What is a "nice" restaurant?

Heh, we eat a few dinners out every week (during nice weather) from nice food trucks parked at nice breweries. I don’t remember the last time I spent less than $150 for the two of us (including tips).

I see a “nice” restaurant as one where

  • The menu is not laminated, and fits on one page

  • The appetizers are meant for one person, not for sharing. No onion ring tower or spinach artichoke dip.

  • All entrees require the use of a fork and knife. So no sandwiches, chicken tenders, or ribs.

It’s only a Nice restaurant if it’s in Nice, France. Otherwise it’s just a sparkling service restaurant.

More than $150 a few times a WEEK? Wouldn’t that be a couple thousand a month??

We are above the 90th percentile for household income (granted live in one of the most expensive parts of the country, but even here we are comfortably upper middle class). Even we would find that kind of expense ruinous.

Even if we are more modest in our expectations than others in our income cohort, I’m guessing we are less of an outlier than someone plunking down $150 for a meal for two on a very regular basis.

I live with my gf. She pays all the bills (electric, gas, internet), buys weekly groceries, and the house is paid off. I pay for “fun” only (eating out, boating, vacations). Somehow it works for us. It helps that she has a high paying job.

I see WAY too much discussion of $$$ and comparatively little discussion of food. It is trivial to run up ludicrous triple or quadruple-digit restaurant tabs in some places if you try (ordering rare wines helps), but a true “nice” restaurant will be expensive mostly as a side effect of using the finest, freshest ingredients. So IMO discussion of money is a sidetrack.

There are formal dining traditions, I suppose, but what makes a meal nice will be only the best, freshest, rarest, etc ingredients, and, equally importantly, creativity (and, behind the scenes, constant discipline and striving for perfection and transcendence). And of course meticulous attention to detail and each diner’s experience, but I am mostly thinking about that delicious food.

ETA as far as I am concerned, there is no reason a bistro or café cannot have sublime food too. It’s all going to depend on the chef, who wants you to truly enjoy yourself, even while he or she is edging towards an early grave every day from the stress of running a top-notch restaurant

I’m trying to figure out how you get to $150 for two at food trucks - unless that $150 includes a few craft beers each

Any restaurant that has Michelin stars is a “nice” restaurant.

Even this one? It’s a street food stall in Singapore that received a Michelin star in 2016, though it subsequently lost it.

the $70 was a real rough guide, partially based on my ballpark figure that in my mind, if I go to a nice restaurant with one other person, I can expect a $150+ bill, depending largely on the drink situation. If we each have one glass of wine, we’ll get out for around that before tip. If we order a bottle for the table, the price will be higher.

First, unless $70 would bankrupt you, I suggest adding nice restaurants to your list of life experiences. If you can tell me the general geographic area you live in, if it is in the United States, I could likely identify multiple nice restaurants in a few minutes of searching. That’s something that comes with experience dining at such places.

I didn’t, FWIW, compare the price of excel to dinner at a nice restaurant to necessarily say it was super cheap, but to put it in context. If you’re a serious user of excel you’re going to use it multiple times a week every week of the year. A $70 annual Office365 subscription or whatever then doesn’t seem that crazy considering lots of people eat out at a nice restaurant a few times a year, some even moreso. Not everyone has the same lifestyle, but most people have “splurge” purchases in the $70-100 range they probably don’t think that much about. If you are deep poverty income level, maybe you don’t. I think my original post even declaimed that if you can’t afford this, you are probably impoverished (which I think would be obviously true.)

Anyway, FWIW since it sounds like you aren’t very familiar with restaurants of this type, the sort of place where I’d expect to spend around $70/head, here is how you get to it:

Typically the entree is $30 minimum, you occasionally might see something $25-30 if it’s a light item. At nice restaurants, unlike your local Denny’s or Applebees, very often nice restaurants their “normal” menu is what is called an À la carte menu. At a typical Outback or Applebee’s, your steak dinner is say, $25, and it comes automatically with a “drink and two sides.” You can then select which sides you want. A nice restaurant running an À la carte menu, let’s say you order a $38 strip steak. That’s it. If that’s all you order they literally just bring that steak to your table. No sides. At nice restaurant sides are usually around $10-15 per. The only nice thing about this is the sides at places like this tend to be decently shareable in size.

Restaurants like this tend to be experiences, and it isn’t uncommon at all to get an appetizer for the table, maybe a soup or salad, dessert, and maybe one drink, this all adds up. This is roughly what it might look like:

Appetizer Course: Maybe it’s a two-person sized appetizer, expect that “your” cost would be in the $8-10 range (so it’s a $15-20 item.)

Soup/Salad Course: $8-15

Entree: $30-45+

Side: $15, often times if two of you are out, each of you might get a side. Example, I was at a nice steak place, I got an order of au gratin potaties as a side, my dinner companion got creamed spinach. Each item was around $15.

