Friday Question of the Day – How Much Would You Splurge for a Dinner?

shaw bijou
1544 9th Street, NW

Thanks to a reader for sending word about the Shaw Bijou update from the Washington Post:

“The Shaw Bijou, 1544 Ninth St. NW. Opens Nov. 1 for dinner. 5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. $185 tickets go on sale Monday via Tock.”

That would be $185 not including drinks. The reader included one word with the email: “Oof.”

So, Friday Question of the Day – here we are: How much would you spend per person at a restaurant? Presumably for many this would be a splurge so what would warrant the loosening of the purse strings? A very special birthday like a 25th, 30th, 40th etc.? New job? Anniversary? The Nationals win the World Series?


Ed. Note: We had an interesting more general FQotD last year talking about How Much do you Budget/Spend per week on Food?

134 Comment

  • We top out at about 90/pp. That said, given the level of service described I think that’s about the right price for Shaw Bijou. Personally I think restaurant staff are criminally underpaid. People seem to expect world class food at bargain basement prices. I’d be happy to pay a little more at nice restaurants and have the staff be paid good wages. People with top culinary school training should be making good money.

    • I’v been watching the behind the scenes video of the Bijou opening on Youtube and for the amount service and details their putting in I think the price is more than fair!

      • Personally I don’t care for that level of fussy in my food, but I totally understand that a lot of people do, and that’s what it costs to do it.

  • My immediate thought was I wouldn’t spend more than $50 on dinner, so I voted for that, but then I realized I (too) regularly spend like $70 on a night at a bar, so I probably should have said $50-100. Any food that costs more than $35 is just wasted on me, but I could enjoy a couple of nice drinks along with it.

  • my main issue with these new triple digits per diner places is not necessarily spending the money, it’s enjoying/knowing what i’m eating. there are certain things I don’t eat and i don’t want to get the surprise that i’m about to be served a dish with-worst case scenario-mustard, anise and mutton.

    • This is the thing for me. I’ll happily spend over $200 per person on a special occasion (maybe two times per year) meal, but not when I’m not already familiar with the chef and his food. $185 before tax, tip and drinks at a brand-new restaurant requires an enormous leap of faith and significantly limits your potential clientele. I would need at least a year of near-orgasmic reviews before choosing to dine here.

      • That is my main issue as well. This is not an established chef charging high prices; it is a young, unproven chef. If I am going to spend that kind of money, I would rather go to minibar, Komi, or P&P. Those places are impossible to get tables though, so there is clearly a market for it, if done right. The other issue is there are plenty of really good options that are significantly cheaper, so it is harder to justify the super expensive places.

    • With just about every restaurant at that price level, you get a call from the restaurant a day or two before your booking confirming you’re still coming and asking if there are any dietary restrictions. For example, I don’t eat cheese, and explain that while I’m lactose intolerant I’ll deal with butter (because the amounts are usually a lot less and I like the stuff) but please under no circumstances give me something with cheese in it.

  • Way too much disposable income amongst PoP readers (or rich parents funding their DC life).

    • I mean, DC in general is full of very highly educated lawyers, finance folks, etc. Also, I don’t think this is really a good question to gauge average disposable income since the question asks about a “splurge.” Even growing up in a low-income family, there were rare occasions (graduations, etc.) when my family would go out for a very nice dinner that we budgeted for. Don’t be so quick to judge.

    • Who are you to say what “too much” disposable income is? DC is highly educated and well paid (see FridayGirl’s comment). Why shouldn’t someone splurge if they want to, particularly if they have budgeted accordingly? That’s not to say everyone in DC can afford it (e.g., I’d be surprised if one of those people paying 62% of their income on rent could (see last week’s post)), but many can. And that’s perfectly okay.

      • Ashy Oldlady

        I guess that “too much” to some people would be when it starts contributing to the negative effects of wealth inequality, but that’s probably a thread for another day. It would be hard to deny the gross extravagance that you see butted right up against abject poverty every day in DC.

        • How would an expensive dinner “contribut[e]to the negative effects of wealth inequality”?

          • +1. Also, your last sentence happens literally in almost all American cities. Should we not spend $100 on a nice dinner once a year just because people are eating at a soup kitchen down the street? This isn’t a zero sum game — being compassionate and eating an expensive meal periodically are not at odds with each other.

