaly in New York, and we shouldn't be surprised to see them go.  Maybe we shouldn't.  But we should be resistant to paying these higher prices for the kind of food you can still get cheaper elsewhere.  And those of us who liked the "elevated" mid-range places can still mourn their passing, even if they were an anomaly.


We are in total agreement on this. And I, probably less than you but enough to feel it, miss these “elevated” places as well. I didn’t mind paying more than I did in my regular neighborhood places for this new interesting food. But they came and went, leaving few behind. But I dont think that the only alternative is to eat in an overpriced mediocre place. There are many places that, for under $100pp, one can get a non boring, good ingredient driven, solid meal. Of course, with the amount of time that you, I, and many MFF members spend eating at restaurants &/or cooking at a high level, our idea of what’s boring when dining out is way higher than others. But I dont bore easily & I’m not looking for exciting new love and am more a long term relationship type of guy, so I can eat at Noodle Pudding 1-2x/week, much as regulars in Rome do at their neighborhood places, without pause.

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#163 joethefoodie

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Posted 19 March 2018 - 01:51 PM

I still eat at all of our neighborhood places where the two of us can dine for just about $100 - Bacaro, Katja (though it's getting tough at Katja), Wu's.  But when we want something a little bit nicer, it certainly doesn't just cost a little bit more...it's usually double.

 

Here's an example of the restaurant economics for the neighborhood guys.  An owner was explaining the situation to me, that their revenue has basically stayed equal, but their profits have dropped close to 50%.  And the prices of the food can't go up anywhere close enough to make up for that difference, or people will basically stop going there. 



#164 Adrian

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Posted 19 March 2018 - 02:14 PM

 

The way I see what's happened is this.  Fifteen or 20 years ago, we started seeing this new kind of restaurant.  It wasn't fancy or anything, and it wasn't centrally located.  But the food was imaginative and ingredient quality was excellent (for here, anyway).  They charged more than typical neighborhood places did, but less than the better mainstream restaurants (what were then NYT three-stars).  It was worth paying more for these places, we thought, because they were serving better and more imaginative food than we were used to in neighborhood spots.

 

What we're seeing now is a whole bunch of places opening up that look like the kind of places I described above, but serve food that isn't really distinguishable from what true neighborhood places (the old kind) have served.  The kind of thing you pay for only because you don't feel like cooking yourself.  Yet, they charge the same higher prices as were charged by the more ambitious "elevated" mid-range places.  Which themselves are disappearing or dumbing down.

 

Steve would say that those "elevated" mid-range places were an anomaly in New York, and we shouldn't be surprised to see them go.  Maybe we shouldn't.  But we should be resistant to paying these higher prices for the kind of food you can still get cheaper elsewhere.  And those of us who liked the "elevated" mid-range places can still mourn their passing, even if they were an anomaly.

 

This seems to be the right narrative - but note that the great improvement that started 15-20 and peaked probably 5-10 years ago was driven by an increased interest in food. There's a lot to complain about in American food culture, but I think the economic factors that Ori, etc. are discussing exist independent of the increased interest. Mostly, if it wasn't for the rise of mainstream interest in food, the state of affairs would probably be much, much worse. But sure, there's a reason why it's not a major dining destination for us the way it used to be. Which reminds me, I owe some around here a big Paris post...

 

All of that said, there's much to criticize about the New York/American attitude towards food and American food culture that drives the scene in bad directions, but given the underlying economics of the city, it's far better that there's a mainstream cohort of people interested in food than in its absence.*

 

*Young people are always going to want to go out for brunch. I wish I had a time machine to take you back to DC circa 2006 to check out what a brunch scene looks like in the absence of any mainstream interest in food. 


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


#165 Wilfrid

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Posted 19 March 2018 - 03:06 PM

I will say this:  I tried to get away with just ordering an antipasto and a pasta at Faro the other night, and the bartender -- who didn't know me and my eating habits -- told me it wouldn't be enough.  And he was right.

 

At Otway a couple of nights ago, my check did indeed come in at the expected $99 (before tip).  To taion's point, the couple next to me breathtakingly shared the chickpeas (a bar snack) and the hanger steak. So their food check: under $18 a head.

 

Somewhere between the two is probably typical. Mine was for three courses with three glasses of wine.