Dessert: $10-12

Drinks: $10-15 if you have one alcoholic dessert.

So take appetizer ($10) + soup ($10) + entree (35) + side (15) + dessert ($10) + 1 glass of wine ($10). That puts you at $90 a person quite easy. But I put $70 out there as sort of a baseline. Some nice restaurants are a little “lighter” and there’s not much expectation of say, a soup/salad course. So take that off, and maybe dessert is an option instead of a necessity, so take another $10. If you don’t drink alcohol you tend to save a LOT of money at nice restaurants. While I napkin mathed $70 as a baseline “nice restaurant meal” price for one person, I’ve had checks over $1000 before when I’ve been out with a couple people and we went through multiple bottles of wine and other things. But I don’t consider that a good baseline for “normal” behavior, so I didn’t act like it was.

What kind of food trucks do you have that you can spend that much on two people? (Got a link to the menu for one?)

I just commented, there is no reason why a bistro or street food stall cannot be nice, and evidently the Michelin people agree.

Fine. Any restaurant with a Michelin star AND valet parking. :wink:

I don’t think the Michelin guide is intrinsically a measure of what I would call a nice restaurant. A street food vendor isn’t what I would call a nice restaurant, because my use of the term normally encompasses the idea that it’s a place you’d take someone like your Mother for Mother’s day, or a spouse for an anniversary. A street food vendor may have world class food, but it would be an unusual destination for an “event meal” like that.

The Trail Dust steakhouse in Dallas had that cut-off-your-tie policy a few decades ago - apparently it closed down years ago. The bargain was that if they cut off your tie, they’d give you a free drink to make up for it. The second time I went there, I knew going in that they’d cut off my tie, and wore an old one for the occasion. You’d have to be pretty clueless not to know something was going on as the walls were coated with hundreds of cut-off ties. In spite of that, my waitress actually checked with me that I knew what was going on before she applied the shearers. I’m sure if you didn’t want to lose the tie, you could easily tuck it into a pocket. What would happen if you insisted on wearing a tie - I don’t know, maybe they’d ask you to leave, or maybe they’d just think you were an obstinate person in the wrong place but serve you anyway. I doubt they ever actually assaulted anyone.

Answering the OP, the Trail Dust was not a “nice” restaurant. It was a good steakhouse with a fun atmosphere; a step up from an Outback Steakhouse, but still a casual dining restaurant. I think that for me, the minimum threshold for being a nice restaurant is that they’re concerned about table presentation. A linen napkin, tablecloth, and flower on the table all indicate effort to present the restaurant as a place to have a “nice” dining experience. They don’t, of course, guarantee it, but they do show the intention.

FWIW I would say any restaurant that cuts off ties is not a nice restaurant. They may have great food, but like I’ve mentioned that isn’t IMO what makes a restaurant “nice.” To me it’s a combination of some baseline of professional service + quality of food + nice restaurant features (wine lists, possibly tasting menus, prixe fixe menu options, a la carte menu options, possibly special tasting nights, professional head chef etc etc.) I’ve been in plenty of good steakhouses where the head chef isn’t known (i.e. his name isn’t advertised to customers) and the service is more like you’d find in a bar, and those places can be great. They aren’t what I think when I use the term “nice restaurant.”

Ie you are emphasizing formal dining; fair enough. Certainly almost all those three-star restaurants will pay attention to such things, they treat everyone as if they might be the Michelin reviewer :wink:

I eat (or ate, pre COVID) at nice restaurants 3-4 times a year. Most of the time at someone else’s expense. $100 per person would be at the very low end for those. I do not enjoy those experiences much, certainly not enough to justify the cost.

Every couple of years my wife and I will go to an expensive meal. She doesn’t drink or eat meat, and quite frankly that seems to be 90% of the attraction. She’d much rather I arranged a nice nighttime picnic at the beach.

Y’know different strokes and all that.

There’s a difference between “good food” and a “nice restaurant”. A “nice restaurant” requires “good food” but the reverse is not true Some of the best BBQ I’ve had was sold at a counter in a gas station ( there were picnic tables to eat at) and there was a Chinese restaurant where we had to go down the basement steps from the street and then walk underground for some distance to get to the dining room - if my husband told me we were going to a “nice restaurant” for our anniversary and brought me to one of these places, I would think he had lost his mind.

I’m talking about the total for the evening between brewery and food truck. Take Just Roll’d Up, a sushi truck. We each get a Tuna2Times Poke bowl, $40 plus some Ōra King Salmon for $13, that’s $53, with tip it’s $65. We each have three draft beers at $8 a pint that’s $48 with tip that’s $60.

Food and drink $65 + $60 = $125.