          • Let’s not kid ourselves here – it definitely is a zero sum game. (Extend this analogy to a billionaire spending/”splurging” hundreds of millions on a fancy yacht if you don’t understand why – though this is obviously at a much lower scale.)

          • It’s not though. Someone who spends $200 on an anniversary dinner once a year can still donate large quantities of money to charity, or mentor kids from low-income schools, etc. Some of these people may have even been poor growing up.
            .
            I guess you think that all people with money never lived without? Yes, some rich billionaires may be jerks but it doesn’t mean some people who are now well-off aren’t compassionate.

          • You seem to think that I’m making moral imperatives – I’m not. But spending $200 on dinner where a much smaller amount would have more than sufficed means that you can’t spend the difference on something else. It is a zero-sum game, no need to delude oneself otherwise.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I think “what is an acceptable use of money?” and “is what I am considering purchasing something that I regard as an acceptable use of this amount of money?” are good questions to ask one’s self regularly. Naturally, different people will arrive at different answers, none of which are correct or incorrect in any absolute sense. I wrestle with these questions a lot.

          • “But spending $200 on dinner where a much smaller amount would have more than sufficed means that you can’t spend the difference on something else.”
            .
            No offense, but it’s this kind of fuzzy thinking that leads to eyerolls and reflexive dismissals. By this logic, if you go to a bar and spend an extra couple of bucks on a Sam Adams, when you could have gotten the Bud Light happy hour special, you are “contributing to the negative effects of wealth inequality” because it’s a zero sum game. The Bud Light would have sufficed, and you could have spent that extra 2 dollars on something else, like donated it to a homeless shelter, but you didn’t. Lather, rinse, repeat for every single purchase or expense that exceeds the bare minimum sufficient to meet your needs – didn’t buy the generic soap, but got Ivory instead? Took an Uber X instead of Metro? Took Metro instead of walking? Same “analysis” applies.

          • The “fuzzy thinking” seems to be on your end, dcd. My only point here is that it is, absolutely, a zero sum game here. I’m not here to make moral imperatives, as I mentioned earlier. You’re arguing some other point here champ.

          • So your contribution to this discussion is, “If you spent $100 on dinner, instead of $200, you’d have $100 left over to spend on something else?” OK, point conceded. Glad we got that cleared up, I think everyone was a little unsure of the math.

          • lol, and yours was asking a dubious question. Cheers!

          • Anon makes me want to hit my head on my desk repeatedly.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Honestly, I too think Anon is being an annoying pest here, but I think he has a legitimate point that he is not arguing very persuasively and that most of us including myself voluntary ignore most of the time, but is still a legitimate point just the same. I spend way more than I need to on a whole bunch of things, including but by no means limited to meals (both infrequent overly expensive ones and too-frequent relatively inexpensive ones). I’m not going to try to argue that it is the best or most morally upright use of my money, because I don’t believe that it is. When I spend $300 on an extra-special dinner with my wife, or roughly $2000 a year on carry out sandwiches for lunch at work, it’s not because I think it’s the most morally justifiable use of my money, it’s just that I’ve decided that I want to do it anyway.

          • Hailie, I think you may be right that anon just wasn’t arguing it very persuasively. I completely agree that money that is spent on one thing can’t be spent on another. But the impact that money spent (or not spent) makes (or doesn’t make) is what’s not necessarily zero sum. Actually, we may all very well be arguing very similar things and just be phrasing it semi-poorly (myself included here).

        • So is people suppose to hide their wealth and NOT enjoy what they consider nice things because others doesn’t share in same wealth?

      • Well, the fact that we’re calling it “disposable income” kind of implies that we don’t need it. I really hate that term and wish people would call it “discretionary spending” because we’re the ones choosing how to spend or save it.

        • Because “disposable income” is perfectly applicable here and discretionary spending is not.

          Disposable Income = income remaining after deduction of taxes and other mandatory charges, available to be spent or saved as one wishes.

          Discretionary spending = government spending implemented through an appropriations bill. This spending is an optional part of fiscal policy, in contrast to entitlement programs for which funding is mandatory.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I think what navyard means is that it’s unfortunate that the term “disposable income” was ever called “disposable” in the first place, not that the term as it is defined is being misused here. All professions have jargon that even many of its practitioners dislike and that is not particularly useful when communicating with a general audience. In my profession we use measures like “relative risk” when what we are talking about often is not “risky” at all in the colloquial use of the word, and “statistically significant” for things that are of no practical importance if they are sufficiently unlikely to have been explained solely by randomness.

