Bruni Gets the Smackdown: $100 Value Meal?

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In a sad attempt to get with the times, we get this headline on today's NYT story : "Great Meals for Two, Under $100 (It's Possible)." Frank Bruni goes on to list five restaurants in New York where you can get a three course meal, plus tax and tip, for $50 per person. (Without beverages!)

Bruni's actual project is a bit more nuanced than the headline. He says that he's not looking for "cheap eats," but instead "food of distinction," in restaurants where you can be "coddled." I get the point, but I've had plenty of cheap eats in restaurants where the food is made with great care and skill (distinction, yes?). I've felt neglected in a few fancy places, and coddled in some cheaper places.

In any case, the provocative headline obviously set Bruni up for a commenters' uproar--over 200 rants, mainly calling the Bruni "elitist." Frankly (ha), I don't much blame them.

High-end dining is pricey--eating out at big-name restaurants in Manhattan is especially pricey, and sometimes it's worth saving for, and sometimes it's a case of the emperor having no clothes. Finding out which is which is one of the functions of restaurant reviews, no? But a headline like that, assuring us that "it's possible!" (um, we know) is out of touch and condescending.

Actually, this were a $25-each upscale dining challenge, it would be much more interesting, and more in tune with the moment.

$25 each, seems to me like the sort of price point that many food-loving people can afford for a nice meal once a month or so. I'd suggest the $17 lunch special at Soba-Ya, which gets you a delicious array of tempura, salads, pickles, soup and perfect soba noodles. Or a bowl of $15 ramen at Ippudo. Or the $17 coq au vin at the inimitable Tout Va Bien.

Then there's Top Cafe Tibet, which I reviewed this week. I went there with three friends; we ordered piles of lovely, homemade food, (and yes, this is "food of distinction," as Bruni would say) and the bill was just short of $40.

Check out our Incredibly Cheap Eats series for an antidote to this nonsense.

Or tell us what you think: What constitutes good value when eating out in New York?









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