Are you a fan of eating out? I am; however, the pandemic lockdowns have made this activity nearly impossible. At the onset of summer, quarantine restrictions have eased, yet, my commitment to dining in stayed steadfast. I grew comfortable with the warm weather and content with the status quo. However, one July day I ventured out to Harvard Square (more here) and now I am restless to explore more. So, very uncharacteristically, my boyfriend and I, broke out of our domestic cocoon, slipped on our masks, and headed to a restaurant for the first time in over 100 days. While this outing was much anticipated, my experience eating out left me feeling ambivalent, meaning that I had a mix of good and bad feelings.
We went to a seafood restaurant that was offering both indoor and outdoor seating. Trying to limit our risk of infection, we opted to sit under a tent in the parking lot at a table with a nice blue plastic tablecloth and comfortable chairs. We arrived just before the peak hour and we were seated at a table close to the front entrance. After opening the menu and looking down at the drinks, I was reminded of why I was able to save so much money during the pandemic. Drinks were about $7 – $12 depending on whether you opted for a beer, wine, or cocktail. At the time of this writing two cocktails from this restaurant cost about the same as a 750 mL bottle of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey. Service, of course, costs money and should be compensated appropriately…however, sometimes pricing is just extortionate.
Unless your seafood order is fried and served with a side of beer-battered fries, it is naturally going to be more expensive than the chicken tenders or burger. The seafood at this establishment is no exception. I expected the higher price tag, however, I found it incredibly irksome that at this restaurant one cannot simply add salmon to a salad. Instead, one must purchase the whole salmon dish (which includes vegetable sides and potatoes) plus a salad to experience the small joy of a piece of fish on lettuce. I do not deny that I am a cheap person, however, the fact that one must pay for the entire salmon dish — sans sides — just to get the salmon filet separate seems unreasonable.
My feelings about the restaurant trip were ambivalent because on the one hand, I had a lovely time eating great food in a nice atmosphere, however, on the other hand, I was reminded of how expensive it can be to partake in such pleasures.
The fact that the food was so expensive brought an edge of distaste to my overall experience. It was as if I could not simply enjoy the food, rather I calculated dollar signs in my head and compared the total cost of the meal to the weekly grocery bill, which made me feel wasteful. The salmon that I prepare is by no means as good as this restaurant’s, however, the price-to-enjoyment ratio of cooking and eating salmon at home is one that I am more comfortable with. Perhaps, deep down my rational brain is framing my experience with sour edges as a justification for staying home more. Or, maybe, the pandemic has made me competitively frugal and spending money on such “entertainment” renders me uncomfortable. Either way, this restaurant is an objectively high-quality and objectively high price tag location, so therefore, you (mostly) get what you pay for!
Despite my ambivalence, this mini restaurant excursion was an overall good experience. The salmon was fresh, the salad was crisp, and the pie was creamy.
Perhaps, just like alcohol and red meat, trips to expensive restaurants, should too only be enjoyed every once in a while.