          • Yea, you clearly missed the point there Park View. I spend waaaaaaay too much money on fancy food, but I don’t delude myself that it’s perfectly fine for me to do so.

      • It seems excessive to have disposable income of over $400 for 1 meal (I guess it is all relative to what circles you run in) when people are struggling to get by. I am not saying you can’t enjoy the money you earn but it does seem like a huge income inequality to blow a month’s worth of groceries for most people on a meal.

        • It is absolutely *evidence* of income inequality. But “excessive” implies that one shouldn’t spend it on a dinner, or as the initial poster in this subthread implied, that one shouldn’t even *have* that kind of disposable income. Both of those positions are, in my opinion, ridiculous. I work hard, and am lucky that my work results in a good income (and recognize that many aren’t that fortunate). The notion that I have done something wrong by earning that income, or should feel bad about spending some of it on a spurge dinner every once in a while, is pretty far-fetched.

          • +1. This is what I was trying to get at above but dcd said it a lot better.

          • “inequality” is rather charged, no? someone making 75K-90K can live well and eat at fancy places, someone making $250K that has a fancy car, home and kids in private school may have to think twice. I know someone that makes $500K and has to spend $200K of it in country club memberships and related items in order to achieve the other $300K. If you are “struggling to get by” then manage better. Also, those that spend “excessively” provide employment and benefits for many that don’t. Called capitalism.

        • People blow similar amounts of money on theatre tickets, vacations and hotels. Just because this is food doesn’t make it any different.

        • Yes, $400 for dinner is quite pricy, but no one on this thread is saying they do it every day or even every month. It’s a special occasion and a splurge. I’m not sure what income equality even has to do with going to a nice dinner once in a while. As far as I know, most people posting here are probably not CEOs making 2000% more than their average employee. Then you can talk about income inequality.

        • As Kevin says, different choices! I would never spend more than $50 to see a musical act, or more than $25 for a sporting event, but I have friends who go to multiple concerts a year at $250 each, or enjoy “the best” seats at football games. And I’d never spend money on spa treatments, but I know plenty of people who consider massages and facials to be a necessity. Also, I don’t buy lottery tickets, or designer shoes, or cigarettes.
          See where we’re going here?

          • Yes, this exactly. I can’t afford to do it often, but I get a lot of joy out of fine dining, and that’s what I spend money on–not football, concerts, or spa days. You do you. (But if we want to get all in each other’s business, dropping $200 on one meal is no worse than folks who by a $10-15 sandwich for lunch every day. The expensive dinner is supporting a business that never said it was anything other than a luxury indulgence. Whereas there are about zero lunch places left with a reasonably priced sandwich because people willing to pay double-digits have driven up the price points.)

    • Too much income = some % more than/some % more than the income potential of the person who makes this assertion.

  • I usually eat at home or at inexpensive places so for a special occasion I’m happy to splurge. Over $200 = good food and a bottle of wine.

  • will be trying for tickets. hoping for opening weekend.

  • I’ve been to Komi and done the wine pairing, so that meal was over $400 for two. It was absolutely worth it.

    We aren’t rich nor do we have rich parents but eating out tends to be our only indulgence. We don’t go to the movies, bars much, or go to concerts.

    • +1 to your second paragraph.

    • My wife & I just did that for our 10th Anniversary and it was outstanding. But that place has had a stellar reputation for 13 years and may end up with a Michelin star or two when they wrap up their DC evaluation. We were super excited to splurge on that under all those circumstances. I’d feel a bit of apprehension dropping that money on a new place with a rookie chef, even if I did root for him on Top Chef.

    • This. We don’t eat out very often (especially now with a mortgage and a kid). But once or twice a year we will induldge in a lavish meal to celebrate a special occassion. Some people put extra income towards clothing or shoes or travel or hobbies. We tend to spend ours on good food and travel when it is in the budget.

  • I haven’t ever done a tasting menu like a Pineapple’s and Pearls or a Minibar, but I’m actively waiting on a reason to try it now. So I guess that puts me in the $200+. But we also from time to time spend $50+ per person on date nights, sometimes pretty spur of the moment. That’s a more typical splurge, and one with precedent.

  • I will spend 150+ on the right meal. Now, 185 for a meal from a guy who seems promising but has never actually done this? To me, that’s not the right meal. It could be in a year, but right now that is just silly.

  • I mean it seems like every time I go out to eat with my partner the bill is over $100, whether its lunch or dinner. It’s the drinks that get yah. I probably spend 1k amount eating out(including drinking) on top of meal prepping during the week….yikes!

  • Quotia Zelda

    Depends on the place and occasion. We had one memorable anniversary dinner at Citronelle that was almost $600 for the 2 of us. WEP. I still dream of some of the dishes we had.
    Normally, though, for a regular dinner out, I try to keep it below $50 or so. It helps that I’m a lightweight when it comes to cocktails. One is my limit, and Mr. Zelda rarely drinks, so alcohol costs stay low.

  • Years ago, I passed up a chance to eat at a Michelin 3 star restaurant in Paris – the meal would have been over $1000 for 2 (and now, with wine, would be closer to $1500), and we couldn’t justify that at the time (though I tried, very hard). While I know it was the right decision, I’ve always regretted it, and every time I see reference to their signature dish, artichoke soup with black truffle, I get a little twinge. I wouldn’t pass up that opportunity again.
    .
    But, to me, food is one of life’s great pleasures. I don’t have many (any?) other expensive hobbies, so I don’t mind splurging occasionally.

    • Was it Guy Savoy? My husband I couldn’t justify dinner there either, so we did lunch instead. I felt stupid spending over $500 on a lunch, but it was three hours of pure decadence, and it was totally worth it. (Husband got the artichoke soup.) So if you ever go back, consider lunch!

      • It was! (The artichoke soup gave it away.) We thought about lunch, but didn’t have too long in Paris, and if I’d done a big lunch I’d have been finished for the whole day (hardier souls than I would have better results, of course). Instead, we went to L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (1 star at the time, now two stars) for dinner, which was outstanding (those potatoes!), and more in line with what we wanted to spend (about what you spent for dinner). That’s what keeps me from full-blown regret – if we’d have gone to Guy Savoy, I’d have missed out on that meal.

        • justinbc

          FWIW you can get the full tasting menu at his Vegas restaurant (including the famous soup) for just under $300 pp.

          • I have an unreasoning prejudice against the Vegas outposts of European fine dining establishments (and, to a lesser extent, Vegas outposts of domestic restaurants). I just don’t believe that the food will measure up to the original (and the experience certainly won’t). That may be completely unfair, but I can’t seem to shake it. That said, the In-N-Out Burger in Vegas is terrific.

  • I’ll spend over $200 for significant anniversary or birthday meal. I will not, however, spend over $200 for a first-time chef’s brand-new restaurant. He has never even been a sous chef, and now he’s exec at one of the most expensive restaurants in the city? Also, the picture accompanying that story is a total turn-off to me. Dude, get your feet off the counter.
    .
    I’ll spend big bucks at Metier or Inn at Little Washington, with chefs who have earned their stripes. Hopefully in 10 years or so I’ll be adding Chef Onwuachi’s restaurant to that list, but no way I’ll be there any time soon. I do wish him good luck.

    • I feel the same way. I saw his disasters on Top Chef. I’ll let him work out his youthful mistakes as a chef before I drop that kind of money on his restaurant.

    • Agreed, and I think the incredible hype around this place is sure to backfire in some way. How many months has this place been opening?

      • There are a lot of comments about Chef Kwame being “too new”. Let’s not forget he’s coming from Eleven Madison Park and Per Se which have been Michelin starred and regarded as the some of the best in the country foreeever. While he may not have headed as an exec chef, that’s some pretty serious cred.

        • I don’t think anyone is arguing that the food won’t be good, it’s just that the price tag is a bit obnoxious for his level of experience as a head chef. Aaron Silverman at Rose’s has an incredible restaurant pedigree too, but he recognized that it’s beneficial to open a place like Rose’s first with ala carte menu items and (comparatively) lower prices before launching something like Pineapple and Pearls.I will go to Pineapple and Pearls because my experiences at Rose’s are so good, but I”m unlikely to go try Shaw at that price tag without another introduction to his food.

  • A nice, special occasion dinner can add up fast. We don’t do it often, but when we do it usually looks like the following:

    Two cocktails: $20-$24
    Two appetizers: $15-$24
    Two entrees: $45-55
    Dessert: $7-$12
    Bottle of wine: $50

  • Yikes, I find $30-40 per person pretty expensive for a dinner.

    • Oh, for a normal dinner that one might eat out a couple times a month I think that’s pretty expensive, too. But I figured the key word was “splurge,” which most of us don’t do often.

    • Do you not drink alcohol? I can’t recall the last time we went out and spent that little. Even sandwiches at Tchoup’s wound up over $50 per person, but we each had a cocktail and we split a bottle of wine.
      .
      To spend $30 per person all-in means about $23 per person before tax and tip. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for alcohol at most DC restaurants.

      • No, I don’t normally get a drink if I’m going out to eat. Too expensive, and I can just have a drink when I get home!

        • Same here– it’s just too much to consume all at once and I don’t really miss if I have a nice meal I’m enjoying.

  • My husband and I had dinner at a Michelin star restaurant in Barcelona that was over $500. It was totally worth it. We are not rich and usually don’t spend a lot money going out, so it was a once in a lifetime kind of experience. The dishes were like delicious works of art. This was a few years ago and I can still remember how the food looked and tasted.

    • We dropped a couple hundo at Tickets in Barca and it was well worth it.

      • I’ve heard it’s amazing. I find that when we travel we rarely do an all out splurge meal, and end up eating more small snacks/street food unless it’s a special occasion, like going to La Giostra on our honeymoon.

        • We got locked out of reservations for Tickets and ended up eating at La Bodega 1900 across the street (also owned by the Adrias). While I’m sure it was nowhere near the Tickets experience, the food was amazing and it appeared that a couple dishes from Tickets (or El Bulli) had migrated over. It was significantly cheaper and much easier to get a reservation. It’s worth going to if you want a peek into the Adrias’ cooking without such a high bill.

  • We don’t splurge on a meal much–and usually top out at $100-150, though we went out for an AMAZING dinner at Alan Wong’s in Honolulu for our honeymoon and probably spent at least $200. It was so worth it, but not something we’d do regularly–or even periodically–by any means.

  • Dining is overrated and kind of boring.

    • What’s your point? You win, I guess. I’m sure you spend money on things people might say the same about. Different strokes. Move along.

      • I voted and offered my opinion on spending time dining out. I didn’t realize this was a competition I was capable of winning.

        • True… but your remark generated that because it was phrased as a sort of universal pronouncement. I doubt anyone would have batted an eyelid if you’d said, “To me, dining out is overrated and boring,” or “I find dining out to be overrated and boring.”

          • generated that *response

          • Unless we’re going to start flagging virtually every post on this website, it should not be necessary for one to explicitly indicate that what they are saying is a personal opinion when it would be impossible for it to be otherwise.

        • +1 – Perhaps not intended, but the comment reads as judgment from a moral high ground. To Textdoc’s point, Ryan’s comment above “Any food that costs more than $35 is just wasted on me” expresses a personal opinion that does not convey that superiority perspective.

          • Meant to be a reply to Textdoc’s first comment

          • Didn’t intend to sprinkle in anyone’s Cheerios or take a moral position on an obviously popular pastime. I probably should have just said I don’t understand much of the hype.

  • Last month while in Mexico, my friends and I spent $200 per person on a 5 course meal. It was worth every single penny. The food was amazing and the ambiance: breathtaking as it should be, it was The Pedregal, Mexico. I could however, see myself shelling out the cash for a super special occasion. As mentioned above by other posters, I too already spend around $70 a couple times a week at bar so why not?

  • I had a job for a while that allowed me to eat in some of the world’s “best” restaurants, with pricetags to match their reputations. And honestly? The food wasn’t that much better than an “ordinary” good restaurant. Sometimes it was worse, because experiments can go wrong, and what’s the point of a celebrity chef who doesn’t experiment?
    The atmosphere, the service, the wine list, the flatware, the scarcity value of some of the ingredients, the knowledge that you were surrounded by the megarich… that was different. I’ll confess that I got a kick out of being thought to be one of the .01% (when I was in my 20s). But as far as actually satisfying your appetite with tasty food well prepared? Meh. So with that experience behind me, I don’t get real excited about exclusionary pricing in restaurants. Excellent food doesn’t have to compete with your mortgage payment. You’re paying for something else.
    The real fun challenge, IMO, is to find that restaurant that’s going to get its star *next* year. I had a favorite restaurant that I was so excited to go back to… only to learn that it had gotten Michelin’d and I couldn’t get in anymore. Sad, but a little smug. 🙂

    • The food wasn’t that much better than an “ordinary” good restaurant.
      .
      To a certain extent, I guess that’s true. Not every dish at a fine dining (or otherwise very pricy) establishment is going to be transcendental. But finding those dishes that are is, in my opinion, really special, and the reason I don’t mind splurging. You local very good restaurant isn’t going to make those other-worldly dishes – not because the chef may not have the talent, but because given the ingredients and time required to make the dish (or make it exceptional) it simply isn’t possible. And not just in the final dish, but the care taken with the
      .
      I do agree with you about finding the next big place, and I’ll take it a step further. I don’t LIKE spending a fortune on dinner, and I am eternally searching out exceptional food an lower price points. The home rum, in my opinion, is when great chefs open casual spots and showcase casual food, but do it exceptionally well. I really miss the bar at Palena (the roast chicken! the burger! the cookie plate!) and the bar at Galileo (the meatballs! the pasta!).

      • Upon reflection, I guess the artistry is what you’re paying for. Creativity and presentation. And I’m glad to have had the experience! But now that I’ve had it, I’m not itching to spend my own thousand bucks to have it again.
        I’d also rather have a really fab photo taken by a friend hanging on my wall, instead of an anonymous Dutch girl, no matter how much skill it took to paint her.

        • “I’d also rather have a really fab photo taken by a friend hanging on my wall, instead of an anonymous Dutch girl, no matter how much skill it took to paint her.”
          .
          See, I totally agree with that. I don’t understand people who spend thousands on art, or cars, or clothes, or a multitude of other things. One of the reasons I drive a the level model Honda for 10+ years, when most of my friends and colleagues lease new luxury cars every 3-5 years is because I would much rather split the price difference between (i) early retirement and (ii) dining/trips.
          .
          My wife and I made have decided to limit the purchase of consumer goods so we can maximize life’s experiences, for ourselves and our daughter. Others use a different calculus. I’m not going to make any moral judgments on it (not that you were, but this comment led me there. Sorry.).

  • We scored Rose’s Luxury rooftop table tickets last year. ($125 pp excluding tax, tip and booze.) Our group ran up a pretty big bar tab, and I recall the total being slightly north of $200 per person when all was said and done. So, I HAVE spent that kind of money on dinner. It was fun, and I’m glad we took advantage of the opportunity, but I’m not sure we would do it again. (We would do regular dinner at Rose’s again.) If we spent that kind of money again, it would have to be at a more formal Komi-type restaurant.
    _____
    We also accidentally spent $70 on brunch in San Francisco. That town is expensive. Get a side of avocado toast and try the artisanal sausage, and BLAM, big bill.

  • pcat

    isn’t the point here not the cost of the meal but the arrogance of someone with no track record other than being on TV charging an extravagant price for a meal in advance and without any information on what he will be serving. I’ve been to Minibar twice and adored it — but Jose Andres has a wonderful track record and I’d eaten at all his other places before I plunked myself down on one of the Minibar stools. This guy is just pretending that he’s an important enough chef that we will all go and see his new place. The emperor clearly has no clothes.

    • This. There is so much that goes into running a restaurant, especially one that charges exorbitant prices where service and ambience must be top notch along with the food. This guy has no experience with any of that, so it is hard to imagine this will be worth the money at least initially.

    • Agree 100%. Some places can pull this off, but is this one of them?

    • Yep. I hope anyone considering going watches his season of Top Chef. He looks like a decent enough chef, but he made some weird choices with dishes, amateur mistakes, and he seemed really susceptible to stress. I bet working under an established chef for a few years would do him some good.

    • Yep — it’s the combination of the inexperience and the price, not just the price.

      • “This guy is just pretending that he’s an important enough chef that we will all go and see his new place.”

        All in the eye of the beholder, some people think no chef whatever his / her credentials is ‘important’ and no dining experience worth $185. I don’t know sh*t about fine dining, nor do I watch cooking shows and I have heard about him so he has gotten affair amount of press. I have been to the River Café the view and service are something special though I don’t typically splurge on fancy meals. Some people really enjoy experiences like that so they splurge because it makes them happy others go so they can brag and name drop.

  • $50-100 with drinks. Honestly, the poor kid in me just can’t spend more. Given the opportunity even when someone else is paying, I just can’t go any higher than that.

  • HaileUnlikely

    I spent close to $300 total (for both of us, thus just under $150 each, which included a significantly larger than standard tip) for the dinner at which I proposed to my wife. That is the most I have ever spent for a splurge dinner by a wide margin. At this point in our lives, I could see possibly spending that much again for a special anniversary, but very unlikely for anything else. Ordinarily we’d top out at slightly over $100 total for the sort of splurge that we might do once or twice a year.

  • Agree with the consensus that it’d be pretty hard to justify that price point for a first-time venture. If I’m going to spend that much right now, I’m driving out to the Inn at Little Washington and dying of happiness mid-meal.

  • justinbc

    For an “average” splurge, not celebrating anything in particular, I would say about $100-150 per person. For a special occasion, really no limit. We don’t do birthday presents or shit like that so eating out is how we choose to celebrate things.

    • Pretty much the same here. Similarly, my birthday is 3 weeks from my wife’s, rather than do an “average” splurge, and then do another in short order, we’ll often pick a weekend in between and do something really special.

  • My wife and I get out very infrequently. Once a year we go full-ridiculous. We’ll go to Komi or a place like that and spend a ton, like $400 on a meal. Otherwise, we get out about every other month and will spend $100 or less. We almost never take our kids out because they’re young and it’s totally not worth it. We know how to cook and almost always cook for ourselves, which makes the occasional meal out all the more justifiable.

  • Food is my hobby. Special events in our home warrant special meals, so we budget and plan for it. Biggest bill, and best experience, goes to minibar, where we celebrated a big birthday year for $1200 (food, wine pairing, afterdinner cocktail in barmini, tip included).

    Normal night out at a sit-down place with a reservation is usually 150-225, 1-2 drinks a piece, app, entrees, and tip.

    • Please tell me there were more than two of you for the minibar meal.

      • Haha nope! We went all out for all the options, and tipped very generously (probably 25%: service was beyond excellent).

        …Will we do that again? Likely no. But it was worth every damn penny to us.

  • I can’t spend more than $80pp for something that will be ‘disposed’ of in a toilet within 10 hours.

    • While I don’t agree with you, your comment made me literally LOL.

      What can I say toilet humor gets me every time.

  • I have two reservations set for my birthday dinner next week, and I’m torn between keeping the one at Tail Up Goat for an early 5:30 reservation and getting to try one of the “hot new restaurants”, or going back to Nido to do a full blown dinner spread with a few drinks (I’ve had a cocktail and small plate there once, and loved their menu/ambiance). Any advice?

    • Ditch Tail Up Goat. The menu sounded good, but the food did not deliver. Go to Hazel or Kryisian. Both have great food and great service.

    • You have two reservations at two different restaurants booked for the same night, so you’re only going to show up to one? I hope that you give the restaurant that you’re bailing on the courtesy of a few days notice of cancellation. This practice is what leads to so many restaurants not taking reservations — too many no-shows.

      • I absolutely will cancel with enough notice – I’m planning to decide by tomorrow for a reservation mid-week next week. I work in the industry, and am well aware of the impacts of the reservation schema. I knew I had to put in a reservation early on with TUG and was only able to reserve for an early dinner (which is not my first preference), and made a reservation with Nido even though all times were available, and making a reservation for a mid-week dinner there isn’t really necessary. Considering it’s my birthday, and I rarely splurge on dining, I decided to cover my bases.

  • A few weeks ago I spent $120 at Rose’s Luxury and while it was expensive for 2 people, the meal was well worth it. I would go there again in a heartbeat to simply have their potato bread once more, that they give away.

    I can still taste the flavor of the cacio peppe, the grilled romaine lettuce, the brisket, and of course the bread! As it is something I will remember for years, the money which I had saved up for was something I willingly parted with.

  • We just booked the Inn at Little Washington for our “babymoon”. One night plus dinner is running 2k + and I want to throw up. But also it’s a dream come true. I think I am gonig to be very glad we did it.

    Normally we’d up the budget to 3k for something this big and go on a trip, but being seven months preggo in Jan + zika limits the choices. So hopefully our one night with an eye watering price tag will be one we’ll remember forever!

    • jburka

      my husband did this for me for my 40th birthday. No idea what his total bill was, but of course a night at the Inn is very different from just a meal at a super-luxury restaurant.

      It’s been 7 years now and I can’t imagine the memory fading…so enjoy! and congratulations!

    • My girlfriend and I just tried the Inn at Little Washington for the first time and loved it. I’m a cheapskate and I’m not easily impressed when it comes to food, but it’s truly an experience to remember. You won’t regret it!

  • “So I says, blue M&M, red M&M, they all wind up the same color in the end”
    Homer Simpson

  • Top notch multi-course w/wine pairing and desert $250 pp, is reasonable for a loosening of the purse meal

  • I’ve recently learned to cook and learned that I liked a LOT more food and types of food than I realized (my mother was NOT a good cook it turns out). That said, I also learned that there are still foods I do NOT like and that the fussier the food is the more likely I won’t enjoy it. Keep it simple, keep it fresh, and I’m good… and that shouldn’t require triple digits to prepare and serve.

    I wanted to vote in the $50 max range but with drinks (optional) and dessert (mandatory!!), I have often exceeded this. Anything over $100 per person is just getting wasteful.

  • It’s deeply silly to think of spending money as “zero sum.” Burning money might be a different matter, but money spent on dinner doesn’t evaporate. Spending it at a local business keeps it circulating in our community. There’s far worse things you can do than support local jobs in the service industry. To the extent that your money could be more efficiently deployed in some sort of socially optimal way, that’s not at all unique to restaurants. That point would hold equally for every dollar more one spends in rent than is “truly” needed. Or buying Cheerios rather than Giant-brand cereal. Or owning more than one suit or pair of shoes. Driving anything other than a used Ford Escort. Taking an Uber when you could walk the 5 miles instead, etc. These sort of decisions are neither “zero sum” nor morally indefensible. Some people choose to drive a Ford Taurus. Some own two pairs of shoes. Some save up to celebrate a special occasion at dinner. They are not moral pygmies.

  • Very timely question! I’m more of a home cook than someone who likes to dine out, and would normally consider $50/pp a special occasion meal, but we were recently out in the Shenandoah region and I said “What the hell, let’s try the Inn at Little Washington on the way home.” My girlfriend had been out of town for five months so I figured it made up for all the restaurant spending we’d otherwise have been doing those five months.
    Dinner cost the two of us over $500 after taxes and tip, and that’s without drinks, but it was so much more than just an elaborate multi-course meal. The presentation and ambiance made it totally different than a usual night out (plus Tom Sietsema happened to be seated next to us which made for a great story) so I wouldn’t even consider it in the same category as eating at a normal restaurant. I’m not sure I’d take that risk on a newer restaurant though. And restaurants in DC are always so loud and chaotic. which would make me annoyed if I was spending that much money.

  • My answer to this question has changed over the last few years, and not because of a change in my family’s finances. Before our son was born, my wife and I would probably consider $100 a person a MAJOR splurge. But now that we get out my less often (I’d say about 4-5 times a year for the last 2 years, compared to at least once a week for the many years before), we’ve become much more willing to spend for an elaborate dinner. I don’t think we’re spending any more on dinners out, just using more money per experience. For example, we went to Pineapple and Pearls to celebrate my wife’s birthday last month and it was worth every penny. A delicious, glamorous, perfect, ADULT 3 hour escape.

    • That’s the way to do it, in my opinion. Rather than have one forgettable meal out every week have one amazing meal every couple months.

  • I think up to $100/person INCLUDING drinks is a reasonable splurge (if that makes any sense). Whether it’s quantity or quality, there are definite diminishing returns with the cost of food. Service and environment are also worth bumping up the price. But in my experience $80 porterhouses don’t taste markedly different than a good $20 or $30 steak at the right place.

  • I never thought I would happily spend close to this amount for a meal. I can appreciate the food, but it just never seemed quite worth it. But then I tried the Omakase counter at Sushi Taro, and I am singing a different tune. Never in my life have I experienced that level of service or dining before.

    I’m guessing you don’t get a private chef and unlimited food at Shaw Bijou, though.

  • I voted ‘over 200’ … I don’t do super fancy much so I wouldn’t mind throwing out 200+. Heck i’ve spent 65-100 easy at various brunches.

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